Author Interview: Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Author Interview

| Mark Gelineau & Joe King |

Authors of the Echoes of the Ascended Series

Welcome to my first Author Interview post! Today I’ll be talking to Mark Gelineau and Joe King about their Echoes of the Ascended series; an action packed collection of fantasy novellas ranging from high fantasy epic to dark and twisted horror. If you want a novella that packs an immediate (and satisfying) punch, then give these guys a go!

| 1. |

Hi Joe and Mark, thank you for joining me today! For readers who are unfamiliar with your writing, could you tell us a little bit about your Echoes of the Ascended series?

J: Mark and I are very big into myth and history and creation stories. When we were fleshing our world of Aedaron, we really wanted the legend of the First Ascended, the very first heroes of our world, to be at the center of everything. In the same way that Mark and I grew up dreaming about myth and creation, so do our characters.

Echoes of the Ascended follows the lives of five orphans who grew up together. In their own way, their lives and stories mirror those of the First Ascended. They, essentially, are a new generation, or echo, of what had come before.

We have four different series.  Each follows different characters.  You can read any of the four series in any order:


A Reaper of Stone

is a classic, epic fantasy story

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Rend the Dark

is action horror adventure


Best Left in the Shadows

is fun urban, crime drama

(emphasis on fun)


Faith and Moonlight

is a YA sword school tale

M: Imagine each series like a movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You’ve got your Iron Man, Thor, Captain America.  Each follows its own main character, but they all inhabit the same world, and the things they do in their own movies effects and changes the world for all.

| 2. |

I always think of the initial stages of writing as a fairly solitary process, how does this process differ when writing in a partnership? And what would you say are the main benefits and hindrances of writing as a duo?

M: Our process is interesting in that Joe handles a large part of the story concept and structure.  I do a lot of the first draft writing, and a lot of the “flavor” (research, production design kind of stuff).

One of the greatest benefits has to be what I call “the build.”  It’s when we are breaking a story and we get to riff back and forth on ideas, building them together to arrive at something really cool.

The biggest hindrance has to be scheduling.  It is already difficult to be a writer on top of having a family and a day job.  But when you add another schedule of work and family on top of that, it makes meeting hard to coordinate.  And unfortunately, there really is no substitute for hanging out and talking in the same room.

J: The best part of writing as a team is the ability to tag out. We each get to (and have to) play a lot of different roles in the process, but it is incredibly freeing and comforting to know we can always get help or swap out of any given task that we get stuck on. It always keeps us moving forward, and I know that’s always the biggest obstacle when I work alone. Once you stop, you are stopped for a long long time.

| 3. |

With such a wonderfully diverse range of fantasy novellas, who – or what – are you most influenced by when writing?

M: We are both big movie and TV guys, so you definitely can see some of that in the writing.  Joss Whedon is someone I really love.  All kinds of stuff that we love makes their way into the thoughts about the novellas.  A lot of the relationship and dialogue in Best Left in the Shadows is my desire to write an episode of Moonlighting, my favorite show when I was a kid.  A little bit of the Thin Man, a little bit of Castle.

I’ve always been a comics guy, so there are certain writers there who influenced me. 80’s era Chris Claremont X-Men, Garth Ennis, particularly Preacher.  Pretty much anything by Warren Ellis.

As for fantasy, I grew up loving David Eddings.  Joe was a big Terry Brooks fan.  For current fantasy, I love Joe Abercrombie’s stuff.

I also find that when I am writing, I really love to have images available to look at and refer to.  I like having that visual reference to contextualize what I am writing.  Gathering those images is among my first steps.

Music is also a really big deal when i write.  I have to have music going, and it definitely affects things.  Best Left in the Shadows was written while I was listening to a lot of electro swing.  Anything Elinor is written to a lot of Florence and the Machine.

J: I still am a big Terry Brooks fan! As well as Martin, Feist, and a lot of the old school iconic Fantasy writers of the 80’s and 90’s. I have to shamefully confess I haven’t read much of the contemporary guys (and gals) of fantasy, so most of my influences now are from TV and movies.

Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin, Danny Boyle, David Fincher, JJ Abrams are writers/creators I really admire. A lot of the episodic feel of our stories is from that style of storytelling.

| 4. |

A Reaper of Stone impressed me with your skill in creating what seems to be a very in depth world over a relatively short number of pages. How much planning and worldbuilding do you undertake before actually writing the narrative?

J: We really put a challenge on ourselves when writing these books. Our design concept was to try and capture all the worldbuilding and wonder of the fantasy books we loved, but make the stories as tight and as short as possible. To do that, we had to come up with most of the worldbuilding along with the plot before we start writing. The hardest part is actually NOT putting cool worldbuilding ideas in that we think of while writing the story.

We have to be very strict about it to ensure the story keeps moving. Anything that doesn’t move the story forward or is relevant to the current story being told, we cut it. We don’t throw that idea away mind you. Sometimes, the world concept is better told in a different series and we get to use it there.

M: For example, in A Reaper of Stone, Elinor fights Razors, our magically gifted duelists. We don’t go too much detail into how the Razor magic works or the history of their magic because it’s not directly relevant to the story being told.  We mention enough to pique interest and make sense in the current story.  Then we really get to go into it in our series Faith and Moonlight, a story that takes place in a Razor School.

| 5. |

We’ve had a touch of high fantasy in A Reaper of Stone and some dark fantasy horror in Rend the Dark. Are these divergences in genre by design or do you allow them to develop organically?

J: It’s actually by design. We wanted four series in the same world, but very different styles of stories. We really wanted to create something where everyone might not love everything we did, but there could at least be one type of series that you could enjoy. And plus, it’s more fun this way.

M: Really, it is more fun.  One of the interesting things that comes with collaboration is that you have two people, both with their different areas of interest, and passion.  The different emphases of the four series allow the two of us to explore those passions and story styles. 

| 6. |

In A Reaper of Stone we get a taste of your skill in monster creation and during Rend the Dark this is unleashed in full force for an incredibly vivid and cinematic experience. What are your main influences when creating your literary monsters and how do you ensure they have the intended impact on the audience?

M: I am a big fan of the Lovecraft Mythos.  I like my monsters big and mind-shattering.  I am a big horror guy, but definitely more monsters and mood than blood and gore.  I really like Tim Curran’s stuff.  Dead Sea is maybe the best Lovecraft Mythos story I have read.  I also have a soft spot in my heart for French director Christophe Gans.  I think his Silent Hill movie has some beautifully horrifying imagery in it.  And his Brotherhood of the Wolf is like my imagination got put on film.

As far as impact, we try to really make the reactions honest.  What i feel like in this situation?  The answer to that is usually far from flattering, but it is honest, and it is a good starting point for how characters react to the creatures.

J: I am very much not a horror guy. I am the opposite of a horror guy. My wife still gives me hell for the one time I let her convince me to go with her to a haunted house and every time something would jump out at us I’d scream and shove her in front of me like a shield.

It was not my finest hour.

But I love writing about fear. It’s such a raw, relatable human feeling. I love the tension. And I love exploring how the same stimulus can make some people break and some people rise up in ways they never expected.

I think that’s why Mark and I enjoy writing horror together. He understands what is terrifying in a way that I don’t (because I think everything is terrifying!). And I really like exploring the human aspects of what happens in the face of that horror.

| 7. |

There are hints and links throughout these novellas which seemingly connect each of the narratives together. Can we expect to be able to build a complete picture of Aedaron from these novellas? And is there a chance of any character crossovers?

J: We definitely want to cross some characters over into other books. It’s just way too fun not to.

In terms of building a complete picture, we want to be careful here. We really want to stand by our original promise that you could read any of our series without reading the others and have a full, rich experience.

M: One of the things I hate about comic crossovers is that when they start, you have to read 1 story at a time across like 20 different books just to get the full story, that is totally choppy and inconsistent anyway.  We don’t want to do it that way.

We believe if you read all the series, you will definitely get a richer, fuller experience of Aedaron, but we don’t want to force our readers to do it to have a good time.

| 8. |

Do you have any plans for writing a feature length novel set in the same world?

J: We’re really excited about doing the novellas and we’ve got a bunch mapped out already. But we’re definitely open to doing a novel if that’s what people really start clamoring for. To be honest, we’re really novel writers at heart, so it will always be something we’re open to. So feel free to start the clamoring at any time!

M: I always give Joe a hard time that he is relatively unable to do things on a small scale.  Case in point.  Not just one novella, not just one series.  Four series, running simultaneously, set in the same world, and released one after the other every month.

See?  No small scale.  I think there will definitely be a full novel set in Aedaron.  And I for one can’t wait to see what would happen in it.

| 10. |

With four novellas already published, what is the next title we can expect?

M: We are incredibly excited to be working on the second book in each of the four series.  A Reaper of Stone book 2 is coming in February.  It is titled Broken Banners, and we are really excited for it.  Then, in March, we have Rend the Dark book 2.  The book is called Skinshaper and we are hoping to take that dark fantasy horror feel even farther with this one.

J: Yes, Broken Banners will be out Feb 15, 2016. I’ve only got the low-res cover available right now, but here’s a sneak peek!

Thank you Joe and Mark! That is one gorgeous cover and I can’t wait to read what’s in store for Elinor!

The Books


A Reaper of Stone

An Echo of the Ascended: Elinor Book One

A Lady is dead. Her noble line ended. And the King’s Reaper has come to reclaim her land and her home. In the marches of Aedaron, only one thing is for certain. All keeps of the old world must fall.

Elinor struggles to find her place in the new world. She once dreamed of great things. Of becoming a hero in the ways of the old world. But now she is a Reaper. And her duty is clear. Destroy the old. Herald the new.

My review for A Reaper of Stone can be found hereAmazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads

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Rend the Dark

An Echo of the Ascended: Ferran Book One

The great Ruins are gone. The titans. The behemoths. All banished to the Dark and nearly forgotten. But the cunning ones, the patient ones remain. They hide not in the cracks of the earth or in the shadows of the world. But inside us. Wearing our skin. Waiting. Watching.

Once haunted by visions of the world beyond, Ferran now wields that power to hunt the very monsters that he once feared. He is not alone. Others bear the same terrible burden. But Hunter or hunted, it makes no difference. Eventually, everything returns to the Dark.

My review for Rend the Dark can be found here

Amazon | Goodreads


Best Left in the Shadows

An Echo of the Ascended: Alys Book One

A Highside girl. Beaten. Murdered. Her body found on a Lowside dock. A magistrate comes looking for answers. For justice.

Alys trades and sells secrets among the gangs and factions of Lowside. She is a daughter of the underworld. Bold. Cunning. Free. When an old lover asks for help, she agrees. For a price.

Together, they travel into the dark heart of the underworld in search of a killer.

My review for Best Left in the Shadows can be found here

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads


Faith and Moonlight

An Echo of the Ascended: Roan and Kay Book One

Roan and Kay are orphans.

A fire destroys their old life, but they have one chance to enter the School of Faith.

They are given one month to pass the entry trials, but as Roan excels and Kay fails, their devotion to each other is put to the test.

They swore they would face everything together, but when the stakes are losing the life they’ve always dreamed of, what will they do to stay together?

What won’t they do?

My review for Faith and Moonlight can be found here

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads



Mark Gelineau

The defining moments in Mark Gelineau’s early life really trace back to two events. One was the discovery of an old cardboard box that had belonged to his grandfather. Inside that box was a collection of comic books, resplendent in their four color glory. Even though he had never met his grandfather, finding that box passed on a love of thrilling stories and daring adventure from one generation to another.

The second event was when his mother took him a to showing of Star Wars. For the entire duration of the movie, Mark sat with his mouth open and his small hands gripping the armrests. The better to pretend to fly the spaceships you see.

Since those early days, Mark has loved the stories of the imagination, the stories that transport a person from the world they know into new realities, distant domains, and realms of wonder. Even more than the stories themselves though, Mark discovered the sheer joy of sharing those stories. Taking them out of the cardboard box and into the hands of friends and family. This drove Mark first to education, where he could talk about the amazing stories out there in the world, and then eventually to writing, where he could try and write some of those stories for himself.

Gelineau and King is the extension of that joy. A place where Mark and his partner, Joe King, can take the stories they create out of the box and put them out there in the world.

Mark is loved and, more importantly, tolerated by his amazing wife and young son. And when Mark is not writing or teaching, he is secretly adding comics and paperbacks to a certain cardboard box waiting in his son’s closet.

Joe King

Joe King

Joe King spent most of his childhood doing what he loved most – building things with his friends. He built friendships, stories, worlds, games, imagination, and everything in between.

After a brief career in software, for a while, he pretty much gave up on the idea of building anything. Five years later, the woman who would become his wife, rode in on a white horse and changed his life forever. Another five years, and two beautiful daughters later, Joe is building new unimaginable things.

Joe believes in the power of stories, dreams, family, friendship, and getting your ass kicked every once in a while.

More than anything, he wants to tell a good story, and, for him, Gelineau & King is the constant reminder that it’s never too late to start building the things you love.

The Links





Gelineau and King


Mark Gelineau & Joe King

Review: The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

RoT - Gollancz

The Republic of Thieves

Book Three of The Gentleman Bastard Sequence

by Scott Lynch

Fantasy | 598 Pages | Published by Gollancz in 2013

| Rating |

The Republic of Thieves continues The Gentleman Bastard Sequence which began with The Lies of Locke Lamora and continued with Red Seas Under Red Skies.

The Lies of Locke Lamora blew me away, Red Seas Under Red Skies was swashbuckling excellence, and The Republic of Thieves lives up to all expectations as an intricately woven, incredibly entertaining and darn right brilliant romp. Having shuffled its way to the top of my floorshelf after an extended hibernation, I soon found myself immersed in a world of daring adventure, bloody theatrics and political intrigue with a multitude of Bastards for company. Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen – Enter, stage right.

Locke and Jean barely escaped with their lives from what should have been the greatest heist of their career, in the port city of Tal Verrar. Now they head north, looking for sanctuary and an alchemist who can cure the poison that is slowly killing Locke. They find neither, but with their luck, money and hope exhausted, they receive an offer from a power that never had their best interests at heart: The Bondsmagi of Karthain.

In exchange for the chance that Locke might be saved, the Bondsmagi expect the two Gentlemen Bastards to rig an election in their home city of Karthain. They will be opposed. The other side has already hired the services of Sabetha Belacoros, the one person in the world who might match Locke’s criminal skill, and the one person in the world who absolutely rules his heart.

Now it will be con artist against con artist in an election that couldn’t be more crooked, all for the benefit of the mysterious Bondsmagi, who have plans within plans and secrets they’re not telling…

The Republic of Thieves is a book of interweaving tales; past and the present competing for excellence as the life of Locke unfolds in alternating scenes. Lynch maintains the dramatic tension throughout both narratives, pulling it off with flair and skill and excitement throughout. The Bondsmagi hold sway over the present narrative, their once mysterious and strange presence develops to become more tangible and give clarity to their motivations. With Locke and Jean indebted to them, the narrative has all the scheming entertainment of the previous novels if lacking some of the threat.

The present is balanced perfectly with the past narrative, or the Interludes. The storyline which simultaneously unfolds links directly back to the present and gives the depth and history necessary for developing very real characters. And Scott Lynch’s characters are brilliant. The Republic of Thieves knits both tales together with humour – life with The Moncraine Company is a definite highlight – and though it isn’t poised on a knife’s edge like The Lies of Locke Lamora, it takes its time to explore the characters, balancing the fun, scheming capers of the present with the close scrapes of the past.

Lynch’s writing style is absolutely captivating; his dialogue is witty and flows effortlessly, his descriptions are wonderfully atmospheric – I can picture Karthain as easily as I ever did Camorr – and his storytelling is sublime. Having the opportunity to explore more of this beautiful and highly dangerous world, and discover the somewhat absurd customs of the Karthaini people, makes for an entertaining read. Lynch’s descriptions are rich and vibrant, his dialogue is full of humour and his worldbuilding, which slots in so naturally throughout the novel, should appeal to critics and enthusiasts both.

The Republic of Thieves is not without its themes either; relationships and love are key to the storyline. But fear not! This is anything but a lovey dovey tale. The introduction of Sabatha, highly intelligent and wholly unpredictable, is a definite highlight; her skill and personality suited to being both a lover and a nemesis.  Every bit Locke’s equal (if not better) in skill, their relationship is the driving force behind both the past and present narratives. Lynch’s truest love story, however, will always be the epic bromance of Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen.

The Republic of Thieves is a wonderfully fun tale which, though lacking some of the tension of previous novels, gives them a run for their money in terms of characterisation and world development. If you’re new to The Gentleman Bastard Sequence, go grab a copy of The Lies of Locke Lamora; if not then why haven’t you read this yet?! Keep them coming Mr. Lynch, I for one will always keep buying.

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads

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Tough Travelling: Portals to Another Land

Tough TravellingJoin me each Thursday for some Tough Travelling with the Tough Guide, hosted by Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, we will set out on a quest to track down the biggest tropes and clichés in fantasy fiction.

| Portals to Another Land |

Fantasyland often has some unique entry points; not every traveler is born within its boundaries.  It is a regular event for someone from a non-magical place to suddenly find themselves in this world of dragons, magic, and danger.

After quite some time searching, it appeared that most of my favourite portal books were those from childhood. So this week I’ve gathered five of my childhood favourites. These are the stories of portals and time-slips, of nightmarish creatures and dangerous worlds, of brave children and unwitting adults. These are the five I’ve read countless times over the years.

| 1. |


by Alan Garner

The four Watson children enter an old and abandoned church in search of a football when one by one, they disappear through a heavy iron-ringed door. A door which leads to the world of Elidor, a dark and dangerous kingdom almost entirely fallen to evil.

| 2. |

AliceAlice’s Adventures in WonderlandThrough the Looking-Glass 

by Lewis Carroll

Alice finds herself on all sorts of adventures after making her way down a rabbit hole and finding herself in Wonderland. It certainly doesn’t stop her from making her way through a looking-glass mirror.

| 3. | LionThe Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

by C.S. Lewis

After being evacuated from London, Lucy Pevensie is exploring her adopted home when she finds her way through the back of a wardrobe into the world of Narnia. One by one, the disbelieving Pevensie children follow Lucy through the wardrobe to discover a world frozen in deep winter and ruled by the dark and terrible White Witch.

| 4. |TMGTom’s Midnight Garden

by Philippa Pearce

When Tom Long goes to stay with his Uncle Alan and Aunt Gwen in an upstairs flat of a large house with no garden, he finds himself transported to the past every night when the old grandfather clock strikes 13 and the back door opens onto a magical garden.

| 5. |MoondialMoondial

by Helen Cresswell

After being sent to live with an elderly aunt in the country, Minty finds herself transported to the past every night by a strange moondial in the garden; a past where she must help the ‘lost souls’  of former residents find peace.

What are your favourite portal books? If you would like to join in with Tough Travelling, head on over to the Fantasy Review Barn and sign up!

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Bookish Beats: Elysium OST

Bookish BeatsMusic, much like literature, has the power to drive your imagination; it can lift the soul and create real emotion.This is Bookish Beats, a feature which will showcase some of the soundtracks which have enriched the worlds I’ve found between the pages. 

Elysium (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Composed by Ryan Amon

Listen to with:

A science-fiction epic

Such as:

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Ryan Amon appears yet again in this week’s Bookish Beats, though this time his compositions are taking centre stage. The soundtrack to Elysium has been rattling around my head ever since I saw the movie (numerous times I admit) and is the perfect accompaniment to a science fiction novel. It’s tense, exciting and is interspersed with incredibly beautiful moments which consistently take my breath away.

The best soundtracks are those that allow you to be swept along with whatever it is you are watching or reading; Elysium is no exception. This soundtrack goes from thrilling action tracks, to tense dramatic pieces, to eerie and emotional vocal led numbers at the… well at the change of a track. But every one of those tracks is unique, highly emotive and memorable, each one building to a crescendo and becoming the perfect backdrop to innumerable scenes.

Elysium has become one of my favourite movie soundtracks; I get goosebumps listening to it. Whether to transport myself back to Mars or to Elysium or to somewhere else entirely, this soundtrack will always occupy a place in my collection. Elysium is an incredible movie with an amazing soundtrack and I recommend both highly, and if you haven’t seen the movie – worry not! Just put on this soundtrack and be transported to new worlds.

Favourite Track

29 – New Heaven, New Earth

Top track for action

02 – Fire Up The Shuttle

Top track for tension

25 – Fire and Water

Top track for emotion

27 – Breaking a Promise


Purchase Here

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Tough Travelling: Magic Systems

Tough TravellingJoin me each Thursday for some Tough Travelling with the Tough Guide, hosted by Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, we will set out on a quest to track down the biggest tropes and clichés in fantasy fiction.

| Magic Systems |

A system.  For Magic.  Don’t pretend y’all were not waiting for this one.

I love a well thought out magic system and for this week’s Tough Travelling I found myself repeatedly going to the one author whose magic systems consistently blow me away. And so, after very little deliberation, I have traversed the Cosmere to bring you:

| The Magic Systems of Brandon Sanderson |

| 1 |


Allomany, Feruchemy & Hemalurgy

Mistborn will undoubtedly appear in most lists of unique magic systems and in this trilogy we have not just one but three! Allomancy involves the ingestion of metals which can be ‘burned’ to give the Allomancer specific abilities, each metal producing a different effect. Most Allomancers can only burn one metal and are known as Mistings; those who can burn every metal are known as Mistborn – a rare ability. Feruchemy involves storing magic within a metal object, known as ‘metalminds’ – much like charging a battery. The larger the piece of metal, the more magical energy can be stored and drawn on later.  As with Allomancy different metals produce different effects. Hemalurgy is the darkest power of all and involves the transfer, or rather theft, of magic by driving a metal spike through the body. Grim.

| 2 |


The Stormlight Archive


The Stormlight Archive is an amazing series of books and brings us yet another unique magic system – Surgebinding. Surgebinders can manipulate two powers out of a possible ten to produce a range of differing abilities. These abilities include transforming one object into another, transporting oneself instantaneously and the manipulation of gravitational forces.  Surgebinding is fuelled by Stormlight which can be drawn in by the Surgebinder from any object infused with it. Stormlight also increases the capabilities of the human body by giving superhuman strength, speed and healing abilities. However, when the Stormlight is consumed the Surgerbinder is left weak and exhausted.

| 3 |


The Emperor’s Soul


The Emperor’s Soul may be a novella but it too has a unique magic system to rival many others. Forging, undertaken by a Forger, involves carving an object or ‘stamp’ into a specific form, applying ink and then stamping it onto a person or object to create a magical effect. This is known as a Soulstamp. The design of the Soulstamp will affect the appearance of the stamped object. When something is stamped, the forger is essentially altering the object’s history; in order for the stamp to remain in place the new history must share similarities with the original,  too different and the Soulstamp won’t work.  Got it? It might just be easier to read this short and brilliant book!

| 4 |

1f Elantris


AonDor is a form of glyph magic. These glyphs are known as Aons and draw their power from the Dor, a source of spiritual energy. Aons represent whole words and different combinations and equations of glyphs produce different powers and abilities. These Aons can be drawn in the air or formed out of stone or metal; what is essential is that they are drawn right to avoid the power dispelling… or any unfortunate accidents. Wielders of power can use these Aons to heal, to build, to strengthen, to fight and most impressively, to create.

| 5 | 1g



Breathing has never been so important! Ahem… The magic system of Warbreaker is reliant on the number of Biochromatic Breaths a person has stored. Breaths can be thought of as souls which can be taken from others to increase one’s own power. Once Breathless you are known as a Drab, someone whose world has become a little greyer, who finds it difficult to perceive colour and is less attuned to others. The more Breaths you have the more powerful you become resulting in varying degrees of ability, such as Awakening inanimate objects, immunity from toxins and physical ailments, and Reanimating corpses. What fun!

What are your favourite magic systems in fantasy fiction? If you would like to join in with Tough Travelling, head on over to the Fantasy Review Barn and sign up!

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Bookish Beats: Assassin’s Creed Unity

Bookish BeatsMusic, much like literature, has the power to drive your imagination; it can lift the soul and create real emotion.This is Bookish Beats, a feature which will showcase some of the soundtracks which have enriched the worlds I’ve found between the pages. 

Assassin’s Creed Unity (The Complete Edition) [Original Game Soundtrack]

Composed by Chris Tilton, Sarah Schachner and Ryan Amon

Listen to with:

An action-packed historical or fantasy adventure

Such as:

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Last week’s Bookish Beats post sank into oblivion after a wonderful weekend away at the Liverpool International Music Festival – I think I can class that as research, right? This Sunday’s post may have gone the same way (hello glamping weekend) but hurrah! I remembered and scheduled it early! Don’t fail me schedule! If you’re a regular reader you might also notice a slightly different look to this post; in an attempt to be more tablet and phone user friendly I’ve changed the layout around to avoid (m)any dodgy text placements!

This week’s Bookish Beats features the Assassin’s Creed Unity Soundtrack. I have big love for game soundtracks and those of the Assassin’s Creed franchise in particular. They make some pretty damn good music. So good, in fact, that I would have a hard time choosing a favourite. With three new composers on-board, Unity is no exception; a long and comprehensive soundtrack, it combines brooding atmospheric pieces with heart thumping action tracks which truly enhance the reading experience.

The complete soundtrack is made up of three volumes, each of which is by a different composer, all of whom bring a unique and brilliant component to the score. Chris Tilton’s lengthy volume is saturated in tension and arguably has the best action tracks; Sarah Schachner captures the unique combination of sci fi and history with beautiful baroque string compositions underlined with modern synths; and Ryan Amon’s tracks resonate with tension and atmospheric ambience. Choosing favourites is always hard but this soundtrack was particularly difficult, though it did mean I could listen to it repeatedly!

I always find game soundtracks an excellent accompaniment to books, they’re rarely intrusive to reading and often add to the dramatic tension. Assassin’s Creed Unity is a wonderful example; you can feel the stealth, the tension and the intrigue in almost every track and you have three stylistically different but complimentary volumes to choose from. Every time I listen to this soundtrack I am instantly transported back to the world of A Darker Shade of Magic and I cannot wait to listen to it with another book.

Volume 1 – Chris Tilton [1] | Volume 2 – Sarah Schachner [2] | Volume 3 – Ryan Amon [3]

Favourite Volume

Volume 2 – Composed by Sarah Schachner

Favourite Tracks

01 – Unity [1]

04 – Dark Slayer [2]

01 – DeMolay’s Condemnation [3]

Top tracks for action

20 – Belle of the Balloon [1]

07 – Treachery and Butchers [2]

01 – DeMolay’s Condemnation [3]

Top tracks for tension

13 – To Your Stealth [1]

08 – Storming the Guilty [2]

04 – Paris Gateways [3]

Top tracks for emotion

23 – The Bottle of Solitude [1]

01 – Rather Death Than Slavery [2]


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Tough Travelling: Labourers

Tough Travelling 2Join me each Thursday for some Tough Travelling with the Tough Guide, hosted by Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, we will set out on a quest to track down the biggest tropes and clichés in fantasy fiction.

| Labourers |

Not everyone can be a Prince.  There is only room for one Queen.  A few spoiled nobles can sit around and play cards.  But fantasyland can’t build its own castles and roads, nor can it plough its own fields, nor cook its meals.  Someone has to do the hard work.  And often, as a reward of course, these labourers get pulled from their hard but simple life into a bigger plan.

This week I’m going to looks at a character type that occurs again and again in fantasy fiction. They may not fit the role of protagonist but they make a pretty damn good supporting character. They’re sturdy, strong and reliable and know how to use weapons like… well like they make them! Yes, I’m talking about the humblest character of all, the…

 | Blacksmith |

| 1 |


Perrin Aybara

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

A hammer wielding blacksmith warrior? What’s not to love?! Whisked away from his life as a blacksmith in Emond’s Field for many an adventure, Perrin prefers to bash people with a hammer because it sheds less blood than an axe… too kind Perrin, too kind.

| 2 |


Barkus Jeshua

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Barkus has a natural, though some would say dark, affinity with metal and though he can wield a sword like nobody’s business, his large and sturdy forge-forged frame makes him a perfect man mountain for unarmed combat.

| 3 |



The Belgariad by David Eddings

Steady, strong and reliable, Durnik is the atypical fantasy blacksmith. An honest hero, he finds himself on an adventure because he’s too kind and caring, and his strength and prowess at killing those pesky villains is always used with the greatest reluctance.

| 4 |


Llaw Gyffes

Knights of Dark Renown by David Gemmell

And what list of fantasy blacksmiths would be complete without a wrongly accused man on the run? Llaw Gyffes is a blacksmith come reluctant outlaw who is thrown into a life of rebellion and adventure and must lead his people to freedom. He’s not too bad with a sword either.

| 5 |



A Song of Ice and Fire by George. R.R. Martin

Ahh Gendry, a young, strong and simple blacksmith sucked into a world of bloody adventure for a mere circumstance of birth. But never fear! You can still get your custom made bull, goat or horse headed helmet, for the Known World is saturated with blacksmiths!

Are there any other blacksmiths in fantasy fiction that float your boat?  Or can you think of any other labourers who unwittingly find themselves on an adventure? If you would like to join in with Tough Travelling, head on over to the Fantasy Review Barn and sign up!

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Review: Morningstar by David Gemmell



by David Gemmell

Fantasy | 321 Pages | Published by Orbit in 2014

| Rating |

David Gemmell is one of those authors that every fan of fantasy fiction should have read; unbelievably this was my first. Needless to say, I need more Gemmell in my life! Morningstar was a fantastic introduction into his writing; exciting, fast paced, and overflowing with ne’er-do-wells and reluctant heroes. If, like me, you need a starting point for the Gemmell catalogue, Morningstar will not disappoint.

The Angostin forces are storming the Highlands; murdering, pillaging and laying waste to everything that lies in their path. The people are deserting their towns and villages, fleeing into the bandit infested forests beyond; they have but one hope – the Morningstar.

Owen Odell is a storyteller, a worker of magic who spins his power into the tales he tells. A chance encounter in a darkened alley changes his life forever when he meets Jarek Mace – liar, thief and outlaw. With war threatening the Highlands, Odell finds himself attached to Mace and his merry band of misfits who turn their acts of banditry against the invading Angostin force – a mutually beneficial arrangement which both rallies the people and makes Mace a hell of a lot richer.

Rumour is rife, could Mace be the legendary Morningstar come to save the oppressed masses? Through skirmishes and battles, and facing darker forces than just an invading army, the ultimate question remains – will Mace run (presumably with all your gold and quite possibly with your wife) or will he stand and fight?

Morningstar weaves history, myth and legend into a fantasy narrative to create a rich and almost believable tale. The overriding conflict of the Angostins and the Highlanders is reminiscent of Edward I’s campaigns against Scotland and Wales, creating a vivid backdrop for a story which underlines the struggle between freedom and oppression. The clear influences from history give the story a sense of realism which may have otherwise been lost in a tale of magic and supernatural evil.

The comparisons to Robin Hood are similarly well deserved; outlaws and banditry abound, refuge is sought in the depths of the forests, and rich Angostins are relieved of their gold which, ever reluctantly, is bestowed upon the poor masses. This is a reweaving of the Robin Hood legend – a Robin Hood who despite all intentions to murder and pillage ends up, however unintentionally, helping others and fighting for the common good.

Gemmell’s writing is fast paced and fluid, describing the world and its inhabitants in vivid detail. The whole band of characters are given dimensionality; cutthroats, prostitutes and thieves alike. The first person perspective, in which the narrator is describing the life of another character, works incredibly well. Owen Odell plays the part of naïve narrator superbly; he is the moral compass of the tale caught up in a world completely alien to him, and this secondary perspective works to emphasise the complexity and duality of Jarek Mace’s character.

Mace is a wonderfully reluctant hero. His motives are always questionable, his true feelings hidden from us. There may have been more fights and battles if the narrative had been told from Mace’s perspective but we would have lost the most important and vital part of the story. The true beauty of this tale is that we never know what Mace is really thinking or what his intentions are, and despite any good or bad outcome we can never know if it was done for completely selfless or selfish reasons. Jarek Mace will always remain an enigma.

Morningstar is a short but gripping tale full of intriguing characters. The momentum is carried with excitement and humour and ultimately reaches a satisfying, if somewhat hurried, conclusion. My first foray into the work of Gemmell was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and one which had me reaching for the next Gemmell book as soon as Morningstar closed.

Knights of Dark Renown, also by David Gemmell, will be reviewed shortly.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Books in Escapology 101

Top Ten TuesdayWelcome to Top Ten Tuesday – a weekly feature hosted by those lovely bookworms over at The Broke and the Bookish. Expect a new top ten list every week!

It is still Tuesday, right? Oops! Later than anticipated, here is this week’s Top Ten Tuesday Wednesday.

|Top Ten… Books in Escapology 101 |

Welcome to Escapology 101. On this course you will meet those heroes who could find their way out of a locked box, in a locked room, in a guarded encampment with naught but a butter knife; they could storm castles and fortresses, perform daring feats of rescue, and whip up disguises with nothing more than a washing up bottle and some sticky-backed plastic. Through tunnels, torture and restraints these are the people in whose steps you will follow. It matters not that many are fictional creations, for the most fascinating characters are all real. Prepare to be immersed in tales of the most daring, risky and seemingly impossible escapes in both fact and fiction… that is, if I’ve read them of course.


| 1. |

 If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again

Colditz Story

The Colditz Story by P.R. Reid

This is the book which first hooked me into military escape memoirs. The Colditz Story follows the story of Captain Patrick Reid and his fellow prisoners of war at Oflag IV-C, better known as Colditz. A seemingly impregnable fortress, over 300 men escaped her walls in her four year history as a prison. This memoir is written as a tale of adventure, of daring escapades, crafty deceptions and ultimately a battle of wits with the Germans.


| 2. |

Never underestimate the ingenuity of others

Latter Days

The Latter Days at Colditz by P.R. Reid

The Latter Days at Colditz details the lives of those left behind after Patrick Reid’s escape in 1942 and is just as absorbing as The Colditz Story. Fuelled by the successful ‘home runs’ of escapees, the prisoners of war make attempt after attempt at freedom, pushing their ingenuity to the limits and incurring the wrath of the German guards. The determination and resourcefulness of these men never ceases to amaze.

heart| 3. |

Even the simplest object can change your fate

Tunnelling to Freedom by John Fancy

John Fancy is the man with the butter knife. Tunnelling to freedom details Fancy’s daring and dangerous attempts at escape whilst a prisoner of war. It is a tale of inventiveness, determination and bravery, which conveys the unimaginable difficulties of the time with a good dose of dry humour. Armed with little more than his 10-inch butter knife, Fancy dug eight tunnels, some of which were 40 feet below ground level, in his many attempts at freedom.


| 4. |

Your innate talents may be the key to your success


The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Azkaban, the most closely guarded prison in the whole wizarding world, a place deemed impossible to escape from. Until we meet Sirius Black. The Prisoner of Azkaban has escapes and escapades by the bucketful and earns a worthy place on this syllabus. Of course it would help if you were an Animagus… or a Wizard.

heart| 5. |

Don’t be afraid to change course when opportunity knocks


The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

No matter how long and how hard you’ve toiled for freedom, if an opportunity for escape arises, take it. A true literary classic, The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most well known escape stories in fiction. This is a tale of injustice, of inner strength and retribution. In this exciting, suspenseful and often violent epic, revenge is a dish best served cold.

heart| 6. |

Breaking in is often just as important as breaking out


The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Stumbling from one danger into another is all part of the course of being an adventurer. The Hobbit is a tale of hidden strength, of bravery and cunning, and a reminder that enemies come in many forms. From trolls and spiders, to elves and dragons, in Middle Earth we are never far from an escape story.heart

| 7. |

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future”


The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Keeping one step ahead of the enemy, escaping the clutches of evil, and trusting in your friends and allies; The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece of literature which no would be escapee should go without reading. Sometimes it’s necessary to trust in luck, and in the strength and goodness of those around you; sometimes that’s all it takes to find a way back home.


| 8. |

Be careful who you trust

Home Run

Home Run: Escape from Nazi Europe by John Nichol and Tony Rennell

Home Run is a collection of real life stories from the Second World War which showcases the bravery and determination of both the escapees and the civilians who went out of their way to help them. Whilst retaining some of the humour and excitement of escapee memoirs, Home Run also manages to convey the extreme sacrifice many were willing to make in order to secure the freedom of others. These are the people who set up lines of escape and safe houses; who took in complete strangers and risked their own lives and those of their family in order to stand up for freedom. This is a book about bravery, sacrifice, daring heroism and betrayal. Not everyone is going to make it home.


| 9. |

“You learn to escape the hard way”

the great escape

The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill

This list would be incomplete without The Great EscapeThis tale, like many others, shows the bravery, determination and sheer bloody mindedness of the inmates of Stalag Luft III (John Fancy included) which led to the escape of 76 prisoners and which ultimately ended in tragedy for so many. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.


| 10. |

“The important thing was that we were alive…”


Papillon by Henri Charrière

Papillon is the thrilling and dramatic memoir of Henri Charrière, a Frenchman, who in 1931 was wrongly convicted of murder and sent to Devil’s Island, a penal colony in French Guiana. Charrière’s tale spans fourteen years and details his adventures, daring escapes and his (often dramatic) life during his imprisonment. This is a book which at times may seem unbelievable, but one thing is for sure -Charrière escaped… and survived.


With all that reading under your belt you should now be prepared for any adventure which may result in capture, imprisonment and the subsequent attempts at escape. And if all else fails, make like Joe Abercrombie and fall, jump or be pushed off any ledge, balcony, window or precipice…. and you might just live to tell the tale.


What about you? Do you enjoy escape memoirs and literature? If you would like to join in with Top Ten Tuesday, head on over to The Broke and the Bookish and sign up!

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