Posted in Adventure Fiction, Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Friendship, Magic, New Books, Young Adult

Earthlings : The Beginning Ray Star 5*#Review @RayStarBooks @chronospublish @midaspr #Earthlings #ReadGreen #SavethePlanet #magick #dysotopian #animals #BlogTour #BookReview #AuthorInterview #QandA #MondayBlogs

A twisting tale of elemental magick and a broken ecosystem, Earthlings is the spellbinding debut from Ray Star exploring family, friendship and the intrinsic value of nature

Peridot Watkins has always lived a very sheltered life. Raised on a remote island by an over-protective mother, she has never spoken to anyone outside of her family.

Until one day, a strange boy Euan knocks on her window, mumbling about escape from captivity on the mainland and Peri quickly learns that the world isn’t safe for people like them. It isn’t safe for Elementals, those who have the power to control earth, air, fire, water and spirit.

On her quest to learn the truth, Peri escapes the island to discover that the world is worse than she could have possibly imagined. Humans are slaves, animals can talk and the world is run by unruly chickens.

Peri is thrown into a world she barely understands; caught in an ongoing battle for freedom and struggling to command her magick whilst trying to find Euan, who is entangled with people who may not be as straight forward as they seem. Peri’s abilities may be what is needed to save humanity but at what cost?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from the author via Midas PR in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Earthlings is intended for the young adult fantasy age group, but it explores issues that affect everyone. There is something in this story to capture most people’s interest. It envisages an alternative world where the balance of power shifts from humanity to the animal world. Whether you are an advocate of animal welfare or not, it’s hard not to see that current practices using animals are likely to harm not just them but humans too.

Peri’s sheltered life leaves her unprepared for her exceptional skills and the real world she encounters. This story is about how she copes and the difference she can make. It’s a coming-of-age fantasy story, but its setting and the world-building gives it a dystopian ethos. The inhumanity shown to animals is reversed in this world with humans as the farmed captive creatures. The story has a serious message that is impactful because of the quality of the storytelling. Adventure, friendship, family and relationships are all explored. Magickal practices feature strongly in this story through the main protagonist and as a major plot strand giving this story an engaging vibrancy.

The characters are believably crafted and draw the reader quickly into a world that should defy belief but doesn’t.

Q&A with Ray Star – #Earthlings

When creating your story, which comes first, the characters, plot or setting? Why do you think this is?

I am going to be completely honest with you, I have no plan of action when it comes to writing. The words find their way to me when I’m in the moment, and I rarely, if ever, know what I am going to write.

The Earthlings story came to me bizarrely when I was at lunch with my mother, a few weeks after my dad’s funeral. We were seated next to a small tropical fish tank, and I remember feeling so sad for the fish that would inevitably spend their lives swimming round in circles, never experiencing freedom.

I remember vividly, turning to Mum and saying quite out of the blue, “I’m going to write a book about animals that can talk.”

She stopped eating, put her fork down and said with a smile, “Well, why not?”

“Yes,” I thought, “why not indeed?”

I looked down at my dad’s ring that I wear always, and as the green gem twinkled back at me, Peridot’s tale came to life from there.

What are the inspirations for Earthlings – The Beginning, your debut fantasy novel?

Animals and the environment were the reason behind the creation of the Earthlings trilogy. As a practising eclectic green witch, I have a deep love for the natural world, and it pains me to witness how humanity neglects our home and its inhabitants.

I wanted to write a book that had a conscience to the narrative, enabling readers to contemplate how life could be if we were no longer the dominant species on the planet.  

World-building is an essential component of fantasy novels. How did you create yours?

This was surprisingly the easiest part of writing Earthlings, I looked at modern day society and without giving too much away, reversed some of the roles.

I remember thinking another writer might have a similar concept and beat me to it, itching to publish the book so I didn’t miss the opportunity to share the Earthlings tale.

Did you set out to write a book suited to the young adult market? If so, can you share why you believe they are your target audience?

I knew from the moment I wrote the first chapter that I wanted the story to revolve around teenagers, finding their inner power and trying to make positive changes for the planet. It’s a concept I believe we can all relate to.

Deep down, everyone wants to make the world a better place.

I also wanted to incorporate some of my daily practises as an eclectic witch into the novel, as an avid YA Fantasy lover, giving Peridot magick (yes – magick with a ‘k’), was too tempting to resist.

This was the only aspect of Earthlings that I debated – whether to include magick. In the end, it was my love for YA Fantasy that made it an easy decision to make.

 Is this book part of a series? If so, what aspect of elemental magick and the ecosystem does the second book explore?

Earthlings includes genuine magickal practises that I use in my own rituals, from herbal lore, crystal healing and invoking the elements to following moon cycles – I wanted to include practical magick that works and that we can use in our lives today.

Earthlings is book one of a trilogy as the story has many depths that I wanted to cover, and I physically could not cram them all into one book, as much as I wanted to!

The following book in the trilogy (Dominion) is in the editing process due for release this festive period, with the final instalment (Land of hope and glory) to be released next year.

A little inside secret for your followers; I will be writing a prequel (The Changing) which will be Peridot’s mother’s story explaining how the Earthlings world came to be, and I plan to have a spin off series from this once that book is complete.

Readers can sign up to my newsletter on raystarbooks.com for more details on this to come next year!

 What five words summarise your story. Can you explain why?

Unexpected. Intriguing. Disconcerting. Moving. Magickal.

Earthlings is the world we live in today, reversed, and with a hearty helping of magick added to each page.

Ray Star

Ray Star is a Fantasy author from Essex with a passion for animal rights and eco-living. She can often be found writing, exploring nature and occasionally stargazing underneath a full moon with a tarot deck in one hand and a strong cuppa in the other.

Earthlings was conceived from a love for the environment and inspired by her father, whose passing was a catalyst in leading a greener lifestyle.

Ray’s dream is to one day open an animal sanctuary and wildlife reserve in memory of her father. Earthlings is Ray’s debut novel and the first book in the Earthlings trilogy.

#Earthlings

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Posted in Adventure Fiction, Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction

Ascent Jed Mercurio 4*#Review @jed_mercurio @PenguinUKBooks Vintage Digital #Ascent #PenguinRandomHouseUKAudio #AudioBook #Review Narrator John Hopkins

A truly stunning novel of one man’s dangerous obsession with immortality, from the BAFTA award-winning creator of Bodyguard and Line of Duty

ONE OF THE GUARDIAN‘S ‘1000 NOVELS EVERYONE MUST READ’

Yefgenii Yeremin is a flyer and a phantom.

Destined to go down in Soviet history books as ‘Ivan the Terrible’, the most deadly fighter pilot of the Korean War, one moment of madness sees Yefgenii throwing his reputation to the wind. Exiled to a remote Arctic base, his name unknown and victories uncelebrated, he must endure a fate worse than death: anonymity.

But when a man arrives from Moscow’s Space Committee in search of a volunteer prepared to sacrifice himself for his country, Yefgenii seizes his one last chance of immortality.

Amazon Audible UK Waterstones

I received a copy of this audiobook from Penguin Random House UK Audio via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is an intense story well suited to the audiobook. The narrator keeps the listener’s engagement throughout.

The story explores the historical period from the Korean War in the 1950s to the space race in the 1960s from the Russian viewpoint. Yefgenii Yeremin lost his family during WW2 and suffered life-changing emotional damage. His early life is brutal and devoid of nurture. Disturbing to listen to it shapes him into to driven man he becomes.

His missions during the Korean War are deniable and secret and eventually leave him without the recognition he seeks. The relationships between the fighter pilots are complex and relatable. The story is absorbing as it moves to the frozen north and anonymity. Yefgenii is always seeking something just beyond his reach. He denies himself basic human comforts and emotions desired by most people. His part in the space race gives him a chance of the immortality he seeks but at the expense of everything else in his life.

The research is detailed, and the sense of place and time succinct. The story is an absorbing mix of action and introspection, poignant and with a conclusion that resonates.

Posted in Adventure Fiction, Author Guest Post, Author Interview, Fantasy, Guest post, New Books, Release Day Spotlight

The Wolf Mile C.F.Barrington #GuestPost #Author #interview @barrington_cf @HoZ_Books @AriesFiction #Adventure #Fiction #Fantasy #publicationday #TheWolfMile

Today is publication day for The Wolf Mile by C.F.Barrington by Aries Fiction, the adventure fiction imprint of Head of Zeus Books. The first in a series of five books this promises something different for the adventure fiction market.

A forbidden contest. An international game.

Bankrolled by the world’s wealthy elite and followed by thousands online, two teams of warriors vie for dominance … and the streets of Edinburgh run with blood.

Into this secret struggle steps Tyler Maitland, seeking his lost sister, and Lana Cameron, grieving her dead child. When they are accosted by figures in black hoodies and each handed a silver amulet, they recognise the Triple Horn of Odin – the talisman of the Valhalla Horde.

They are being recruited into the great game known as The Pantheon. And one day they will change everything.

Now they must risk their lives and join the ranks of seven ancient warrior teams which inhabit this illicit world. Their journey will be more wondrous and horrifying than anything they could have dreamed, taking each of them to the depths of their souls … and testing them to breaking point as they search for loved ones and for the meaning in their lives.

Let the Season begin.

Amazon UK Waterstones

An Interview with C.F.Barrington

Which of your books are we discussing and why?

I thought your readers might like to hear about my debut novel – The Wolf Mile – which is being launched by Head of Zeus adventure imprint, Aries Fiction, on 6 May (digital) and 8 August (paperback). It is the first in a five-book saga about The Pantheon, with Book 2 (The Blood Isles) launching in October 2021 and Book 3 (The Hastening Storm) coming in spring 2022.

I’ve chosen it because the story – and indeed the genre – has sparked much discussion amongst my early readers, because it is hard to pin into a single category and defies my many attempts to condense it into a snappy teaser. The most concise description came from one of my advance readers, who said it was ‘Fight Club with swords’. I’ll take that! And my agent (Laura Macdougall at United Agents) said it had ‘elements of The Hunger Games’ when she first read it.

What inspired you to write The Wolf Mile?

Photo Credit C.F.Barrington

It is a story which is first and foremost inspired by a sense of place. Apart from a sojourn into the forests of the Highlands, the book’s action all takes place in the closes, tunnels and rooftops which flow from the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Indeed, it was Edinburgh’s Old Town which really allowed the story to manifest. The dark, malevolent history of the Old Town and its stunning architecture and rumours of tunnels and secret passages, set my mind ticking. I am sure that the whole concept of The Pantheon could not have come together if it had not been for my life in and around Edinburgh.

The story was also prompted by two other factors: Firstly, I had always wanted to take my love of historical fiction and coax it into a modern thriller – without going down the well-trodden route of some sort of time-travel. Secondly, after a career spent in major gift fundraising for charities and universities, I had communicated with many very wealthy individuals and I got to wondering what makes someone excited when they can buy everything? As the book asks….. Imagine riches beyond your wildest dreams. What would you do with them? Travel the world? Buy a yacht? Now times it by ten.  A hundred. We’re talking mega-wealth – the kind that buys governments, shapes economies, enervates security forces and makes a mockery of justice systems. NOW what would you do with it? Less certain?

In ancient times, the wealthy of Rome spent their money and energies on forsaking human life in the gladiatorial stadia – and that’s where the concept of The Pantheon grew from in my head.

The Wolf Mile charts the rise of Tyler Maitland and Lana Cameron as they are plucked from their normal lives to become players in The Pantheon, a secret game bankrolled by the world’s wealthy elite and watched online by thousands. Warriors from seven ancient civilisations are trained, sworn to allegiance, then pitted against each other in battles amongst the claustrophobic alleys which flow from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and filmed in real-time.

Set in today’s city, this is very much a modern thriller, but it mixes elements of historical fiction, as well as a sweeping romance over the five-book series, which takes the protagonists from friends, to sworn enemies and finally to lovers. So when Aries came along and declared it was, above all, adventure fiction, it was perfect – because this is exactly what the saga is: A twisting, turning, relentless adventure with a big cast of characters, which propels the protagonists on a journey more horrifying and wondrous than they could ever have dreamed, into a world which perhaps we all secretly wish we experience.  

Photo Credit C.F.Barrington

Comments so far include:

‘The Wolf Mile is a thrilling ride and a heck of a debut. C F Barrington knocks it out the park.’

‘Featuring two compelling yet flawed lead characters, an intriguing mystery and unrelenting action, I can’t wait to see where Mr Barrington takes us in the future.’

‘It is a very cool idea and I think if done right will become one of my favourite secret societies.’

‘Get ready for a rip-roaring adventure through the streets of Edinburgh – The Wolf Mile is the perfect escapist read!’

Photo Credit C.F.Barrington

I’ve included some photos of the Old Town which have helped inspire me. One evening before the pandemic, a friend and I toured the Old Town cameras in hand. We ended up climbing onto buildings and lying in the middle of roads, getting carried away discovering the dark, brooding essence of The Pantheon. It was great fun and hopefully the images provide a taste of what to expect in The Wolf Mile.

C.F. Barrington

C F Barrington spent twenty years intending to write a novel, but found life kept getting in the way. Instead, his career took him into major gift fundraising, leading teams in organisations as varied as the RSPB, Oxford University and the National Trust.

When his role as Head of Communications at Edinburgh Zoo meant a third year of fielding endless media enquiries about the possible birth of a baby panda, he finally retreated to a quiet desk beside the sea and discovered the inspiration for the Pantheon saga.

Raised in Hertfordshire and educated at Oxford, he now divides his time between running over the hills of the Lake District and dog walking on the beaches of Fife.

My website is www.cfbarrington.com –  and provides lots of visuals and backstory about Edinburgh’s Old Town.

I can also be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BarringtonCFAuthor ; Twitter at https://twitter.com/barrington_cf ; and Instagram (which shows lots of my hill-running adventures with my spaniel, Albie) at https://www.instagram.com/cfbarrington_notwriting

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