An old house can hold many secrets. Hollowpark in the west of Ireland certainly does. At the heart of the gardens is an intricate maze, named after a deadly poison, Belladonna. If you know the way through, it’s magical, a hiding place and playground like no other. If you don’t, it’s a place of fear and sinister riddles, where a young girl once went missing and was never seen again.
Grace comes to Hollowpark as a nanny for young Skye FitzMahon. Soon the mysterious past of Hollowpark has seduced her. Who is the woman she sometimes glimpses in an upstairs window? Or the apparition who keeps showing up unexpectedly, pleading, ‘Find me.’ And how can she fight her growing attraction to Skye’s father?
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
Beginning with a telling incident in The Belladonna Maze in 1825, this story alternates between the nineteenth century and 2007. It is an absorbing medley of literary fiction with gothic and supernatural elements.
Lyrical and full of vibrant characters and vivid imagery, the story weaves its magic on the reader, immersing them in the maze and its secrets. It reads like a contemporary fairytale, and the reader is never sure what is fact and what is fantasy. Belladonna is known for its hallucinatory effects.
Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but, as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered – she must marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But, when a mysterious toymaker, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in Marietta’s life.
After Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance on Christmas Eve, Marietta discovers it carries a magic all of its own – magic darker than anyone could imagine. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself transported from her family’s ballroom to a frozen sugar palace, silent with secrets, in a forest of snow-topped fir trees. She must find a way to return home before she’s trapped in Everwood’s enchanting grip forever.
In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.
Multilayered and magical, this is a festive adult fairytale full of adventure, darkness and self-discovery. It explores Edwardian social history and how women began to challenge society’s expectations of them. Marietta is a young woman, expected to marry and leave her dance career behind. She rails against the injustice but initially fails to understand the direction of life is in her hands.
The world of Everwood is intricately created, full of vivid imagery and insidious darkness that threatens Marietta and that she must overcome. There are classic elements in the story for those familiar with the original inspiration to enjoy.
An engaging read if you enjoy dance, history and magic.
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?
I received a copy of this book from the author via Midas PR in return for an honest review.
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, everyonewants 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?
Earthlings is the world we live in today, reversed, and with a hearty helping of magick added to each page.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!’
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 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.
Simon Lord has it all—the beautiful fiancé, the loving family, the sprawling mansion, and the famous last name. Little does he know that what is supposed to be the happiest day of his life will become his last. The little town of Solomon’s Wake has managed to keeps its secrets hidden for nearly a century, but no darkness can lie dormant forever. It only takes one fateful night, one storm, one wedding, for a vampire to rise, a werewolf to escape, and a witch’s age-old curse to rise again.
Decades later, the Lord family is a shadow of its former self. Windwood, the Lord family ancestral home, sits in near ruin as Simon Lord lies in a coma, but life goes on. That is until Joshua Lord makes the fateful decision to return to Windwood with his young family. Curses, as young Jenna Lord finds out, do not have an expiration date. The Lords and their friends find themselves battling vicious werewolves, homicidal grandmothers, the unrelenting spirit of a vengeful witch, and their own dark pasts. The only question is, who will make it out of Windwood alive this time?
There are four breeds of Clairvoyants: Kinetics who can move objects with their minds, Prophets who have involuntary visions of the future, Readers who can explore the deepest thoughts of others in an instant and Aural who can transfer their consciousness to control the bodies of others.
17-year-old Rion Grean is a Kinetic, but he has no idea there are others like him. His protective mother kept them on the move, even refusing to tell him about the father he never knew. When an accident separates them, he finds himself on the run from a covert, militaristic force that sees his kind as wasps that have strayed into the homes of normal humanity. Suddenly engulfed within the different factions of the Clairvoyants, the boy who has never been good at making friends must determine who to follow.
Available at special pre-order deal 99p (normal price £3.50/$3.99) Books2read
Publication Date: 1st May
Kelly S. Marsden grew up in Yorkshire, and there were two constants in her life – books and horses. Graduating with an equine degree from Aberystwyth University, she has spent most of her life since trying to experience everything the horse world has to offer. She is currently settled into a Nutritionist role for a horse feed company in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. She writes Fantasy stories part-time. Her first book, The Shadow Rises (Witch-Hunter #1), was published in January 2013, and she now has several successful series under her belt.
Luna suffers from an undiagnosed illness causing hallucinations and blackouts that have plagued her for years. The root of her bazaar illness comes to light when she meets her pro-wrestling hero, Gunner Cain, and his wrestling faction friends, The Tribe. Luna discovers her romantic connection to Gunner isn’t just a fangirl crush, he is her eternal soulmate.
Gunner wants Luna to become his Alpha dreamer mate, for as part of a prophecy written in the Lycan Oracle, Luna must choose to bond to the Alpha of the Tribe, or all will be stuck in wolf form, forgetting their humanity forever. Luna learns the steps they must take to complete the bonding ritual could also end a centuries-old curse, saving lone wolves abandoned by their packs and plagued with the dreaded Lycan fever. Gunner’s connection to Luna is more than prophecy fulfilled; it is hope for Lycan kind in this steamy shifter tale of prophecy and romance.
Loretta Kendall is a professional image consultant, writer, and author of the new novel Dreamer. She started her life with a daydream and a story in her mind. As long as Loretta can remember, she was a storyteller sharing stories with her friends from her overactive imagination. After twenty-two years as a talent manager, professional makeup artist, and photographer for the entertainment industry, she revisited her love for storytelling.
Loretta is a hopeless romantic and lives for a good happy ever after. Her husband must agree because they have had twenty-four years of wedded bliss. When she isn’t reading or writing steamy stories, she’s probably singing, watching pro wrestling while yelling at the TV, or spending time with nature.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have hot, funny, feisty, rule-breaking angels protecting and fighting your corner? Keeping an eye on those who slip through law enforcement’s fingers?
Well here you go…the Fallen. You’re welcome!
At the age of four, Amy Fox was taken…. She survived….
A week later, another little girl was taken…. She didn’t.
Angry, Amy made a deal with the heavens. Decades later her lifeless body was found beneath a London commuter train and she became an angel. But for how long? Lusting after her partner, competing with hell warlords, avenging personal scores, and dishing out toughkarma on evil exes, crime gangs, traffickers, drug dealers, rapists, abusers, trophy hunters, trolls, and serial killers, all without her units authorization, will have her thrown below ground. Running with a world network of fallen angels, Amy has never worked so hard in her entire earthly life. She has to wonder if making a deal was a mistake.
I received an audiobook from the author in return for an honest review.
This audiobook creates a believable world where fallen angels bring evil humans to justice. This is a hard-hitting series with disturbing themes. It’s difficult to listen to in parts because of the detailed descriptions, but the author creates a world of avenging angels who don’t follow the rules to achieve what human justice systems cannot.
It works well as an audiobook, with the narrator distinguishing between the characters and bringing them to vivid life. This is an adult story, the action and language befitting the evil portrayed. Relatable characters and relevant themes make this an absorbing story to listen to for adult fantasy fiction listeners.
CUNNINGHAM writes suspense thrillers and paranormal rom crime with a skilled mix of fuelled tension, dark humour and pulsating passion. Having worked in the industries she writes about, her novels offer a fresh level of sincerity and authority, rare in fiction.
An ex-model, British born of Irish roots, she married a rock musician and worked in music, film, sports and crime (CID, Wanted/Absconder Unit, Major Crime Team, Intelligence Analyst, Crime Investigations). She is owned by daughter (artist Scarlett Raven), three dogs and two cats.
And GlamMa to a brand new grandson who has stolen her heart.
A spiralling obsession. A missing wife. A terrifying secret. Will he find her before it’s too late? When Dr Jacob Boyce’s wife goes missing, the police put it down to a simple marital dispute. Jacob, however, fears something darker. Following her trail to Spain, he becomes convinced that Ella’s disappearance is tied to a mysterious painting whose hidden geometric and numerical riddles he’s been obsessively trying to solve for months. Obscure, hallucinogenic clues, and bizarre, larger-than-life characters, guide an increasingly unhinged Jacob through a nightmarish Spanish landscape to an art forger’s studio in Madrid, where he comes face-to-face with a centuries-old horror, and the terrifying, mind-bending, truth about his wife.
Tom Gillespie grew up in a small town just outside Glasgow. After completing a Masters in English at Glasgow University, he spent the next ten years pursuing a musical career as a singer/songwriter, playing, recording and touring the UK and Europe with his band. He now lives in Bath with his wife, daughter and hyper-neurotic cat, where he works at the university as an English lecturer. Tom writes long and short stories. His stories have appeared in many magazines, journals and e-zines. He is co-author of Glass Work Humans-an anthology of stories and poems, published by Valley Press.