Tag Archives: fantasy

Cover to The Unquiet Sword, book two of the Fair Folk series

The Unquiet Sword is available for download

You’d think writing the second book in a series would be easier than the first. And you’d be right, in a way. After all, you’ve already birthed the characters, built the world, and you know where the story is heading. Sort of. But, of course, a story is a fluid thing; it doesn’t always do what you expect it to. So it changes as you’re writing, and you have better ideas, ideas that stretch and expand and challenge the story you thought you were writing.

I like to think that all makes for a better story. I hope so, anyway, because The Unquiet Sword is out there now. It didn’t take me as long to write as The Fey Man but, in a way, it was just as hard, only in different ways. And I’m sure the next one will be just as hard! But, in the meantime, I hope you enjoy my second novel. You can download it from your favourite ebook retailer now:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Kobo | Apple iBookstore | Barnes & Noble

If you haven’t read the first book in the series, don’t worry; download your free copy of The Fey Man today!

A damaged copy of The Unquiet Sword paperback; a dog ate it!

The Unquiet Sword Paperback is Delayed

It’s just a few days until 8th October and until The Unquiet Sword will finally be released! Unfortunately the excitement has been dulled a little; I’m sorry to have to tell you that The Unquiet Sword paperback will be delayed.

At one point the paperback was fine and hunky dory, but Createspace are now claiming that the cover image is physically too large, and their attempts to fix it have kind of broken it instead. Annah Wootten, the excellent artist who creates those beautiful covers, will take a look as soon as she can. However she has other commitments, and Createspace is slow enough that it could mean the paperback will be delayed for a short while. For readers who want to wait for The Unquiet Sword paperback, I’ll be sending updates via my email newsletter; you can sign up using the form at the top of the page.

But the ebook will still be released on time, and that alone is still reason enough to get excited. If you just can’t wait to read The Unquiet Sword, be sure to preorder your copy. It will be just 0.99 until the end of Saturday 8th October, after which it will revert to it’s regular price of $2.99/£1.99, so make sure you get your copy soon!

Preorder the ebook of The Unquiet Sword ebook for just 0.99 from:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Kobo | Apple iBookstore | Barnes & Noble

Paperback copies of The Fey Man and The Unquiet Sword

The Unquiet Sword Giveaway

There’s still three weeks until The Unquiet Sword goes on sale, but for one lucky person, the wait is over. Createspace sent me two copies of the advance proof, you see, and I can’t send one back or sell it as I needed to make some changes to the manuscript. So what should I do with it? Give it away, of course!

Bear in mind that this is an advance reader copy, or ARC. That means there are spelling mistakes (quite a few, to my embarrassment), and some of the text will be slightly different to the official published version. But if you want to be the first to find out what happens to Tom and the rest, here’s your chance!

And on top of an advance copy of The Unquiet Sword, the winner will also receive a paperback copy of The Fey Man. So you’ve got everything you need to start reading the Fair Folk series, or you can pass the first book to a friend if you’ve already got a copy!

This giveaway runs until 11:59 Monday 19th September GMT, and it’s open to anyone and everyone. If you’ve got any questions, leave a comment or send me a tweet!

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The false city of Tir from The Fey Man

Realms of Tir: Cairnacei

Carnacei is something of a joke, for it is not a city of Tir, but just a field of poppies. The story goes that Sir Cei, having killed King Amyr, lost his life here and his blood soaked the flowers, turning them red.

The story of Sir Cei differs depending on where the tale is told. On the basics, though, all storytellers can agree. Feeling the long shadow of his father, Amyr had it in mind to marry the daughter of a powerful Westerner, to cement his relationship with the richest realm of Tir. But Amyr was vain and selfish. When he was presented with portraits of the possible candidates, he chose, not the best match, but the most beautiful. He would have Kyru, daughter of one of the smallest lords in the West, or he would have no-one.

Kyru came to Cairnauran with only three attendants; her father could afford no more. She found courtly life lonely, and was not particularly enamoured of her new husband. But there was one Western knight left alive after the battle of Camlann: Sir Tengidar. Tengidar was scarred from the battle but still handsome, and the two grew close. Too close.

One night, they fled together. Amyr was furious, and Sir Cei was amongst those chosen to hunt down the wayward lovers. They hunted high and low, traversing lands even Sir Beduir had not yet seen. But, when they finally found Kyru and Tengidar, Kyru made Cei swear to protect Tengidar’s life. And Cei swore an oath that he would let no harm come to his brother-in-arms.

When they returned to Cairnauran, Cei told King Amyr of the oath he had sworn. Furious that Cei had sworn such an oath, Amyr gave him a simple order: execute Tengidar, or be labelled a traitor.

What happens next varies wildly depending on the teller. None know for certain what became of Kyru, of Tengidar, even of Cei. But King Amyr’s fate is well-known; he was beheaded by Sir Cei, and thus did Emyr’s unified Tir become fractured and broken.

The Unquiet Sword is Available on Amazon

Cover to The Unquiet Sword, book two of the Fair Folk seriesAmazon offer a much shorter preorder period than the other retailers, but with the release date for The Unquiet Sword getting closer and closer, the ebook is finally available for preorder.

Unfortunately, Amazon don’t allow preorders for paperbacks, so be sure to sign up to my email list to find out as soon as they’re available for purchase!

Preorder The Unquiet Sword for just 0.99 today: Amazon UK | Amazon US

Faerie is forgotten. The Western King must be brought to his knees.

Thomas Rymour and his friends are free from the stinking prisons of the Western Kingdom. Their quest is clear: stop the war and free the dragons of Tir. But they have no food, no horses, no maps, and a traitor in their midst. Their hopes of success are small.

But the Western Kingdom is not a kingdom united. The dwarfs strain against their contracted servitude to the elfs. And there are fanatics and terrorists that seek to bring about the end of the world. Scattered malcontents that might be persuaded to rise up and offer their aid.

And they have Caledyr, the ancient sword that can break the Western magics. A sword that whispers to Tom. The more he uses its power, the stronger its hold on him. And now Tom isn’t sure if his journey is one of liberation or vengeance.

Is it the sword that thirsts for violence and blood? Or is there something dark growing inside Tom himself?

The Unquiet Sword is just 0.99 for the peorder period only. Don’t miss out! Amazon UK | Amazon US | Kobo | Apple iBookstore | Barnes & Noble

Outcast Journeys is a box set of nine SF&F ebooks featuring The Fey Man

Outcast Journeys fantasy ebook box set

Everyone loves a deal. And an ebook box set is a great deal for everyone. The authors get more exposure, the readers get a bundle of ebooks for a bargain price. So it’s great to be able to tell you about Outcast Journeys, a box set of nine SF&F ebooks for 0.99 which features The Fey Man!

From dragons to space ships, experience the trials and battles of memorable characters as they navigate magical worlds.

The box set offers nine ebooks for just 0.99. That’s a pretty good deal! Get Outcast Journeys today.

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Apple iBookstore | Kobo | Smashwords | Nook

The books of Outcast Journeys

Leros of the Underworld: The Tournament by Nathan Anton

Introducing Leros and his sinister alter ego, Demiro. His adventures in Earth Alpha pit him against a tyrannical queen.

Forgotten Relics by Tiffany Cherney

Leader of a crew of thieves on the starship Kathya, Rei’s attempt to strike back against her foes could change her life forever.

The Unfinished Song: Book 1 Initiate by Tara Maya

In a world of pixies, roving cannibals, and hexers, exiled warrior Kavio searches for a new life, while Dindi faces an initiation that no one in her clan has ever survived.

Sky Stone by Scarlett Van Dijk

When a magical journey transfers Skyla to a magical medieval land at war, she steps into a destiny made for her by the gods.

Rys Rising by Tracy Falbe

The magical tabre created the rys, but then reviled them as unworthy failures. The fallout will drag two human civilizations into a war that tests the faith of all involved.

The Amber Isle by Ashley Capes

A rogue named Never is on a quest to learn his true name and lift a curse on his blood.

A Forest of Eyes by Ashley Capes (Special bonus sequel to the Amber Isle)

Poisoned and furious, Never must add a desperate quest for a cure to his existing search for truth.

Roc Isle: The Descent by Alex James

Lord Azure of the Azure-Cloud Clan struggles to raise an army against those who assassinated his parents.

The Fey Man by James T Kelly

Thomas Rymour, a prophet who cannot lie, joins the battle to free the dragons, but can he ignore the lure of Faerie?

Nine SF&F ebooks for just 0.99. Get Outcast Journeys today.

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Apple iBookstore | Kobo | Smashwords | Nook

Title card for Let's Build The Fey Man YouTube series

How #feymanlego Became a Thing

“How hard can it be?” I can’t seem to stop asking this question. It leaves me tackling projects I’m not entirely equipped or prepared to handle, but honestly? I kind of enjoy it. So when I started getting back into Lego, I started to wonder what a Fey Man Lego set would look like. And then I thought I could record myself building it and sharing it online. And before I knew it, I had a webcam and a pile of Lego and no idea what I was doing.

Of course I wasn’t exactly blazing a trail. Customised Lego is not something new, ranging from “kit-bashing” (putting different pieces together to create something new) through altering or painting existing pieces to sculpting entire new pieces (and even selling them). So the first step was research. I read blogs, watched videos, and slowly built a picture of what I could and could not achieve by myself.

I thought the webcam would be difficult to find, but the first one I found happened to be the one recommended by nearly everyone. I also happened to find it when it was on sale! The Logitech C920 is small and puts out a good picture. I recorded a few test videos with it, customising a minifigure using paints. The videos looked okay, but the minifigure didn’t and the sound wasn’t right. I dug out an old USB headset and abandoned the paints.

I found a website called Firestartoys.com which sold individual Lego minifigure components and accessories. They’ve got a huge catalogue to trawl through, and it took a few weeks to identify which pieces would work for the set. The Lego website also offers a Pick a Brick service which meant I could order specific bricks without breaking the bank.

Soon enough it was time to record the first official Let’s Build The Fey Man video. I have to admit, I was surprisingly nervous! This video would be visible for the entire world to see. What if I looked like an amateur, or a fool, or I wasn’t entertaining or interesting enough? I restarted two dozen times, even wiped a video and started all over again. But in the end I had a video. And I put it online.

Thankfully the feedback has been positive so far. I’m still finding my way a little and my audience isn’t big, but they seem to enjoy the videos and, best of all, they offer feedback, ideas and suggestions. That’s what matters to me. As long as they enjoy the journey, it doesn’t matter how many of them there are. We’ll build this set together, and hopefully it will look great at the end of it all.

Want to take a look at the results? Check out Let’s Build The Fey Man.

Still from Elastic's animated map for Game of Thrones

The Best Fantasy Maps

Maps are great. Those little maps in shopping centres, the delightful London Underground map or, of course, maps of a fictional world in a book. I can lose hours looking at them. The relations between places, the names and the history inherent in them, and the human stories behind each pathway, road and town. Time spent poring over a map, even in simple appreciation, is always a pleasure. So I thought I’d compile a little list of the best fantasy maps.

Middle-Earth

Map of Middle-Earth from Tolkien's Lord of the RingsNo list of maps could neglect Middle-Earth. It is, if not the first, and if not the greatest, then certainly the foremost of fantasy maps. Tolkien was a premier world-builder, constructing languages and histories and geographies to an extent few others have even attempted. You could spend hours poring over a map of Middle-Earth. People are probably more familiar with the version in Peter Jackson’s films, but this was the copy originally published in The Lord of the Rings and thus the one we all spent hours peering at. There’s a great care and devotion in this map, and it has evoked a great devotion for the world it depicts.

The Six Duchies

Map of the Six Duchies from Robin Hobb's Fitz booksWhat I love most about this map is that it’s not necessary at all. Hobb did a marvellous job in her Farseer Trilogy of drawing a map in the mind of the reader with words. I never referred to this map out of necessity, which made it something to look at purely for the joy of it. And whilst some called it a lazy map, I quite like how sparse it is. A lack of detail is an open door to the imagination, and this is a map that allows the reader to paint huge vistas onto it.

Westeros

Still from Elastic's animated map for Game of ThronesThe maps of Westeros are a polar opposite to that of the Six Duchies, detailed with a plethora of names and places, some barely mentioned in the narrative, others never mentioned at all. You could spend hours poring over that map, wondering at the distance between Harrenhal and Banefort (Martin apparently likes to be vague with scale). They’re glorious maps, and you have to love a fantasy series that keeps increasing the number of maps in the front matter.

So why have I used an image of the title sequence to the TV show? I know it’s a bit of a cheat, but it wraps up all of the gooey awesome map stuff and perfectly translates it to the screen. The sense of scale, the relationships of places, the spaces for the imagination, the feel of the world itself. It’s all there. It’s a map come to life.

Dune

Map of Frank Herbert's DuneSome readers might point out that Dune is a science fiction novel. But not only is it far more fantasy than science fiction, it’s also a great map, too. I love that it centres on the pole, and dozens of place names scattered everywhere, not because they’re all mentioned in the novel, but because that’s just where they are. It offers hours of amusement, and best of all it’s a window into the world: names like “Shield Wall” and “Imperial Basin” tell you about this world before you even start reading, and the naming patterns of the sietches give insight into the rules and practices Dune’s people.

Marauder’s Map

The Marauder's Map from J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter seriesAs with so many things in the Harry Potter series, the Marauder’s Map is a delightful twist on a fictional staple. It’s simple too: a map that shows you where everyone is. It’s what many a reader has always hoped for (tell me you’ve never read Lord of the Rings and wished someone could tell you where the hell Frodo is). Never mind that it’s a thing of beauty, nor that the incantation to open and close it never fail to elicit a smile. The Marauder’s Map may not be a true fantasy map as we all think of them, but it’s perhaps the most fun.

Four Corners of Civilisation

Map from Patrick Rothfuss' Name of the WindThe map from Patrick Rothfuss’ debut novel, The Name of the Wind gets a slot on this list purely for the illustrative decoration to it. Very often fantasy maps can be functional things, something to tell readers that there’s a city here, a mountain over there, and the Valley of Eternal Doom is to the south. But look at the name of the map, written over a indulgent ribbon, or the illustration of a man in the corner. Maps don’t always have to be functional. They can be artistic too.

Mossflower

Map for Brain Jaques' novel Mossflower
Brian Jacques’ Redwall series are children’s books which is perhaps why the maps are so sparse. They convey the bare minimum of information. All of the locations labelled appear in the book and there is no extraneous information. That said, I was still entranced by this map. Having so little information makes what there is all the more important. What happened at the mountain, where the sword declares the site of Boar’s Battle? What are the flood tunnels for? And, of course, it has a decorative border, and they’re always nice to look at.

Tir

Howard Coates created stunning maps for The Fey ManAlright, I might be biased, but these are some of my favourite fantasy maps purely because they’re of the world I’ve invented for the Fair Folk series. Howard Coates did an incredible job of turning my scrawl into a beautiful fantasy world, and he’s filled it with little details and easter eggs that mean even I enjoy poring over them to see what other secrets they might hold!

You can read more about the maps Howard created, or why not download a free copy of The Fey Man and see them for yourself!

Cover to the UK edition Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb

Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb: Review

Sequels are tricky things. They suffer from anticipations and expectations. They promise more of what you loved, but there’s always a secret fear that the writer will have lost “it”, “it” being that magical touch that made the prior installments so good. Everyone has been crushed by a sequel at some point. Once you’ve experienced your own personal Phantom Menace, the prospect of a sequel is never the same. So it’s fair to say that I approached epic fantasy Fool’s Assassin with a mixture of hope and dread.

Worst still was the fact that this was the second time Robin Hobb had done this to me. The story of royal bastard FitzChivalry (or Fitz) began in the Farseer Trilogy and had a downbeat but definite end. That ending was opened up in the Tawny Man trilogy but, while it was something of a retread of the first, Hobb pulled it off and gave Fitz a happier ending. Now Fool’s Assassin would be the beginning of a third trilogy, a third attempt to open up a closed book. Would the law of diminishing returns strike? Could Fool’s Assassin be the book where she lost “it”?

We live in our bodies. An assault on that outside fortress of the mind leaves scars that may not show, but never heal.

To enjoy the Fitz books, you have to love Fitz. Stubborn, headstrong, sometimes maudlin, not always wise, with a strong sense of morality and rarely a sense of how to employ it. You feel less that Hobb has create the hero of an epic fantasy and more a real, flawed man to hang her story on. Fitz is not the same character he was in the first trilogy, though. His experiences have battered him, strengthened him in some senses, weakened him in others. He’s older, more mature, but in some ways he’s the same old Fitz. He’s not a bad analogy for the novel as a whole.

Robert Zemeckis once said that people like a sequel because they want to revisit characters and places they loved the first time around. Hobb understands this, and so Fool’s Assassin respects, recalls and revisits the previous installments. Thus there are visits to Buckkeep, and characters like Chade and Kettricken and Dutiful make appearances. Even absent characters are present through recollection or, in a sense, resurrection. Fans of a particular relationship they might think ended will not, I feel, be disappointed. In some sense, Fool’s Assassin is the same old Fitz story.

But just as Fitz’s new maturity and responsibilities are the most interesting things about him, Fool’s Assassin works best where it leaves behind all the old intrigue and politics of prior stories. Instead of trying to preserve a royal family and its kingdom, the focus of this novel is closer, more immediate: Fitz’s family. This by necessity creates a smaller story; so small the first map is of Fitz’s house. But though it is smaller in scope it is deeper in feeling, which is where Hobb’s novels always do best. And it’s a perfect way to open up Fitz’s world to new narratives. Yes he’s had a happy ending, but happy endings very rarely lack their own complications.

Hobb also takes this opportunity to open up the story to new narrative techniques. Fans of these books might think it heresy, but trust me: you will love reading the chapters written from a viewpoint other than Fitz’s.

You might be surprised to find that facing life can be much harder than facing death.

But, just as Fitz can’t let go of some of his old, poorer habits, so Hobb couldn’t quite let go of old story elements. So Chade inserts new intrigues into Fitz’s life (without any explanation for Fitz or reader) and, perhaps worse, too many old characters remain. Consider how much time has passed since the beginning of the first trilogy; some characters just shouldn’t be breathing anymore. I’m not usually so bloodthirsty, but Hobb only highlighted this by teasing a number of character deaths only to snatch them back from the jaws of death mere pages later.

Time is an unkind teacher, delivering lessons that we learn far too late for them to be useful.

Fool’s Assassin also made me realise something about Hobb’s books I’d never noticed before. Have you ever described a story in a single sentence? “Unassuming hobbit must destory a magic ring to defeat a dark lord”? “Young rebel must learn the powers of the mystical Jedi to topple an evil Galactic Empire”? “Royal bastard trains as an assassin to help save his kingdom”? Most stories make sure you can offer such a description early on. “Here’s the type of story you can expect”, they say, and either fulfill that expectation, subvert it, or disappoint it.

Fool’s Assassin doesn’t do that. And not just that, but all the Fitz books. Hobb writes a story that ambles its way through the plot. It’s certainly a pleasant amble, even an entrancing amble. But it leaves the reader in a sort of limbo. The reader doesn’t know what to anticipate, what to dread, what to attend to and what to be intrigued by. This is what makes Chade’s new intrigues frustrating. They seem so disconnected from the new world Fitz lives in and there is no explanation to them. So they stand out like a sore thumb and even seem like filler. Most readers of Fool’s Assassin won’t mind this, because they’ll have read prior trilogies and thus be happy to go where Hobb leads. But I suspect newer readers might not be willing to offer Hobb the trust she deserves.

Do not agonize about yesterday. Do not borrow tomorrow’s trouble. Let your heart hunt. Rest in the now.

But here is why I love Fool’s Assassin, and all Hobb’s work, despite those grievances: you don’t worry about them whilst you’re reading. Hobb’s prose is beautiful in its description, searing in its truth, compelling in its narrative, and it forces you to forgive all sins. It puts character before lore and it lets character drive plot. Her worldbuilding is not overbearing; it intrudes on the page only rarely, when it needs to. There is still the magic, the grand locations and action scenes that epic fantasy demands. But it’s all focused on character. And those characters are so well-drawn, so deeply developed, that you’ll love them by the end. It isn’t the plot that keeps you turning the page; it’s wanting to see your beloved characters delivered through that plot, safe and sound.

If you’ve read the previous Fitz books but you’re worried about Phantom Menace syndrome, set aside your fears. Fool’s Assassin is a worthy sequel to the series. If you haven’t read any Fitz books, don’t start here. Yes, you might enjoy it and, no, you don’t need to have read the others. But you’ll miss out on the history, the nuances, and the clever callbacks, and I like you too much to let you do that to yourself. So go read Assassin’s Apprentice and worth your way up to Fool’s Assassin.

You’ll thank me for it.

Get Fool’s Assassin from: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Apple iBookstore

Smaug is the steroetypical treasure-hoarding dragon in The Hobbit.

Why We Love Dragons

I suspect dinosaurs are the key to why we love dragons. Aside from the superficial similarities, I think dragons and dinosaurs occupy a similar space in the minds of children. I got this idea from Jurassic Park:

“He finally decided that children liked dinosaurs because these giant creatures personified the uncontrollable force of looming authority. They were symbolic parents. Fascinating and frightening, like parents. And kids loved them, as they loved their parents. Grant also suspected that was why even young children learned the names of dinosaurs…Saying these complicated names was a way of exerting power over the giants, a way of being in control.”

Personally, I’ve always thought dinosaurs were about subverting parents rather than loving them. Dinosaurs are (perceived to be) much bigger than parents, and therefore not subject to parents’ authority. And the names themselves are convoluted and confusing to parents; they represent a secret lore, much like the names of 151 Pokemon or the myriad powers of Ben 10. Dinosaurs can slide out from under the rules and requirements of regular, mundane life. They represent something else entirely. And I think that’s precisely what we love about dragons.

Dragons are (usually) big. They fly. They breathe fire (or other things). They are not subject to parents, bosses, responsibilities, they suffer not the limitations of pocket money, salaries, bills, they don’t have school or jobs or chores. And most importantly, they don’t play by the rules. One minute a dragon is a hulking monster that can’t be harmed by any weapon. The next it’s a slender, fragile wielder of magic. Dragons not only refused to be tamed in stories, but by logic and rules and expectations.

I think that’s what delights children, and it’s what delights adults too.

Why do you think we love dragons so much? Leave a comment and let me know.