Tempus Unbound by Janet & Chris Morris reviewed on Library of Erana

Review – Tempus Unbound #Fantasy – Janet Morris

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Review for Tempus Unbound

5 stars

This particular Tempus/Sacred Band book is a little different – for a start, it’s all from Tempus’ point of view, and we have only Tempus himself, Cime and Askelon from the former books. Don’t let this put you off, there’s a host of worthies – not least Mano the mercenary from the future and bad guys to rival anyone in Sanctuary.

Called to Lemuria, a strange citadel between the worlds, and times it’s a chance to right wrongs if only you can work out WHICH wrongs. Tempus is lonely, alone save for his petulant and truculent god. Who is who, and who needs whom? That’s one of the questions asked as Tempus fights an old enemy in a new and unfamiliar world. The future is dark, and war will out. Strife is all and king of all. And so it was in his own time, and in this possible future. We see our hero struggle with technology he can barely imagine and his friends see power and courage they can barely comprehend. Gods, magic and tech fight as Tempus tries to save his sister, and save the world from his deadly sister. Choices are made, and regrets are put aside in the names of love and courage. Ideals are questioned, and truth is harsh.

As usual, the characters are supremely crafted, with a richness that brings emotion and a real sense of reality. In Morris’s world, anything is possible, and the reader believes it.  These aren’t easy reads, they have a high level of violence, sex and themes that require the reader to engage their brain. But this, and the other Sacred Band/Tempus books are worth the time, and the brainpower. Rarely does a reader find a world so rich, or characters so enchanting, or writing so lyrical.  The tempo of the book is a call to war, a call to stand for what is good, and a call to give all.

Heartily recommend this – even if you’re unfamiliar with the characters, and setting Tempus Unbound takes the reader on a journey from ancient times, to a future and it’s a thrilling journey and is a great intro to Tempus and his worlds.

 

Andrew P. Weston reviews the new Author’s Cut edition of Tempus Unbound by Janet & Chris Morris for Amazon UK.

Format: Kindle Edition

     Tempus the Black – Lord of Time, Commander of the Sacred Band, Avatar of Enlil the storm god – enters Lemuria on New Year’s Eve, not quite sure why his deity has seen fit to place him there.
Once inside, he becomes a guest of Chiara – the Evening Star – and is invited to a sumptuous feast where he is greeted by a number of other visitors who, as it transpires, are from different epochs of earth’s history. Mingled in amongst them is none other than Aškelon of Meridian, Lord of Dreams and entelechy of the Seventh Sphere; onetime husband of Tempus’ sister, Cime.
While the majority of the group believes they are there to determine the fate of billions in the present and future by undoing mistakes & manipulating events in the past, Tempus suspects events are being staged, for Cime had disappeared from the land of dreams, along with her deadly rods. Thus begins the hunt that sees the storm god’s avatar transported to present day – and 22nd Century – New York.
Tempus in New York! Can you imagine?
The culture shock itself leads to some rather imaginative confrontations. And that’s only the beginning, for there is an Archmage and his minions to kill.
Enmity is guaranteed. Combat is inevitable. Bloodletting abounds.
Along the way, old wounds are opened; long held grudges come to the fore; bitter lessons are learned; eternal stories come full circle; and Tempus discovers just how intimately his affairs are interwoven to that of his god.
Having read all of Tempus’ adventures, I have to say this is one of my favorites. Fast paced, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable, it adds a clever twist to his epic narrative and keeps his story as fresh today as it’s always been.
     Tempus Unbound, #2 in the Sacred Band Book series,  is available in a new Author’s Cut Edition from Perseid Press  in digital, trade paper, and hardback formats on Amazon worldwide, Barnes & Noble, and everywhere else….
     And if you’re not yet a fan of the Sacred Band books and series, here’s a thumbnail to whet your appetite:
“Janet Morris, Tempus (1987), and, with Chris Morris, Tempus Unbound (1989), The Sacred Band (2010).

“A fantasy series about the Sacred Band of Stepsons, an elite army modeled on the fourth-century B.C.E. Sacred Band of Thebes. The stories explore the fraught personal relationships of mixed hetero- and homosexual troops, only sometimes paired, as they fight for their commander, the immortal Tempus. Morris includes archaeological and historical details, from physical items to social practices, religion, and philosophy, to create a fantasy world that is, in many ways, more historically accurate than many popular accounts of antiquity.” — Robert W. Cape, Jr, in Classical Traditions in Science Fiction, Brett M. Rogers & Benjamin Eldon Stevens, eds.,  Oxford University Press

The Sacred Band series takes a bow

From Oxford University Press:

“Janet Morris, Tempus (1987), and, with Chris Morris, Tempus Unbound (1989), The Sacred Band (2010).

“A fantasy series about the Sacred Band of Stepsons, an elite army modeled on the fourth-century B.C.E. Sacred Band of Thebes. The stories explore the fraught personal relationships of mixed hetero- and homosexual troops, only sometimes paired, as they fight for their commander, the immortal Tempus. Morris includes archaeological and historical details, from physical items to social practices, religion, and philosophy, to create a fantasy world that is, in many ways, more historically accurate than many popular accounts of antiquity.” — Robert W. Cape, Jr, in Classical Traditions in Science Fiction, Brett M. Rogers & Benjamin Eldon Stevens, eds.,  Oxford University Press

 

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The Sacred Band series of books by Janet Morris and Chris Morris have been cult sensations for decades. Now three of those books have received a notice close to my heart.

 

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The Tempus Unbound novel has been newly released on Kindle and Nook, and will soon be published in deluxe trade paper and hardback avaiable worldwide.

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Tempus-Unbound-Sacred-Band-Book-ebook/dp/B072KF7SRW/

Nook:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/tempus-unbound-janet-morris/1000037156?ean=2940157575472

 

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The Sacred Band novel itself is available in e-book, trade paper, hardback and audiobook:

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Band-Stepsons-Book-ebook/dp/B00AMLKJAI/

B&N Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sacred-band-janet-morris/1100390034?ean=2940015747836

B&N trade: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sacred-band-janet-morris/1100390034

Amazon trade: https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Band-Janet-Morris/dp/0988755009/

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The Sacred Band audiobook can be found at:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/The-Sacred-Band/dp/B00N1YRVH2/

Audible.com: https://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Sacred-Band-Audiobook/B00MU2VCEO?qid=1497978985&sr=1-1

and iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/audiobook/the-sacred-band-unabridged/id912905236

 

Read a free preview of the Sacred Band here:

 

 

And, should you want more Sacred Band of Stepsons stories and novels, the entire series to date is available from:  http://www.theperseidpress.com/?page_id=921

As the Sacred Banders say, “Life to you, and everlasting glory.”

 

Janet Morris and Medea: Hell Week

first published on: https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/hell-week-2017-day-6-janet-morrismedea/

Hell Week 2017 – Day 6 – Janet Morris/Medea

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pirates-in-hell_vertical-webbannerWelcome to Day 6 of Hell Week. Today the Infernal Interview Service catches up with series creator Janet Morris, and her character Medea.

 

Character Spotlight

About yourself:

*Who are/were you?   Tell us about your life before you came here, and after.

I am Medea, daughter of the king of Colchis, niece of Circe, granddaughter of Helios the sun god, priestess of Hekate, who rules Erebos and judges the damned who come there. More to the point, I am the oldest witch in hell. I met Jason when he came to Colchis to claim his inheritance and swore to claim his throne by bringing home the Golden Fleece. Like a fool, I fell in love with him. I helped him secure the Fleece, pass every test, on the condition that he would marry me should we succeed. Sailing in the Argos with his Argonauts, we did all of those, and more

* Why do YOU think you’re in Hell?

Jason and I killed my brother, who came chasing after us to grab the Fleece once we secured it. Then, later, when he spurned me for a daughter of Creon’s, did I turn upon fickle Jason, and killed both our children. Although I had a right to my revenge, one of those or both brought me to hell.

Who are your friends/allies here?

Friends? If you wish a friend in hell, find a dog who lived on Earth before coming here. Scarce those are, but no scarcer than a friendly soul in hell. Those in hell who’ll help me are the Erinys, the Furies, the Moerae, the Fates; but those exact their own diabolical price. Men here like Jason, once my lover, might ally with me in perdition, but no one has a ‘friend’ in hell, anymore than a lover who will be true to oath or promise. And my once-husband, Jason? He sired a race called Minyans, bedding every Lemnian woman he could find. What more about his morals need you know? Such souls now feel my wrath and will feel it more, forever.

Do you have any enemies here?

My enemies are legion. Among the greatest are Jason and his crew of heroes, every one. Some of those heroes live on in hell, flayed, without a patch of skin anywhere upon them — a due punishment for men who killed so many whilst they lived. Some need more humbling; some have earned an afterlife of pain. And, by Circe’s will and Hekate’s devising, I am one who sees to the torment of the deserving. I have told you I am hell’s oldest witch, and thus damned souls are my natural prey.

Pirates – is that a word you resent?

In my days on the black earth, what you call piracy was an honorable profession, a way to test would-be heroes, and what then was called glory is now called evil-doing. In hell, sinners sin and sin again: their fates abide in their natures: and pirates in hell today can be thieves of music, words, or souls. I serve my purpose, to terrorize and penalize the damned. Thus I please the Lords of Hell and get my revenges. So do I resent the word piracy? By all means, if you mean my ‘piracy’ from ancient times. My deeds that got me here were fated, not my fault.

Hell covers all eras and technologies, there are many hells within Hell. How have you adjusted to this strange world?

I stay much to myself, much in Erebos, where I can drink the Waters of Forgetfulness should I wish a good night’s rest. Because I am hell’s greatest sorceress, I travel whither I choose, chasing enemies, breaking hearts, setting rights to wrongs, and wrongs to right.

How do you define ‘piracy’?

Define it? I lived it when such a quest had meaning. Now mere plagiarists and thieves of arts and letters are called pirates. Here latter-day warriors have weapons that make cowards of them all. To me, betrayal of the heart is the greatest piracy: Jason stole my heart – how long ago? – and I’ve yet to get it back.  So his steps do I shadow, his hopes do I destroy. And all like him, arrogant men who sack and pillage and lay waste here in damnation, are due to feel my wrath before infernity shall end.

Describe your home/environment in Hell.

I have said, I rest in Erebos, where those heroes end who can’t remember their names or fames. From there I range wheresoever my damned quarries roam. Satan sets me tasks in his New Hell, where the New Dead dwell; nor are the Old Dead safe from me. But, alas, not even the greatest witch in hell can rid its fastness of guilty humans. But I say to you that the New Dead, those hedonistic souls who care only for themselves, torment one another more than even I can devise. So I stay among the Old Dead, since sinners there abound, and pick and choose. And why are you here, my dear? Have you not yet felt my fury?

Come on be honest, what do you think of HSM leadership?

Ah, Satan. He is what he is, suited to his modern flock of fearful souls, who all believe they don’t belong in perdition, who groan and moan over the slightest torture. Ha!  Now, Hades: there is a ruler worthy of the name.

What is the WORST thing about being here?

That I still love Jason:  that’s my torment. No matter how I try, I cannot shake his hold on my poor and shrunken heart.

Erra and his Seven – what’s going on there then?

Ah, Erra and the Seven – called the Sibitti. Erra and his personified weapons are doing more to make the underverse hellish than Satan ever did. The plagues in hell are of Erra’s making, and the floods, and there be more to come from the Babylonian Plague God and his minions., before eternity runs out.

What are your best tips for surviving in Hell?

Surviving hell?  All souls in hell are dead, do you not realize that? What survival do you mean? The survival of the soul?  They have that, yet they complain.  Soon enough, methinks, Satan will turn to obliteration: an end to all hell’s over-crowding, and to Satan’s own sentence here. Hell has its gods, to commute a sentence. Irkalla can send a soul straight to what you call heaven, if she will. But seldom does. The damned get here, and then they sin, and sin, and sin: every evil inherent in their persons do they exalt. So few, the tiniest fraction, deserve salvation. And those masses who love evil, and repeat their crimes in hell, are cursed with survival: even if they die, the Undertaker resurrects them, and they return to their vile ways. For those who cannot bear more punishment, hell holds out obliteration: not only not to be, but to never have been at all.  And this, to arrogant humankind, is the most frightful end, yet devoutly to be sought by the worst offenders here.

Before you arrived here did you actually believe in HSM and his fiery domain? Bet that was a shock!

I came not to New Hell, where Abbadon rules, but to Hades’ domain, where I have respect, even in Tartaros. There am I assigned retributions to meet out to the damned. Remember, I am not a damned fool like you. I am the oldest witch in hell. So bow down before me, and I may be easy upon you, sinner.

Eternity – that’s a damned long time. How to you spend the endless years here?

Time here is fluid. A day can be an hour, a century a week — never time enough for anything redeeming to be done, but time enough for every evil to mature, and spread, and multiply.

What do you miss most about your old….life?

Jason, when we were lovers. Jason, even now that he despises me. With love grown cold in his breast, I miss my days among the Argonauts, when heroes were heroes and my powers at their peak. Yes, Jason. I miss him only, and miss him most of all wherever in hell I may roam.

 

Author Spotlight

*Janet Morris (a/k/a Janet E. Morris)

Here is my bio from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris

My first book was published by Bantam in 1977, and I have been writing for a living (fiction or fact), ever since.

* Tell us about your story for this edition.

What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen?

Hell has so many fascinating characters, as many as human history has produced, that I use both characters who continue through the series, and characters who have only a bit of time upon Hell’s stage. Right now, I am writing Heroes in Hell stories with my husband Chris, and these center primarily on William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and how their compatriots or inheritors in life are faring in hell. We already know what brought Marlowe to hell. He’s there for writing in Faustus the line: “Hell is just a frame of mind.” In Pirates in Hell, we find out why Shakespeare is damned. This round, we had a fortuitous intersection with current reality, where Shakespeare and Marlowe are concerned: in 2016, scholars decided/admitted, using technological capabilities to underpin instinct and study, that Marlowe must be given co-author credit on at least Henry VI, Part 1, 2, and 3. That, plus the fact that Pirates in Hell admits stories swung around all sorts of piracy, allowed us to use the premise that, in hell, where book piracy and plagiarism are rampant, Marlowe and Shakespeare spat about how and why Kit Marlowe’s name has been omitted as co-author of Henry VI for centuries. Since Marlowe still struggles under a curse which allows him to remember lines he and others have written previously but gives him a hellacious case of writer’s block where new work is concerned, the restoration of Marlowe’s name to at least the Henry VI plays was a story-line too enticing to ignore.

How did you become involved with this project?

I created the Heroes in Hell series when I was at Baen Books and had a multi-book contract that had no creative limitations, not even specific titles: this ploy was how Jim Baen lured authors he otherwise could not afford. So I mentioned the Heroes in Hell concept to Jim Baen on the phone and he agreed I could do a “shared universe” series called Heroes in Hell (HIH).  And that I did, creating, producing, commissioning and editing multiple volumes of stories from authors (many of them writers who then were also friends) that include, so far, two Nebula Award finalists and a Hugo Award winner. We did 12 volumes, including both HIH novels and HIH stories, in the 20th century, and resurrected [sic] the concept in the 21st century with volume #13, Lawyers in Hell.  Pirates in Hell is #20.  But, since all Heroes in Hell volume have a targeted subject, and yet each stands alone, you can start anywhere in the HIH series, make your own order, depending upon your interests: you can choose to begin with HIH novels or HIH shorter fiction. The rules in hell are simple: no one rightly sent to hell gets out. For each novel or story, given writers must use several historical characters, or mythic characters, or legendary characters previously approved for their use by me, and follow the long-arc of the series per se, as well as a volume arc Chris and I give them. We then approve their story concepts before they are allowed to write, since the HIH universe (Hell as we describe it) is our property . So with these constraints, the volumes each have a theme and yet they are subject to tie-in thematics from other volumes which we provide to them.

Writing for a shared world requires rules all writers obey. Even without that constraint, writing for a shared world is most challenging, particularly when you haven’t used a character previously. Introducing new characters, writers must answer the following question to my satisfaction and Chris’: “Why is this character in hell?” Often the basic answer is revealed early in the first story using that character, sometimes it is revealed slowly. If you are using characters previously used by others, you must get my permission to use preciously-appearing characters, and write them to be consistent with the way they’ve been written previously. We have voluminous documents to which writers can refer, not only about New Hell, but about many of the dedicated hells such as Tartaros or Arali.  Since it is in human nature that like groups flock together, we have a few dedicated hells, hard to get into or out of, whether or not you are native to that culture. Some of these are Greek or Akkadian or Elizabethan. With the future hells, we allow only agreed-upon technology and future history, since no character can be historical if that character has not yet lived. Some people wheedled the option of writing about fictional characters, but those are rare, and they must be characters from the 19th century or earlier, or characters or persons from recent times who are in the public domain.

Tell us why you chose this story to tell out of so many possible options?

While Chris Morris and I are working with Shakespeare and Marlow, we’ve been focused on their thread, but always include a new or different character as well, such as J the Yahwist or Diomedes from the Iliad or Medea the Colchian witch. Satan is one of our characters, so we always write a first story which doubles as an introduction to the volume, That first story is always the most taxing one, since we need to find a way to set up afresh the constraints, threats, and givens that all writers of that volume will share. It’s great fun, but its job is to serve as an orientation for the volume not, in or of itself, serve as a free-standing story, though sometimes we can make the intro story serve as both.

What are you currently working on?

I am still working on Rhêsos of Thrace, and also, with Chris, doing the updating and revising for the Author’s Cut volumes of my backlist. We’re only now finishing Tempus Unbound, and on deck is City at the Edge of Time, to be followed by Storm Seed; when those three are released, the ‘Farther Realms’ Sacred Band books will all exist in Author’s Cut editions. Besides our own work, we edit and format works by some writers who interest us, including but not limited to Michael A. Armstrong, Andrew P. Weston, Walter Rhein, Thomas Barczak, so publishing per se takes up much of my time. Plus, although we don’t take unsolicited submissions, we are always reading submissions from writers we find compelling.

If you could have a dinner party with any man and woman from anywhere and any when who would invite and what would you eat?

I’d invite Heraclitus of Ephesus, Confucius,  Albert Einstein, Roger Penrose, Homer, Marguerite Yourcenar, and a smattering of my HIH characters:  the Yahwist, Shakespeare and Marlowe. We’d eat roast lamb, which is familiar to all, barley and wild rice, and desert would be a green salad and/or a cheese board. We’d have wines with the meal and after, with chocolates.

Which 10 books would you save to keep you sane after the apocalypse? Oxford Classical Dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary, The Iliad, the Odyssey, Paradise Lost, Hamlet (or complete Shakespeare), Tamburlaine, Faustus, the I Ching, Spenser’s Fairie Queen.

 

EXCERPT from your story.

Goat-Beard the Pirate, Part 1

or

Bitter Business

 

Janet Morris and Chris Morris

“Now I could drink hot blood and

and do such bitter business as the

day would quake to look upon.”

—William Shakespeare, Hamlet

 

“Piracy in hell is bitter business, when freebooters steal whate’er a soul holds dear.” Grey doublet askew, buff linen shirt open, sans breeches and still bare-arsed but for hose, Kit Marlowe stalked Will Shakespeare across their attic hideaway in the New Globe Theatre. Heels drumming, Kit dogged Will until poet cornered poet at arm’s length. “And bitterest when what’s stolen is words, and the thief’s a lover, a friend — or you, vaunted Bard of Avon.”

“Call’st me thief? O’er the three Henry the Sixth plays?” Shakespeare rose up stiff and livid. “Accept this truth: Once you were dead and your name expunged from those scripts, I ne’er could restore it. When Satan reissued our Henry Six ‘masterworks’ as mine alone, he meant to vex you, Kit. This bone you’d pick with me’s sucked clean of marrow. Pirates run amok throughout perdition. Not only do they ply the floods and stalk the shores, they infest New Hell’s publishing houses. When we both lived, you helped me, yes. But —”

“Helped you?” Kit nearly spat. “But what?”

For a painful eternity, Kit’s question hung in the air between them, an implacable specter, until Shakespeare sought sanctuary in Hamlet’s speech: “‘But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.’” Will hid his bearded mouth behind a fingering hand while his eyes pled mercy.

They seldom fenced with quotes lately, too angry at each other. But now that Will had begun it, Marlowe meant to weaponize the game. For his first beat, he brandished his Elegia 1: “‘Rash boy, who gave thee power to change a line?’ An attribution line at that? In hell I may be, but ’tis insufferable to be plagiarized by you. . . .”

“Kit . . .” Shakespeare’s riposte died upon his lips.

Pulse racing, fury out of control, Marlowe tried to stem his words, but failed: “This bit’s yours, or so you say, but it’s surely apt: ‘For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright/ Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.’”

“With my own sonnet you dare despise me?”

“Despite is but a taste of what you’ve earned from me,” retorted Marlowe, tongue clumsy, blood rushing in his ears. “Did you not proclaim in Henry the Fourth ‘the fox barks not, when he would steal the lamb’? Take care, brash despoiler who hath ravaged me. Confess and make amends, Willie, or that’s the last quote of ours — or is it yours? or mine? — ’twill issue from my lips till infernity runs out.”

In the garret they’d leased once Satan expelled them from Pandemonium, time held still. Kit’s ears heard nothing but their breathing; no draft blew through their attic to cool their wrath; no sweet peace winged their way.

“Thus dies our game of quotes and more, this day!” Shakespeare’s voice shook; wherever no goat-beard bristled, his rosy cheeks drained white. He stumbled over his own lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “‘O, then, what graces in my love do dwell,/ That he hath turn’d a heaven unto a hell.’”

“Your ‘love’ am I? New words may come hard to me, but mine old I have aplenty. Recalling olden words, here’s more ‘deathless prose’ in which I had a hand but got no credit: ‘Love is familiar. Love is a devil. There is no evil angel but Love.’ Or so we once agreed in Love’s Labours Lost.”

Shakespeare sighed. “Marley, I’ll see Old Nick this very night. Beg him to change those attributions and include you. No sinners read those early plays; instead they ogle the hell-born travesties we stage for Satan. Since your words dried up, your soul’s gone cold. But we’ll fix it. Fix everything.”

A promise impossible to keep in hell, now we’ve provoked the Deceiver’s envy of what we two alone can share.

Marlowe shook his head, raised empty hands and dropped them to his sides. “There’s no fix for human frailty; no cure, unless it be Milton’s ‘obliteration’. And as for piracy, I bore with its bile whilst we lived and taste it still. But run not to the Archfiend’s wily embrace. He’s got no Muse of fire for me nor patience left for you; your glory droopeth, to his baleful eye.”

“Not so. Come with me, Kit, to His Infernal Majesty’s reception. Tonight. We’d best not ignore his invitation. All New Hell’s illiterati and their publishers has he summoned: every paltry poet and pusillanimous pundit in perdition will attend. As your Passionate Shepherd begged, ‘Come with me and be my love,’ and we’ll make every slight that’s wrong come right.”

When Will Shakespeare wheedled, contrite and on his game, Marlowe never could resist him. Yet Will’s affair with Satan too oft abandoned Kit to Jealousy’s embrace.

From their window overlooking the Globe’s stage and its tuppenny seats came a scrabbling of claws, a whoosh of wings, a shower of glass. Like love in hell, no pane in that window ever lasted long, but shattered once puttied into place. Kit spied the vandal, a red-eyed bat hanging upside-down from the window’s empty frame, staring unabashed.

Bats in hell exhaled contagion wherever plagues rode the air.

The hairs on Marlowe’s nape bristled. Heed this omen, Will Shakespeare: Diábolos, Old Scratch, the Prince of Hell, call him what you will, now sends his presumptuous bat, wings wide, for you and me.

Aloud, Kit scoffed. “Be your love, Will? At what cost? Go with you where? On this unclean night? Through twisty byways where purge and pestilence sack the damned?” Alas, Kit knew he’d do what Shakespeare asked, face even obliteration for this wraith, this shadow of the man he’d loved so well. “If you insist, I’ll attend you on this fruitless errand, albeit I’ve no hope for it. Your lusty devil won’t heed my plea, or yours. How many times before has Satan backhanded me for barging along beside you?”

At Kit’s last word, with one flap of wings the bat dropped from the sash and glided into its mother night. Did it hear? Understand? Hell bore few animals as the living knew them: hell-bats to shrive the doomed; hell-goats to feast on garbage; hell-horses whose manes and tails hissed like asps; hell-hounds, sometimes manlike. Save the rare curs or coursers come to seek their masters, hell hosted no loving fauna, no creature company for the dead.

Marlowe buttoned his threadbare shirt, donned his breeches, and paced Will through soggy lanes where few dared walk, where brigands roamed in gangs. Here Satan’s latest purge dissolved unwary souls to salty sand, while other damned, unscathed, scuffed through their glittering remains. If not for the floods that flushed its streets, Marlowe thought, New Hell soon would be but one huge dune.

Past the New Globe they ventured; past the Rose, still dark in fear of plague. Receipts were down at every playhouse, audiences scarce. Nevertheless, when they reached their destination the sidewalk teemed with the sad, the bad, and the mad, a mob desperate to gawk at arriving unworthies and glimpse the infamous.

An imposing structure overshadowed all. The hub of Satan’s New Hell seat, a horseshoe upside down and open at its top, arched toward Paradise and its bloody vault. Red carpet smoldered underfoot, gold festoons lined the forecourt’s fence. Torches blazed along ranks of spearhead finials on wrought-iron pickets, displaying the occasional severed head.

At its grand entrance, fiends of carmine and black formed a sweaty cordon barring groundlings here to gawp, whilst Shakespeare’s name assured entry for him and Kit as if it were a watchword.

A liveried orange demon who reeked of week-old corpses escorted them inside, around, up and down stairs that led in more directions than hounds seeking scent, till they came to a cathedral of a hall.

Once inside, their demon guide bowed low and left them.

Now Marlowe realized where Shakespeare’s fame had brought them. This was a fete for the piratical elite, an A-list affair convoked by Satan’s Masters of the Revels, his seven fallen angels, each banished warrior of heaven more gorgeous than the last. Before them, souls from every epoch mingled, resplendent in outrageous finery. While outside calumny, poverty, deviltry and woe oppressed all hearts behind the spear-topped fence, here chatter flowed, laughter pealed.

And stopped . . .

Into that sudden silence, a second orange demon boomed their names, its tail wagging like a dog’s: “Master Shakespeare and Mister Marlowe.”

Necks craned. Fingers pointed. Misers and monsters, demons and debauchers (hell’s every publisher, privateer, prostitute, pimp and poseur) took their measure.

Marlowe tugged his doublet tight to hide threadbare shirt and cuffs, while leers cast his way said he’d be welcome naked. When he’d been a player, spy, and rakehell, such looks had bought him comfort on many a night. Notwithstanding, at that awkward moment Kit felt supremely underdressed; he should have followed suit when Will buttoned on grass-green shirtsleeves and donned his candy-apple codpiece; or at least worn a leather jerkin over the doublet — but no: rebellious, he hadn’t.

A sigh of whispers grew among this staring clutch of vipers. The crowd parted, and Marlowe happed upon more pressing matters to regret; for toward them strode Satan himself, reigning lord of the latter-day hells, a sinning soul on either arm: one male, one female.

“Will, be you wary . . . keep in mind why we’re here.” Kit tried in vain to wet his lips. When his words had fled him at Satan’s behest, they’d taken all his spittle with them.

“Do you see who that is, the big hairy man in the brown mantle, leaning on his staff?” Shakespeare’s whisper tugged Kit’s ear like a child: “King Solomon, from bible times. Do you recall him from the polo field where he begged my bodkin to slice that infant in half?”

A phantom babe, if ever it lived at all, meant to raise hopes of innocence and dash them, the Trickster’s favorite game.

“Will, remember, we’ve only come to convince Old Nick to redress this piracy; provide compensation, restitution or at least retraction, emendation, some satisfaction. . . .”

Shakespeare heeded not a word, but floated down that final stair and straight to Satan, white-winged and magnificent. Beneath one creamy pennon slid the Bard, as if into his rightful place.

That freed the female from Satan’s hold. Once out from under the devil’s pinion, Kit recognized her: J the Yahwist, she who first gave song and grace to the Old Testament.

J regarded Kit with but the faintest smile, as might a goddess . . .

She’d understudied a role in a play of theirs, come to a dress rehearsal, but they’d never stood this close. She extended a hand to him.

He couldn’t resist. That hand promised lost joys. Forgiveness nestled in her eyes. Exaltation graced her lips. She smelled of sympathy and more: a scent with a darker note, a hint of expiation. . . .

Kit Marlowe took two steps to kiss fingers that scribed the advent of creation. Her touch brought him near to tears. “Yet hell-bound, mighty J? Why do you tarry? Why comest thou here?”

“I am come for a line of mine, pirated by a mortal, a self-styled apostle named John: my line about the Word. Do you know it?”

“Know it? I lived it. Yes, I know it.”

“And do you not hear, with your unerring ear, that it belongs with my Genesis, not with the scribblings of some Johnny-come-lately?”

“I hear.” Many dwelt in hell, but this soul, called simply J, belonged Above. She had come on Mercy’s agency, rumor whispered, to inspire the damned — to give them words, give them hope — and been entrapped by Satan’s wiles. Within her orbit, for an instant sorrow left him. Kit forgot all travail, forgot even delirious Shakespeare, snuggling in the curve of Evil’s wing. . . .

“And why are you here, Christopher Marlowe?”

“I’m here about a play or two I helped write. But standing next to you, my loss sums as naught.”

J’s laughter tinkled like bells. “How could that be, you who wrote ‘Come with me and be my love?’” From her lips, the same line Will had used to jolly Kit into coming here became eerie, beguiling; as was what followed: “I have extra words betimes; words meant for hell’s most needy. Who knows but that I might have some for you? Would you want words about love transforming all, Kit Marlowe? Words to sound a higher octave of being? Would words to transfigure suit you?”

“What? You mean you could . . . ? I’d — That is, you would . . . ?”

Meanwhile, Shakespeare had not forgotten Kit:

Into Marlowe’s colloquy with J intruded the Bard’s voice triumphal: “I did what you wanted, Marley. I have Satan’s promise. And look who I found! You recall King Solomon: Solomon of the Song of Songs, of —”

“Will, not now! J says she . . .” Kit looked from Shakespeare to J, but she had slipped away into the crowd.

Consternation must have remade Kit’s face, because bulky, rough-hewn Solomon shrugged: “The Yahwist seeks her own redress of grievances. And a way out of hell.”

Kit could no more than stare.

“Everyone in hell seeks a way out.” Will sneered. “What makes her special?”

“She does.” The apostate King Solomon struck the floor with his staff for emphasis. “You must understand: J has basked in the paradisal light, walked near to the One — and now, for denying her faith by a slip of the tongue, she is marooned here.” Solomon sighed like a desert wind. “I know — she offered you words, didn’t she? She would. But our host Abaddon will never let her heal a soul like yours, as damned as your friend here describes you. You’ve doubtless heard my proverb, ‘As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.’ Few in hell have a friend. Do not pursue the Yahwist. Cleave to your friend Shakespeare and seek the truth of ages.”

Solomon’s words fell like rain on Kit’s roof. Marlowe had no answer for the Israelite king’s bombast but to look away, seeking J’s face in the crowd.

Alas, no Yahwist.

Where was she? What was she? A fortuity found and lost in a heartbeat? Salvation? A glimpse of deliverance? A breath of the sublime? Her offer of words — words to heal his mind, his heart, his riven soul — might never come again. Kit’s gut growled, protesting his loss.

[End of Excerpt]

 

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y8WWKMT/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pirates-in-hell-chris-morris/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_(author)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heroes_in_Hell

https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/janet-morris/

https://michaelaventrella.com/2012/05/15/interview-with-hugo-nominated-author-janet-morris/

https://plus.google.com/+JanetMorrisaspis/posts/fKEThwitP61

 

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/JanetEMorris/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Janet-Morris/108035375883983

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=janet%20morris%20and%20chris%20morris

 

Blog/Website

http://www.theperseidpress.com/

https://sacredbander.com/

 

Twitter

https://twitter.com/uvmchristine

https://twitter.com/uvmchristine/media

 

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y8WWKMT/

https://www.amazon.com/Pirates-Hell-Heroes-Janet-Morris-ebook/

 

https://www.amazon.com/Janet-Morris/e/B001HPJJB8

https://www.amazon.com/Pirates-Hell-Heroes-Janet-Morris/dp/0997758449/

 

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/series/40812-heroes-in-hell

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/121072.Janet_E_Morris

Pirates 166 meg

“Mouth of the Dragon” by Thomas Barczak, review by Christopher Morris

Dragons, a new take on the ancient beastie.

Dragons have been around, in our myths and legends at least, since before the days of Jason and the Argonauts (wherein one of Jason’s trials was to sow dragons’ teeth), from before the days of the Iliad, and from before the days when Triptolemus went to Thrace and his host Carnabon slew one of the dragons pulling his chariot, for which Carnabon was hounded by Demeter until his death and after, when she had him banished to the constellation Ophiuchos where he forever holds at arm’s length a serpent (a/k/a dragon) trying to kill him. Twinkle, twinkle, little dragon . . . Dragon myths go even farther back, to the 2nd (or some say 3rd)  millennium BCE, when the dragon Illuyankus, whose favorite snack was Hittite children, was killed by the storm god Tarhunt to save Hatti’s children from a dragon’s dinner table.

I thought I had a handle on all possible dragon myths, until I read Thomas Barczak’s inventive novel, in which both dragons and human children play a part . . .  And I’m not going to tell you what happens in Tom Barczak’s Mouth of the Dragon, but I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never read a book like it before (unless, of course, you’ve read Tom’s precursor novel, Veil of the Dragon). But never fear, whether you’ve never read a dragon tale or have a shelf full, Mouth of the Dragon stands alone, and proudly, to great effect.

As you may have guessed by now,  I loved this book. Until I read Mouth of the Dragon, I wasn’t sure there were any roads as yet untrod in dragon realms — no stories still untold, no new tales that could make you think differently about dragonkind. Now that I’ve read Mouth of the Dragon, here’s my reaction, spoiler-free and thus phrased as questions: Is a dragon still a dragon when he controls people from inside them? Is prophecy still prophecy when it turns upon its prophet? Can a dark YA/NA book also be a book for grownups? My answer is a resounding yes to all of those. Lyrical, subtle, and always refreshing, Barczak poses new questions, new answers, and does so in an inimitable style. For a fresh take on dragons and their relationship with humanity, read this. You’ll be glad you did, and that way you won’t be the only one on the internet who hasn’t read it yet . . .

Click here to get your copy from Amazon in Kindle format:

https://www.amazon.com/Mouth-Dragon-Prophecy-Thomas-Barczak-ebook/dp/B01MS37Q2E/

Click directly above, bottom right, to see the free preview.

Ready? Set? Go!

Want to hold a beautiful edition in your hands? You can also order the deluxe trade edition with an original cover by Roy Mauritsen from Perseid Press at: www.theperseidpress.com/?page_id=1641

or from Amazon athttps://www.amazon.com/Mouth-Dragon-Prophecy-Thomas-Barczak/dp/0997758392/

mouthdragon_bccorrections

Mouth of the Dragon, © 2017 by Thomas Barczak, from Perseid Press.

Mouth of the Dragon, by Thomas Barczak, from Perseid Press

First dragon-sighting of the 2017 season…

What awaits when prophecy turns against the prophet?

What will he see, when the veil of the dragon rises?

To save the ones he loves, Chaelus, vessel of the Giver reborn, pursues the dragon and the fate that prophecy foretold for him. But as the veil of the dragon rises, so does the veil between prophecy and the past, where the Prophecy of Evarun suffers no rivals.

Mouth of the Dragon, Prophecy of the Evarun, (c) February 10, 2017, Perseid Press.

 

mouthdragon-kindle-coverPerseid Press

Pre-order now on Amazon, ships February 10, 2017:  https://www.amazon.com/Mouth-Dragon-Prophecy-Thomas-Barczak-ebook/dp/B01MS37Q2E/

Perseid Press tells your fortune for 2017: You’ll be enthralled by Thomas Barczak’s Mouth of the Dragon, a dark dragon tale for our times.

We asked Tom to tell us about Mouth of the Dragon, without reveal any secrets, and here is what he says:

This dark, epic, and redemptive fantasy challenges everything a hero’s journey can be.

Chaelus, once Roan lord of the House of Malius, now vessel of the Giver reborn, has defeated the Dragon of legend. Now he must rescue his brother and his kingdom, both beyond the Dragon’s Veil.

When the legendary dragon resurges among drums of war, it threatens Chaelus, the human vessel of prophecy who once defeated it, and those loyalists the man holds dear.

Now Chaelus must confront the Dragon a second time, as prophecy has foretold.

With his remaining followers he pursues the Dragon. When he finds it, he finds that the blood of his past has returned to reclaim him.

And even with the power of prophecy at his summons he cannot defend against it.

Tempted to save all he’s lost, abandoned by the prophecy he’s vowed to serve, he falls under the spell of the Dragon, and learns that the dragon you hunt is the dragon within you.

Chaelus must defeat the dragon for all time, but finds he cannot, until he first surrenders himself.

*

Thomas Barczak confesses that he’s an artist, architect, and a writer whose stories tell the tales he’s always dreamed about.

His work also includes the illustrated epic fantasy novel, Veil of the Dragon, and the Kindle serial, Awakening Evarun (Parts I-VI), both set in the Evarun universe. He’s also written a comic fantasy serial for Kindle called Wolfbane (Parts 1-2 of 3). His short fiction includes contributions to Heroika 1 – Dragon Eaters, Nine Heroes, Terror by Gaslight, and What Scares the Boogeyman, as well as stories for two volumes Janet Morris’ award winning Heroes in Hell series, Dreamers in Hell, and Poets in Hell.

Tom swears he writes only because he must. He writes because he needs to tell others the stories he has held so long inside, stories that inspire his paintings and his poetry — stories that have always been with him, even years ago when he’d sit at a table with friends, slaying dragons.

If you’re not tempted there’s no dragon curled around your soul. Pre-order now, or get yours as electronic or deluxe trade paper editions on February 10, 2017. . .

Until then, content yourself with this short excerpt from Perseid’s  Kindle edition of Mouth of the Dragon by Thomas Barczk . . .

The small shadow of a horse and rider broke out of the thin blue veil on the horizon, a mark like a firebrand upon a pristine field of white, like an urgent stroke of prophecy.

Chaelus, the vessel of the Giver reborn, had returnedto them.

Chaelus.

Al-Mariam’s lips, her cheeks, the very flesh beneath her brow kindled at the sight of him, in the very place where Chaelus had touched her only a fortnight before, when he had heldher face and showed her his divinity, the true nature ofwhat hewas;whenhehadtouchedtheverysoulofher.

When he had touched her heart.

She had tried to then, but she could no longer deny her devotion toward him. What plagued her heart, though, was the question of its nature. She had been touched by him, by theeternalspiritoftheGiverthatpossessedhim,butshehad also been touched by something else, something more. She had been touched by the mortal husk that carried it, by the man who so effortlessly and nobly suffered both the burden and the grace of itsbearing.

It was his humanness that kept her near to him, that made her love him.

It was he, Chaelus, not the vessel of the Giver reborn but the resurrected barbarian lord of the House of Malius, who had laid such a claim upon her heart.

Shestoppedherhandasitdrewunconsciouslynearher brow,justabovetheplacewhereChaelus’fleshborethepale mark of the Dragon’scrown.

The shuffling cascade of ice and stone down the slopebehind her announced Al-Toman’s arrival.

Al-Toman’s thick merchant cloak swirled about him. Disguised as a noblewoman’s merchant train returning from Tulon, some of them as merchants, some of them as slaves, the twelve kept their Gossamer Blades hidden beyondthewardedsafetyoftheGarden,theplaceoftheirexile. Obidae, along withAl-Mariam’s orphaned mystical brother, Michalas,spiritualtwintoChaelusandsomehowpartofthe prophecy as well, would also play the part of slaves. Chae- lus, their prophesied protector, would be their temporal one as well, should ever the eyes of bandits or Hunters, the assassinssentbytheTheocracytoexterminatetheirorder,find them.

And, of course, Obidae would be there to help them with this, too.

Al-Toman eyed Obidae and nodded to him.

Obidae, the mastiff barbarian, nodded back.

Al-Toman, unlike most of the Servian Knights, felt no discomfort toward the barbarian chieftain. In fact, a sort of silent friendship had developed between the two in the fort- night that had passed since Obidae and his band ofKhaalish warriors joinedthem.

Al-Toman, like most of the Servian knights, camefrom a foreign land. In Al-Toman’scase, from the Dunnish lands to the east, where the mysticism of the Khaalishite was not so foreign and where both blood and trade had flowed between both peoples ever since the Awakening, a hundred yearsbefore.

Together, the two would also help to serve as ambas- sadors when they arrived in the Khaalishite, so that theGiver, so that Chaelus, could carry the message of his return to themaswell.Hopefully,theycoulddosobeforetheDragon, whichhadalreadydarkenedtheTheocraticStatesalongtheir border, carried itsown.

That was why the Mother had sent them, anyway, if it was true that the souls of the Theocracy were already lost.

“The others are beginning to wonder if…” Al-Tomanbegan.Hefollowedthedirectionofherstare.Hisvoicesoft- ened.“He’shere.”

Al-Mariam heard Al-Toman’svoice change at thesight of Chaelus, in unfeigned reverence at the sight of their, his own,savior.

She heard the call and running footsteps of the other Servian knights climbing the ridge to meet him, to see him.

“He’s late,” she said.

Al-Toman’s mouth waited, open but silent.

Bloodandspittlegatheredaroundthecornerofhislips. Hisheadhungwithaslightbendoverwherethearrowshaft protruded from his throat and through the back of his neck. Therestofhisbodysagged,thengavewaybeneathhim.

Herownvoice,alongwitheverythingelse,fellsuddenlysilent.

More arrows grew out of the snow around her, sprouting like a savage garden. Their fletching was the color of blood. She felt a sharp tug at her cloak and a heavy weight.

She searched in vain for Obidae, for his protection, but only found the muted pleas of fallen knights in the snow around her.

Across the frozen plain, the small shadow of Chaelus seemed to move farther away from her.

The silence cracked at last like a frozen pond around her, exploding in a pain that consumed her, crushing her, bringing her down, dulled only by the mortal sound of her own scream.

*

mouthdragon_bccorrections

Tribulations Herculean and Tragic: Beyond Wizardwall by Janet Morris

see original on Black Gate Adventures in Fantasy Literature:  https://www.blackgate.com/2014/04/08/beyond-wizardwall-by-janet-morris/este Adventures in Fantasy Literatureribulations Herculean and Tragic: Beyond Wizardwall by Jat Morris

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Beyond Wizardwall

Woe betide the soul who loves too much, wants too much, dares too much.

I finish my reviews of the 5-star, Author’s Cut editions of Janet Morris’s classic of Homeric Heroic Fantasy, the Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy, with the third and final book, Beyond Wizardwall. This was the toughest of the three to review because there is so much that happens and so much ground to cover. This is also the most dramatic, tense and emotionally powerful of the three books. Let me begin with a little recap in Janet’s own words:

Heavy snows had put the war against Mygdonia and its Nisibisi wizards into hiatus. Niko’s commander, Tempus, called the Riddler, had employed magic to bring his mixed cadre of shock troops (Rankan 3rd Commando rangers, Tysian ‘specials,’ hillmen of Free Nisibis, and Niko’s unit of Stepsons) back to Tyse for the winter. Fighting had ended inconclusively, with the Mygdonian warlord Ajami still at large.

They ride into Tyse triumphant and settle in to wait for spring, content with the season’s work. All except Niko. Everything in this excellent novel revolves around Niko (who is also known by his war name, Stealth), for what trials he endures and what tribulations he suffers are Herculean and tragic and form the core of this novel.

In the first chapter, he’s at wits’ end, quitting the Sacred Band after he gets rousted by a pair of arrogant 3rd Commandos, wherein things quickly turn ugly and he kills one of the soldiers. Niko escapes and goes into hiding at Brother Bomba’s whorehouse.

This is where the triad of Niko’s troubles begins. First, there is Askelon, the entelechy of dreams, regent of the seventh sphere and an archmage with delusions of godhood. He rules the sleep of all, from his ephemeral archipelago of dreams, Meridian. Then there is Roxane — shape changer, soul eater, and vampire-like witch, who devours the essence of life from hapless mortals. Finally, we have Enlil, the northern Storm Lord and god of the armies. All three come to haunt Niko.

Beyond Wizardwall Ace paperback-smallAskelon wants Niko for the purity of his soul, who steals his sleep and wants Stealth for an avatar. Roxane the witch, Death’s Queen, wants Niko’s body and a bit of his soul. And Enlil wants Niko as a representative on earth. Pulled in three directions by three powerful beings of higher octaves, Niko is being driven mad, which leads him into a whirlpool of drink and drugs. To make matters worse, Brachis, High Priest of Vashanka (the Rankan storm god who has disappeared), comes to hire Niko to assassinate Abikithis, the emperor of Ranke, for the good of empire, Vashanka, and Niko’s own soul.

Now, still searching for Niko, wanting him for the murder of one of their own, the 3rd Commandos trash Bomba’s bordello, but Niko manages to escape.

Enter Tempus: The Riddler wrestles with his own demons. Demigod and immortal though he is, he bears a curse of his own: those who love him die of it, and those he loves are bound to spurn him. And Niko, being his right-side companion in war and life, may suffer from that curse, as Tempus himself has long suffered from it.

The Riddler’s heart is troubled, for he has deployed Niko before, pushing him and using him to flush out Roxane the witch, but she’s still at large. Now Tempus fears that Roxane has again possessed Niko and is spying through his eyes. He needs to find Niko, not only to set things to rights, but to find out what Brachis the High Priest wants and to save Niko from the 3rdCommandos, the special unit Tempus formed and trained in his younger days.

To top it all off: there is much anger, competition, and jealousy between the Stepsons and the Commandos. Furthermore, Vashanka, the Rankan Storm God who once was Tempus’s patron, has disappeared. Tempus blames himself for the witch stalking Niko and he will finally bargain with Enlil — save Niko, leave Niko be, and take him, the Riddler, instead. Ah, but things are never quite that easy.

Enter Randal: Seventh Level Hazard Mage, who is also part of the Sacred Band, the only wizard with whom they agree to work. When he returns home, he confronts the mysterious suicide of his guild’s murderous First Hazard Mage. After Niko is found and rescued, Tempus orders Randal to keep an eye on Stealth, his one-time, right-side partner, to protect him and keep track of him. But as you can guess, that’s not going to be an easy task, either. And events are soon set into motion that will quickly throw Randal into the very thick of things.

Beyond Wizardwall hardcover-smallEnter Cime: The dangerous, seductive mage-killer, sister of Tempus in spirit, if not by blood. She breaks into the mageguild one night, casts a spell and seduces the First Hazard, and then murders him. She and Tempus will form a joint occupation to rid the world of sorcerers, except for Randal. If it was up to her, Cime would rid the world of gods, too. Despite her distaste for wizards, she will team up with Randal to help track down Roxane who, weakened and ugly and badly injured after the mage-war, wants a magical globe that Randal possesses.

Don’t forget: Roxane also wants Niko and she uses an innocent young boy named Grippa to get at him.

And then there’s Kama, Tempus’s beautiful daughter, a soldier with the 3rd Commandos, who falls in love with a Stepson named Critias, and who seems to have a secret agenda all her own. Needless to say, she manages to cause a few problems. What does she want? Whose side is she on? What does she seek, besides her father’s approval? What part will she play in the events to come? Jihan, the Froth Daughter of the god Stormbringer, also returns to complicate Tempus’s immortal life, and with her is the young boy with wizard’s blood, Shamshi, whose sad fate will eventually play out in The Sacred Band, which I previously reviewed here, for Black Gate.

As Fate and the gods would have it, all too soon things heat up further for Niko when he’s captured by priests and goes on trial in a kangaroo court designed to find him guilty of murder. He is tortured and maimed beyond all mortal endurance, and what he suffers in one tense, emotionally-charged scene will cut to the core of your heart as it cuts to the heart of Tempus the Riddler. And Tempus, near the end of his own wits, finds a way to capture Roxane, only to end up making a bargain with her to gain her help in saving Niko.

This is a novel of passion and love, powerful and character-driven from start to finish. It’s brilliantly conceived and executed, packing more in its 415 pages then the previous two books combined. Just to give you a sample of what else goes on: During a festival of songs, games, and physical prowess, there is a hostage crisis culminating in a surprising decision by Tempus, and what orders he gives to his Sacred Band. While the war between Ranke and Mygdonia is on hold for the winter, assassination is nevertheless in the air, and there’s a military coup in the works to put an old friend of Tempus’s on the Lion Throne of Ranke. But Ranke is doomed unless their missing god Vashanka is found, for without their god no hand at the helm of empire could be steady enough to put her back on course.

The Sacred Band-smallAh, but no strategy of war lasts long after battle is joined and everything seems to be going wrong, especially after Randal the mage decides to go against Tempus’s orders when he is sent to deliver a message to the Rankan mageguild and discovers, to his dismay, the truth about who the chief’s adepts of his guild just happen to be. There is also a very strange and highly unlikely, often pesky, little hornet and the “reveal” of what that creature is will catch you off-guard… and there’s this cool, orange-haired, gray-skinned demon named Snapper Jo who Roxane summons to serve her.

Beyond Wizardwall is a wonderful novel that expertly caps the Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy in a surprising and satisfying conclusion. It’s a novel of complex characters caught up in complicated situations. Once again, Janet Morris gives us a literary classic of Heroic Fantasy. This is a textured novel, layered with themes of brotherhood and loyalty, love and betrayal, of the magic and majesty of horses, of boys growing into manhood, and the tragedy of those who die all too young. This is a novel filled with fine writing, exciting and talented writing. For example, here is Morris describing simply and most eloquently, the archipelago of dreams known as Meridian:

“Here was no life as men knew it, no days piling one upon the last inexorably; but a different life, a different nature, malleable and ruled by the flux of nature. Sometimes Meridian was beautiful, sometimes horrid, for it held every dream and every dreamer from all mankind’s befuddled flock.

These had no tomorrows, no yesterdays, but only dramas, lusts and fears and doubts — and joys, melodies to set its golden streets vibrating with the turning of the spheres. Meridian was one of the four metaphysical compass points of creation; as such, its existence was never wholly in one realm or another, but roving on a cosmic wind that changed with every dream and dreamer.”

Microsoft Word - 09 12 24 Sacred Band Cover white horse white foThere is plenty of action, humor, sex, pathos, magic, and mystery, as well, and the narrative moves as swiftly as a blood-bay stallion at full gallop. This is Heroic Fantasy at its best, the kind I favor, and this Author’s Cut, which has been revised and expanded for this handsome, brand-new Perseid Press edition is a classic of the genre. But above all, Beyond Wizardwall has heart and compassion. Janet Morris writes about people; her characters live and breathe with the kind of vibrancy and solidity I find inspiring and influential to my own work.

For in the end, without human conflict, without emotional drama, without character growth, without heart, all you have is a narrative. And the soul of this novel is this: we feel the humanity and compassion in Niko; we feel the pain in Tempus’ own heart, know how deeply he loves, how he fears that love. We feel his aching and longing, and what torments his soul. And even in the character of Death’s Queen, the soul-eating witch Roxane, we learn that she can love and that she, too, understands compassion. Once again, bravo Janet Morris!

Life to you, and everlasting glory.

Beyond Wizardwall: The Revised Author’s Cut was published by Perseid Press on November 17, 2013. It is 415 pages, priced at $24.99 in trade paperback, or $6.99 for the digital edition. Cover art detail from The Fall of Phaeton by Peter Paul Rubens.

Read my previous reviews of Janet Morris’ novels here [on Black Gate]:

The Sacred Band
Beyond Sanctuary
Beyond the Veil
Beyond Wizardwall

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