Nivenea’s Shield Part III

Check out Part I and Part II to read Les’s short from the beginning.


The camp didn’t have much going for it, that was certain. It was getting colder by the day, snowing overnight sometimes but not enough to stick in the daytime. Seldat’s little village was struggling enough before the so-called “Fall” a few weeks ago that there were several empty homes for us to use. Dirt floors and holes for latrines – there was a time when I never dreamed of living in such conditions. It occurred to me that Aia had lived in this place years ago, and the respect I felt for her was more like a knife than a flower blooming, knowing I respected a woman who was dragged away from me while I watched, helpless.

I swore internally for thinking about my friends again, the thousandth time in the day, and stood up from the fire in the center of my hut. Kyren, one of my two hut-mates, looked up from the floor where he lay.

“You look mad again,” he commented. His words came out in puffs of fog.

I shook my head and forced myself to smirk. “Don’t worry, I’m not mad at you.” I turned to walk out the door. I needed to go somewhere, anywhere – a walk around the woods again, perhaps. There was talk of moving the camp soon. Adreth had a surprising number of confidants around the whole of the world; in the first week after arriving at Seldat word spread that we were here, and people started showing up with information in tow. They told us about work camps and horrors in the countryside. Some had news from Nivenea herself, none of it good. Adreth and Adria were working on some kind of plan, the nature of which I was only glancingly privvy to. They needed me as a symbol and a name. They did not need me to make decisions.

Not that I wanted to make decisions. I had nothing to give. I was getting frustrated at having to be here at all, but Adreth kept telling me he needed me, and would need me more in the future. I thought he’d lost touch around the whole issue – his judgment with everything else seemed sound enough, yet when it came to me, he had no grasp on reality.

All the thoughts swimming through me traveled faster than my senses, and it took more than two seconds for me to notice a woman on a horse un-horsing herself to walk into Adreth and Adria’s hut. The woman looked sufficiently weathered to be called a messenger. The realization jolted me, and suddenly I was on a mission to find out where this mysterious messenger had come from. Every newcomer in the camp was another chance at finding out more about Cadde.

“Les,” Kyren called after me, “do you see something?”

“Messenger I think. I’ll let you know.” I wasn’t sure if he heard me in my walk-away, and much as I’d hate to admit it, I didn’t much care if he heard me or not. I jogged across the camp to Adreth and Adria’s door and knocked. I wanted to barge in, but something kept me from doing so. “A moment,” Adreth shouted out at me.

I waited and listened. They spoke in hushed voices. A creeping feeling of dread raised every hair on my body; I couldn’t follow those anxious thoughts, not yet. They could be talking about anything. Troop movements, negotiations with the Celet forces…things that didn’t really concern me.

It seemed like forever before Adreth peeled open the flimsy door and beckoned me in. When I entered the messenger looked at me, then back at Adreth. She was shorter than me but sturdier even so. In a fight I’d place bets on her, not me, though to be fair there aren’t many people against which I’d have much of a chance. This strange fear only added to my concern that this woman looked afraid of me. That couldn’t be right. Either I was misinterpretting the situation or she thought I was someone of more consequence than I was.

Adreth didn’t flinch. I wasn’t convinced he was capable of such a thing. Adria kept her eyes on her brother, just like the messenger.

“Baron, there is something you should know,” Adreth’s eyebrows quirked just slightly, as if to say, Are you ready to hear me say this?

The look on his face tightened something in my gut. I think I knew immediately that there was something going on about Cadde – something very bad. None of the thoughts were concrete, though, as my vision and hearing shifted, and the words from my mouth sounded as if they came from someone else.

“What is it, Lieutenant?” Was my voice always that wispy?

“I-” the messenger tried to speak and was cut off with the flick of Adreth’s hand in her direction.

“Les, I am very sorry to tell you that Cadde has been lost,” his voice was measured and slow. “Our messenger, Emm, was told by the survivors from Pelle that your wife was blight-touched soon after you left. They were not able to find her when they evacuated your home.”

Emptiness, just then, throughout my body. All I felt was cold, disconnected. I wanted to burn down the encampment and burst into tears all at once, and instead the only thing I did…was stand still.

It would be so much better if she were dead. She probably was. This wasn’t happening.

Adreth dismissed the messenger, people moving around me while I stood outside of time. He spoke to me. “Les,” he looked me straight in the eye, “I’m sorry.”

I swallowed. Should I have laughed? “No,” I must have said, because it certainly seemed like I was talking. Shit. “I have to…I should go. I should go.”

“Baron-“

“No,” my voice rose, anger flying past my lips even while I couldn’t quite feel the heat of the emotion at the time. “I shouldn’t be here. I should never have been here – if I hadn’t been here then-“

“Sh,” Adreth inched between me and the door. If he’d been a smaller man I think I would have tried to push him out of the way, but even with half my brain working properly it was obvious that he was a large man, much larger than me. If he wanted me to stay he could make me stay. “I’m not going to pretend this is nothing to you, but I’m also going to need you to keep this contained.”

“Contained?” At that I did laugh. There were tears on my cheeks – they must have been mine. “I don’t think you understand. Cadde is blight-touched and it is my fault.”

“The hell it was,” Adria spoke up, looking altogether uncomfortable with the whole situation, yet unwilling to leave. “What could you have done if you were there?”

“She would have known me. She…maybe she wouldn’t have run. She would be alive.”

“Would you?” Adria’s puzzled gaze saw much clearer than my own. “Pelle was evacuated. It was destroyed. Everyone left was killed or captured. If your wife is alive it’s because she ran off, and if you’d been there, you would be just as dead as any of them.”

“Dead and better off,” I choked.

“You’ll keep that to yourself,” Adreth loomed closer, and with him the idea that he could smash me to bits. I had never met a man who wielded charisma and intimidation in such equal measure. I envied that. “You’re here. You’re with us. You are not alone.”

Because you need me for something, you mean? I didn’t say that. I wasn’t sure if it was true. The way he expressed caring felt real when everything else in the world didn’t. As much as I wanted to blame someone for something, it was clear that Adreth wasn’t pretending.

“I can’t do this,” the words spilled out too soft and too quick. I wasn’t sure they could even understand them. I turned away from Adreth, towards a wall. I pressed my knuckles to my forehead just to feel the pain.

There was silence for a long time. I could hear Adria shifting uncomfortably while Adreth stayed still enough that it was almost like he’d disappeared. It was getting dark outside, I was pretty sure. Kyren would wonder where I went.

“Adria,” Adreth’s voice was smooth and low, even soothing. “I think you should find Kyren. Have him come in here, see if you or he can find something for the baron to eat.” It was as if he was Aia with her mind-reading ability.

“Here?” He must have given her some kind of gesture or look, because the next thing I heard was Adria clearing her throat. “Not a problem.” She left.

“Please, Baron, have a seat,” Adreth moved to take a place on one of the sitting-pillows near the fire circle. It gave me pause, but I eventually obliged to take a seat across from him.

I didn’t look at him. There was a crystalline quality to everything I saw, blurred by tears. The part of me that was still supposed to be a “leader” – whatever that meant – lamented Adreth watching me in such a state. Another part of me, the larger, growing part, didn’t care what happened to me or anyone else. That thought was almost comforting.

We sat quietly for a while. I wondered where the hell Adria got off to, looking for Kyren. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted her to come back.

“I’ve never lost a mate,” Adreth’s voice startled me to attention. He sat forward, elbows on his knees, gazing into the fire rather than me. “I have lost many friends, family…people you can’t replace. It’s never easy and it doesn’t get easier.”

I guffawed – almost laughed – and at once felt sick. How could I laugh at a time like this? Was I really so hollow to think…? “Lieutenant, never easy is as far as I can imagine from what this is. This whole thing…” the image of the broken spire flashed in my mind, and I squeezed my eyes shut as if it would drive the image away. It didn’t. My parents, my friends, my wife…like as not, they were all dead, and I should have been dead with them. The laughter grew in my chest. “What kind of god,” I choked through laughter and tears, “left me alive through all this? Whose joke is that, Lieutneant? Explain that to me.”

His dark eyes flashed up to meet my gaze, something haunted hidden behind them, a thing I didn’t expect to see. “I’m not going to try to explain the universe to you, Baron, but let me tell you this much-” Adria peeked through the door with Kyren behind her, both of them pausing in the doorway, no doubt feeling the weight of Adreth’s talk with me. He continued, barely pausing. “What I do – what we all do – we can’t do it hoping that some deity will protect us. Reason or not, you’re alive and they’re gone. We’re all we’ve got.”

I didn’t understand it in that moment, feeling the raw, penetrating pain of grief. Looking back, that may have been the wisest thing anyone’s ever said to me.

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Muse, You are indeed Inconvenient

I believe I’ve said it before, but it bears saying again – the muse is a fickle beast, in particular mine.

Everyone has a different tact for dealing with the problem of “writer’s block,” or as I see it at the moment, absent muses. Some would say that you should just muscle through it and make it work, write whether you feel like it or not; others would offer various techniques to awaken the creative beast, or advise watchful waiting, hoping it comes back into view. I’m not necessarily here offering advice, because I think I would be a poor choice for advice-giving in this case. I went for at least five years without writing any amount of fiction worth mentioning before busting out two novels and two short stories over the course of three years. It’s nothing compared to the likes of Stephen King or indie authors like Lindsay Buroker, but it is something that I was able to do those things in the midst of med school and everything that adventure entailed. Now…

What is most frustrating lately is that I have more free time than usual (I’m not sure that’s saying much), and yet I cannot find it in me to do what I want to do with my stories. There are words in a document (around 500, I believe) intended to be the beginning of Forsaken Lands III: Redemption, and several thousand more words spread between short stories for Les, Aia, Dmiri, Adria, and Teveres. Plenty of beginnings to work with… and no creative energy to put into them (nevermind the serial Fae and Folly, which has been sitting untouched for over a year).

Clearly this is not me offering solutions. This is me breaking silence and trying to get words in a computer – trying to rationalize what I see as a necessary break, at least for now. Writing is something I genuinely love to do when the energy is there. It’s adventure, thrill, relationships with people just in my head almost as deep as any “real” relationship I’ve ever had. Just now, though, that energy has disappeared into long-term career decisions, ending old relationships, starting new relationships, financial finagling, and trying to figure out what exactly I want my every-day to look like.

Everyone faces transition periods in life, and I would venture to say that while last year was in an epic state of flux, so far 2016 has cranked up the stakes. Things are better in the sense that good stuff has been coming my way, but more complex in that I have no freaking idea what to do with all of it. Just now, this moment, figuring out what I’m doing is all I can be held responsible for. The stories aren’t over and the ending, I promise, will present itself in time.

Then again, what is an ending but the mark of a new beginning, anyhow?

 

Preview: Forsaken Lands 2

SPOILER ALERT: NEW SCENE FROM FORSAKEN LANDS 2 BELOW

Blackness. Nothing but the feel of her – skin smooth, muscles tensing beneath a layer of lush softness. A mouth covered his, and hands found their way up over his shoulders to wrap around his neck. The length of her –and sweet gods above, the way she molded to him – pressed against every inch of him. They were bare flesh on flesh, tantalizing and wonderful; everything he ever imagined.

They kissed: long, hard, and passionate; the way he’d always imagined. His heart thudded in his ears, the heat of pleasure and pure want spread to the tips of his fingers. His grip tightened.

He gasped when Aia’s hands fanned over his chest, pushing him down onto the steel table. When he opened his eyes he saw only her face, wide cheekbones framing a mischievous smile. Lavender eyes locked onto his.

“Skies,” he growled, reaching to pull her down on top of him. Ringlets of maroon hair brushed his face, tumbling from her shoulders. He wanted to be with her, in her, around her, beyond anything-

Teveres awoke to an intense burning sensation deep in his right hand. Pain shattered the fragile gift of sleep. Though he wanted nothing more than to drown out his existence with unconsciousness, sleep came all too seldom. His sole companion in this strange place, The Cold Steel Table, was not very welcoming of his fantasies; its unyielding angles drove them far away.

He wished that he could go far away – anywhere.

Pain was becoming his constant master. As awareness drifted back to his body, physical sensations returned in sequence. First was the new pain – the burning in his hand where the needle-ended tube entered his skin. There was sharpness like a knife in his upper back and a lancing pain in his side that raged every time he took a deep breath. His naked skin was always freezing against Cold Steel. Blankets, apparently, were of low priority in this prison. A machine whirred softly in the background, along with the sound of bubbles…

The sound of bubbles that followed him for these past weeks – months? – was conspicuously missing. Slowly, slowly his head was clearing, and he realized that Cold Steel was folded into a chair-like configuration. Straps pressed tight against his chest and abdomen, holding his arms to his sides. Something has changed.

The next step – opening his eyes – came with a great cost. Seeing the inside of his cell, three walls of cement and a fourth made of a mirror, was a serial disappointment. The outline of the door in the mirror taunted him, absent of hinges or handles. As near as he could tell, his captors were ghosts. They never showed their faces; items appeared and disappeared, whatever they drugged him with changed to suit their liking, and not once had he seen their faces.

Today he faced the mirror. He hated to look at himself anymore, but from his position it was hard to avoid. The man in the mirror was a grim sight indeed, hardly resembling the man he was when he left his home in Ilvan nearly a year ago. His travels leading up to his imprisonment made him thin, but not emaciated; when he saw himself now he was skeletal. His skin was pale and his cheeks sunken. While his muscle mass had not disappeared – he had not been here quite that long – his collarbones, wrists and ribs were much easier to trace beneath the skin.

Examining his own image more closely he noticed a small, stitched-over wound on his right side where a tube used to be. His chest ached with each breath. There was a new item behind him, a small box with dials and buttons similar to some of the devices he had seen the engineers working with in Nivenea. Metal wires from the box snaked up to stick painlessly to his forehead.

Two facts about his situation were particularly unnerving: first, that the tube-and-bubble-machine with no apparent purpose but to torture him was missing for no apparent reason – and second, that someone had made several significant additions to his surroundings. He loathed being kept in the dark, fearing what would come next. He racked his brain, searching for clues.

Thinking back to the last time he was awake, he recalled nothing out of the ordinary. He spent that day (or night, or whatever it was) doing what he normally did. When he was first brought to the cell he was unable to get up from pain and labored breathing, but as he recovered he began trying to carry on functioning. He didn’t know much about medicine, but he did know that walking was important, so he did just that. He ate the food that appeared on the table, showered under the pitiful spigot in the other corner, utilized the humiliatingly open-to-the-air facilities, and sat on the table. He hummed songs he barely remembered and tried not to give in to the temptation to bash his skull against the wall.

As far as he knew, he hadn’t done anything objectionable lately. This didn’t seem likely to be a punishment. Whatever reason they had for sedating him and changing his surroundings, it wasn’t a reaction to what he’d done.

Who “they” were was still unclear. He gathered that they were these Celet people and that they were watching him. He hated them very much. They kept him in a constant low-level state of capping, a state of mild pain which rendered his powers useless, which made it impossible for him to turn against them. The headache from the weaponized kelspar used to cap him was as constant a companion as Cold Steel, a dull throb at the base of his skull.

Teveres sighed loudly. With the bubbles gone his own breath was the only sound in the room. He would give anything to talk to anyone else – Celet, Kaldari, or otherwise. The last time he saw or spoke to another soul was the day he was shot…

His chest tightened at the memory. Focus on something else, damn it. He had enough nightmares about it; no need to dwell on it during waking times, as well.

Groaning, he writhed against the restraints. His half-hearted escape attempt was all in vain. The leather straps were unyielding. Stuck – but why?

“What do you want from me?” he called out into the solitude.

He waited, but no reply came. They were watching him, for certain, somewhere out there – watching, but never talking.

“We’re all waiting,” he continued anyway. His words were louder and clearer than usual with the tube removed. The improvement was mildly encouraging. “I love these conversations we have, you know. It’s been a while. Maybe you could contribute?” he looked up at the slab ceiling. Part of him worried about becoming a mad man; the other part was convinced he already was. “I try not to complain, but I would like it if you’d take the needle out next time. Fucking burns, if you didn’t know.” The burning was getting worse, it seemed, and as it did the headache started to go away for the first time in what felt like forever.

The silence dragged on. His eyes fluttered closed. Perhaps if he tried, he could push the pain away and go back to sleep. It was a much better alternative than staring at the mirror.

CLANG. The sound that echoed through the room reminded him of a shot from the pistolet. He cried out in surprise, his heart racing. His eyes snapped open to darkness as the dull high of adrenaline consumed him.

He scoured the blackness for an answer. The only source of light came from the mirror… which was no longer a mirror. It had transformed into a window, the work of some dark magic. Suddenly he was not alone.

A woman sat opposite him through the glass, strapped down to a very familiar table. Short-cropped black hair framed a young face, her features small and delicate. She was perhaps 18, wearing only underthings; her coffee-colored skin was bathed in bright white light.

When Teveres’s gaze met hers he couldn’t look away. Her eyes were decidedly gray, the color of summer storms, too large for her small face. Tears glimmered in the light and trailed over her cheeks. Her eyes were pleading with him as her body shook. Her lips mouthed silent words: ‘Don’t do it.”

Panting, Teveres struggled harder against his own restraints. The straps squealed against his skin and jabbed into his ribs. The initial joy of seeing another human being was replaced by dread. Something bad was about to happen. He felt fear, but the fear was not his own. He was feeling her fear. The capping was starting to lift in earnest.

A second figure stepped out from the darkness to stand next to the girl. The figure wore a black, eyeless mask, and dark clothing. Gloved hands wrapped around a pistolet, leveled at the young woman’s skull. The girl hung her head.

Teveres broke out in a sweat. There was so much fear and rage around him and within him that he couldn’t sort it. He wished that he could share in Aia’s divinity long enough to get a better picture of what was happening. His mind-reading abilities were sadly insufficient. He looked skyward again.

“What do you want?” he bellowed up at the nebulous Them. “What is this supposed to be?” This time his cries were met with an answer of sorts. If Cold Steel had not been bolted down, Teveres would have toppled backwards at the sudden, sharp physical pain that emanated from beyond the glass. The young woman began screaming loud enough that the sounds seeped through to his cell. Teveres’s heart flew to his throat trying to block it out. Nothing touched her and the pistolet had not gone off… yet her agony was unmatched. His skin prickled as the lost flame of his divinity began to warm him, a slow kindle building to a raging fire.

Her pain consumed him, threatening to break him. A sound between a roar and a scream built in his gut until it exploded from his lips.

Do you want a fight?” he shouted, his voice cracking. “Is that what you fucking want? Come down here and take me!”

His mind stuttered when the masked figure advanced to press the pistolet against her head. The barrel of the weapon touching her temple destroyed his last vestige of his control. Teveres let go of the leash, the fire within blazing through the masked figure’s life energy.

He didn’t need to see the evidence of his work. His eyes rolled back in his head and a blissful wave of pleasure soaked him. The pain, the fear, the rage all went away. The high of killing always disgusted him, but this time he let it take over, even as the guilt clawed at him, panic threatening to shatter his reprieve.

Gods, demons, anyone, please…take me away from here. In his ecstasy, he wept.

The Power of Reading: Perspective for a Dime

If my mother had read the contents of Illusions, she never would have handed it to me.

I was twelve years old, relaxing on the bed at my grandmother’s house. Wednesdays were the days that my mother and I visited my grandmother in the mountains to do work for her, and this day my mother and grandmother had gone treasure hunting at the local garage sales. Homeschooled and left to my own devices, I spent a great deal of time doing whatever I wanted – in this case, re-reading one of my very favorite books, Artemis Fowl, for about the thousandth time. I had an early review copy complete with all the pre-publishing grammatical errors and formatting problems (the fact that I enjoyed the flawed copy even more than the polished, retail copy probably should have been a sign to somebody that I would one day toil away as a writer myself).

“I found this for you at the library sale,” my mother said, tossing the slim volume to me.

The cover was simple yet intriguing: a single blue feather, surrounded by stars on a black background. The title was a single word: Illusions, by Richard Bach. I scrutinized the cover and the back matter, which told me little to nothing about the book itself. The sticker price said 10¢. Unsurprising, I thought; the poor thing was all torn up. One corner of the cover was folded over, white showing through the black background, the spine held together with the years’-old glue.

“I thought it might be your kind of thing,” she shrugged. “You’re always reading fantasy stuff.”

“Thanks,” I said, watching her disappear to tend to her much-more-important estate sale finds.

Reading the interior I discovered that the book was written in the 70’s. The first chapter looked as if it had been photocopied from an old notebook; the words were handwritten and at times difficult to read. The voice in the first chapter struck me as odd, with a cheeky bible-like description of a “master” of the world of illusions likened to a river creature. It didn’t make much sense the first time I read it, but I read it anyway. I loved to read, and something about this book was screaming read me, finish me. What I read would change my life quite permanently – much to the chagrin of my mother, whose values so violently clashed with the book that I eventually hid it from her so she wouldn’t discover what was inside.

Many people who know me by my outward behavior or my writing make the assumption that I grew up in a household where values of diversity, equality, and compassion reigned supreme. What always entertains me about this (apparently common) belief is how different my life has actually been. I grew up  being taught that LGBTQ people were horrendous, disgusting sinners who should have gotten over God’s “challenge” of their identities by remaining permanently celibate. Interracial marriages were alright for some people they supposed, except that it was against the natural order of things and “selfish” in the case of producing children from such a marriage (‘who would curse a child by making them mixed-race?’ – their words, not mine). Atheists, well, they could certainly exist in this country, but their values shouldn’t matter, and my goodness, you couldn’t ever trust them. Pagans were witches possessed by the devil – dangerous and evil, naturally. Speaking of possession, most mental illness was viewed as likely possession which could be prayed away.

I could probably go on, but I think you get the idea. Mine was a rather narrow-minded home.

This book, though, Illusions… it was not narrow-minded at all. I remember clearly the surreal experience of reading it for the first time. In the book Bach uses fictional characters to illustrate the ideas that life can be what we make it, that choices are personal and infinite in their iterations, and the concepts of “right” and “wrong” entirely depend on a person’s perspective. The very first chapter contained these words, which have stuck with me to this day –

“And what would you do,” the Master said unto the multitude, “if God spoke directly to your face and said, ‘I COMMAND THAT YOU BE HAPPY IN THE WORLD, AS LONG AS YOU LIVE.’ What would you do then?”

For a girl who had been raised to believe that there was a right way to be and a condemned sinner’s way to be, the ideas in this book were revolutionary. They were also terrifying. I had to google Richard Bach after finishing the book (in tears, I might add) to make sure that god hadn’t struck him down. Imagine my surprise when I learned that he was nearly 70 and still flying airplanes!

I’ve never met Richard Bach, and yet the words he wrote were the first step towards freeing me from a life of bigotry and hate. I don’t know if he ever even imagined that a kid would pick it up – I’m pretty sure he didn’t write it with kids in mind, but for me, it was the most important thing I read in my entire childhood. It was magic.

A book takes on a life of its own when it reaches the hands of a reader, one that the author never could have imagined. They are powerful – ideas in physical form, disseminated to hundreds or thousands of people. How could a person not want to be a part of that experience, as readers? As writers?

What books have influenced you?


Hope you enjoyed that little spiel! It’s back to the grind for me… I think I have (please let this be true!) 1-2,000 words left to write before the Forsaken Lands 2 draft is FINISHED. Seriously. I think I can, I think I can…

Fae and Folly Cover Reveal

Fae and Folly is becoming its own thing. I’m developing a plot and everything guys, no joke! It’s even got its own little file on yWriter at this point, where I can get it organized for eventual kindle publishing. For now it continues to be published semi-weekly on this blog and on Wattpad, where reads are trickling in.

With the rising legitimacy of this series I was very pleased to learn from a fellow writer that cover artist Miranda Horton was offering free covers to a limited number of people in order to build her portfolio. After taking a look at some of her work, I anticipated that a cover by Miranda could only boost the readership for Fae and Folly on Wattpad. So far it’s doing its job. Seriously. Just look at it –

fae-and-folly

I couldn’t love it any more if I made it myself (actually, I’d probably love it less because I’m not a graphic designer!). Ms Horton was a delight to work with and I highly recommend her services if you’re looking for an artist.

Also, if you’re looking for the next scene in Fae and Folly, the wait is over. Check out Part 11 here on the blog or prettified on a Wattpad ap.

Advanced Review – “A Veil of Secrets” by Hailey Edwards

While book reviews are not typically part of my blogging bag (honestly, I don’t know that I have a typical anything on this blog so far), I recently got the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Hailey Edwards’ latest book, A Veil of Secrets, due out in December of this year. Ms Edwards is the author of the Aranae Nation and Daughters of Askara series, both under the umbrella of the fantasy/romance genre. I’ve been a fan of Ms Edwards’ work for a while now – I picked up the first Aranae book, A Hint of Frost, two years ago when I was just starting to expand my literary tastes from straight-up fantasy into stories with more of a romantic twist. I’ve now read every book in between (there are 8 of them at this point, I believe, counting this latest piece) and enjoyed each of them.

Thus it is my great pleasure to offer my review of A Veil of Secrets. If this story sounds interesting to you I’d encourage you to use the next couple months to catch up prior to the December release!

Although I have made every effort to leave out major plot points, there are potential spoilers ahead. You have been warned.


The world of the Aranae Nation, for those unfamiliar with the series, is dark indeed. This isn’t a bunch of fluffy romance, nor is it a plotless pages-long sex fest (though some of the scenes are quite steamy, which I don’t mind a bit). This series has a central plot involving a deadly plague which is wiping out whole towns of people and animals alike. The Aranae themselves are unique, with spidery qualities including fangs and the ability to spin thread. They are divided into tribal groups, each of them with their own codes of honor and skills. The Mimetidae, for example, are a war-like people (think semi-Klingons, if you will), willing to eat the flesh of their enemies, while the Salticidae are relatively peaceful agricultural-types, and obligate vegans to boot. Given the complexity of the world, I definitely recommend reading the preceding books prior to picking up Veil. Veil builds on the plot from the prior books, and offers much insight into the origins of the dreaded plague (you won’t hear those secrets from me, though – you’ll have to read to find out).

On to more book-specific details…

One of the things I love about Edwards’ work – the reason I easily blast through each installment of the series – is that she has a talent for grabbing the reader immediately. She accomplishes this beautifully in A Veil of Secrets, perhaps moreso than in any of her other books. From page one we are plunged into the world of Marne, the female protagonist with a rather unfortunate secret, Edan, her aggressive and super-protective brother, and Asher, a guard who is accompanying Marne and Edan on a journey through the dangerous veil, a sort of metaphysical barrier between where they are and the city of Beltania. Marne and her brother are trying desperately to survive after Marne was turned into a harbringer, a dangerous creature best known for flying around killing and eating people, a reputation of which makes it difficult for Marne to exist freely as who she really is. The difference between Marne and your typical harbringer is that she didn’t make the full transition into paranormal killing machine – she instead walks the earth dependent on injections to keep her alive and sane. She and Edan are seeking refuge in Beltania with the hopes that they will be able to have some kind of fresh start in life, away from their unpleasant pasts.

Now, I started this book while at Penny Arcade Expo, a geeky con for fans of video and tabletop gaming (brief tangent incoming). My husband had gone to a panel on some RTS game that I wasn’t really into, so I was sitting comfy in a hotel lobby with my tea and tablet, pleased to have a little down time in which to read. Within the first several pages I found myself deep in the action, fighting off harbringers with Marne in the veil. It was that lovely feeling when you’re really into a book, and your consciousness is hovering somewhere between you, the pages, and the characters…

…then a siren came blaring through my trance, and when I looked up I was a little surprised that I was still in Seattle. That’s the kind of reader-grabbing that I’m talking about here, and that was when I realized I was going to have a hard time putting the book down.

The romance in Veil is absolutely adorable. As stated above, Edwards likes to write romance with a central plot, so the physical romance is towards the end, but well worth it. Marne is a woman with a great deal of strength who demonstrates a clear arc from relative dependence on her brother to a new-found comfort with her abilities and independence, which I find very appealing in my romancy stuff.  Marne is no damsel; she easily stands beside her warrior male counterparts. Several characters make re-appearances from prior books to good effect; I particularly enjoyed seeing Pascale with Lleu, two side characters who offer bits of comic relief and witty banter throughout.

If I have any criticism (and I add this so I don’t come off as just an excited fangirl) it’s that at times I felt a little lost in the settings – I’m very visual and like to get a better handle on what I’m looking at and where people are, which was occasionally lacking. There’s a balance between being overly detailed and leaving a majority of the setting to the reader, and I feel like Veil is more on the reader-insert-details spectrum. Since my concern is always characters first, this was by no means significant enough for me to down-rate this book.

Want a number? 5 out of 5 stars. Two thumbs up. Too many character-driven giggles to count. Interested? Go read it, folks.


Alright! Hopefully that gives you a little something to go on. In other news, I will be posting a Q&A with S.E. Doster in the next several days regarding the kickstarter for her book (coincidentally named) Sacrifice. Also on my agenda: finishing Forsaken Lands 2 (good gods above please let me finish the draft this month) and another installment in Fae and Folly.  I’ve got 4 more days before I go back to the medical grind, and I plan to spend as much of that time writing as I can. Peace.

A silly post: It’s not my fault, really.

Note: the “I” in this post is me – the blog writer – rather than Amelie. *not a Fae and Folly scene* …sigh.

“Hey muse!” I sit down at the table with a bowl of freshly-cut yellow watermelon from the farmer’s market, all glistening and summer-wonderful. Clad in my self-dyed sarong with my hair tied back in a bandana, I look the picture of an exhausted hippie waif. “So, I’ve got two hours before I have to go to sleep and wake up to do my job, which I’m really not liking at the moment. Seems like now would be a great time to work on some Fae and Folly, don’t you think?”

The Inconvenient Muse smiles in her enigmatic way, taking the fruit in hand without consuming it. She scrutinizes it as she might look over my request in writing. “No, I don’t think so. Not tonight.”

“I’m really liking this faerie idea-“

“How about the last scene of your third novel instead?”

“Muse, we’ve been over this. I’m still working on book two. I’d prefer some Fae and Folly, but if you want to work on Forsaken Lands 2…

“I think it’s book three time.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me, Muse. This isn’t funny.”

She bites the watermelon, licking the sweet juices from her lips. In her sunfire eyes I see that she has again found my request lacking. “If you don’t write it down now I’ll never give you this idea ever again.”

“Muse!”

“You came to me for help.”

Welcome to my evening.