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Friday, 30 January 2015

Fantasy Rising

I think it's fair to say that in the last decade fantasy as a genre has undergone something of a revival. Now before I get bombarded with a tirade of BloggerDoom+2 spells, or death threats written in Elvish, I do realise that it's always enjoyed a dedicated niche popularity. But what I'm talking about is a revival into popular culture, in the way sci-fi surged forth in the late 70s-early 80s.

Now fantasy takes many forms, and if we regard fantasy literature as encompassing the magical, the make-believe, the imaginary world, then we are including works as diverse as Harry Potter, George RR Martin, Tolkien and perhaps even paranormal/urban fantasy such as (ducks spell aimed at head) Twilight. Personally I'm thinking more traditional fantasy sub-genres, whether high fantasy/epic fantasy, or this darker variant made more popular with Game of Thrones series and books by Martin and Abercrombie.

I think there's a few good reasons that we're seeing this surge in popularity, and some overlap into science fiction as a genre.

First is undoubtedly the high quality series and films we're seeing. HBO Game of Thrones is superbly done, both in terms of adaptation and acting. Jackson's admirable work on the LOTR and the Hobbit have turned a new generation onto the genre.

But it's the books as the backbone of this popularity that have kept pace. As much as I love the stalwarts of Leiber, Vance, Tolkien, Moorcock et al, the writers of the last twenty years have matured the genre. And I don't mean just in terms of adult content. The style and the characterisation plays a huge part. I'm thinking of Robin Hobb, who writes intelligent books with excellent depth of character (such as Fitz in the Farseer trilogy). There's so many to choose from, and so little time to read, but authors such as Martin, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie and Steven Erikson really stand out for me (and I'm sure readers of the blog can suggest many more).

Quality of product aside, there is something more about fantasy that has boosted it's popularity in the modern era. It's beyond simple escapism- after all, most fiction offers a degree of escapism. Personally I think, similar to sci-fi, it allows us space to consider weighty ontological issues. Fantasy is a classic environment for good vs evil, and indeed the nature of evil and the blurring between light and dark. In my own work the 'baddy' is not utterly vile: as the series progresses you get insights into his persona, his philosophy, his fear of death, his grief, and his sense of being ostracised that have created his darkness. His interaction with Emelia is almost affectionate and flirtatious at times. We know he's evil, yet we still wonder at his possible redemption.

And other brain-bruising topics play out in fantasy: self-determination vs destiny; the nature of faith; the conflicts between nature and science and loads more. Even in classic fantasy, such as LOTR, we see these themes. To me, the key story in LOTR is that of friendship- the Frodo-Sam dynamic drives the story- and of destiny (Aragorn fulfilling his; Gandalf's purpose on Middle Earth). Yet it also touches on mortality, and how war and conflict alters those who fought (three of the Hobbits never settle in the Shire, Frodo is never the same after carrying the One Ring). And the most   Referenced theme in the books is the conflict between nature and industry. It's highlighted well in the films, as well as the books- Sauron and Saruman represent the destruction of nature, with fire and iron and smoke--the Hobbits and Elves especially represent rural life and being in tune with nature and the land. It's shown very well when Sam looks in Galadriel's mirror, and when Treebeard with Merry and Pippin see the destruction of the forest near Isengard.

I drew on a similar theme in my Prism series. Vildor and the knights represent technology, and abhor nature. Vildor being a ghast, a vampyr lord, is cheating death- the key moment of a natural cycle. In book four his knights torch the Druids and their forest. Vildor's lair is The Waste and the Dead City, areas where magic has devastated the natural world . In opposition to him we have companions from lands in touch with nature, including Marthir- a Druid- and Master Ten, an earth elemental.

In book five, some of the companions journey to Nth Artoria, a land where the New Gods- gods who represent traits rather than elements- are revered. Nth Artoria worship gods of pride and courage, Egos and Tindor- and with that comes arrogance and a reliance on conflict that will create major problems for our characters.

There are other themes that my series explores- friendship and loyalty being a key one, and a search for identity and belonging- which is the major focus for Emelia in this book. She journeys through her past, and not everything she finds is welcome.

So despite the obvious audiovisual reasons for the resurgence in fantasy's popularity, I think the themes it allows us to explore, under a veil of imagination, will ensure it's enduring (and hopefully growing) presence on our bookshelves (virtual or not).

Darkness Rising 5 is released on Kindle today.

For UK kindle it's 

And for those across the Atlantic:

Print copy to follow in a couple of months !

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Lost, found, and now betrayed

My friend and fellow Myrddin Publishing author, Carlie Cullen, releases the third book in her paranormal romance series very soon--and I've been lucky enough to grab an advance copy. I'll be reviewing it in a months time on the blog, but in the meantime I thought I'd share the awesome cover and blurb with you.

I love the style of the three covers, and this one is my favourite. It depicts the mansion that Remy and Josh now live together in.

Heart Search: Betrayal


One bite started it all . . .

Joshua, Remy, and the twins are settled in their new life. However, life doesn’t always run smoothly. An argument between Becky and her twin causes unforeseen circumstances, an admission by Samir almost costs him his life, and the traitor provides critical information to Liam. But who is it?

As Jakki’s visions begin to focus on the turncoat’s activities, a member of the coven disappears, and others find themselves endangered.

And when Liam’s coven attacks, who will endure?

Fate continues to toy with mortals and immortals alike, and as more hearts descend into darkness, can they overcome the dangers they face and survive?

Sounds excellent, and a genre I don't often read. You can find more about Carlie via the links below, and I'll let you know what I think to the book soon.

Carlie M A Cullen

Carlie M A Cullen was born in London. She grew up in Hertfordshire where she first discovered her love of books and writing.

She has always written in some form or another, but started to write novels in 2011. Her first book was published by Myrddin Publishing in 2012. She writes in the Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genres for New Adult and Adult.

Carlie is also a principal editor for Eagle Eye Editors.

Carlie also holds the reins of a writing group called Writebulb.They have published four anthologies so far, two for adults and two for children, all of which raise money for a local hospice.

Carlie currently lives in Essex, UK with her daughter.

Carlie 's Website:

 Or follow her on Twitter: @carlie2011c

And Facebook:


About Carlie:




Heart Search, book one: Lost:

Heart Search, book two: Found:


Saturday, 24 January 2015

Darkness Rising 5 - Broken

It seems an age since book 4 was released, not least with all the major life changes that squeezed in last year. But with a New Year, and hopefully a period of stability, comes the next Installment in the Darkness Rising series.

Pencilled in for release next weekend, this is the new cover by the awesome Ceri Clark, whose work on all my covers have created a consistent and recognisable style.

The image on the cover is an interesting interpretation of a character. Originally I'd visualised having Vildor on this cover, as prior covers had Emelia, Hunor and Orla on them. The plan is to have Jem on book six. 

But after having written and lived with the series for five years now, I have such strong mental images of the characters that it gets increasingly difficult to represent them as I like. Admittedly I know the images are symbolic of, rather than replicas of, but I'd visualised Vildor as a sort of Tom Hiddleston character.

So this cover I've imagined as picturing one of the other key players- Kervin- whose tragic love of Emelia provides the key story arc in the series, and who grows to form a major part in the finale of the series.

And behind the bearded tracker, now cursed by Vildor's magic? The Wastes- a region of a North Artoria ravaged by the cataclysmic explosion of battling Prisms hundreds of years ago. And in the centre of which lurks Vildor and his demonic assistant, Blood.

So the 'blurb' ?

Beneath the veneer, beneath the beauty, there is always the coldness of stone.’ 

Tragedy has torn apart Emelia and her companions, a terrible betrayal instigated by the Darkmaster, Vildor. A devastated Jem struggles to control the fearful power of the crystals, becoming distant from his closest friends. Hunor and Orla are tested by a secret from the past, a revelation that will change everything between them. In the Dead City, Emelia begins a search for her past, a journey 
that will plunge her deeper into the darkness of Vildor and his twisted schemes. 

Desperate to seek aid in their battle against Vildor, the companions travel north to Belgo, capital of North Artoria. But everything is not what it seems in the palace, and danger lurks in every shadow, whether cast by friend or foe. 

Separated and alone, can Emelia, Jem and Hunor hope to prevail? Or will the evils of the present and the past overcome them at last?

Darkness Rising 5 – Broken is the fifth in the epic fantasy series that reviewers are calling  ‘epic and spellbinding.’ It is a must read for fantasy fans the world over.

Hope you'll check it out next weekend- or of you fancy starting the series it's available for free on Smashwords at 

Or chapter by chapter free on Wattpad at. 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

There and back again

Given that it's been out for a month now I'm hoping that posting about the Hobbit3 won't spoil it for anyone reading, but just in case...

So Peter Jackson has wrapped up another trilogy, and first of all I must say he's done an incredible job. Taking such iconic work, especially to fantasy geeks such as I, and giving it a reality is an amazing thing. 

Now I can't say the Hobbit films had the same impact on me as the LOTR trilogy, although visually they were superior. I think that's for a few reasons. Firstly, LOTR remains a work of greater scope, and wider variety of characters (Hobbit has really Bilbo, and less so Gandalf and Thorin- although the films have tried to compensate this as I'll mention below). As a kid, The Hobbit was always the support act you're glad you managed to catch before the main act got on stage.

Second, I think the adaptations that went into making the Hobbit a film were significant with regards the original book. This isn't a surprise- they took a children's book and made it mature, and with the motivation to construct a prequel to the LOTR. But the padding seemed skewed through the films.

When I think of the book and the seminal scenes I think of: The Trolls, the Goblins, then Golem, then Spiders, less so the Elves, then Smaug. Maybe because I'd always peter off reading towards the end (think I've read it four times) I can kind of remember Smaug getting shot, but not much about the Five Armies. In fact when my son asked me what they all were, I struggled (got four by reasoning not memory). So to me, the key events are mainly in film 1, less in film 2, and hardly in film 3. Rather in this movie we have The Battle, with the fluff building up to it, and the bits in Mirkwood setting Sauron's transient defeat and the Nine popping back (which was previously an entry in the Appendix timeline in LOTR, I think).

So given that Hobbit 3 is perhaps 25% Tolkien, 75% Jackson, did it work? As a conclusion to the trilogy- yes, just about. The Thorin-Bilbo storyline felt a touch strained in this film- the obsession with the Arkenstone, and the greed for gold, rather forced. The use of Legolas, whilst fun, was pretty throwaway- especially given that he aids and ultimately respects the dwarves, then in Fellowship has a good old rant at Gimli. The romance between Tauriel and Kili, whilst rather unlikely, oddly worked for me. I liked the idea of developing the dwarves personas- Bofur, Bwalin and Dwalin were all nicely done- especially Ken Stott's Balin. And Bard, with his family, resonated with me too.

In retrospect there wasn't enough time spent on seeing through those characterisations in my mind. The action scenes were awesome ( if vertigo inducing) but the writer in me would've liked those aforementioned characters to get more time. I suppose ultimately all of those characters are just bonuses and it was a film about Bilbo and his journey.

And I think that journey was done well- Martin Lawrence is excellent at conveying that bewilderment, the bravery that surprises even himself, the 'Everyman' in incredible circumstance. And his return to the Shire, and the linking with LOTR was nicely done.

I sometimes reflect on the conclusions to LOTR when Frodo returns to the Shire, but as a consequence of all he has seen and experienced he can never settle. Ultimately there is no place for him in the Shire and hence he sails West. The sequence is analogous to those returning from war, from a high-octane theatre of threat and death, to a world that has continued oblivious to their experience. You wonder as Tolkien wrote it, and Jackson filmed it, whether that was in mind? (I know JRRT hated allegory, unlike CS Lewis, so probably not). And Bilbo becomes tired as his unnaturally slowed aging dissipates in LOTR, and the years (and perhaps the memory of his quest) catch up.

For me there'll never be a set of films as iconic as the two trilogies (I like Star Wars, and Trek, but not approaching that league ). I always loved the Backshi version from early 80s, yet these six films have put fantasy onto a new level and I'm not certain that will ever be topped for me.