when he arrived nobody really knew what to do with him. he appeared in a quiet residential area on the outskirts of town wearing a t-shirt and khaki pants. Read more
Tag Archives: fantasy
The First Lesson
We are gods of old games, with old names and old faces. We are gods of old blood, old loves and old places. We are the gods who dwell in the soil, who have watched you come and watched you go. We have soaked in your wars and your peace and all the malice and uncertainty in between. But no more. Read more
“what is your name?” he asked, patient and unscathing. “my own is Ronin”
she flittered in the wind, neither here nor there, her eyes washed clean of colour. but she remembered this one… “you are-” she began, then fell silent as the memory slipped beyond her careless grasp. Read more
Qast awoke with a rasping breath, clawing at her hair. Her eyes narrowed and darted about the room as her hands deftly reached for two of the daggers she kept concealed about her bed. Read more
Havilar and Farideh are twin tieflings abandoned at birth and raised by dragonborn. Careless Havilar has an innocent soul and a penchant for trouble, and careful Farideh feels the weight of the world, her tainted bloodline – and her sister – on her shoulders.
In a summoning ritual gone wrong, Farideh ends up bound in a warlock’s pact with a handsome but sadistic cambion devil, and they are thrown out of the village. A lone dragonborn accompanies them out of compassion, and the three adventurers, often perceived as monsters themselves, begin to make a name for themselves as monster slayers.
But once they reach the encampments in the ruined city of Neverwinter, their simple plans of slaying monsters to make a living get tangled up in a devilish snare six layers deep. It will take every ounce of the twin’s skills – and some borrowed besides – if they are to have any hope of staying afloat in the deadly designs around them.
As far as plot goes, without ruining the book for anybody, the description is pretty much it. We follow several characters throughout the book, but the main two are Farideh, the twin who entered into a pact with a devil for reasons she can’t quite articulate; and Lorcan, the cambion with whom she made the pact.
Evans weaves us into the lives of the twins as they are forever changed and the unconventional family must flee their home village, becoming bounty hunters to survive as they seek out a way to get Farideh out of the pact. Meanwhile, Farideh seems to develop ideas of her own about her pact, the fiend who offered it to her and the exact use of the powers she gains along the way. We are taken along on the journey and brought into the minds of our heroines and their counterparts to explore the meaning of family, the burden of power and heritage and to find out just how far we will go to attain personal freedom whilst trying to “do the right thing”.
The villains are a great bunch, too. We have on one hand, villains who seem to be evil because it’s their nature and they really enjoy it; on the other we have a villainess-in-waiting who’s evil is more a matter of perspective. And, of course, we have Lorcan. He’s devious, self-interested and definitely up to no good, maybe with a touch of evil thrown in… but a few times you find yourself wondering just how despicable is he, really?
So, before I get carried away and ruin the book for you… let’s get into the highlights, eh?
Versatility- Evans manages to write a book which appeals both to long-time lovers of D&D and the Forgotten Realms setting and to newcomers to both D&D and fantasy.
Explanations of what things like tieflings are, and the hierarchy, history and politics of the Nine Hells are woven into the story so that newcomers feel comfortable (not too comfortable, though. It’s a dangerous place!) and familiar with the setting. At the same time those of us who’ve campaigned our way through Faerun once or twice don’t get bored with long-winded descriptions of the history of Neverwinter, every fantastical creature that crosses our paths and what the Spellplague is.
Realism- I know it sounds strange to say that a story which follows the adventures of the tainted descendants of a powerful and evil warlock, their scaly, fire-breathing adoptive father, and a runaway kid with sketchy access to divine magic following the making of a deal with a half-devil from the Sixth layer of the Nine Hells… is realistic. But you’ve just got to trust me on this one.
Writing believable characters and story arcs is difficult in any genre but when you delve into fantasy it’s tempting to throw away any sense of rhyme and reason and have things happen simply because it’ll look cool. Evans does a wonderful job of depicting characters who have realistic reactions to their situations and surroundings.
Our late-teen heroines are, predictably, crushing hard over boys who are best left alone. Our badboy extraordinaire, Lorcan, doesn’t suddenly and inexplicably reform his manipulative ways and heal from literal centuries of physical and emotional trauma simply because he meets a girl. And nobody is exactly forthcoming with the deeply personal and sordid details of their past just because it’d be nice for all our heroes, heroines and antiheroes to bond over a camp fire.
‘Regular’ people are also suitably sceptical and suspicious of folks with black pools for eyes and horns on their heads. Just because you’re in a fantasy setting, doesn’t mean that everyone is comfortable with horned and scaly people running around doing magic and wielding weapons with deadly precision.
Characterisation- Related to the above point, Evans builds strong and relatable characters.
I’ve read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies (oh, the sparkles!) that were let down by poor character analysis and development. Evans’ characters don’t feel like caricatures or stand-ins for concepts. They feel like people. Farideh and Havilar are separate and distinct personalities in their own rights, but as is so often the case with twins, you get the feeling that they’d be incomplete and miserable without each other. Even though they fight and misunderstand each other constantly, when push comes to shoving a claive into an enemy’s torso they’re inseparable. Their adoptive father Mehen is clingy and overprotective in the way that you’d expect someone who’s lost all the people they ever loved to be. As for that shady priest and the runaway… they’re interesting people, too.
Because I’m an impatient reader, especially when there’s an event that’s been foreshadowed and I’m trying to get to it ASAP… I’ll admit I skipped a few pages. I can’t say there was anything wrong with the pace of the novel. In fact, the fact that I only skipped literally a few pages is a testament to how engaging the book was.
Recommendation: Put on your most epic music playlists (I’m a fan of Versus Music on YouTube), call in sick from work or school for the next day or two, arm yourself with a large selection of snacks and enter into one of the most iconic fantasy settings of all time with your new friend Farideh and the badboy extraordinaire, Lorcan.
Trivia: I looked up the meaning of a few of the names in the book. I didn’t find anything for Havilar, but Farideh is apparently Persian and means “delightful” whilst Lorcan is Irish and means “silent”, “fierce”, or “little fiery one”. You learn something new every day!
I’ll finish up with a cautionary note. The book not only contains some explicit content, but also some rather mature context. I’m not saying not to gift it to your 15 year old nephew or niece (I dearly wish somebody had given me this type of book when I was 15), but it’s definitely not a kids’ book. I’d say it’s a 14+ kind of novel, and there’s definitely no upper age limit.
You can find Erin M. Evans on her website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook from there.
Get Brimstone Angels and its sequels at your nearest bookstore or from an online distributor.
My love of all things Dragon Age is well documented. What is significantly less well-documented is that I’m also a fan of Felicia Day – yes, because of The Guild. Read more
Rena made her way slowly from Faril’s desk and to the back of the library, taking a new route with each trip. By the fourth load she had figured out that if she walked straight from the desk, through the first row of books, took a left and counted four rows then walked down, the trip was significantly shorter. There were no ladders and no students crowding the way. Yet even with this improvement she knew that she’d spend the entire afternoon stacking then organising books. The task would likely run on into tomorrow’s schedule as well.
At times like these Rena was tempted to think that had she not gotten this apprenticeship her life would be so much simpler. But the opportunity was not one to be passed up. Each Librarian was allowed to choose up to three apprentices and while the other four had taken full advantage of that, Faril had only selected her. He said the other applicants were far too driven by political ambition, and not by a love of knowledge. Did Rena love knowledge? She still had no idea. But right now, she thought, I really hate this job.
As if called by her disdain Faril opened the front doors at that moment. While the other Librarians could easily be called elderly, Faril looked to be just on the outer limits of middle-age, with some grey creeping into his thick brown hair. It was likely just personal bias but Rena considered him the best of the Librarians: very approachable, passionate about scholarly work and a wonderful story-teller. They were qualities which made her look forward to the walk from the library to the residences when she’d finished her work.
Today Faril seemed to want to get as much done as possible. He hadn’t called her out to sit on the benches with him for lunch. He’d instead requested that she stay in the library and continue working. It wasn’t like Faril to ask that, but she had heard some of the other apprentices the night before talking about how this shipment of books contained a work of great personal value to the older man.
Curious, Rena was scanning the titles of each stack to see what it might be. She knew that Faril’s field of study was ancient weaponry. He kept an impressive collection of his favourite daggers, swords, whips and whatever else in his private chambers in the residences. One of the perks of being his apprentice was that she got to learn all about his travels and his collection. Though Rena was interested in ancient cultures as a whole, she spent a lot of time discussing weapons with Faril. Today, however, Faril had no time for talk and he shuffled his way loudly to the back table where Rena had been stacking the books.
She saw him raise a slender finger and run it from the top to bottom of each stack. Rena watched intently, forgetting about the load of books still in her hands. In the third stack he found what he had been looking for. Rena examined it from her place at the end of the row but couldn’t make out a name.
The book was small, with a leather covering and paper so worn it rustled at the librarian’s touch and she was sure it needed to be kept in the Restoration Room. Faril thumbed through it carefully before sighing contentedly and placing the book in some hidden pocket beneath his robes.
He greeted her with a stiff nod and small smile as he scurried back out of the library. Rena watched him walk to his rooms through the windows before hurrying to where he’d removed the book. She ran her fingers over the two books which had been above and below it, trying to remember the intervening title. Her brow furrowed in concentration and she stood for several moments before deciding that she was not forgetting the title: the little book simply hadn’t had one. It had struck her as more akin to a diary than any sort of scholarly work and she wished now that she’d taken note of its contents instead of gravitating towards the more grandiose titles.
There’s a thing happening on the Interwebs. A thing called indie publishing. Sure, there’s a lot of chaff (SO much chaff) but if we can sift through the chaffy bits and get to the good stuff, it can be REALLY good. Read more
Haerith was a beautiful continent. It always had been, Svorin thought. He peered from the mouth of the cave past the water and to the grassy shores of Alatra. Though an ancient country in terms of the written histories, Alatra was still new in his eyes. He’d only heard of it several hundred years ago, sometime after the fall of Korin, his birth state. How short the written histories were; so lacking in culture and knowledge. Yet today people all around Saiala considered themselves so much more civilised than their illiterate forebearers. Svorin gave a soft snort at the idea and retreated back into the cave.
His bare feet made soft pattering noises as they met the rock and he allowed himself to focus on the restful rhythm of it. No more than fifty paces into the cave he found Ithryel sitting in the little enclave she had decided was the ‘peaceful corner’ of the large entry cave. So many centuries and she still held onto some semblance of running a household. Svorin complained of course, but really he enjoyed it. Ithryel was higher born than he was and some of her habits still fascinated him. He’d never admit it, though she clearly knew. It was a matter of pride. She knew that, too.
“Why do you insist on reading that rubbish?” He queried.
Ithryel looked up from her perch and smiled. The cover of the text in her hands read ‘Ancient Myths from the Three Lands’. Thenis had brought it with her when she’d come to give her report to the others and Ithryel hadn’t put it down since.
“I want to know what they say about us, of course.” The smile lingered as she read a passage from the text in an officious voice. “’Shadow Wraith lore dates back to the dark times when all Saiala is said to have been engulfed by a never-ending cloud. These times, known in popular mythology as The Woe, are said to have lasted for many decades. As we see from Rilarian myths of the time, people believed that the darkness was caused by gods who were waging a war in the skies.
‘The Shadow Wraith are said to be twelve warriors imbued with superhuman abilities by the goddess Issalu (see Creation myths). Their role is to protect the WorldSoul, a vessel said to house all the power of the goddess Issalu, thereby keeping the world from falling back into The Woe’” Ithryel looked up at her companion. The smile was gone, replaced now by thin-lipped recognition of the truth.
“Amazing how much they got right, isn’t it, kin of mine?” Whenever she felt nostalgic Ithryel would call her fellow Shadow Wraith ‘kin of mine’. Svorin found it mildly endearing but said nothing. They all had their ways of dealing with the burden they carried. He found Ithryel’s method far more appealing than Qast’s borderline-fanaticism, at any rate. Or Millen’s brooding silences… Svorin’s thoughts wandered to his dear friend Millen, who was no doubt practicing his skills somewhere solitary at that very moment.
After more than two thousand years there really was very little, if anything, left to know about each other. Even those who had initially tried to keep parts of themselves hidden away had come out with their dark truths when they realised that all those to whom they had sworn oaths of silence, or wronged, were dead. And so were their children. And many generations past that. But Millen was the exception that proved the rule. He had never opened up, never surrendered his guilt to the forgiveness of time and he’d never stopped…
Ithryel’s laugh cut through the silence and Svorin snapped back to the present, realising he had been about to take a wrong turn into the sleep cavern. Correcting his course, he again allowed his mind to meander to its oldest memories. The steady pattering of his feet brought him comfort and by the time he reached the hidden away little enclave he called his own, a smile of contentment had spread on his face. Next time the others came in he had to remember to ask them for more of his favourite sherry. Thousands of years and the recipe hadn’t changed a bit. Somebody should write a book about that, he mused.