Today I’d like to welcome Michelle to my blog. Michelle’s latest book, Grudging, has just been released and is filled with witchcraft. Michelle was kind enough to write me a guest post all about witches and how they fit into her latest novel.
‘Thanks for having me on your blog, Lynn!’
Thanks for agreeing to be my guest :D
‘It seems proper around this time of year to look at witches in history, literature, and entertainment as I use them myself in my latest book. Witches go back centuries with mentions in the Bible. I think everyone knows from Exodus, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” In a harking back to the three fates of Greek mythology, Shakespeare used witches in Macbeth as prophets and sinister figures.
Salem had their own real-life run in with “witches” being burned at the stake in Puritan times. For all of history, witches have been women to cast blame upon for unexplained things like the failure of crops, or men who couldn’t stay faithful. Not to get too much into gender discrimination, but the word wizard just doesn’t have the same negative connotation behind it. It was easier to pin problems on the old woman, living alone, without family, than to seek a real explanation in a world without modern science.
But that’s not so much the case anymore in fiction, though the theme of witches shows no sign of slowing down. Sure there are still evil witches in testosterone-filled movies such as the very recent The Last Witch Hunter. But there’s so much variety to witches nowadays. You have the sinister, along with the benign, the romantic, the sexy, and even witches who are neither good nor bad, but somewhere in between.
JK Rowling and Hermoine did a lot to reinvent the idea of witches, giving us a heroic witch. They could be smart, fun, and brave. Hermoine does her fair share of saving other people and is no typical damsel in distress.
I was always partial to Terry Brooks’ Ilse Witch, where a bad witch with powerful magic turns good. One of my favorite witch movies is Hocus Pocus for some family Halloween fun. We even have the comical witch as in Sabrina: The Teenage Witch and Broomhilda from Bugs Bunny.
For most of my life, the image from the picture above was my idea of witches. They were ugly, wore pointy hats, rode brooms and did hexes and curses. We all know they keep black cats as part of their familiar bargain with the devil, and warts are how Satan marked them to distinguish them from righteous people. They carry wands and brew stinky potions in their cauldrons.
That’s why when I wrote Grudging and made witches the needed allies for a city under siege from an overwhelming army, I wanted the witches to be different. Oh, the witches in my story live apart in a swamp, but that’s the only typical witch characteristic. My character, Claire, has a cauldron, but she only uses it to brew soap. Instead of black cats, they rear goats. She doesn’t cast hexes or curses. She can’t wither any crops, though she may make the reader fall in love with her.
In Grudging, the people of the city call them witches, those living nearer to the swamps call them more accurately sirena. And Claire calls herself a Woman of the Song. They have voice magic that lets them bewitch and bewilder any man—rumor is unclear whether it works on other women—foolish enough to attack them. All Claire wants is for her mother to relent and let her practice her Song on someone/thing who can hear her.
She’ll get her chance when the city men appear on the scene, bringing their prejudices of witches as a cross between cannibals and temptresses. Can two traditional enemies become friends or just more casualties?
A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.
The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.
On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.
The Women of the Song.
But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.
A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.
Release Date: November 17, 2015; Harper Voyager Impulse
A little about Michelle:
Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. She is a co-host of the yearly query contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, New Agent, PitchSlam, and Sun versus Snow. Her Birth of Saints Series from Harper Voyager starts with GRUDGING on November 17, 2015. Her epic fantasy, KINDAR’S CURE, was published by Divertir Publishing.
Facebook: Michelle Hauck, Author
Thanks again Michelle for writing this guest post.
Whilst we’re thinking about witches – one of my favourites is Tiffany Aching created by Terry Pratchett – which witch is your favourite??
Welcome to week seven of our readalong of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series. Kushiel’s Avatar is the third in the series and I am loving it so far. All free to join in, if you’ve already read this then please join in with the comments. The full schedule is here and this week Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow is our lovely host. Before reading further: a word of warning – there will be spoilers lurking below.
So, moving swiftly on:
1. Yevuneh and the other women agree to help Phedre continue on her quest, and though it doesn’t go smoothly, she succeeds in finding the Broken Tablets and the Name of God! What did you think of how this part of the story played out?
I was so happy that the women agreed to help Phedre, I kind of expected that they would because I hoped they’d see the wisdom of it but even so I felt so pleased with their decision. I did feel disappointed that one of the women had betrayed them, at the end of the day she didn’t just betray Phedre and Joscelin but all the other women who had reached that decision. In fact I was staggered when that boat appeared on the horizon and then the desperate race to the temple, I really hadn’t seen that coming at all. It seems that everything, even Imriel’s being amongst the party was necessary though. Like Phedre said, without the chase she probably wouldn’t have found the island and without Imriel she probably wouldn’t have been admitted to the temple.
2. When the dust settles, Imriel’s position on where he feels he belongs is all the more firm – he wants to be with Phedre and Joscelin, and not with House Courcel. Do you have any thoughts on how things will go for them when they return home?
Well, I can’t claim this as my own idea as it was already raised previously but I think Phedre and Joscelin will seek to keep Imriel at their home – probably by asking for the boon that the Queen already granted Phedre. Frankly I don’t really see why this would be a problem – I think plenty of kingdoms used to follow a code of placing royal wards in other homes as part of their upbringing so why not place Imriel with Phedre and Joscelin? It would remove him from all the court intrigue and betrayal for a little while longer at least and the two of them are very conscientious of his safety. Plus he trusts them now and they’ve developed quite the unit between the three of them. I think it would be really difficult for Imriel to now be placed in the Court with people who barely know or care about him and who would constantly be looking at him with suspicion. I think it would really set him back. Whether Ysandre will see it that way remains to be seen and I can’t help wondering if she will be annoyed with Phedre and Joscelin anyway and therefore disinclined to be agreeable.
3. Among other important changes to their way of life, the possibility of trade between Saba and other nations has opened up in the aftermath of what Phedre has done. This leads her to speculate that the intentions of the gods go far beyond what she was aware. What do you think of that bigger-picture theory? What might it mean for the world in general?
Not really sure to be honest. It seems like the Gods do want people of other nations to become known to each other. Of course, as we know from history these alliances don’t always go well and some people are more ambitious than others. I don’t really know why the Gods would interfere in that respect?
4. We’re heading toward the finale, and hopefully to a resolution regarding Hyacinthe’s fate… Do you have any thoughts about what might happen when Phedre gets back to him?
I really don’t know what to expect. One part of me just gleefully expects Phedre to roll up and invoke the name of God and release Hyachinthe and they all live happily ever after. The other part of me thinks that the first part is just being very silly and naive and that if something can go wrong it will. Perhaps Hyachinthe will have already changed too much. Perhaps his own feelings on being released have changed. It’s all so thought provoking but I really don’t have an answer!
The other participants:
The Shards of Heaven is a fascinating alternate history set during the period of the Roman Empire just shortly after the death of Caesar. I enjoyed this so much that when I finished reading I actually went to check out some of the history of the period and having done so was even more impressed with the skill which the author has used here to bring us a very easy to read narrative with a twist on the actual events that feels almost like a credible account of what could have taken place.
Octavian, Caesar’s nephew and adopted son has taken control of Rome. However, he doesn’t intend to leave potential suitors around to lay claim to the empire and he particularly has his eye on Caesarion, Cleopatra’s first son by Caesar. As a result Rome and Alexandria go to war , although Octavian uses Marc Antony’s defection to Alexandria as the cause hiding his real motives amongst this insult to the Empire.
Meanwhile, Juba – another adopted son of Caesar and former Numidian Prince – is on a quest of his own. He searches for ancient relics which are believed to hold the power of God. Nuba himself has an ulterior motive for his search. He seeks vengeance against Rome for the death of his father and intends to use these treasures, known as Shards, to obtain his desires.
Done well I simply love stories like this and this story is done very well. Livingston has taken what is already a very battle led, tempestuous and political era of history and injected it with a little more spice. In this case the fantasy has a biblical feel with moments of calm followed by thrashing waves and skies torn asunder by bolts of lightening. Very fitting indeed for this particular era the fantasy is subtle and doesn’t overrule the narrative. On top of this the author takes some of the lesser known characters and reimagines their stories filling them with thoughts and fears and adding possible scenarios and conversations. You will like these characters, you won’t be able to help yourself, and consequently you’ll hold your breath as the story unfolds and you desperately read on hoping that they’ll survive against the odds.
I particularly liked Pullo and Vorenus. These are a couple of battle hardened Roman soldiers who are exiled to Alexander and are now faced with warring against their own people. They’ve become attached to the family over the years spent with Cleopatra and Antony and have acted as bodyguards to the children. They’re a very easy pair to like. Then we have Didymus, a scholar and tutor to the children – well, he has a secret in his past that he, rightfully so, isn’t proud of and wants to redress. Selene is Cleopatra’s daughter. She’s sharp witted and courageous and refuses to be kept in her place simply for having been born a female.
I really like that Livingston has taken a very well known period of history but rather than focus on the characters we already know has chosen to base his character on these smaller, lesser known characters that have only a small mention in history. I love the way he’s created an alternate history that keeps all the main events untouched at the same time as introducing a different story with fantasy elements that supports the historical version.
The writing is quite unembellished, and I mean that in a good way. The author has plenty to play with here and it would be easy to weigh this story down with heavy descriptions. As it is I think he does a very good job of bringing the period to life, showing the way in which these characters live and avoiding info dumps. I thought the battle scenes were really well written and easy to imagine and loved reading about the Library in Alexandria and the underground tunnels, not to mention the myths surrounding the shards and their possible implications in earlier historical events. I will mention that this is told in a modern voice and style, which I personally really appreciated, but be aware of that before picking this up.
So, to be clear. I loved this book and would have no hesitation in recommending it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and in fact it’s one of a few books that I’ve read this year that I could happily have finished the last page and returned to the start for a reread. I really look forward to the next instalment. If you love history, alternate history and fantasy and want to read characters that make you feel something then give The Shards of Heaven a try.
I received a copy of this courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
Today is week three of a readalong of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. The readalong has been organised by Lisa at Over The Effing Rainbow and is part of this year’s Sci-Fi Month. The details for the readalong are here and the schedule looks like this:
Week 1 (Friday, November 6th): “Transit” to “The Job” – hosted by Over The Effing Rainbow
Week 2 (Friday, November 13th): “Port Coriol” to “Cricket” – hosted by Chris @ Galleywampus
Week 3 (Friday, November 20th): “The Last War” to “October 25” – hosted by Claire Rousseau
Week 4 (Friday, November 27th): “Heresy” to end – hosted by Over The Effing Rainbow
So, to the questions, with a timely reminder before we start that the following may contain spoilers:
1. There is a lot of focus on some of the different alien races in this section, from Dr Chef recounting the story of his people’s decline and Sissix introducing Rosemary to her families, to the surprise visit from the Aeluons and the much less welcome search by the Quelin. What are your thoughts on the various beliefs systems we encounter? Does anything specific pique your interest more than the rest?
These were all really interesting little glimpses into the different alien races we’re encountering and I think all deserve a mention. It was lovely to see Sissix amongst her own people and to witness how comfortable and happy she was. Their family systems are quite fascinating but are clearly very effective for them. I really liked the explanations – for example, the way the older members look after the children – because they have more knowledge and experience (not to mention patience ) – and also because the younger members want to go off exploring. You have to admit that the reasoning really stacked up. I just really enjoyed that whole episode to be honest. The Aeluons – they seem a very calm, almost detached race – and yet that’s not really true as we see through Pei – perhaps that feeling arises simply because they communicate differently. Another enjoyable story – bit scary having all those bombs on board their ship. And the Quelin, well they didn’t really come out in a very good light did they. It just goes to show that you can simply look at the different races on a planet or you can go into space and look at all sorts of different species, but, at the end of the day, you’ll find a certain element who treat others wrong. Course I can’t speak for all Quelin – as this could be a small group and not representative and I wouldn’t like to tar everyone with the same brush?? (Although that didn’t really come across here).
2. Ashby gets the chance to give Pei a tour of his ship and introduce her to his crew, meanwhile Jenks and Lovey decide not to risk transferring the AI into a body just yet, and Rosemary initiates a relationship of sorts with Sissix. Were you happy to see any of these developments, or not so fussed?
I think Jenks and Lovey made a good decision – based on very sound reasoning and actually I thought it was really touching they they don’t want to risk losing each other or damaging what they have now. It was lovely and at the same time a little bit sad that the current legal system prevents them from taking that step but who knows… Pei and Ashby, again, a forbidden relationship! It was again very touching to see how Pei was just as affected by Ashby and his crew’s recent scrape with danger as he usually is by hers. It makes the whole relationship seem more balanced – it’s also interesting that quite a few people know about their relationship and nobody thinks it’s wrong – things need to be put in order don’t they! Finally, Sissix and Rosemary. I think at the moment they’re absolutely perfect for each other and they seem to be going into this with their eyes open which is a good plan, after all they both have things to learn about and from each other. I kind of get the feeling that Rosemary’s family is maybe very cold and calculating and she seems absolutely enamoured with the way Sissix is so open and demonstrative about her feelings and I think it will be lovely for Rosemary to experience that warmth and Sissix of course is missing some TLC being so far removed from her family so it will be great for her to be on the receiving end of some loving attention too. I must admit I think Sissix is a great character. Really fascinating and I love the way she’s written.
3. Cloning technology exists and is used in many sci-fi universes, but the GC does not look kindly on it and it is abomination to the Quelin. Did the reveal of Corbin’s nature change your view of the character?
I don’t think the revelation of Corbin being a clone changed my view of him, I didn’t really have a bad opinion of him – I just think he doesn’t interact well with others. What really made very interesting reading was the conversation between him and his father which I thought was very revealing and quite sad – for both Corbin and his father to be locked into that kind of relationship and also, not really wanting to hurt each other but doing so anyway. Corbin has a lot to come to terms with now so that will be interesting to observe. I’m also keen to see if this changes the way he interacts with the crew – particularly Sissix.
4. Each chapter told a different and fairly self-contained story, without any big cliffhangers from one to the next. How did you feel about the pacing of the story so far? Are you satisfied with how long the long journey is taking or are you impatient for the crew to finally get to their destination and do some tunnelling?
Well, it’s completely different than I expected to be honest. Not in a bad way but I think I was thinking more in terms of grand space opera type sci fi whereas what we have here feels more like little clusters of individual stories that run together as the travel progresses – it feels kind of more like little watching individual series of star trek rather than watching a full blown movie (if that makes sense). I think I would have enjoyed a grand epic type of tale but that being said I’m an absolute sucker for characterisation and the cast in the story really get a chance to shine and show you their true selves. I’m keen to get to the destination as well of course just to see what’s afoot but at the moment I think the pacing is great.
(Review first appears at the Speculative Herald)
City of Wonders is book three in James A Moore’s Seven Forges series (Seven Forges being No.1 and The Blasted Lands No.2). Seven Forges got off to a very intriguing start, The Blasted Lands built strongly on that foundation and left us with a rather jaw dropping finish then City of Wonders came along and left no doubt that this series is firmly planted in the land of Epic. Truly this is turning into a series to be reckoned with.
I’m not really going to go over much into the plot because it’s going to be very easy to spoil elements of the story that are best revealed as the tale progresses and, whilst talking of spoilers, although I try to avoid them it’s quite possible that this review may contain some revelations for the first two books so please be aware of that. Also I would say that in order to enjoy the world created by Mr Moore you should start from book No.1 – at least I think so.
At the start of the story war is upon the Fellein Empire and masses of people are seeking refuge in Old Canhoon (or the City of Wonders as it is also known). The Sa’ba Taalor are swarming the borders and seem virtually unstoppable killing everything in their path. It seems like they’re not content just to kill their enemies, they seem to want to completely obliterate any trace of their existence.
Firstly, a little about the Sa’ba Taalor. This is a fearless and mighty race of warriors who seem to bare deep hatred towards the Fellein Empire and would see it destroyed. They’re not taking prisoners here but are aiming for complete annihilation. This is a race of men and women that are ruthless. They are unforgiving and value strength and courage above all other traits. Grey skinned and with their faces partially covered by a veil (the nature of which is revealed at the end of book No.2) they may come across as somewhat unorganised in terms of appearance and attitude. They wear no uniform as such, they forge their own weapons to suit their own particular style and taste and so there are no great swathes of co-ordinated swords and shields. They don’t march in formation and to all intents and purposes they appear almost unformed and unruly. And yet this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Sa’ba Taalor put great faith in their Gods and follow and obey them without question and in that respect their Gods orchestrate everything. They guide each of the leaders into whatever step is necessary next, placing them like pieces on a game board, until eventually they’ve maneouvered all the pieces into position for a perfect finish.
We follow a number of different stories which may at first seem a bit perplexing but pretty soon resolve themselves into a plan of quiet huge scope. We watch the Empress and Merros Dulver as they try to brace for battle, shoring up the defences and preparing the army, aided in no small way by Desh Krohan and his magical counterparts. We take a different route as we follow a small and beleaguered team of characters looking to uncover a secret, potentially a weapon that could assist in the defeat of the Sa’ba Taalor or then again maybe something the Sa’ba Taalor are also seeking. We continue to follow Andover Lashk as he visits the Gods in their forges and we also watch the Pilgrim as he gathers about him an army of followers who also march to the city of Old Canhoon.
The world building is really quite unique and to be honest fascinating. We range from places where the people seem to live not only in harmony with, but dependent upon, a huge ‘mother’ vine. We visit a city where to raise a weapon against the inhabitants results in rather dramatic results to the perpetrators. We come upon all manner of mighty and destructive creatures, watch necromancy in motion and spend time with one particular individual whose constant companion is a ghost. And in spite of all the aforementioned the real show stealer is the City of Wonders itself – which it turns out is very appropriately named.
In terms of action this is a fast paced and battle packed book. In fact I can’t deny that it’s kind of grim reading in parts when it seems like nothing can stop the unstoppable force of the Sa’ba Taalor as they march forward leaving bodies in their wake. In fact for me one of the criticisms I had with the book is that it’s almost difficult to form attachments to the characters and in that respect I’m not sure who I would say are my favourites. To an extent I like the King, Tuskandru and also Drask (who was one of the first characters we met). Or maybe like isn’t the right word because these certainly aren’t soft and cuddly characters. They’re both ruthless and fierce but this is in their nature so feels true somehow. Not very well explained perhaps, it’s just that they’re not acting in a particularly nasty or malicious way just more keeping in character. I liked Merros from the start and his character has definitely developed and become stronger and well respected – he’s even developing more of a friendship with Desh, who we are also starting to gain a little more information about albeit in tiny glimpses. I think this is perhaps the one area of the series that I think could be built on a little. We seem to have quite strong world building and a good deal of focus on the swordplay and fighting but I would like to spend a little more time with some of the characters. That being said there was a lot going on here and quite a few threads to follow so something has to give.
On the whole this is a series that seems to become stronger with each book. There is plenty of scope, a good deal of action. Fearsome characters and a unique world with plenty of surprises in store.
I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.