#SPFBO Under Ordshaw by Phil Williams

Under OrdshawUnder Ordshaw was one of the nine books that I read completely from the first stage of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off competition.  Urban fantasy is a genre that I really enjoy and this book was no exception.  The writing is on point, there’s a city with a labyrinth lying beneath full of monsters lurking in tunnels, an easy to engage with MC, cheeky fae and a secret undercover agency reminiscent of Men in Black.  What’s not to like?  This is an other book that had me going round in circles when it came to choosing a winner and I have no hesitation in recommending this.

As the story sets out we make the acquaintance of Pax who is brimming over with good humour following a successful card game.  She stops by a bar for a couple of celebratory drinks.  This win will fund her a stake in a large tournament and all going well help her pay the rent – maybe even win enough to be able to eat! Unfortunately, Pax’s luck is about to run out, her stash is stolen by a young man who appears to have been taken into custody by a secret Government Agency (the MEE).  Not content to sit by and brood Pax goes in search of the thief’s lair and in the process becomes embroiled even deeper in the secrets of the City.

In terms of world building. I think, in common with most UF I’ve read, this is minimal.  This is a modern world and an easily imagined city.  Where the difference comes into play is the labyrinth of tunnels that lies beneath.  There’s a whole other world going on here, one that I’m keen to explore further. The tunnels and their inhabitants have a monstrous and unique feel although at the moment I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface at this point and it feels like there is plenty more to come in future instalments.

I really enjoyed the characters.  Pax is very easy to like.  She’s resourceful and basically decent.  I found myself immediately hooked to the story and I think that’s a testament to her strong and compelling voice.  On top of this we also encounter a very cheeky, 3 inch fae character called Letty.  Don’t let her short stature kid you – she means business.  The other two main characters are Casaria and Barton.  Casaria is an MEE agent.  He’s an odd character.  He doesn’t really follow rules very well and he has a very skewed perception of both himself and Pax – it makes for comic reading sometimes to read his dreamed up scenarios of how things will play out.  He comes across as something of a wild card and whilst Pax doesn’t trust him she seems to be able to play him well and keep him just on the right side of going totally AWOL.  Barton is a civilian who has been aware of the ‘goings on’ beneath the City for some time.  He’s kept his encounters with the tunnels a secret from his wife and daughter in an attempt to keep them safe but his family are about to be thrown into the middle of things with life threatening results.

The writing is sharp, the dialogue flows well and feels natural and the pacing is very good.  I didn’t have any lulls that I can recall and I was pretty much hooked to the story from start to finish.

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t really have anything – so you may be wondering is this a five star read?  I’d say this is four stars and that isn’t because of any issues I had at all with the read but more what I would call a symptom of UF and also a refelection of the future potential.  Personally, I feel that the first in any UF is the hook, there will always be areas left unexplored to be revealed in future story lines and in this instant I think the author sets the scene perfectly.  He doesn’t overload the story with too much detail or reveal too much at this stage, just enough to secure your interest and whet the appetite for what is to come next.  I think it takes restraint and a notion of what you intend in terms of the bigger picture and at the moment I’d say those elements are both clearly present.  Of course, this is a double edged sword, holding things in check can leave readers feeling that things haven’t been fully explored but, for me, I think Under Ordshaw succeeds really well as a first in series.

I would rate this as a 4 star read and I look forward to reading the second in series.

 

 

 

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#SPFBO Cover Share: Blue Angel by Phil Williams (#2 Ordshaw)

Today I’m really pleased to share with you the cover for the second book in Phil Williams’s Ordshaw series.  Phil’s book, Under Ordshaw is one of the books I’ve been reading as part of the SPFBO competition and in fact his book is one of the ones that I chose to take forward.

So, without further ado please feast your eyes on the cover for Blue Angel (Ordshaw #2):

 

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And here are the two covers together so you can see how good they both look:

Also I can share with you the blurb for Blue Angel (please be aware though that this blurb may contain spoilers if you’re considering reading the first book and it may also be subject to further revision):

She’s touched the underworld. Can she survive its legacy?
 
Waking on an unfamiliar floor, Pax is faced with two hard truths. A murderous government agency wants her dead – and monsters really do exist. What’s more, her body’s going haywire, which she desperately hopes isn’t a side-effect of her encounters in the city’s tunnels.
 
To survive, and protect Ordshaw, she’s got to expose who, or what, is behind the chaos – and she can’t do it alone.
 
But with only the trigger-happy Fae to turn to, Pax’s allies might kill her before her enemies do…
Due for release in January.

www.phil-williams.co.uk  Goodreads page

The link for book #1 is:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07CXYSZVN/

#SPFBO 2018 : Guest Post – Phil Williams, Under Ordshaw

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As you may be aware I’m taking part, as one of the judges, in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, details here.  I’ve invited all the authors from my selected books to pay a visit to my blog and today I’m very pleased to welcome Phil Williams, the author of Under Ordshaw.  Phil agreed to write a guest post about how the story came about involving a visit to New York, a few jaunts, getting lost, a labyrinthine hostel and possibly discovering a Minotaur under the city – well, just read the piece already.

The Origins of “Under Ordshaw”

Under Ordshaw takes readers to a UK city with more than a few dark secrets. It’s a city that’s at once familiar and unusual, and the core of a series intended to span dozens of books. It’s the result of years spent writing and rewriting interlinked stories, with a great deal of imagining what if…

It’s also the result of my own attempts to explore our world, and quite specifically the time we considered the possibility of a minotaur under New York.

Under Ordshaw has seen four major iterations – once as a novel, twice as a screenplay and finally the version you see today. Originally called Penguins and Seahorses, it had a plot inspired by my reading that penguins and seahorses are rare in nature as the male helps raise their offspring. The latest version has evolved from a simpler concept of an ordinary father facing the unnatural to protect his family, but the collision of ordinary and unnatural remains.

Recognising that collision was where the story really began.

At some point in life, I adopted a hobby of urban exploring. I placed myself in random places within cities and saw where it took me. What better way to come up with random and absurd stories than to visit places you don’t belong? I got a real taste at university, pottering around the graveyards and estates of Nottingham. I’ve fed it in every city I’ve been.

In the spirit of this mindset, in the Summer of 2006, myself, my brother and my closest friend took a holiday to New York City. We planned nothing, assuming that wandering the Five Boroughs with a travel card would take care of itself.

The holiday panned out in untypical ways, with highlights including narrowly avoiding a major crime scene in Queens and getting lost in the middle of Staten Island. As such explorative jaunts into the unknown stirred our collective imaginations, we happened upon the minotaur.

Theseus and the MinotaurWe were staying in a labyrinthine hostel with a kitchen in the basement. Down there, we heard great groans from the mechanics of the buildings. And we asked what if… In particular, what if the next time we heard that noise, someone ran past screaming, “Minotaur!”

In this city that had proved strange and threatening in our ignorance, such a thing seemed possible.

Over the fortnight that we viewed New York through the eyes of outsiders who knew anything was possible, the running joke revealed the minotaur’s lore and the characters that fought or defended it. There was the violent-minded homeless man, perpetually bent on a final showdown with his arch-nemesis: “Rattigan, we finish this now!” (His foe, naturally, the master of the ferocious rodents we’d encountered.) There was the sage Mantis, keeper of secrets. And there was the discovery of scratchitti – urban vandalism, or a way to communicate with the underworld?

This stimulation sowed the seeds that would become Under Ordshaw, after a decade of refining. Similar experiences in different cities added flesh to the tale; the minotaur and the underground fused in my mind, for instance, after watching weary people riding the Prague Metro.

The characters emerged from other moments of inspiration. Darren Barton belongs to the concept of penguins and seahorses; Rufaizu his carefree opposite. Cano Casaria was a necessarily creepy foil in my screenplay Brutal Tower (inspired by research into housing estates, which will live again in Ordshaw Book 5). The criminals of Ordshaw first found life in a school play.

Mid-2016, it clicked in my mind that a shared universe made it possible to connect the many disparate ideas of my contemporary fantasy work that I had never published. Ordshaw was the perfect place to realise it.

When I revisited these stories, and started drawing them together, Pax Kuranes emerged as the character necessary to endure this experience. An outsider to the madness she was about to encounter and, in many ways, an outsider within the city itself. Someone comfortably normal, but drawn to the stranger side of life, open to exploring alleyways at night.

And from this union came Under Ordshaw. A novel that lays the foundations for a lot of work to come, but a story that serves the sentiments of three ill-advised youths who holidayed in New York, intent on seeing it through a different lens.

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Thank you Phil for writing this fantastic piece, I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did – apart from the fact that I love discovering the inspiration behind the book – I think what really gave me a smile with this was the ‘what if’ – it’s a favourite phrase of my daughter and I suppose it’s a demonstration of curiosity and imagination at play together.

FYI : Phil can be found at:

www.phil-williams.co.uk  Goodreads page

The link for the book is:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07CXYSZVN/