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The Legacy of Androva Series


 
Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time
like dew on the tip of a leaf.
 Rabindranath Tagore

As I reflect on 2021 and look ahead to 2022, I'm hoping I will have more time to read and write in the New Year ☺. Escaping into a story remains the best distraction from the challenges of daily life and the wider world. 

Time is something of an enigma. It never passes more quickly than when I'm lost in a good book, and it never passes more slowly than when I'm struggling with writer's block. It's a fascinating contradiction—something that is measurable yet always changing. I love exploring the concept of time in a magical setting when I'm writing. Time travel, time loops, ageing (or not!), life trading, curses, ultimatums... the possibilities are endless.

The dawn of a New Year always feels like an opportunity, as if time stops for a moment to allow us to start over. 
Today's blog post includes a few of my favourite poems on the subject of time. I hope you enjoy them, and more importantly, I hope 2022 brings you good health and happiness. Oh, and also lots of new books along with the time to read them! Thank you very much for visiting my blog today ๐Ÿ’•.

Two things are yours that no man's wealth can buy:
The air, and time;
And, having these, all fate you may defy,
All summits climb.
― Amos Russel Wells

I had not known before
Forever was so long a word.
The slow stroke of the clock of time
I had not heard.
‘Tis hard to learn so late;
It seems no sad heart really learns,
But hopes and trusts and doubts and fears,
And bleeds and burns.
The night is not all dark,
Nor is the day all it seems,
But each may bring me this relief—
My dreams and dreams.
I had not known before
That Never was so sad a word,
So wrap me in forgetfulness—
I have not heard.
― Paul Laurence Dunbar

You - 
My destiny
Love of my life
Please let me
Return
To where we were
Let us
Try again
Maybe this time
We find a way
Maybe...
― Ann Hirsch

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.
― William Shakespeare


This thing of darkness I
Acknowledge mine.
 William Shakespeare

How much darkness can a Light Mage suffer before it consumes them? Luca and Devin face their most powerful enemy yet in Spell Master, the conclusion to the Light Mage trilogy. 

I loved returning to Lucas and Devins world and figuring out the High Councils backstory. The five remaining Master Mages were nothing like I expected once I got closer to their characters, and one of them in particular turned out to be a bit of a scene-stealer! Lyssa the snowdragon also had an important part to play ❄๐Ÿ‰❄.

Todays blog post contains the description and prologue/opening chapter.  Along with the other two Light Mage books, Spell Master is £0.99/$0.99 on Amazon and free to download on other sales channels. Here are the links:

Amazon UK £0.99 Spell Master
Amazon US $0.99 Spell Master
Other sales channels (free) Spell Master

Thank you very much for visiting my blog today, and if you choose to download Spell Master, I hope you enjoy it ๐Ÿ’•.

Description
Luca is having an identity crisis. His magic is behaving strangely, his emotions are out of control, and training to be a Master Mage is tougher than he ever expected. The support of his boyfriend, Devin, is one of the few things Luca can depend on.
Then Luca and Devin learn the terrible secret behind the High Council’s smiling public face. The magical dimensions are in the final stages of an ancient curse. Supplies of magic are disappearing. Everyone could die. And the only clue points to Light Mages.
As Luca’s training progresses, some members of the High Council become convinced he is mixed up in the curse. Loyalties are pushed to the limit. And when Luca and Devin finally uncover the truth behind the history of their world, everything they thought they knew about Light Mages is turned upside down.
The price for breaking the curse is a deadly one. But which of them will pay it?




 



Prologue: Marius (A Century Ago)

It was time to give the pendant to another Light Mage. Marius knew he would not live much longer. He was old by Light Mage standards. Most of his contemporaries were already dead. Being in prison did not suit magicians whose magical cores thrived on positivity. Yet it was well known across the dimensions that Light Mages were dangerous. Their magic was different. Unpredictable. Reduced life expectancy was considered a fair price in exchange for keeping everyone safe.
Marius pressed his fingers to the silver disc around his neck, hidden beneath his threadbare shirt. He could not remember wearing any clothes but these in all the years he’d been trapped behind magical bars. He’d cleaned and repaired them as best he could, but the inhibitors built into the cell prevented all but the most basic spellwork.
The wardens had never noticed the pendant, an outcome that should have been impossible given the complete lack of privacy in the cell and the rules forbidding personal possessions. Marius considered it to be reassuring proof that he had not lost his mind, even if his memories were fragmented and contradictory. The pendant really was a powerful magical object, capable of saving the dimensions from the curse inexorably draining their magic.
It was time. He had played his part. He hoped he had done enough.
 

 

1 A New Life Or Two (Luca)

I bent to pick up the newspaper, thrown haphazardly onto the front porch like always. My bones creaked. I should try that yoga class Haylie mentioned. My granddaughter was always telling me seventy was the new fifty. I smiled. I was so proud of her. She was good to her parents and much smarter than I’d ever been.
After folding the black-and-white pages, I tucked them under my arm. Had it been up to me, I’d have cancelled the subscription. Everything was available online these days. But Albert liked the paper with his morning coffee. He’d never agree to swap it for a screen. He didn’t even have his own email account. “Someone has to keep the mailman in a job,” he would say. I’d given up trying to change his mind.
I hesitated before closing the front door. The new paperboy was smiling at me again. Every day this week, he’d made a point of it. I considered asking him why he hadn’t brought the paper to the door if he had so much time to spare. He touched his tongue to his lower lip and winked. My eyes widened behind their glasses. Cheeky devil. Looking at an old woman that way.
Although… there was something familiar about him. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. His olive skin gleamed in the sunshine. I stared back. His eyes sparkled. It was a little distracting. Oh, Good Lord, he’s coming up to the house. I backed away. One of my slippers caught on the doorstep, and despite some frantic tugging on my part, it refused to come free.
The boy jumped easily onto the porch, taking all three steps at once. I opened my mouth to yell for Albert, inhaling sharply and—
Don’t.”
His voice brooked no argument. The cry for help died on my lips, and my legs trembled. My voice flat out refused to work. Not even a croak. The boy was too old to be delivering the paper. A senior, maybe. My mouth opened and shut a couple of times. I couldn’t even ask him what he wanted. I would have told him we had nothing worth stealing.
Albert was just down the hall in the kitchen, probably grumbling that his coffee would be stone cold by the time I returned with the paper. The boy’s expression was unsympathetic. Impatient, even. “C’mon,” he said. “Think. It’s past time you remembered. This is the last one. Then we’re both done.”
Done with what? He was talking as if we knew each other, yet I was quite certain I’d never seen him before he took over the paper route this week. Almost certain. At least seventy percent certain. His eyes held my gaze. They were mesmerizing. Holy cow. I think I do know him. But where from?
A jumble of images spilled into my head. I raised my hand to the collar of my housecoat, horrified, while a hot blush rose up my neck. The boy relaxed, his expression softening into a smile.
“You always remember that stuff first,” he said. “God knows why. I suppose I should be flattered.”
I repeated my impression of a landed fish, still unable to speak.
“Oh, sorry,” said the boy. No… Devin. That was his name. Devin. “Remove,” he added.
“Look, young man, I don’t know what you think you mean by coming here and making me… me…”
My rush of indignant words trailed off as more images—memories—appeared.
“Don’t fight it,” said Devin. “The binding spell releases easier if you don’t fight it.”
The memories pushed my earthbound life to one side, assuming an authenticity that left little room for Mrs. Carrie Bennett, retired store clerk with arthritic knees and a fondness for hot buttered teacakes.
“Gods, Devin.”
He grinned. “There you are.”
“That was… that was quite a life,” I said.
“Uh-huh.”
“I’ve never been so old before. You… you were Mary, weren’t you? Carrie’s second daughter.” My Light Mage ability to recognize energy signatures alongside physical coverings had reasserted itself. “She, I mean Carrie, was devastated when you died. Well, I guess you know that. Presumably you were watching.”
“Watching and waiting,” he agreed. “I wasn’t allowed to jog your memory until this life’s end.”
“It’s been a long five years.”
Devin shook his head. “Four weeks isn’t so long, and it’s not like we didn’t sign up to it.”
Time passed more quickly in the earthbound dimension. A lifetime here equated to approximately one year in the magical dimensions. It was only possible because here was a magical creation, an illusion. Designed to appear vast, chaotic, and overpopulated, when in fact it was meticulously controlled and monitored.
Our society believed that our true selves were only revealed once all magical ability had been taken away. In order to qualify for a profession, each magician, from the lowliest Spell Mason to the most exalted Spell Master, had to follow an earthbound life path, reincarnating their way along a series of predetermined choices and challenges.
I hadn’t ever thought to go earthbound again after I’d graduated and become a guardian all those years ago. Yet here Devin and I were, training to be Master Mages. If we succeeded, we’d become members of the High Council. Part of me was excited. Part of me was terrified.
“How does she…?” I looked down at Carrie’s hands. Knotted veins showed through the age-spotted skin. I’d scrubbed floors with those hands. Knitted scarves for my children. Held my husband. Packed groceries for thousands of customers. It had been a long life, unremarkable yet at the same time unique.
“You don’t have to stay for that part,” said Devin. “You already know about dying. Getting old was the thing this time.”
He put his hand on my arm. “High Council Headquarters,” he said, and our surroundings flickered, turning into shadows. It was like standing at the center of a fast-moving carousel. I closed my eyes. Everything worked on a higher vibration in the magical dimensions, and a long time had passed since my magical form had been free from an earthbound covering. The crystal-clear precision of it was startling.
We arrived in an empty evaluation room. It was simply furnished, and standard Healer supplies were visible through the glass door of the spell cabinet. Three out of the four walls were decorated to resemble a sunset over water, while the fourth was translucent, made from magic, waiting for a magician to personalize it.
As soon as the flickering came to a complete stop, Devin grabbed my other arm and pulled me into a hug. I lifted my hands to his shoulders, turning my face into his neck and breathing him in. Our magical connection reasserted itself so fast that we both froze in place, the rush of emotion overwhelming.
“You cut your hair,” I murmured.
“I thought I’d make my magical form more like my regular earthbound covering.”
“I like it.” Before I could help myself, I planted a kiss just below Devin’s jawline. Then another. My teeth grazed his skin. It had been so long. He gave a shaky laugh, and his hands gripped my waist. “Our Healer will be here any minute to check you over,” he warned.
“I feel fine,” I said, moving even closer.
“You… uh… you sure do,” he replied. Across the connection, I could feel his self-control wavering, and regretfully I took a step backward. I wasn’t being fair to either of us.
“Soon,” I promised.
Devin reached out a hand and the wall of magic shimmered. A mountain appeared. A snowdragon could be seen flying in the distance, wings extended to create a silhouette that was both graceful and menacing. Devin obviously missed her.
With some effort, I pulled away from the connection and walked a few steps toward the other wall, tipping my head back.
“OK?” asked Devin.
“Yeah. It takes a bit of getting used to—being seventeen instead of seventy. Nothing hurts, for a start.”
“Hmm. If we’re talking about earthbound pain, old age isn’t the half of it,” said Devin. “Childbirth without magic shouldn’t be allowed.”
I grinned. “Of course. You had kids this time.”
He made a face. “Anatomy-wise, the process is fundamentally flawed.”
To fill the gaps in our experience, we’d borrowed from a selection of historic life paths and lived parts of them for ourselves firsthand. It had been tough. Intimidating. We’d tried different genders, nationalities, and centuries, facing the extremes that only the earthbound dimension could offer. Poverty and wealth. Love and hate. No magic. No memory of who we really were.
“Ah, Luca. Good. You’re back,” came a voice from the doorway. It was Mixin, the Healer assigned to watch over us while we completed this part of our training. Her hair, tunic, and Healer’s pin were all shades of gray and silver, creating a backdrop against which her dark eyes appeared quite fierce. She was carrying a folder of mage-paper ready to capture my results.
“Any disorientation?” she asked. “Heightened emotions? Unexpected impulses?”
Devin tried to stifle a laugh and failed.
“No,” I said, ignoring him.
“And your magic? How does that feel?”
“OK. I think. But I won’t know until I use it.”
“Take a seat,” said Mixin, “and I’ll run the diagnosis spell first. Do you want a shot?” Her hand was halfway to the cabinet in anticipation of my answer, but I shook my head. “I’ll be fine. It’s no worse than being audited.”
“Reason enough,” said Devin. “I’d take one for audits if I could.”
“You wouldn’t risk it,” I said. “Neither of us would.”
“Maybe not.” He lowered his gaze. You can’t run from a Spell Master if you’re too spaced out to think.
Spell shots were tiny bottles of concentrated magic. Magicians didn’t eat or sleep, but our magical cores couldn’t sustain themselves without regular supplements of energy. Spell shots were a two-for-one. Magic and a spell. The diagnosis shots used by Healers were like bottled bliss. Most magicians didn’t hesitate to take one.
I leaned my head against the back of the chair and stared at the view of the mountain while Mixin got to work. Ouch. This is worse than I remember. I guess I’m out of practice. Like Devin, I was a Light Mage. Uncommon. Distinctive. My magical core was next to my heart rather than inside of my head and allied with my emotions instead of my intellect. Gradually, I adjusted to the sting of Mixin’s spell, and I was able to enjoy the snowdragon’s acrobatics.
In the replica of Dellarior Mountain from Devin’s memory, Lyssa swooped toward us before rising again, her wings beating with enough power to lift her almost vertically. I caught a glimpse of white fur, glittering talons and teeth, and yellow eyes half closed against the icy air. “She’s grown so much while I was away,” I said.
“I know. And that’s not all,” said Devin. “Look again.”
“I don’t see anything.” At that moment, Lyssa turned sideways, revealing the fur on her belly. It was gold. I was so surprised my shoulders lifted away from the chair.
Mixin pushed me back. “Stay where you are. I’m not a Spell Master, remember?” Her mouth lifted as if she’d made a joke. “I can’t do this without your cooperation.”
“Sorry,” I said, keeping still with difficulty. “Devin? She’s pregnant?”
I felt the diagnosis spell slide across my core in a sudden burn that had me wincing. Devin walked into my eyeline so I could see his face without having to move. He grinned, and his brown eyes lit up. “She is.”
“How did that happen?”
His grin widened. “Well… when a girl dragon meets a boy dragon—”
“Hilarious,” I said, cutting him off. “You know that’s not what I meant. There hasn’t been a viable snowdragon egg for years.”
“Cass and I have been trying a new spell combination. It’s early days, but we’re hopeful.”
“I’m done,” said Mixin. She turned to Devin. “How exciting! I know the High Council prefers to keep it quiet, but the reducing snowdragon population is becoming a major concern.”
Devin hesitated. “The High Council does keep it quiet. With good reason. How come you know about it?”
Mixin opened the folder of mage-paper and pressed her hand to the top page to record my results. A series of charts and diagrams appeared, and I tried to look, but the page was at the wrong angle for me to read it properly. She smoothed her hair, tucking it neatly behind her ears, and met Devin’s gaze. “I’ve been your Healer for quite a while, and it’s my job to notice things. It’s also my job to maintain patient confidentiality, so you have nothing to worry about.”
“Well… OK,” he said. He bit his lip. “All the same, I should probably be more careful.”
“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to the red indicator on the mage-paper.
“Your baseline magical strength,” said Mixin. “The percentage change is outside of normal parameters.”
“Oh. I suppose they did warn us it might happen.”
“Indeed,” she replied.
“Mine went up too,” said Devin, giving my upper arm a brief squeeze. “No big deal. But it does mean another audit, unfortunately.”
Mixin’s hand was already raised. A glow appeared between her fingers as her magic activated the connection between her Healer’s pin and the mage-net.
“No big deal?” I repeated. “How much has it increased that I need an audit?”
“Calm down. It’s not the first time our magic has gotten stronger,” said Devin.
“That was different,” I pointed out. “Very different. The time before was an accidental benefit from a spell we used deliberately.”
I got up from the chair, too on edge to remain seated. I didn’t like unexplained changes to my magic. The last time it happened I’d almost been executed.
“Hey,” said Devin. “That accidental benefit you mentioned was the start of this, and it’s fine. It’s expected. I promise mine was the same.”
He tried to reestablish the connection, and I felt the pull against my magic like a magnetic field. Had it always been so intense? At first I resisted, wanting to prove to myself I still could. Then I allowed his emotions to mix with mine. The tightness in my chest eased off. He’s telling the truth this time.
Devin rolled his eyes. “Of course I’m telling the truth. And you can drop the ‘this time’ shit if you don’t mind. Hampton Court was ages ago.”
I hesitated before replying. “I… Wait, did I say that out loud?”
Mixin glanced from Devin to me, and her lips thinned. She spoke slowly. “You didn’t say anything, Luca.”
That’s impossible.


“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”

― Norman Vincent Peale

 

There is definitely something magical about this time of year because even my unsociable cat (that’s her on the left) joins in the fun! Under the Christmas tree is her favourite place to be ๐ŸŽ„.

 

I haven’t had much time for either reading or writing lately, but I’m hoping to escape into some fictional realities over the festive season. I took this photo of Winchester Cathedral last weekend, and the purple lighting made me think of Xytovian magic and xyleander trees! I guess it’s a sign of how much I miss the characters. I’ll be able to focus on Averine and Kellan as soon as the final Light Mage story is released, and I can’t wait.

 

Today’s post contains three seasonal books that I’ve added to my TBR list in anticipation of the upcoming holiday. I wanted something a little different to the traditional Christmas romances this year, and I looked for snowy/icy/winter content instead of mistletoe and kisses ❄. I wish I could press the pause button on my life and keep reading them all the way to the end! So many books, so little time…

 

In 2017 and 2019, I wrote a couple of Christmas stories featuring the characters from the Legacy of Androva series. The first one takes place at the end of Seeking Magic, and you can find it here. The second one is an epilogue to the final book, and I posted it here.

 

If all goes well, I’ll be back before the end of the year with an update on Spell Master’s release. I hope you find my reading choices interesting, and thank you very much for visiting my blog today ๐Ÿ’•. Happy Holidays and happy reading!

 

Wicked As You Wish, by Rin Chupeco

 

Description

What if every story you'd ever heard was true? Jack killed the giants. Red slayed the wolf. Rapunzel fled the tower. But the greatest one of all, had yet to be told.

 

Once upon a time, the magical Kingdom of Avalon was left to wither and die after the Snow Queen encased it in ice. Its former citizens are now refugees. Which is why crown prince Alex and his protectors are stuck in... Arizona.

 

Tala Makiling has lived her life as an outsider. Her family curse, the one that's doomed her to be a spellbreaker, someone who destroys magic, hasn't won her too many friends. Except Alex, who trusts her and her family to keep his royal identity a secret.

 

And then one night, a famous creature of legend, the Firebird, appears in their tiny town, reigniting hope for their abandoned homeland. Alex and Tala team up with a ragtag group of new friends to journey back to Avalon. Their path is filled with danger—from deadly prophecies, to terrifying ice wolves, a traitor among them, and the Snow Queen herself. But if they succeed... their story would be legendary.

 

Extract

Magic—hurl-a-fireball-like-you’re-a-wizard-from-the-Middle-Ages magic anyway—was banned in the Royal States of America. Anyone caught using it could face steep fines, imprisonment, and even deportation. The effects of magic had been devastating during the last war, and the fear still lingered.

Spelltech, on the other hand, was legal. Spelltech was the loop-hole—a spell that was cast on an item instead of on a person was all fine and dandy. Spelltech magic had more restrictions and less variety.

But even sanctioned spells like spelltech never seemed to work in Invierno, like magic didn’t want to be caught dead here either.

“I’m Alex…” A significant pause. “Smith. I live down the street.” The boy looked down. “Probably not the first meeting you envisioned,” he added, a little miserably.

He was still trying to keep up the pretense, though Tala knew who he was. Lola Urduja and her parents had been planning Alex’s arrival for weeks. Tala had been instructed to treat the prince like she would a normal person. As if she had friendships with other nobles to compare to.

But even then, no one had told her that Alexei Tsarevich, the last remaining king of Avalon, could turn people into frogs.

 

Five Total Strangers, by Natalie D. Richards

 

Description

She thought being stranded was the worst thing that could happen. She was wrong.

 

Mira needs to get home for the holidays. Badly. But when an incoming blizzard results in a canceled connecting flight, it looks like she might get stuck at the airport indefinitely.

 

And then Harper, Mira's glamorous seatmate from her initial flight, offers her a ride. Harper and her three friends can drop Mira off on their way home. But as they set off, Mira realizes fellow travelers are all total strangers. And every one of them is hiding something.

 

Soon, roads go from slippery to terrifying. People's belongings are mysteriously disappearing. Someone in the car is clearly lying, and may even be sabotaging the trip—but why? And can Mira make it home alive, or will this nightmare drive turn fatal?

 

Extract

“Dammit,” Harper says, her voice high and tight. “I can barely see for all that ice.”

“I can drive if you want,” Brecken says. “I learned to drive in upstate New York, so this is nothing.”

“I’ve got it,” Harper says. “I just wish I had clean glass.”

I stare out the window, pondering a lazy stream of internal questions. Is this really a blizzard? How fast are we going? Is Mom doing okay? Is someone in this car watching me?

I straighten, because it’s a strange question to pop into my mind. Stranger still is the chill that rolls up my spine, the prickle of the hairs on my arms standing on end. I look around, because it’s exactly the kind of feeling I’d get if someone was watching me.

But they aren’t. No one is paying me the least bit of attention.

 

The Snow-Walker's Son, by Catherine Fisher

 

Description

From the swirling mists and the icy realms beyond the edge of the world came the Snow-Walker Gudrun, her sorcery bringing tyranny and fear to the Jarl's people. All hope of restoring the true Jarl to his throne seems lost.

 

In the first part of a trilogy of enchantment, a terrifying journey into exile takes Jessa and Thorkil to the ruined fortress of Thrasirshall. Inside, say the rumours, is a dark menace kept hidden from the world; the Snow-Walker's own son.

 

After an endless journey, Thorkil and Jessa arrive and, at last meet Kari. He is not as they feared but is a slight winsome young man. His only terror is that he, too, has the power. But he is determined to use the magic wisely.

 

Extract

The hall was empty. Jessa edged inside and began to wander idly about, pulling the thick furred collar of her coat up around her face. She was early.

It had been a bitter night. The snow had blown in under the door and spread across the floor. A pool of wine that someone had spilt under the table was frozen to a red slab. She nudged it with her foot; solid as glass. Even the spiders were dead on their webs; the thin nets shook in the draught.

She walked to the great pillar of oak that grew up through the middle of the Hall. It was heavily carved with old runes and magic signs, but over them all, obliterating them, was a newer cutting: a contorted snake that twisted itself down in white spirals. She brushed the frost off it with her gloved fingers. The snake was Gudrun’s sign. A witch’s sign.

She waited, grinding the ice to white powder under her heel.

Light gathered, slowly. Corners of tables and tapestries loomed out of the shadows; a cart rumbled by outside, and the carter’s shout echoed in the roof. Jessa kicked the frozen fire. Why hadn’t she come late—sauntered in sweetly when the Jarl was waiting, just to show him that she didn’t care, that he couldn’t order her as he wanted?


 

“A place is only as good as the people in it.”

― Pittacus Lore

 

One of the things I love about writing fantasy is the world building, and location inspiration can be really helpful, especially when you find somewhere that resembles one of your imaginary settings. After I finished the Legacy of Androva with Connecting Magic (more than three years ago―time flies!), I wrote a blog post to say goodbye to three of the most memorable locations in the series. I thought I’d do the same for the Light Mage trilogy now that the third and final book is almost finished.

 

Most of the Androva series locations were entirely fictional, aside from the notable exceptions of Pompeii and Verulamium. In the Light Mage stories, it’s more of a blend, with key scenes in each book happening in real-life places (albeit from an imaginary perspective!). These places also feature on the books’ covers, and I’m going to focus on them for today’s post.

 

Have you ever visited a particular location just because it was in one of your favourite books? And if you could buy a ticket to absolutely anywhere, real or fictional, where would you go? I hope you enjoy the Light Mage extracts, and thank you very much for visiting my blog ๐Ÿ’•.

 

The Colosseum

Luca, the protagonist of Spell Tracker, is a seventeen-year-old gladiator when his final earthbound life comes to an end. He sacrifices himself to save the boy he loves, dying on the dusty floor of the arena with a sword in his chest and the cheers of the Roman mob ringing in his ears. That sacrifice marks the beginning of Luca’s life as a guardian, and it’s the catalyst for everything that follows. I visited the Colosseum in Rome ten years ago, and I was overwhelmed by the size and scale of its history. It was great to be able to use those memories as part of Luca’s story.

 

Here’s a short extract from the moment Luca goes back in time with Devin to the Colosseum.

 

***The roar of fifty thousand voices, the heat, and the smell were overwhelming. There was a sense of anticipation similar to the one created by the spectators at tryouts, but it was mixed with a thirst for blood and death, adding a disturbing undercurrent that even a non-guardian could feel. I experienced a few seconds of disorientation even though I knew what to expect. Get a grip, Luca. If you lose yourself, we’ll both be stuck here.

Devin held my hand so tightly I winced. I leaned into him as we sat down. “Give yourself a minute to adjust. I gave you a layer of protection from the worst of it.”

With his other hand he smoothed the toga he was now wearing and stared at his knees. After a couple of breaths his grip relaxed a little. “So,” he said in a low voice, “we’re in Rome, right? This is where you come from. It’s like a…” He raised his head. “Like a stadium. What happens here? Chariot racing or something? I can see some horses.”

“No. Not chariot racing. This isn’t the Circus Maximus. It’s the Colosseum. You’re about to watch a fight to the death.”***

 

Hampton Court Palace

At the beginning of Spell Mason, Devin and Luca are on the run, and Devin chooses Hampton Court Palace in the early sixteenth century as a hiding place. Tudor England is one of my favourite time periods, so I was happy to have an excuse to research it in more detail! Hampton Court isn’t too far from where I live, and although the palace is much bigger today than it was five hundred years ago, I was still able to get a sense of what it must have been like. Devin makes an unlikely friend at Hampton Court who turns out to be very important near the end of the story.

 

Here’s a short extract from the scene when Luca gives Devin a sword fighting lesson in the main courtyard.

 

***We followed the corridor, until we found a door to the courtyard. It was square shaped, the surrounding brickwork creating a geometric pattern. Decorative emblems appeared at regular intervals. “It would look better with a basketball hoop,” I said.

“You played yesterday,” said Luca.

“Yeah, and Sherbourne High lost. My reflexes need the practice.”

“Not basketball. But we could do something else.”

I looked around the empty courtyard. “Like what?”

Gladii,” he said, then frowned. “Non. Gladii sextus decimus seculum.”

A weight settled against my left hip, and I looked down to see that Luca had given us both swords. “Cool,” I said, grabbing the hilt with my right hand. The blade was thin and silver-colored, reflecting the sunlight in flashes as I took a few experimental swings.

“Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” asked Luca.

“No. Why? Do I look like I do?”

“Not remotely.”

“Stupid question, then.”

“It’s not,” he protested. “I haven’t studied sword fighting since the Colosseum. Techniques might be different now.”

“Oh. Of course.” I stopped waving the sword and looked at him. He was standing with his weight perfectly balanced, sword arm in front, the other arm lowered against his side as if it were holding a shield. His muscles were tense. Ready.

“You were a gladiator,” I said.

“Yes.”

“You’re probably going to kick my ass.”

“Yes.” He grinned.***

 

The Pyramids of Giza

The final book in the trilogy, Spell Master, reveals the origins of the earthbound dimension, and I decided to include a reference to the Seven Wonders of the World. Each of the seven High Council members was responsible for one of the Seven Wonders, and although it’s only a small part of the story, it really helped me to figure out the characters and their motivation. In this book, the magical dimensions are fighting an ancient curse, and a chamber beneath the Pyramids of Giza might hold the clue to beating it. I haven’t visited Egypt, so I had to rely on research and my imagination for this one!

 

Here’s a short extract from the scene when Luca and Devin discover the chamber.

 

***“I also want to visit the Pyramids of Giza. Now would be a good time because all the tourists will be watching the light show.”

“I hope you’re not suggesting we split up,” said Devin.

“No, of course I’m not. Besides, I might need your help. Remember what happened last time.”

He looped his arm through mine. “If you faint at my feet, Luca, I’ll try to catch you. But I’ll warn you now, you’re heavier than you look.”

“Nice to know that chivalry is alive and well,” I replied.

Devin laughed. “Pyramids of Giza,” he said, and the Greek island spun out of focus. When my vision cleared, we were standing on the north side of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. It rose above us, a massive wall of pale stone, well over four hundred feet tall, narrowing at its apex as if it were reaching to pull a star from the night sky. My magical core tightened with something like recognition. I felt a little lightheaded, but it was nowhere near as severe as what I’d experienced as Carrie Bennett.

“OK?” said Devin.

“Yeah, I’m good. You can let go,” I said. I put a hand to my chest. “We need to be underground. I can feel… It’s weird. Like magical gravity or something.”***



“The night of Samhain, when the barrier between the worlds is whisper-thin and when magic, old magic, sings its heady and sweet song to anyone who cares to hear it.”

― Carolyn MacCullough


As I look out of my window, the trees are turning red and gold, and the breeze has lost its summer warmth. The transition to autumn is magical, but there’s an undercurrent of darkness foreshadowing the winter to come. It makes sense that Hallowe’en celebrations are a blend of light and shadow.


In fact, Hallowe’en is more of a blend than I realised. This year, while I was figuring out my Hallowe’en reading choices, I researched a little of the history too, and I was surprised by what I discovered. I always thought Samhain and Hallowe’en were pretty much the same thing, but I was wrong. Samhain came first, and by a long way.


The ancient Celts celebrated the changing of the seasons with four festivals. Of these, Samhain was the most important, marking the end of the harvest before the new year officially began on 1st November. And because the division between worlds was believed to be at its thinnest, Samhain was also a time to remember the dead. Extra places were set at the dinner table to welcome home visiting ancestors. People dressed in costumes and masks to discourage unfriendly spirits, while offerings of food and drink were left out in the hopes of persuading those spirits not to make mischief. Huge bonfires were meant to mimic the sun and protect against the long winter.

Evidence that people honoured their ancestors at Samhain goes back thousands of years. The Mound of the Hostages, a passage tomb in Ireland, is even older than the Egyptian pyramids, and the passage inside is illuminated by the sun every year on the morning of Samhain. Can you imagine what it would be like to experience that particular sunrise? I created a fictional passage tomb for my ghostly villain in Connecting Magic, and I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to visit a real tomb on October 31st


Hallowe’en, or All Hallow’s Eve, didn’t line up with Samhain until the tenth century. It was Pope Gregory IV who moved All Hallow’s Day (also known as All Saints’ Day) to 1st November. Inevitably, elements of the pagan and Christian festivals were combined over time—a process that apparently accelerated in the nineteenth century, when many Irish families made new lives for themselves in North America. 


Here in the UK, the popularity of Hallowe’en insofar as it relates to trick-or-treating, decorations, and pumpkins has grown a lot in the last decade. Of course, we have Bonfire Night on 5th November too, so there’s a lot going on at this time of year! Perhaps I should write a blog post about the infamous Guy Fawkes in the future…

In the meantime, I’ve added three new (to me) books to my TBR list in recognition of Hallowe’en and Samhain. I should mention that I have a really low tolerance for horror, but I still wanted to choose something with a darker theme. I settled on poison. I hope you find the books interesting, and thank you very much for visiting my blog today ๐ŸŽƒ๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ–ค.

 


The Confectioner's Guild, by Claire Luana

Tagline: A magic cupcake. A culinary killer. The perfect recipe for murder.

 

Description: Wren knew her sweet treats could work wonders, but she never knew they could work magic. She barely has time to wrap her head around the stunning revelation when the head of the prestigious Confectioner’s Guild falls down dead before her. Poisoned by her cupcake. Now facing murder charges in a magical world she doesn’t understand, Wren must discover the true killer or face the headsman’s axe…

 

Extract: A laugh escaped from him, surprisingly warm against the chill of the dark room. “Like I said, I’m here to take your confession.”

She felt hollow as the weight of her predicament settled upon her. There was no way out. No hope of convincing this man of the truth, no proving herself innocent. He knew the truth. And he was here to ensure it died with her.

 

Poison Study, by Maria V. Snyder

Tagline: How much is your life worth?

 

Description: In the territory of Ixia the government maintains control through the Code of Behaviour, forbidding the practice of magic, but danger lurks in mysterious places…

Imprisoned for murder, Yelena Zaltana’s punishment is death, until she is reprieved—for a price. As the Commander of Ixia’s food taster she will risk assassination from poison daily, a position she would be a fool to refuse…

 

Extract: Valek picked up the vial of antidote and twirled it in the sunlight. “You need a daily dose of this to stay alive. The antidote keeps the poison from killing you. As long as you show up each morning in my office, I will give you the antidote. Miss one morning, and you’ll be dead by the next. Commit a crime or an act of treason and you’ll be sent back to the dungeon until the poison takes you. I would avoid that fate, if I were you.”

 

Lies Like Poison, by Chelsea Pitcher

Tagline: The recipe for the perfect murder…

 

Description: Poppy, Lily, and Belladonna would do anything to protect their best friend, Raven. So when they discovered he was suffering abuse at the hands of his stepmother, they came up with a lethal plan to stop her from ever hurting Raven again. But someone got cold feet, the plot faded to a secret of the past, and the group fell apart.

 

Three years later, on the eve of Raven’s seventeenth birthday, his stepmother turns up dead and Belladonna is carted off to jail. Desperate to prove her innocence, Belle reaches out to her estranged friends, but who can she trust?

 

Extract: “I’ve already spoken with Lily,” Detective Medina said, as Jack touched the doorknob. She turned, slowly, to see him holding the Recipe for the Perfect Murder in his hand. “When I showed her the recipe, she started stammering about Belle’s innocence. I didn’t know the two were friends. What was their relationship like before Lily went to stay at the facility?”

Jack swallowed, a pang of fear shooting through her stomach. A pang of warning. “They hated each other.”