I got book! Beautiful and independently published

Today, when coming back from walking my dog, I spotted a package lying next to my door. I hadn’t seen it when leaving because over her its pitch black at 4 PM. And what was in it? A beautiful, beautiful book. You can get your own here: Amazon.

Maegan’s self published book is gorgeous. The letter I got with it was gorgeous too and even came with a proper wax seal. Look!

Werewolves, Fantasy, Indie Books, Fantasy Book, Monster Hunting

And the book itself is gorgeous inside and out and I think I am going to re-read it now that I have it in paper.

Werewolves, Fantasy, Indie Books, Fantasy Book, Monster Hunting

Book Review: Wulfgard, The Hunt Never Ends

Wulfgard, Werewolves, Monsters, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Monster Hunting

By Maegan A. Stebbins. Get the book on Amazon!

In the civilized world of humans, ‘monsters’ have all but passed into legend. But when something goes bump in the night, when people begin to disappear, when a dark mystery begins to haunt even the most peaceful villages, there is only one organization to turn to: the Hunters. The Venatori. Having lived a life of discipline and service, former soldier Caiden Voros finds something even worse than the wars of humans: the monsters that hunt them. Horrors yet unknown even to him and his many scars await in the claws, talons, fangs, and mysterious powers of creatures so far beyond humans that he must dedicate himself entirely to the art of slaying them. Harboring a secret of his own and in a constant struggle to find answers while maintaining his sanity, however, Caiden begins to ask the age-old question… Who is truly worse, the monsters or the Men?

Myths. Legends. Monsters. Knights. Already that’s a winning recipe for me. But add rich characters that make me kick the blankets and go Eeee and you’ve won my heart forever. That’s what Wulfgard has and why I want to share it with everyone.

The Hunt Never Ends follows a veteran of life and war.

Caiden isn’t the New Guy who needs to grow into his boots and fill out his uniform. Figuratively or literally. He’s fought his battles. He’s lived. But all of it he’s done with a burden: He hears thoughts that aren’t his, dreams dreams that aren’t his, and feels emotions that, well, also aren’t his.
Which, to be fair, immediately endears him to me personally. Because jgåöphsd, I’m endlessly fond of abilities like that. They get me to keysmash. More so though, it all acts as real good glue that sticks this collection of short stories together, providing a rising threat as living with this unknown gift/curse/burden gets worse and worse as the stories progress.

Not that it’s the only thing that does!

See, there is one particular thing that I think Maegan really, really excels at. Well, two, actually. There’s her folklore research which she packs into her stories. That’s one of them. But the one that has me hooked on her work are her characters. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about her Big Protagonist or a only briefly mentioned side character. They’re all characters. They have depth and they come alive and I can’t stress enough just how much I’ve fallen in love with them.

So read it and experience them. Give them, and the world of Wulfgard, a chance to make a home in your heart like they did in mine.

Get the book on Amazon!

Book Review: The Graverobber’s Sword

A Dungeon’s and Dragons like adventure with a crude as it gets hero, a dutiful sword, and a lot of heart.

By Jessy Jordan. Get it on Amazon!

The Graverobber's Sword

ZEPHELOUS IS AN INSTRUMENT of destiny, an awakened sword passed from hero to hero to combat the ever-looming threat of chaos and darkness. That is, until its previous wielder met his untimely end without naming a successor. Now it lies in wait, clutched in the death-grip of a friend, waiting for a new hero…

KERA NO-CLAN DOESN’T BELIEVE in heroes, destiny, or sobriety. Spending most of her life running from her past, she has little aspirations beyond her next drink. She spends her waking hours robbing graves and pawning what she finds to fuel her hazy nights, with little consideration for tomorrow. Little did she know that one grave–one sword–would change her life, whether she wanted it or not.

She is now forced to face a destiny that she has been unknowingly hurtling towards, racing against time to face the consequences of her own actions while hating every second of it.

What I expected:

Going into Graverobber’s Sword, I was prepared for a sort of buddy tale shared between a sentient sword who digs destiny and greatness, and his new wielder who doesn’t.

This wasn’t it though.

What I got:

A Dungeon’s and Dragon’s like adventure campaign that occasionally goes off the rails.

While the book starts out as I’d expected and we’re focused very much on Kera and Zeph, it quickly takes a turn before they (or we) can get comfortable. Not saying Kera was anywhere near comfortable. Neither was Zeph. Because hoo-boy, Kera is a mess. And that mess meets Smith and his daughter and then we get to see just how much of a piece of work she really is.

Right about thereabouts, I almost put the book down. Kera’s distrust for others and her absolute disregard for anyone but herself came to a boil and really, really tested me. But then I didn’t — and I got to admit that I admire the author for getting that reaction out of me and convincing me to keep reading anyway.

After introducing us to Smith and his daughter and the disaster that follows, the book takes another turn and all of a sudden we’ve got a Quest and a band of reluctant campaigners on our hands. Each member of the group is unique, comes with their own baggage, and they spend the rest of the book unpacking said baggage in mostly very unfortunate circumstances.

By the time the book was over, I’d grown to care for all of them, with Will probably being my favourite. And then I realised there’s a sequel, so I guess I am gonna have to go and check that out.

Bit like you should check out this one.

Get it on Amazon!

Worldbuilding: Reapers, Part 3

The busiest of Trero’s Custodian Reapers.

Red roses climbing an old brick wall.
Photo by Chantal Garnier on Unsplash

The Eins & their Einlings

Ein are creatures the size of a donkey. They are slow and sluggish and will mind their own business as they wander, almost as if the world around them isn’t of any consequence. To the point where there’s a good chance you’ll see one walking into a wall – only to do it again, hoping the wall had moved. And that is how they spend their lives. Passive. Quiet. Noses to the ground, grazing.

And a back full of Einlings.

They host up to twenty of those small, exceptionally active and playful creatures and carry them to wherever they need to be. Which, usually, means buildings. The small Einlings fit perfectly into the inner workings of structures both old and new alike, where they repair anything from wiring to more complex machinery. Not an easy task with their limited resources, which means they often hoard wire and scrap to bring back to their Ein for keeping. Which often ends with their Ein covered in all of that, the bits and pieces braided into their fur like makeshift armour.

Incidentally, if Einlings are also known as mischievous thieves, picking up anything small that isn’t nailed down and even remotely useful (or just shiny enough).

Appearance

Ein look like a wide-backed cross between a donkey and a sheep. They have floppy ears, stubby tails, and cloven hooves. A coat of long, curled wool covers them from head to hoof and a layer of feathers spreads across their back.

Unfortunately, the wool can grow so unruly it often covers their eyes. Fortunately, they have their Einlings to pull the wool back or trim it.

Einlings, on the other hand, come in all manners of variations, though here’s what they all have in common: They’re small. Lithe. Have bodies that resemble squirrels or ferrets, and nimble, three-fingered hands with opposable thumbs. Some have wings allowing them short flight and others strong tails that grow out a meter long (which is a few times the actual Einling’s size). And then there are those that have very large, wide ears and those that have antlers – and some that have all of the above combined. Their bodies are covered in short, soft fur coming in browns and blacks and whites and some have feathers. But not all.
Einlings also have a peculiar set of teeth: Half their mouth is equipped with small, sharp teeth and the back where there might be molars are instead flat, sharp cutters they use to cut through wires.

Symbolizm

Einlings represent childish joy. Their likeness is often turned into good luck charms and frequently adorn children’s bedrooms.

In turn, Ein are often associated with parenting and providing. Orphanages tend to feature them in one way or the other.

Worldbuilding: The Ward

An image of a sphere suspended in a circle by a set of chains.

Vigilance. Protection. Servitude. 

Between the Dawnfall and the Calamity, Trero’s population was left in shambles. 

Civil wars. Warlords. The culling of Sare. A constant fear of another Reaping. And, of course, the dread of the Rain of Fire ending everyone and everything. It wasn’t until a group of nobles and their knights decided to band together and turn the tide against the despair sweeping the lands, that Trero finally saw hope again. 

The (since then fallen) houses of vil Faer and vil Carne are credited to have been at the heart of the Ward’s creation. They’ve designed its crest and coloured its banners and wrote down its first charters. 

The Ward was formed for three reasons:

  • Regain control of the lands after the second recorded Reaping (the Calamity)
  • Prevent the next Reaping and find a way to stop the Rain of Fire
  • Turn the world away from culling the Sare and, instead, control them and put them to work. 

The colours

All of the Ward’s heraldry is designed around their sigil as well as three colours. 

Rich Red: Protection
Vivid Green: Vigilance
Gentle Ocher: Servitude 

If you ask Trindram (or any Sare, really), oppression and terror never received any colours, but remain a part of their creed. 

Organization and Governance

The Ward is an independent group of marshalls spread across every corner of Trero. Their word is law and they bow to no one. Not kings, nobles, or even the once in a while odd wanna-be emperor. 

Divided into chapters, each group has either a specific purpose or is assigned to a particular region. 

Such as:

Knights to the 1st chapter. Designated as the overseeing body of the entire Ward, including the prosecution of their own members who violate their laws.
Knights to the 2nd. Dedicated to preventing Reapings and the prophesized Rain of Fire
Knights to the 9th. The Range’s chapter in the north.

Ranks and how to tell them apart

The Ward has a relatively flat rank structure, beginning with its council made from envoys of each chapter and moving through knight captains, knights, and eventually ending with the Sare under their thumb. Every six years, a steward is elected from the currently acting envoys to take on a governing role.

  • Envoys and stewards wear two-shouldered, short capes. The colour and embroidery vary based on their chapters. Often, if the chapter belongs to a region, it will include the envoy’s home sigil. 
  • Knight Captains, the highest military rank, wear a short, single-shouldered red cape on their left. This is meant to represent their role as protectors and guardians of all. 
  • Knights, the most common rank, wear the same, except in green, representing the Ward’s constant vigilance.
  • Sare pressed into their service receive a simple, ocher cape which they wear on their right shoulder. Sare with a specific talent, such as Medica, are further identified with their designated colour stitched on the shoulder cape.

Worldbuilding: Reapers, Part 2

Image source: Unsplash 

Devils

Today, we’ll muse about another subclass of Trero’s Reapers. The Devils. 

They are what sin created and Hell is where they’re from. It’s said that sinners and the unworthy are cast off to spend eternity with them – never to walk the Trails or have their feet touch Trero’s ground again.

Types

Devils come in a few different types. There’s Reavers. Harpies. Seadevils. Hounds. And Vek.

Reavers

When you mention Devils, the first thing that comes to mind are the Reavers. To the point where Devil and Reaver can be used interchangeably, which distresses scholars something fierce.
But there’s a good reason for that. Reavers are, undoubtedly, the most dangerous of the lot. They’re cunning. Relentless. And Reaping or not, they’ll prey on people with an enthusiasm that makes it look like they’re hunting them for sport.

Appearance

They resemble wingless, bipedal dragons, with long necks and an even longer tail to keep their balance. Feathered in mostly green and brown, they can vanish into foliage quite effectively, though not like they have to. Not with their long arms ending in claws so sharp they can slice cleanly through steel and teeth strong enough to do the same.

Behaviour

Reavers live and hunt in packs, though never in groups larger than six. They have an incredible vocal range, allowing them almost flawless vocal mimicry, which some have honed to the point of being able to fake human language. In particular because they seem to have made it their past time to hunt people for sport. Even when there’s no Reaping happening.

And they are, without contest, credited the most kills during Reapings, tearing mercilessly through villages and cities. Its what earned them the name Reaver.

Symbolizm

Fighters and gladiators often associate themselves with Reavers and like to decorate themselves in their feathers and carry marks inspired by their likeness. Aside of that, Reaver-like images are reserved to represent Devils and the consequences of a sinful life.

Harpies (Airdevils) & Seadevils

These devils are less likely to actively search out humans to hunt but are incredibly territorial. While Harpies are winged creatures of bizarre humanoid shape, Seadevils come in different shapes and sizes altogether. Some are gigantic, large enough to rival the biggest of dragons, while others are no bigger than dogs. As their name suggests, Seadevils live in Trero’s oceans, rarely moving up large rivers into the mainland. They may come looking like a twisted fish, or equipped with long, thick tentacles. Either way, they’ll attack and sink anything or anyone daring enough to sail too far out.

Symbolizm

Harpies are often associated with being unclean. Seadevils are favoured as marks for port cities as symbols of endurance.

(Sare) hounds

Sare Hounds are a very particular sort of Reaper altogether. For one, they are domesticated. Ever since the Ward has come to power, they’ve been snatching the Hounds up right after dragons bring them from Hell – which is when they are no more than small pups.

Oh, and they’re blind.

Appearance

As the name suggests, Sare Hounds look like… hounds. Large, lithe, with narrow chests and strong legs made for long distance running. They have thick, leathery skin and are mostly bald, aside of some feathering running over their head, neck, spine, and down along their long tail where they often come together in a wide plume.

Their most startling feature are their eyes. Which is to say their blind eyes. They have no pupils, rather their eyes look like thick, dark purple orbs set deep into their sockets, their surface sprinkled with gold and silver dust.

Some liken their eyes and the patterns of dust in them with the Trails. Even going as far as to say that they’ve stared at the Trails longingly for so long, they caught motes of their light in them, forever blinding them.

Behaviour

Wild Hounds roam in pairs. No one knows how those pairs form – except that one day two lonely hounds will meet and then never again part. They hunt together. Sleep in a pile. And wander and wander and wander, never staying in one place for very long.

Their meals mostly consist of regular prey animals, which, they locate with uncanny precision, though they’ll hunt people just as effectively if the opportunity arises.

It was their incredible skill at tracking – especially tracking Sare – that made the Ward begin domesticating them, training them for one purpose and one purpose alone: Recognise, find, and track Sare. Hence, Sare Hound. A task they are uniquely qualified for, as they see the world by scenting the Hem around them, picking up on every soul and imprint that flits through it. From the vivid, rich soul of a Sare, all the way down to the smallest grain of sand.

Symbolizm

Trackers and hunters like wearing marks inspired by Sare Hounds, though mostly it’ll be Ward chapters that fly banners or bear sigils that resemble their hounds.

Vek

These large, feline creatures get an honourable mention, because they aren’t exactly Reapers. Not any more, anyway. Because unlike every other Reaper out there, Vek don’t rely on dragons to carry them down from Hell. No. They have, somehow, managed to break that reliance and developed the ability to reproduce.

Now they live in family groups, mate, have kittens, and die of old age just as if they were any other normal animal.

Appearance

Vek (sometimes referred to as Sapvek) are large, feline oddities covered in short, silken fur and a plume of feathers along their spine and down their long tail. And where the feathers and the fur meet, they have a stripe of bared skin that glows an eerie blue at night and often webs out along their body like the fingers of a lightning strike.

That blue glow comes from them licking the sap of Trero’s lantern trees – the most common trees spread across the land. And the home of Vek families, who live far up in their branches from where they hunt creatures both small and large.