Monthly Archives: January 2013

Review/Giveaway of C.J. Graves’s ‘AntiChrist 16: The Becoming’


REVIEW BY CASSIE HOFFMAN

What if someone told you that you were to be the Antichrist. Would you believe them? This is what 16 year old Nathan Tarra is faced with. How would you deal with this news?

Nathan Terras is an adopted high school student. Who can usually talk himself out of the trouble he gets into… SOMETIMES. Why? Because he can see auras and has ever since he can remember. This is his secret; he has told only one other person, his best friend Shayla. After getting into a fight with one ofthe schools bully’s/popular kid, he gets sent to the principal’s office. This will not be a normal trip to the principle; this will change everything he has ever known.

With his principal having a heart attack right in front of him, Nathan tries to save him and does, only to be thanked by being strangled by him. Mr. Jerico, a teacher, injects the principal and kills him. This isn’t normal, first his principle has a heart attack, then he tries to kill Nathan, and now Mr. Jerico kills him. What is going on? Soon Nathan will find out.

Mr.Jerico lays something big on Nathan. He is the AntiChrist! How can a normal sixteen-year-old boy, who can’t stand hurting a bug or seeing blood, be the person responsible for the end of days?

Revealing to his two best friends Shayla and Cheeseman that he is the AntiChrist and with the help of Mr. Jerico he tries to make him understand what this will all mean to Nathan. Yes, he may be the Antichrist, but others refer to him as the Uniter. He will unite mankind after the Great Change, which will disassemble the world’s religions.

But, Nathan shouldn’t have become the Antichrist when he did; he somehow changed the plan when he saved his principle. Learning that not only is he the Uniter, but Shayla, Cheeseman and Mr. Jerico are his Keepers; ones to keep him safe from harm and to protect him at all cost.

But there are others called Takers and he will come to find out those around him are “Takers” and out to end him before the Great Change happens. If that happens they could do what they want with the end of times to their own purpose.

So now, not only does Nathan have to worry that his is the Antichrist, but there are others out there that want him dead. How could he wake up on a normal morning and end the day learning all this new information; stuff he never even believed in!

With his high school Friends becoming Takers and having to fight for his life, soon Nathan finds out he has a certain power. He can “freeze” them, but it doesn’t last for long. Can he master his power? If so, that could help him a lot. Join Nathan on a journey like no other and find out all the secrets that his friends, family, and the world have been hiding from him.

Antichrist 16 was a great surprise to read, seeing the title I didn’t give it a lot of thought and didn’t think I would enjoy it because it isn’t the kind of book I usually read, but once you start it you will not be able to put it down. You will want to find out what is going on. There are so many twist and turns and shockers that C.J. Graves wrote, that it’s GREAT! The read keeps you wanting for more. The characters are well developed and lovable and some of the bad one’s you will dislike like I did. I loved how Nathan takes everything in stride and keeps going, even though he thinks he may be dreaming some of the time (BUT HE ISN’T). I also liked that it wasn’t a book filled with religious talk, yes there is some talk because you had to have that to know what exactly what is going on and learn about the Antichrist. I can’t wait for the next book to see where it takes Nathan and what becomes of his future. I give this book 4 STARS!

Quotes from the Book:

“Well , I’d be freaked out, too. I mean, you witness our principal have a heart attack, give him some sort of energy mouth-to-mouth, and he goes wiggy and tries to choke you.”- Shayla

“Lies and half-truths told by power hungry men. There’s only one savior.”- Jerico

“That’s the difference between you and me. I used it to keep The Uniter safe- The Uniter being Nathan. You’re using it to put his life in danger, and in putting his life in danger, you put this whole planet in danger-danger of having no leader or having a substandard one.”- Jerico

“And behold a pale horse. His name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” Nathan

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Antichrist 16: The Becoming (Antichrist 16 Trilogy) (Amazon Kindle)

GIVEAWAY!

C.J. has been kind enough to offer a digital copy of ‘AntiChrist 16’ for giveaway. To enter this giveaway you MUST leave a comment on this blog post with a question for her or tell her why you want to read it. Remember to click follow replies so that you can see the answer to your questions. Giveaway ends Jan. 15, 2013 at 8 am CST.

For an extra entry click HERE to like her Facebook page! Make sure you tell me that you liked it so I can count it.

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Review/Giveaway of ‘Christmas is Cancelled’


REVIEW BY CASSIE HOFFMAN

Christmas Is Cancelled by Aurelia B. Rowl

Is there such a thing called fate? For Tilly and Dean there might be! Christmas Is Cancelled will take you on Tilly and Dean’s whirlwind romance.

Tilly, a young woman who is on her way to her brothers on Christmas Eve, gets stranded when the train tracks at the train station malfunction. Now with nowhere to go and nowhere to spend Christmas, what is Tilly to do?

Tilly just found her boyfriend and best friend sleeping with each other in his office, where Tilly was his PA. Since she shared a house with her boyfriend, she is now homeless, single, and jobless on Christmas Eve.

But, fate intervenes after almost 10 years. Tilly and Dean run into each other in front of the train station. Dean…just the last person she needed to see.

Dean was Tilly’s brother’s best friend, her first love, even if he didn’t know and was the reason she ran away from home and everyone she knew.

Was she being punished?!?

Dean couldn’t believe who was standing in front of him. Even though she is now a grown woman and her beautiful red hair is now dyed brown there was no way he could have missed his…Basmati.

Seeing Tilly is stranded with nowhere to go on Christmas Eve, Dean offers Tilly a place to stay and Tilly agrees.

With both of their walls up, can they let each other in, or will they build the walls even higher?

Dean is having a hard time with his feelings for Tilly. If she knew the ONLY reason he was holding back was because of his promise to her brother, that he wouldn’t pursue Tilly. Why did he make that promise?

With Dean putting up a tree for Tilly and taking her on a hike to make his Christmas ritual of writing in a visitors log at the cabin, walls come crumbling down. Only to have something, or someone, make Tilly run away again.

Will Dean get the girl he let go so many years ago back? And if so will she believe him when he tells her the truth about his past? Can they both let each other in without running away or building up new walls? Was Christmas being cancelled the best present they could have received?

Christmas Is Cancelled was a great read. I read it in less than 5 hours and enjoyed it. The characters are well developed, with great back-stories that make you dive more into the book. If you can get pass the British “talk”, which was kind of hard for me…then you will enjoy the book. Great love story, with a well-developed plot that keeps you wanting more, and that’s what the author gives you. I GIVE CHRISTMAS IS CANCELLED 4 STARS!

 Quotes from the Book:

“It’s taking everything I’ve got not to brace you against a tree and have my wicked way with you.”- Dean

“What part of being stranded in a shack and risking hypothermia is romantic?”- Dean

“Then what the hell is it? You blow hot and cold all the time. It’s bloody obvious you want me too, but you keep pushing me away.”- Tilly

“Christ, Dean, I’ve been in love with you for as long as I can remember, but even I can take a hint eventually.”- Tilly

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Christmas Is Cancelled (Amazon Kindle)

THE GIVEAWAY!

Aurelia has been kind enough to offer a digital copy of ‘Christmas is Cancelled’ for giveaway. To enter this giveaway you MUST leave a comment on this blog post with a question for her or tell her why you want to read it. Remember to click follow replies so that you can see the answer to your questions. Giveaway ends Jan. 11, 2013 at 8 am CST.

For an extra entry click HERE to like her Facebook page! Make sure you tell me that you liked it so I can count it.

Review/Giveaway of Dina Silver’s ‘One Pink Line’


REVIEW BY: CASSIE HOFFMAN

One Pink Line by Dina Silver

A night of fun, a onetime tiff, and a surprise of two pink lines on a plastic stick will change your whole life as you know it. This is what Sydney soon finds out and hurts the one person she loves the most. If only that test showed One Pink Line, not two…this is the story of Sydney and how a plastic stick turned her world upside down.

Sydney, a college student who is fixing to graduate from Purdue University and start her career at an entry level job, is studying for her last Spanish final and that turns into her mind jumping to her missed period, sneaking up and saying, “Hi, have you missed me?”

Being 8 weeks late, there is no way in hell she could be pregnant, NO! Her Ovaries have to be on hiatus due to all the stress of graduating and finals. Right? Stopping everything and running out to the farthest Wal-Mart to buy her first pregnancy test, a 1st Response. Reading the instructions and learning that she needs to see one pink line, which will tell her she isn’t pregnant. The longest five minutes of her life brings TWO PINK LINES! Not one, two! Now not only is she pregnant, but the realization hits her about who the father is!

In One Pink Line, Sydney goes back four years to the night before her graduation. We get to look into her life and her friends and when she first fell in love with Ethan, and see how their love story begins.

Ethan and Sydney have a long distance relationship, and they try to make it work the best they can. With Sydney fixing to graduate college, she makes a long lasting mistake. One night with her best guy friend will forever change her life, and her relationship with Ethan, when she finds out she is pregnant, not with Ethan’s child, but Kevin’s.

With Kevin, the baby’s father, not wanting anything to do with either of them, and her four plus year relationship with Ethan ending, Syd goes on with her plans as they were before she found out she was pregnant.

With her growing stomach, Kevin not returning her calls, and Ethan trying to mend their broken friendship, Syd’s life is a mess.

When she gives birth, her and Ethan’s friendship gets fixed. Syd wants him in her life, and as more than friends, but what if he doesn’t want that? Raising a baby on her own, yearning for Ethan, knowing one day she will have to tell her child about its father, having an unexpected phone call that will change a few things, trying to be not only a mommy, but also Sydney with a life, and balancing it all. And throw in her wishing for her first love back.

Can Sydney have Ethan back, will he want to raise someone else’s child, the child that should be his, but isn’t because of the one night she cheated on him. Will he do it?

Also in One Pink Line

We meet a young girl who thought her life was perfect until she has a sex education class and tries to understand how her dad became her dad when she was two, not when the sperm met her mothers’ egg. How is that possible?

With her mother having to tell her that her daddy isn’t her biological dad and with her having a lot more questions her mother won’t answer, she goes her whole life until she graduates college guessing who her “real” dad is and why he doesn’t want anything to do with her.

 A young girl who’s world crumbled by watching a Sex-Ed movie and finding out her parents have been lying and wondering all her life if she will ever meet her biological father? Will she ever get her questions answered, and will she be happy with the outcome?

All these questions will be answered in One Pink Line. Everyone could probably relate to these characters in one way or another. With an unexpected pregnancy, raising your child alone, aching for the one who got away, or finding out that the person you have called dad isn’t your biological father. I can relate to that one, as well as not finding out until I was a lot older myself.

This story was such an amazing read that touched home. I loved seeing Sydney’s life four years prior to the night she was begging to see only ONE pink line on her pregnancy test, and two years following seeing two pink lines. Syd’s character is very lovable, brave, and like all of us women. The other characters were the same and made the story what is was. I loved Ethan and you all will too, and I know you all will want to punch Kevin right in his neck with how he treats Sydney. This story goes in a full circle and it ends with a happily ever after. I enjoyed the fact that the author added a child’s point of view and had her own story. Not only was One Pink Line a great, heart breaking, funny, loveable read, but the author is such an amazing storyteller and I loved how her story and writing flowed. I didn’t get bored at all; it was the other way around. I ate this book up and read it in a DAY! Yes, that’s how amazing this book is!! BRAVO Dina Silver with your first novel and hitting it out of the ballpark. If I could give this book 10 stars I would, but I can’t so I will most definitely give it 5 HUGE STARS!

 Quotes from the Book:

“You’re the first…girl I’ve brought down here…not my first date. That came out wrong. I actually wanted to ask you out years ago. Really, even though you were too busy to notice a six-foot-two hockey player you had three classes with.”-Ethan

“Trust me, you are going to want to be able to live a little. We will never have another chance to behave like this in all of our adult life.”-Taylor

“I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, I really have to admit…I just don’t want to think about it. I know that sounds so stupid, but the second I saw those two pink lines, it was like, my brain started desperately searching for something else to focus on.”

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One Pink Line by Dina Silver (Amazon Kindle)

One Pink Line by Dina Silver (Amazon Paperback)

The Giveaway

Dina Silver has been kind enough to offer a paperback (USA only) of One Pink Line for giveaway. To enter this giveaway you MUST leave a comment on this blog post with a question for her or tell her why you want to read it. Remember to click follow replies so that you can see the answer to your questions. Giveaway ends Jan. 10, 2013 at 8 am CST.

For an extra entry click HERE to like her Facebook page! Make sure you tell me that you liked it so I can count it.

Cephrael’s Hand Blog Tour Continues w/ an Interview from Melissa McPhail (Great Prizes)


Please enjoy this interview with Melissa McPhail, author of the spellbinding epic fantasy, Cephrael’s Hand. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $450 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

1. Your debut novel, Cephrael’s Hand was the winner of The Written Arts Award for both the best fiction and the best Sci-Fi/Fantasy categories–congratulations! So tell us, what was the inspiration behind this story, and can you tell us a little bit about it?

I started the first version of Cephrael’s Hand when I was going through a difficult time in my life. I needed the cathartic joy that I’d always found in writing. I didn’t set out to write a novel—just to write. That first draft had no planning, no world-building, no design. It was pure creative inspiration. And it was awful!

But the characters… I had brought them into being, and they insisted that they had a story to tell. It took my growing as a writer—and over a million words tossed into the trash—to finally tell their story properly.

Cephrael’s Hand is the result of a philosopher’s approach to fantasy. It’s the story of one man’s steadfast determination to save the realm he swore to protect, and his willingness to do anything it takes to accomplish that end—even to betray those he loves. It’s the story of the unlikely pieces (men and women) who unknowingly fall beneath his shadow, and of the players who follow him. Ultimately, it’s a story of salvation.

I see fantasy as a metaphor for life in this world. We all face tests of our honor. We’re all working to accomplish our goals and flourish and prosper. Few of us set out to do evil. Yet evil is done. Goals are abandoned. Integrity is compromised. We totter precariously on thin wires as we move through the labyrinth of life. I strive with my series to illuminate those wire-thin paths, that we might find solid ground beneath them.

2. Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open Cephrael’s Hand?

If you listen to my critics—too many characters! But this is an epic fantasy dealing with a conflict that spans multiple kingdoms. It takes a team to save the world. 😉

Hopefully you’ll meet interesting characters and a world you can easily find your own place within. You’ll discover pirates, princes, star-crossed lovers and philosopher-soldiers. You’ll see many characters who are not as they appear, and a few who are exactly as they seem. You’ll find adventure on a perilous road with prince Ean val Lorian, and farcical escapades with Trell of the Tides and the pirate Carian vran Lea.

You’ll often wonder who is good and who is evil—because most villains in real life are cloaked in shades of gray.

3. Can you tell us more about some of the key concepts that inspired the world of Cephrael’s Hand?

The story is crafted out of many of the philosophies I’ve studied. As I was planning Cephrael’s Hand, I had been reading about game philosophy. Game philosophy speaks on the importance of games in our lives and takes a look at their composition (barriers, purposes and freedoms) and their anatomy (pieces, players, maker of games). It’s a compelling concept with abundant applications, and I became immediately interested in exploring the ideas more via the story of Cephrael’s Hand.

Balance is another concept that threads throughout the story. Exploration of this idea comes out of my study and practice of yoga. If ever a concept permeates our lives, the pursuit of balance is one. Whether seeking to balance work and parenthood, our social commitments and our private lives, or even just the juggle of that list of a thousand things we’ll never get to, every one of us is seeking balance in some fashion. Placing this concept within the framework of a fantasy story embellishes it with a magical lure.

4. The Cephreal’s Hand constellation plays an important role in the book. Is there a real life constellation that plays a similarly important role in your life?

I can’t say that a particular constellation is important to me personally, though I’ve studied Astrology for many years. But I’m drawn to the idea, both scientifically and philosophically, that we are all connected somehow with each other and the broader universe. String Theory and General Relativity play to this idea from the perspective of science. Certainly, if we are connected to the stars in some esoteric way, then the actions of the stars can impact us. Astrology believes this, and the graphing of natal charts proves an underlying truth in this ancient, mystical and often misunderstood science. Philosophies far and wide declare that we’ve descended or separated from a universal oneness and teach karmic values with the intent of helping us return or re-ascend to that harmonious state.

The concept of Balance in Cephrael’s Hand stems from this idea of universal connectivity.

5. Ever since a linguist named Tolkien came along, language has been a very important aspect of the epic fantasy genre. What inspired the various languages in Cephrael’s Hand?

The desert languages are based on Farsi or Arabic, depending on the tribe. Farsi is one of the oldest languages still in use today, and its traditions lent themselves well to the Kandori culture, which is one of Alorin’s oldest races. Likewise Arabic, being originally a language of the nomadic tribes, seemed the correct base from which to draw the language of the Akkad.

Even older than both of these languages in my novel is Old Alaeic, which is the original language of theangiel, the Maker’s blessed children, and of the two original races: the zanthyrs and the drachwyr. Old Alaeic draws primarily from Gaelic root words. I chose Gaelic because the language maintains some of the earliest roots of our Indo-European linguistic heritage. Its spellings and pronunciations are almost universally reminiscent of mythological beings from ancient times and are often associated, especially in the fantasy genre, with elves, Druids or other mystical races.

6. Which other authors have served as influences and inspiration for your own work?

I love lyrical writing, so my bookshelves host an eclectic mix (albeit heavily weighted with fantasy and science fiction). Those who first come to mind from the fantasy genre are Anne Rice, Patrick Rothfuss and Jacqueline Carey, all of whom carry on a great and fabulous romance with the English language, much to the ecstasy of millions. Being able to string words like pearls into a story that reads at times like poetry in motion seems the greatest pinnacle of storytelling skill.

7. It’s been said that one of the most time-consuming processes of writing epic fantasy is world building. Without giving too much away, what are a few of your favorite world aspects and what inspired them?

As I wrote in a recent guest post, world-building and the magic system developed for the world are intimately connected. We can’t really describe a fantasy world without talking about the magic that rules it, because so much of what we understand about the world derives from our understanding of how the physical laws of the world work.

In creating my world of Alorin, I established five “strands” of the lifeforce known as elae. These strands are a way of describing and codifying the lifeforce which is the source of energy in the world, but they are only one way of describing it. While most of the viewpoints I am writing from agree with describing the lifeforce in terms of “strands,” there are other races in Alorin who have codified it differently, darkly, or with less purity for lack of philosophical simplicity.

I love exploring different viewpoints and imagining how each would describe a universal energy. I love examining the cultures that seek to describe this energy and how their ideals might alter their understanding of it. For example, the Adept race believes that Adepts are born with the ability to work one of the five strands, but only one. Yet some of the “Wildling” races are known to be able to innately work more than one strand.

The Fhorgs race works blood sacrifice to fuel their magic. Would their magic work without such sacrifice? The Adepts believe that it would. Yet within the Adept philosophy, a working of magic requires faith both in the existence of power and in one’s ability to manipulate it. If the Fhorgs don’t believe themselves able to wield the lifeforce without letting blood, it follows that magic would become unavailable to them simply because of their lack of belief. Moreover, because the Fhorgs don’t limit their ideas of their magical ability to a five strand approach, it’s possible they might achieve more through the wielding of it–or not. These are existential questions for these two races, questions which set them at odds with each other. Questions from which derive conflicts and persecutions, intrigues and betrayals.

Such explorations fuel both world-building and magic-system building, because their delineation establishes how the world works, how the people of the world interact with the energy that fuels it, how they interact with each other, and how they use the energy itself to work arcane acts.

8. You grew up in a house full of musicians, but your creativity emerged in the form of writing. Have you always felt called to write?

I always thought I would end up with a career in music like the rest of my family. I grew up harboring such an appreciation of these accomplished, classical musicians all around me, it seemed a natural course to follow in their footsteps.

Instead, I stumbled into writing the way one sometimes bumps into providence, colliding with it accidentally. I happened to take a creative writing class in high school. My creative writing instructor believed the best way to teach writing was to send her students out to actually write. So I did—hundreds of pages over the next few years. Writing became both an outlet for my creativity and the escape reading had always provided. I know I share that love affair with many authors.

9. At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?

Usually I turn to music—either composing it or listening to it. If I can find a great new song, sometimes that will help inspire me out of the hole. When a scene just isn’t working, I’ve learned to go back to where I was last doing well in the story and scrap everything that came after. It’s an agonizing process, but often necessary.

10. The Dagger of Adendigaeth, Book 2 in your series, has just been published. How has your vision expanded from book 1 to book 2, and what kind of creative growth have you experienced in your process this second time around?

We grow as writers with every novel—at least I believe that’s the goal. Many of the things I gained in writing The Dagger of Adendigaeth are intangible, ineffable understandings of myself and my creative process. I think of those times of being fabulously, fantastically stuck and the final moment of inspiration that launched me out of that depressing well. I think of the plot twists that came to me completely without warning, and the absolute magic that is the creative process.

The thing I loved most about writing this book was being able to explore so many viewpoints—especially the viewpoints of those characters who might be viewed as antagonists. But I don’t and never have seen them that way. It’s my greatest purpose in writing this series to be able to show the motivations and ideals that mold and shape each character. The more we can understand each other, the closer to a peaceful coexistence we will find, whether in the microcosm of our lives or the broader political and religious zones.

Cephrael Tour BadgeAs part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Cephrael’s Hand eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $450 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of Cephrael’s Hand for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

About Cephrael’s Hand: Two brothers find themselves on opposite sides of a great battle, neither knowing the other is alive… A traitor works in exile while preparing for the disaster only he knows is coming… A race of beings from beyond the fringe of the universe begin unmaking the world from within… And all across the land, magic is dying. Cephrael’s Hand is the first novel in the award-winning series A Pattern of Shadow and Light. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. Visit Melissa on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Cephrael’s Hand Blog Tour Continues…Great Prizes!


Please enjoy this excerpt from Cephrael’s Hand, a spellbinding epic fantasy by Melissa McPhail. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $450 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

Ean hugged the shadows as he tried to find his way back to le Comte’s estates. He feared they’d hurt his head worse than he thought, for the twisting alleys of the city disoriented him now. He was sure he’d passed the last street corner already once, and he had the uneasy feeling that he was walking in circles.

Trying to break the cycle, he turned into a long and shadowed alley, spotting a streetlamp at the other end. Abruptly a form reared out of the shadows. Ean reached for his sword—

“…Ean?”

The prince halted with his hand around the hilt. “Fynn?”

“Balls of Belloth!” Fynnlar crossed the distance in a rush and grabbed him by both shoulders, giving him a shake. “What are you doing out here, you wool-brained fool?”

“I might ask the same of you, cousin.” Pushing a hand to his throbbing head, Ean closed his eyes. He’d seen so much death since the last moon…so many lives lost, and for what? He couldn’t fathom the events that spun violently around him, only knowing they somehow had him caught in the whirlwind.

“Ean, are you unwell?”

“Hit my head pretty hard,” the prince murmured, lifting tired eyes to refocus on his cousin. “I’ll be all right.”

“Come on. We’d best keep moving.”

The prince shook off the numbness edging his thoughts and followed his cousin. Fog was rising from the river as they headed back toward le Comte’s villa, fat fingers sliding through the streets to leach the color from the night. They reached a corner, and Fynn paused and looked warily around.

“Fynn, what are we waiting fo—”

But the words stuck on Ean’s tongue, for he heard it then: a strange whispering, the whisk of silk across the rough edge of glass. The sound had prickly tentacles that pierced into the soft flesh of Ean’s inner ear and twisted there, making him cringe.

Something flew out of the shadows and Ean swung his head after it, straining to make out what he’d seen. “What in Tiern’aval was that?”

Grimly, Fynn held his sword before him. “A Wildling—a Whisper Lord.”

The whispering continued, tormenting, growing soundlessly louder until it shrieked inside Ean’s skull, shattering any hope of focus.

The Wildling shot out of the shadows again, and Ean forced his eyes to follow, to find him in the shadows where he hid.

There.

He saw him lurking against the wall, smiling around big white teeth. His leathery skin was pitch black , and his eyes were golden like the desert sands. The man locked gazes with him, and—

Suddenly they were nose to nose. Ean felt the heat of his breath in the same moment that the fiery sting of steel pierced his flesh.

Shade and darkness!

“Ean, he cut you!”

“I’m all right.” But Ean grimaced as he gingerly probed the wound. “Shadow take the abominable creature.” Fynn gave him a long look. “Be ready,” and he rushed to meet the Wildling.

The fight turned instantly vicious. Whisper Lord fought with long, stiletto daggers that speared like claws out of his gloves. His hands crisscrossed with amazing speed, never failing to find their mark on Fynn’s person, while his body twisted and spun. Fynn’s thrusts in turn only seemed to meet with the slashed silk of his garments. So fast did the Whisper Lord dart and cavort that Ean at first felt helpless to join in, for he could barely see the Wildling move until after it had happened, as if the sight had to bounce off the back of his eyes…as if he could only see the man’s reflection.

Then Ean found his focus and rushed to help Fynn.

The Whisper Lord marked him before he even got his blade around, a long swipe at the joining of neck and shoulder that burned bitterly. Ean realized that trying to use his sword alone would get him killed, so he pulled his dagger and dove in again. The Whisper Lord dodged like a jumping spider and managed in the same maneuver to slash a deep cut across Ean’s thigh, his daggers flashing first with the silver of steel and then dark with blood. Ean snarled a curse and staggered into the wall, teeth clenched against the pain, for the wound was angry and deep.

Abruptly Fynn threw himself backwards, himself narrowly avoiding a deadly thrust to his gut. Those spine-like blades sliced a chunk of flesh out of his side instead. The royal cousin clenched his teeth and held one hand to his midriff, using the other to pull himself out of reach.

Ean dove at the creature with renewed determination, his battered head forgotten in his haste to keep the man away from Fynn. He wore a malicious grin as they battled, and his golden gaze was flecked and sparkling against his face of leathery pitch. As Ean’s strength failed, the Wildling grinned even broader and began to chant in a voice like sand, “Tur or’de rorum d’rundalin dalal! Tur or’de rorum d’rundalin dalal!” Over and over while he pressed Ean on the retreat; gleefully, like a madman.

And then he made a sudden thrust, and Ean jumped to avoid the slashing daggers that barely missed his throat. He came down unevenly on his bad leg, and his knee buckled. Stumbling, he hissed a curse and the man bore down on him. A swipe of his hand, and three spiny daggers cut deeply across Ean’s back with their sharp fire. The Wildling’s other hand darted for his throat again, but the prince veered and twisted so the blades caught his chin and cheek instead. Ean rolled and thrust upward, but the Wildling merely laughed and arched out of his way; the weapon met only the whisper of silk.

Ean lay panting. His dagger seemed lost along with his will, and desperation could no longer drive him on.

The Whisper Lord advanced slowly wearing a grim smile. With the shrieking noise still accosting his skull and the loss of blood and nausea in his stomach, Ean felt only numb acceptance. Shaking, he lowered his head—

A tall form pushed past him, knocking Ean aside as it rushed to engage the Whisper Lord, driving the Wildling back and away, taking the battle out of Ean’s hands.

Ean fell onto his back, gasping as the last of his strength bled out of him, and lay watching his rescuer take offensive control.

The woman’s brown half-cloak floated behind her as she advanced with long, fast strides, forcing the Whisper Lord on the retreat beneath two short swords wielded in a flashing figure-eight.

The Wildling smiled no longer. Every thrust and swipe of his daggers was blocked by the woman’s whirling black blades. She matched him stride for stride, spinning when he spun, darting as he did, dodging as he lunged. They performed a ferocious, twisting dance of death where both knew the steps intimately and took them with ease.

As Ean watched, the Wildling slashed his daggered gloves in a motion that should’ve gutted the woman, but she flipped out of his reach, thrusting long as she landed. Her sword met with the flesh of his side, drawing a hiss as he jumped back. He glared malevolently at her and pressed one palm to his side.

“Merdanti,” he snarled, his golden eyes hot as they assessed her black blades.

Arching brows with a predatory smile, she twirled her blades and lunged for him again, and once more the dance began, the meeting of their deadly weapons a rhythmic beating that seemed in time with Ean’s still-racing heart.

And then—

Ean thought he must’ve dreamed it, his tortured mind inventing an impression for what clearly defied explanation. The woman and the Wildling seemed to shift and slow, their cloaks floating as if suspended on the wind. Then the woman launched out of her turn so quickly that Ean lost sight of her, only to spot her again as she stood squarely before her opponent, blades crossed. With naught but a grimace of effort, she chopped her short swords crosswise through the Wildling’s neck, removing his head completely. His body toppled to the stones at her feet, paying respects to her skill.

Silence hung in the street, a palpable blanket sewn of incredulity fringed with pain.

The woman lowered her dripping blades and leveled tawny eyes on the prince…

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About Cephrael’s Hand: Two brothers find themselves on opposite sides of a great battle, neither knowing the other is alive… A traitor works in exile while preparing for the disaster only he knows is coming… A race of beings from beyond the fringe of the universe begin unmaking the world from within… And all across the land, magic is dying.Cephrael’s Hand is the first novel in the award-winning series A Pattern of Shadow and Light.Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. Visit Melissa on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.