The Changing Tides of the Fantasy Realm
May 20th, 2019
It’s been a busy spring at the Gold & Steel office. Author Christopher Walsh has been hard at work on The Worth of Gold (amid life’s usual schedule of events) and we’re happy to say that there’s good progress on the second volume of the Gold & Steel series.
Also, as you may have seen over at our Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/GoldandSteelSaga for those unaware) As Fierce as Steel and Legends & Tales: Volume 1 are now both available on shelves at the Chapters location in St. John’s, Newfoundland. This is nothing short of a huge step for Gold & Steel and we hope that we can grow from here and see it in more brick and mortar stores going forward.
In terms of news in the larger scope of the Fantasy genre, last night saw the end of a television phenomenon that brought fantasy to a bigger audience than even Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy nearly twenty years ago. We are talking of course, about Game of Thrones.
Season eight of the juggernaut HBO show was ultimately met with mixed reactions from episode to episode, with some watchers hating the season entirely and others enjoying it for what it was. But mostly, the takeaway seemed to be a rolling tide of reactions, ebbing and flowing on a minute-to-minute basis with each episode. Rather than get into a discussion about the meat and bones of Game of Thrones’ final season, (there is a lot to unpack there, to be sure and it was not without its issues) we want to ask: what’s next for fantasy? Granted, only the TV series has concluded, and George R.R. Martin has two volumes left to write in his opus, but where do fantasy fans turn to now that one medium of Martin’s story is told, and the other has no release date?
We turn to the indies, of course!
Yes, there are prolific authors in the traditional publishing fold that have yet to really have their due, like Robert Jordan and Patrick Rothfuss, but they don’t need a page like this championing them. They’re a part of publishing giants like Penguin and Tor, who have advertising and marketing departments to handle that, and connections with major reviewers to spread the word far better than this page ever could. Instead, we want to use this space to profile up-and-comers who are ready to make waves in their own right.
First, we’ll talk about Walsh’s work:
Author page Amazon Link
Gold & Steel: As Fierce as Steel
And it’s short story companion book:
Legends & Tales of Gold & Steel, Volume 1.
In the case of As Fierce as Steel, we will let the book’s own blurb do the talking:
The nation of Illiastra sits in the clutches of the Elite Merchant Party, a group who uses its lands and its peoples to enrich themselves and further their own goals. Openly standing against them is a woman known only as Lady Orangecloak and her faction, the Thieves. With their very lives at stake, the Thieves and their fearless leader fight to end a hundred-year reign of oppression. Inspired by Lady Orangecloak’s actions and seeking her own emancipation, Lady Marigold Tullivan, daughter of a ruling lord, steps forward with designs on tearing down the Elite Merchants from within. Will Illiastra survive what is to come?
As Fierce as Steel is the inaugural entry in the seven-part Gold & Steel Saga, an industrial-era fantasy epic by Christopher Walsh. The series blends traditional fantasy elements with modern sensibilities, inviting seasoned fans of the genre and contemporary readers alike. The conflicts and struggles of Lady Orangecloak, Marigold Tullivan, mercenary Tryst Reine, Ellarie Dollen of the Thieves and others weave a grand epic adventure of growth and personal discovery that is sure to captivate readers of all preferences.
Buying As Fierce as Steel is just the beginning of your adventure in the world of Gold & Steel!
Then there’s Legends & Tales: Volume 1. Inside the 240+ page short story collection you will find four short stories starting with Stealing Back Freedom, The City That Hid From Time Itself and In Defence of Our Home Pt. 1, three stories that all saw previous releases through Engen Books’ annual short story collections, ‘From The Rock’. Christopher Walsh decided to combine his three stories into one collection and wrote the 100+ page sequel story to In Defence of Our Home. As an added bonus to the collection is Marigold Tullivan‘s first chapter of Gold & Steel‘s second volume: The Worth of Gold.
Stealing Back Freedom (originally published in Sci-Fi From the Rock) takes place a season before As Fierce as Steel, giving readers a glimpse into the lives of Lady Orangecloak, Ellarie Dollen and the Thieves before As Fierce as Steel’s events ripped them apart.
The City That Hid From Time Itself (originally published in Fantasy From the Rock, along with In Defence of Our Home Pt. 1) tells a story about a pair of women adventurers-for-hire, one human, the other a dwarf, who agree to take on a contract to escort an elf to a ruined city that they were the first to discover, a city they had already led that elf’s brother to not long before. In a quest for ancient answers and current closures, the three learn more than they could possibly imagine.
Clocking in at over 100+ pages, the final, two story takes readers to the Siege of Dhalla, a historical event referenced in As Fierce as Steel that took place eight centuries prior. The battle that took place pitted the dwarves of the city of Dhalla against a tyrannical human menace bent on destroying them entirely. Part 1 of the tale takes us to moment before the battle, introduces us to the defending dwarven heroes, and takes us through the opening salvos. Part 2 of the story leads us through various viewpoints as the battle wages across Dhalla and ultimately, to its conclusion.
With Christopher Walsh’s works out of the way, we’d like to introduce you to a selection of other authors under the Engen Books banner, starting with:
1. Ali House – The Six Elemental series.
If you’re looking for a YA fantasy series, Engen Books currently has three authors ready to meet your desires. First up is Ali House and her Six Elemental series.
From the back of the first book:
The World that Was is Gone.There is a legend that in times of great need, a person wielding the power of all six Elements will come forth to bring peace to New Earth. The myth of the Six-Elemental is almost seven hundred years old, and the possibility of someone having the power of more than one Element has been thoroughly disproven by science. None of this matters, however, when Kit Tyler receives the power of all six Elements on her twenty-first birthday. Unsure of how the world will react, or how to wield her powers, Kit keeps this information a secret, swearing that she will reveal it when she is stronger and more worthy. After all, the only thing worse than being a walking myth is being a disappointing one. When the opportunity comes along to help prevent an impending war, she sees this as her chance to prove herself. If she can do this, then nobody will question why she, of all people, was chosen. But what if she fails? What if her secret is uncovered before she’s ready? And what if she ends up starting the war she is trying to prevent?
Our own Christopher Walsh reviewed the first title in the series,
The Six Elemental is suspenseful and engaging YA novel by Ali House. It’s so engaging that I started reading it in the airport in Windsor, Ontario en route to Newfoundland and had it nearly finished by the time the plane touched down in St. John’s. That included a flight change in Toronto!
The setting and plot are both realised quite well and the political spectrum of the island nations has surprising depth for a YA novel. (Or at least the ones I’ve read) The main character, Kit Tyler is brought to life quite vividly and her journey through the fantastical, dystopian world filled with magical super-humans delves into subjects that run parallel to issues faced by young adults in our own world.
Kit finds herself working with a cast of characters who each stand out in their own right and the events that unfold around these six touches on several genres at once that are woven together in artful fashion. Within the pages you will find mystery, romance, thrilling action, fantasy elements and what I call an early sci-fi setting and Ali uses each just enough so that neither overshadows the other and defines the book by one genre.
There were a few things that I nitpicked to myself as I read, but upon completion of the book and reflection, I realised that those minor issues were not with the author or the material, but rather because I am not the intended audience. So, in my review, I rated it in how I would have enjoyed it as a young adult. In that regard, I would fully recommend it to YA readers across the board. It has something for everyone and a story that will keep you wanting more.
2. Amanda Labonté – Call of the Sea series.
Amazon Link to First Volume
From the back of the first book:
Mermaids and Mystery beneath the ocean’s depths!
After a heated fight at sea between twins Ben and Alex, Ben vanishes from their boat without a sound or even a ripple in the water. Unwavering in his dedication to find his brother, Alex begins the adventure of a lifetime armed only with the help of a local girl named Meg and his own mysterious musical abilities… the key to which, and to the mysteries that surround him, may be tied to the alluring song of the dangerous girl he finds among the ocean’s frothing waves.
Can Alex unravel the mystery of her haunting song in time to save his brother?
And a review from Goodreads by Six Elemental‘s Ali House:
It’s been a while since I’ve read an entire book in one day, but “Call of the Sea” had a hold on me that I couldn’t shake. Whenever I tried to put it down, it would call out to me, luring me back like a siren’s song.
An intriguing story about family, secrets, and doing what needs to be done. I was drawn in by the familiar small-town setting and likeable characters, and held fast by the underlying mythology.
Lastly, (for alphabetical reasons only) there’s
3. Heather Reilly – Binding of the Almatraek series.
Amazon Link to Book One
From the back of Knight’s Surrender:
Aylan Suresword is a spirited thirteenth century farm girl of seemingly common origin who blends her special knowledge of herbology with her new found gift of magic. With her handmaid, Millie, hijinks ensue as she is whisked through a mystical tale of danger and romance, where upon she is ultimately forced to make a desperate decision in the face of death between freedom for her people, or her own life.
Knight’s Surrender, is the first of five books in the Binding of the Almatraek series, to be followed by Noble Pursuit. Each book in the series is told from the point of view of a different one of the main characters. The first is told from the perspective of a peasant girl, who thwarts a theft in the marketplace and is sought after by the prince, who hires her to become his future mage. The following book continues the tale from the prince’s perspective years later, when he is about to take the throne.
This book is appropriate for ages nine (when students start to learn about medieval times), to adult, and features strong female characters that shine just as brightly as the males.
And a review from Amazon by horror/suspense author extraordinaire Matthew LeDrew,
A wonderful and important fantasy story. Good for all ages and genders, but important as a message for young girls, An excellent message/theme abounds through the pages.
Of course, we would be remiss to not mention the short story collection that features all four authors: Engen Books‘ Fantasy From the Rock:
From the back of the book:
Twenty-One short stories written by a diverse mix of some of the best fantasy authors in Atlantic Canada, including both award-winning veterans of their craft and brand new talent.
Edited by Erin Vance and accomplished genre author Ellen Curtis, this collection features the heartfelt, creatively charged, astonishing fiction that showcases the talent, charm, and prestige that Atlantic Canada has to offer.
Featuring the work of Heather Reilly (Binding of the Almatraek), Christopher Walsh (The Gold Steel Saga), Nicholas Morine (Cavern: City in the Dark), Ali House (The Six-Elemental), Amanda Labonté (Call of the Sea, Supernatural Causes) many more!
And a thorough review by The Governor’s Daughter author Sambath Meas:
“Fantasy from the Rock” is a collection of short stories from authors who love telling folklores about humans, fairies, trolls, dwarves, elves, witches, and fortunetellers. There are a few stories that don’t quite fit, nevertheless; due to their strangeness, they still fall into this fantasy genre. What they all have in common, however, is their entertainment value. The authors are experienced writers and storytellers and obviously, they love their craft. Many of the stories reveal moral lessons, which folklores of ancient time had often taught us. Like human beings, magical creatures have their negative and positive sides. They’re flawed just like us human beings. Those who allow evil and negative spiritual forces to dominate them threaten other beings as well as the environment in which they live and share with others. My favorite stories are the ones with moral lessons. Thankfully, many are teeming with them.
For example, “The City that Hid from Time Itself” shows that the world is a dangerous place and Zahn, Arvelle and Brayda must help Zahn’s brother, Antitus, to act as arbiters to protect the world and all the creatures within. As different species with different personalities they learn how to work together to accomplish their common purpose.
In “Snow White and Red Rose,” a mean dwarf gets his comeuppance, beautiful twin sisters with drastically different personalities and physical appearances get their princes at the end, and their mother—a woman who was abandoned by her lover and shunned by society for having a one night stand and having babies out of wedlock—witnesses her children happiness and live happily with them. Moreover, when you treat your offspring and other people kindly, you will be rewarded. The girls learn about kindness from their loving mother. Thus, “Their mother brought cuttings of both rosebushes with her when her family moved up into the grand old manor house. She planted them in lovely oriental pots and tended them as carefully as she had her daughters.”
Meanwhile, in “Quiet Cove,” a young woman finds out that, in the real world, she would never find the perfect man who loves her unconditionally and attends to her every need. She has only but one night to decide if she should stay in this hidden enchanted forest or go back to the real world. Which place must she choose? Will she make the wise choice?
These are just a few samples of the collection from “Fantasy from the Rock.” It’s like listening to the masters telling stories by the campfire. It’s magical, entertaining, and didactic. I received an advance copy for review.