The Sacred Band, by Janet E. Morris and Chris Morris
* * * * * (5 stars)
(I was gifted with a copy of this book by the author for the purpose of giving an honest review.)
I really didn't know what to expect with The Sacred Band when the author requested a read-and-review. I was not familiar with the Thieves World shared fantasy world and the book looks like it's based on Greek history and mythology, perhaps even set in ancient Greece, which isn't really my thing, but it looked intriguing so I decided to give it a go, and I'm glad I did.
The Sacred Band is an exciting and deeply emotional epic fantasy about a band of warriors, dedicated to each other as brothers, who find themselves in a battle to restore their integrity and right some old imbalances in their world. It touches on ancient Greece, when the Sacred Band of Stepsons comes to our world to save a group of otherwise-doomed Theban warriors (in an incident based on a historical battle). Then the action returns to Thieves World, a world where gods and demigods, wizards and mortals interact in a struggle for control. A member of the Sacred Band of Stepsons then commits a terrible crime, stirring up other forces and bringing old tensions and imbalances to a head in a great, epic, magical battle.
The writing is gorgeous, rich, colorful, and emotional. It slips between present and past tense, which at first I found confusing. But when I got used to it, the passages in present tense gave a very immediate and impressionistic feeling to the story.
This book is a later stand-alone novel that follows an earlier trilogy (beginning with Beyond Sanctuary). The author recommended that I start with The Sacred Band, and I was able to pick up on the characters, setting, and backstory pretty well, but I might have had an easier time understanding who the characters are, what they want and what drives them, and what was at stake for them, if I had started with the earlier trilogy. The Beyond trilogy is now on my TBR list, and I'm looking forward to catching up with the characters and events before The Sacred Band.
It took me a while to really get a grasp on the characters, again because I was coming into their story later on, but eventually each one stood out to me as an individual, well-drawn character. I particularly liked Niko (although a brief mention of his activities in a brothel left me somewhat less sympathetic and admiring of him than maybe the reader is intended to be), and Kouras, one of the youngest Stepsons. There are a number of admirable female characters as well, though I was a little disappointed that they are all goddesses or other supernatural beings. There is no major female character who is an ordinary mortal. Thieves World appears to be very much a man's world, with ordinary women being relegated to the roles of dancing girls, servants, and prostitutes.
For a 5-star review, this review seems to have a lot of reservations, but in the end, despite the difficulties I had with the book, I couldn't put it down. It's a long book and it took me a while because I was reading it during a particularly busy period, but every chance I got, I picked it up just to read a little more to find out how the characters were doing and what happened next. I was deeply emotionally touched by the honor and loyalty that the members of the Sacred Band feel for each other, and intrigued enough by the characters, events, and world that I'm looking forward to reading the trilogy that comes before.
Once again I'm happy to welcome Sharon Stevenson, here today on her blog tour with Saskia Book Tours. First up is a character interview with Devon Parrish, one of the characters from the Gallows series. He's Sarah Gallows's best friend, and grows to have a more important role later on in the series. And then read on for an overview of Sharon's Gallows series of paranormal novels. Finally, don't forget to enter the giveaway for a free copy of Demon Divided or a $25 Amazon gift card!
1. What is your full name? Is there anything significant about your name?
Devon Parrish, but just call me Dev, seriously. *sigh* No, man, there's nothing significant about it, other than it sucks and not in a good way.
2. How old are you?
Age is just a number, unless you're underage and then it's a very important number. I'm only 23... Oh, okay I just turned 24 in February.
3. Tell us about your family. What do you like and not like about them?
Mum bakes an awesome breakfast on Sundays but she still waits up all night when I'm out; she worries way too much.
Dad gives me the nod when I bring an 'overnight guest' home and he doesn't give me shit for being hungover.
My family are pretty great. They're older parents but that just means they're happy they met each other in time to have me.
Lucky them :)
4. Who was your first kiss, and what did you think of it?
Eh... Is it bad that I don't actually remember? Must have been some drunk chick at a high school party.
5. What is your occupation?
Bleh, I'm part of the Prentice n' Parrish technical helpline which means I get to explain computers to a load of crabbit old gits in town. I paint and draw when I have time to myself so maybe, when I grow up, I'll be a graphic novel artist...
Hey, a guy can dream.
6. What are your best and worst qualities?
Well I don't want to brag but I do pretty well with the ladies. Some people might call me a man-whore. I'd give those people a high five.
I don't like to focus on negatives. I think I'm pretty awesome.
7. What quality do you value most in a romantic partner?
My 'romantic partners' don't stick around too long for me to figure that kind of thing out. I'm not looking for anything serious but it might be nice to have an actual girlfriend sometime. I'd probably have to fall out of love with Sarah first though so it's probably going to be a while.
8. What is your favorite thing to do?
Get high, drink, go out and get off with women. Or hang out on Sarah's couch watching shitty horror movies.
9. What is your greatest fear?
Sheesh. Drag that up why don't you? I've been used by a demon and I'm pretty sure that means I'm going to hell when I die.
Man, why'd you have to bring that up? What a downer.
10. What is your most treasured possession?
Possessions don't mean that much to me. I do have a ring my gran gave me before she passed on but its just sitting in a drawer, gathering dust. I was instructed to give it to a 'special lady' but I have to find one of those first so...
I guess I don't have any treasured possessions.
Book 1: Blood Bound
19-year-old twin demon trackers Shaun and Sarah Gallows are used to running into trouble - mostly the kind with fangs - but while Sarah embraces her powers to their fullest extent, trusting her instincts implicitly, Shaun distances himself from his abilities and can do little more than despair at his sister’s reckless nature and idly back her up.
When they come across 17-year-old Melissa Carling, a demon tracker who’s been torturing innocent super-naturals, they know they have to stop her. Sarah is desperate to punish Melissa for what she’s been doing but Shaun’s instant attraction to the girl points to a soul-mate bond stronger than anything he’s ever had to fight before…
(Read Kyra's review of Blood Bound!)
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Book 2: Demon Divided
***This is the second in the Gallows series of novels - the following description contains spoilers***
Twin demon trackers Shaun & Sarah Gallows are getting used to dealing with supernatural threats...
Six months after Sarah's reckless choice, she is struggling to deal with what she has done and trying to find a way to break free from the demon bond she has made. She finds out the vampire lied about his maker and she's faced with more difficult decisions.
Clueless to what his sister is going through, Shaun has been spending time in White Oaks on the pretence of training with his parents. He’s determined to find out who Elle’s working for, and he’s thinking about asking her out, maybe.
A new threat surfaces in White Oaks and the twins have to neutralise it before things get out of hand, and before the Council find out. It would just be another day's work, if Shaun wasn't being accused of murder and Sarah wasn't being driven to distraction by her demon..
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Book 3: Fate Fallen
***This is the third book in the series and as such the following contains spoilers for the first books***
Shaun & Sarah Gallows are demon trackers, hunting down and dispatching supernatural threats by order of their Council.
A few months past their twentieth birthday, Shaun takes Elle to Shadows Grove to check out the site of the brutal murder he's become obsessed with. The ill advised trip starts unlocking his own past and the mystery of his destiny begins to unravel.
Sarah realises she needs to train Ray to keep him safe. When her mother finds out she took him on a job, she gives Sarah an ultimatum that forces her rethink their relationship.
Amazon | Smashwords
Book 4: Curse Corrupted
***This is the fourth in the Gallows series of novels - the following description contains spoilers***
Twin demon trackers Shaun and Sarah Gallows are used to dealing with supernatural threats but what happens when that threat comes from within?
The twins are in the middle of a murder case when Shaun is captured by werewolves. Suddenly his future as a tracker is in question. Faced with the choice of remaining as he is and continuing to serve both the Council and the Seelie Court, or becoming a werewolf powerful enough to be an Alpha and gaining a life with a mate he is already attracted to, Shaun is conflicted. His werewolf curse was corrupted after he was ravaged in battle and now a witch has removed the corruption. He has days before his first shift takes all choice away from him and he becomes wolf. Can he make his decision in time, or will it be taken out of his hands?
Meanwhile Ben has come back into Sarah’s life and is attempting to prove he has changed. She isn’t sure if she can trust him but when it comes right down to it she may have no choice. When she is marked for death she must find a way to defeat a demon and avoid being dragged to hell without the use of her physical fighting skills. Her demon bond might be the key to her survival, but can she trust War to look after her best interests when he could have her to himself in hell?
***Be warned these books are Adult Modern Fantasy, not YA. They are not suitable for younger readers as they contain profanity & sexual references.
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About the Author:
I'm your typical reclusive author type. Anti-social in person, but I love tweeting online friends! I love my laptop, probably a bit too much mind you.
If you want to know more, check out my website or follow me on twitter.
I'm a reader and enjoy finding new indie authors to follow - there are so many good ones out there! I'm fairly new to posting reviews but I do try to be fair and honest and will not post anything less than 3 stars, as if it is not at least that good I just won't finish it.
Where to find Sharon:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Giveaway not sponsored by Kyra Halland/Welcome to My Worlds
Welcome to this weekend's Sneak Peek! Today we're going back to Chosen of Azara, as Princess Juzeva meets her new husband, the man she's being married to for political purposes, for the first time (Ilvana is her mother, the queen):
“And here is Idan, Crown Prince of the Madrinan Empire,” Ilvana said. She gestured towards the young man standing between the Emperor and his advisor. “Your future husband.” Prince Idan was tall and well-built, with red hair, a strong-boned, handsome face, and clear green eyes. His clothes and armor were less elaborate and more practical-looking than his father’s. Though he was young and handsome, his expression was grim.
This was the man she was to spend the rest of her life with, the man who would be the father of the children she had never planned to have. Fighting back a sudden urge to flee from the room, Juzeva curtsied to him.
The Prince stepped forward and bowed to her, then spoke in formal, carefully-pronounced Savarunan. “My lady Juzeva, I know this duty is difficult for you, as it is for me. We are both forced to give up our own desires for the sake of peace between our lands. But I promise you that from now on I will look forward, not back, in the hope that we can be, if not happy, at least content with our destiny.”
Juzeva hadn’t expected such a courtly speech. The Prince had clearly spent a great deal of time practicing it, and Juzeva found herself moved by the effort. If nothing else, she would be married to a gentleman. She bowed her head to him, grateful for his courtesy and thoughtfulness. “I thank you, Prince Idan. I too will do my best to make our union a successful one.”
She watched the Prince take his place beside his father again. Her gaze slid past Sajur Golu’s face just as the priest was hiding a look of deep contempt. Another prickle of revulsion or fear, or both, crept up her spine.
“Let us be done with this, then,” Queen Ilvana said. She and Ezdar moved to a table which stood beneath the great middle window, where a scribe waited with the marriage and peace treaties. The scribe began reading the documents out loud. Juzeva didn’t bother to pay close attention; it made no difference whether or not she knew what they said. The terms had all been worked out already. She had had no say in them, and her opinion and consent had not been asked. The essence of the agreements was that, in exchange for a marriage-link to the Savaru royal family, which would bring with it a significant voice on the Queen’s Council and a healthy portion of the profits from Savaru’s rich fishing, farming, handcraft, and mining enterprises, the Madrinan Empire promised to not run its armies over the land. A bloodless defeat for Savaru, a quick and cheap victory for the Empire.
With Sarya's Song out now, I'm finally able to turn my attention full-time to revising Daughter of the Wildings. Which makes me really happy: finally I get to start turning the first drafts I wrote into the books I want them to be!
I started out by analyzing the whole series, diagnosing problems with plot, worldbuilding, character development and stuff like that. This is a picture of my binder with the printout of Daughter of the Wildings when I first started that process.
So that took about three months, splitting my writing time with Sarya's Song. Then I just worked on Sarya's Song for about the next month and a half, getting it ready for release. Once Sarya's Song was out, I made the revision cards for Daughter of the Wildings. I make an index card for each scene as I want it to appear in the revised version of the novel, with a summary of the scene and its purpose in the story. On the back I list the major issues that need to be addressed in the revision of that scene. Then I color-code each card, to show an estimate of how much work each scene is going to need - up to 25% (green), 25%-50% (yellow), 50-75% (orange), and 75% to complete rewrite or new scene (pink). This stage was a lot faster than the analysis stage, and only took a couple of weeks. This is a picture of my lovely stack of DoW revision cards. You'll notice that many pads of Post-Its gave themselves to the cause, especially yellow and orange.
Once that was done, I got to start the fun part - actually marking up the manuscript. And here is where I really realized how much my initial ideas about the characters and the story changed from when I started Book 1 to when I finished Book 6. Usually, my estimates for how much work each scene needs are pretty accurate, but so far this revision has called for a lot more work than I thought it would. "Green" and "yellow" scenes, that I thought would need changes to less than half of the scene, have ended up completely obliterated with red ink.
Here's the first page of Book 1 of Daughter of the Wildings, with lovely red scribbles, scrawls, arrows, lots of words crossed out, and some blue ink where I changed something and then changed my mind about the change. And this page is pretty clean compared to a lot of the pages I've done since then. The numbers down the sides are references to my notes; I have hundreds of pages of notes and thousands of individual revision notes for this series.
The great thing about revising this way, analysis - plan - markup, is you discover all the issues with your manuscript and figure out what to do about them before you ever start in with the red pen, so that you don't get halfway through and then *forehead slap* realize that subplot isn't working or this character's development is way off. I'm still making changes to my plan as I go, but it's easy to go into my notes and update them. I still refer to my notes as I do the markup; the summaries on the cards give me an idea of the major changes that have to be made. I do those, then go back and check on the more detailed changes that I put in my notes. Half the time, those changes don't apply any more because I already re-wrote that whole section while making the big changes.
And so it goes. After a little more than a week of working on the markup and type-in, I'm about 1/3 through Book 1. This stage is going to take at least a couple of months; hopefully, it'll start going faster after Book 1 because I won't need to make as many major changes to bring the later books into consistency. (Real life issues, including a bad flare-up of my fatigue, also slowed things down over the last week or so.) In the meantime, I'm going to start scaring up some test readers, and I'm putting the lettering on the covers. Here's the prototype for the cover for Book 1 with the lettering. I kind of hate having to put lettering all over the gorgeous art, but if I have to, I think this is kind of cool. I'm open to feedback, though. Cool, or not?
Also, I haven't had the reveal for the cover art for Book 6 yet, so watch for that in a week or so!
(Note: I revise using the method taught in Holly Lisle's How To Revise Your Novel online course. That's my affiliate link, and I'm an affiliate for that course and recommend it every chance I get because if you want to publish your writing, whether self or traditional, it's the best $250 you can spend on your writing.)
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