Posts Tagged Rosemary Edghill

Romance Saturday Returns with Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill’s “Victories”

It’s Romance Saturday at SBR! So what could be better than a little YA romance coupled with suspense and neo-Arthurian myth?

VICTORIES, the fourth and final book of the Shadow Grail series by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill, again takes up where book three, SACRIFICES, left off. (Books one and two were reviewed here.) Muirin is dead, but her friends Spirit White (pictured on the cover), Spirit’s boyfriend Burke Hallows, and their BFFs Addie Lake and Lachlann “Loch” Spears are on the run from the evil Shadow Knights. They now know for certain that the head of Oakhurst Academy, Doctor Ambrosius, is not just evil, but is actually Mordred . . . and he’s been around since the fall of Camelot.

Why is this important? Well, Mordred was imprisoned in an oak tree for millenia, and only “woke up” as himself in the 1970s, only to then “borrow” a body from a biker for his own, personal use. Ever since, has been using his magic to recreate the conditions of Camelot — but on his terms.

And Ambrosius/Mordred knows very little about the modern world, despite the technology he and his school have been using throughout. Which is much more of a problem than it seems — but I’ll get back to that momentarily.

Anyway, Spirit and her friends end up being guided by the mysterious QUERCUS to a deserted missile silo out in the middle of nowhere. A strange woman, who seems to know them somehow, helps them get down into the silo, where food and rest awaits. Then, after they sleep the sleep of the truly exhausted (or maybe the just, I don’t know), they find out from this woman that QUERCUS wants to talk . . . via the very old computer equipment in the silo, which uses extremely old technology that has to warm up for quite some time to be used — but is still operational.

So far, so good. The story is told with breathless abandon, and the technology is explained enough that it passes and sounds logical, as it’s conceivable that this silo would be both abandoned and discounted by Mordred.

But QUERCUS gives Spirit some very bad news. He is the Merlin — yes, that Merlin — and he now exists solely as a computer program. Because of this, he’s been able to warn her and her friends . . . but because he no longer has corporeal form, nor any way to regain it (as he won’t do what Mordred did as it’s the blackest of black magic — possession), he cannot fight the Shadow Knights or Mordred directly. All he can do at this point is advise.

Making matters worse yet, Spirit finds out for certain that she and all of her friends — including the departed Muirin — are “Reincarnates” — that is, people who lived during the time of Camelot and have reincarnated at this time in place in order to fight Mordred one, last time.

In fact, Spirit was once Guinevere — the sword Spirit is carrying is actually Guin’s, in fact — and Burke was King Arthur. Addie was once the Lady of the Lake, famed for her healing abilities, and Loch — well, he was Lancelot. (I had hoped he’d be Sir Gawain, personally. Ah, well.)

And all of that is important, too, because these four must find something called “the Four Hallows” — four talismans of great power — in order to invoke their prior memories as these fabled people. Because they cannot beat Mordred if they stay the way they are, even with their magic . . . and they must beat Mordred, as Mordred’s idea of “winning” starts with all-out war and goes downhill from there.

Worst of all, because Mordred didn’t live through the Cold War (much; one assumes he wasn’t paying much attention after he “borrowed” the biker’s body he’s been using), Mordred has no fear of a nuclear holocaust. But his own Shadow Knights — those who fought on Mordred’s side back in the day, who have been reincarnated in our time and were awakened by Mordred — definitely do.

Which may give Spirit and the others an opening . . . (further reviewer sayeth about the plot — at least not yet).

There’s a lot to like about VICTORIES. It’s a rip-roaring action-adventure with some mild romance, a good amount of mystery and magic, and a believable fight against the darkest evil magician ever created for the highest of stakes — life itself. I loved the good characters, hated the evil ones, and wanted good to win out — all fine and dandy.

That said, because the book went by so fast, I missed some of the characterization I’d so adored in the previous three books. I like Spirit, Burke, Addie, and Loch, you see — but I wasn’t overly fond of Guinevere, King Arthur, the Lady of the Lake and Sir Lancelot. And while I liked how they faded in and out of focus — that is a very tough trick to pull off, having one soul with two full sets of memories in one body, and I give Ms. Lackey and Ms. Edghill full “props” for doing so — I mostly got annoyed whenever Guin, Arthur, etc., showed up to talk in “High Forsoothly” (what Ms. Lackey and Ms. Edghill called the more formal Renaissance-sounding English constructions, something that amused me very much).

Another thing that frustrated me a tad was the nature of Spirit and Burke”s romance. These two love each other in a somewhat chaste teenage way, which is sensible considering the context. (Who wants to make out in front of your two best friends in such close quarters?) But finding out these two had been married, and had many remembrances of being with each other as full adults, was a little tough for me to handle. I kept thinking that if I were Queen Guinevere and King Arthur, I’d want to steal away to some little grotto somewhere and just get it on — using proper safe-sex practices, of course — as these two supposedly had a legendary romance. And as Spirit and Burke were sometimes also Guin and Arthur, I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why they didn’t do that.

Maybe it’s a good thing that this element didn’t come into play, mind. This is a series meant for tweens and teens. Too much sexual activity would’ve perhaps taken the focus away from all of that action-adventure. But finding out some information through pillow-talk between Guin and Arthur would’ve been extremely interesting; having Burke and Spirit have to deal with the aftermath of that also would’ve been quite riveting.

The reason this is only a minor quibble, though, is because Ms. Lackey and Ms. Edghill clearly set it up that Guin and Arthur’s marriage was more one of state than one of love. (Which would be accurate for the times they lived in, granted. Damned few people married for love back then.) They were great friends, yes. And they cared about each other deeply. But there was actually more romance between Spirit and Burke in this time than there seems to have been between Guin and Arthur.

The other teensy issue I had with VICTORIES is that the ending goes by too fast. (Spoiler alert! Turn away now. You have been warned.) I wanted to see Mordred suffer, and I wanted to see our four heroes be able to luxuriate in the victory while thinking about how terrible it is that Muirin didn’t live to see the day — and while I got a little of the latter, I just didn’t get anywhere near enough of the former to suit me.

Bottom line? This is a nice evocation of the Arthurian mythos for the 21st Century Millenial crowd, and I enjoyed it very much. But it doesn’t stand alone — please read LEGACIES, CONSPIRACIES, and SACRIFICES first.



Shadow Grail series — A-minus.

–reviewed by Barb

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SBR 2-for-1 Special: Rosemary Edghill’s “Ideality” and “Failure of Moonlight” Sure to Satisfy

Rosemary Edghill is one of the world’s most versatile writers. She’s been reviewed multiple times at Shiny Book Review, and for good reason . . . she never seems to write a bad book, regardless of genre.

For today’s “2-for-1 special,” I’ve chosen to look at her novel, IDEALITY: VENGEANCE OF MASKS and her short story collection, FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT, which feature Bast, a Wiccan detective.

Note that IDEALITY has already been reviewed here at SBR under the title THE VENGEANCE OF MASKS. Only the title has changed. So my comments about it will, of necessity, be brief.

IDEALITY is a novel that’s partly horror, partly fantasy, and all its own. It features Childeric the Shatterer, a character of myth and legend originally dreamed up by modern-day writer Arcadia Stanton McCauley (most often known as Cady), a fifty-one-year-old woman. When the two of their stories intersect, many unusual events occur, some incredibly violent, some surprisingly tender, and some nearly inexplicable.

IDEALITY is a novel that grows on you. The writing is stellar, as you’d expect (c’mon, it’s Rosemary Edghill!), and it varies between high fantasy courtly speech (with all its signs and portents) and, once in Cady’s point of view, is told in a contemporary, direct and sometimes snarky commentary. This juxtaposition is interesting and rarely seen in contemporary works of fantasy and/or horror.

Mind you, the horror element in and of itself unusual, and yet is strikingly modern all the same, while the storytelling in both sections (Childeric’s and Cady’s) is exceptional.

Don’t miss IDEALITY, one of the most original works of fiction I’ve read in the past fifteen years.

Next up is FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT, which is a short story collection featuring Bast, perhaps Ms. Edghill’s most popular character ever.** Bast is a Wiccan priestess from New York City who struggles with her faith, solves murder mysteries and is one of the most intelligent characters in or out of detective fiction.

That being said, here are the stories in the collection, reviewed one at a time:

“Advice from a Young Witch to an Old Priestess:” This is about Bast’s first experiences with the Wiccan faith. She wants to learn, there is a procedure as to how you learn from people already initiated in the Craft, and yet it can be tough to get started due to the secrecy of the people already involved and the hoop-jumping required to show your bona fides before you ever get a chance to prove yourself as a dedicated student.  In addition, Bast’s relationship with a male NeoPagan, Lark, is a big part of the plotline — why this is so is all bound up in Bast’s faith, and how she admits she was searching for answers, and wasn’t quite ready for what she found.

Mind you, this is the one Bast story extant where Bast doesn’t solve an external mystery. The mysteries here are all internal instead.

Why is Bast putting up with the exceedingly immature Lark? Why has she bought into the concept of Free Love (as this story is set in the early 1970s) without a qualm? And why does it takes her a while to figure out that faith and responsibility go hand in hand?

Ultimately, this is an interesting story of an extremely intelligent woman who admits she’s flawed and made mistakes trying to find her feet in a faith that’s not exactly commonplace. Watching her make these mistakes as they happen is sometimes uncomfortable, but that’s because it’s easy to identify with Bast’s plight despite her unusual religion — or because of it.

“The Iron Bride:” This Bast adventure is a straight-up mystery. Who has killed pagan swordsmith Wayland Smith? For what purpose? And will the police ever believe Bast once she figures it out?

This story is perhaps the strongest in the collection because of several things. Bast is a smart woman who makes wisecracks and uses her knowledge of the Wiccan faith to solve murders no one else is likely to solve quickly (or perhaps at all), and there is a logical progression she follows that explains just who killed the swordsmith and why.

“A Winter’s Tale:” This is a conversational story between Bast and Lark while they both work at an occult shop in New York City. Lark had run across a very strange occurrence years ago, and wants Bast’s opinion — Bast, of course, would rather be anywhere else, but she needs the work and there’s a snowstorm outside anyway, so she listens. Slowly, the story emerges, one of horror and faith intertwined . . . and a monkey’s paw is invoked (in both senses) by someone who has no idea what she’s doing, upping the complexity and the horror factor immediately.

This is a gripping story for all it’s “shaggy-Witch” quality, and it’s easy to see why Bast’s attention is arrested.

“Burden of Guilt:” Here, Bast helps out at an upscale pagan festival in upstate New York. This particular brand of paganism does not appeal to Bast, as she views it as a sellout: if enlightenment visits this festival’s participants at all, it has to be accidental. The main purpose of this festival is to separate the well-heeled from their money while making them feel good at the same time. She hates being there, and would not be if she didn’t need to make money to pay her rent, but ends up having to deal with a murder . . . Marcie Wheeler ends up dead, and a ghost named Edward Madison is blamed.

Of course, Bast figures out (by doing her research) that there never was an Edward Madison anywhere around this particular establishment. So someone has deliberately spread this rumor — why do so, and for what purpose?

Ultimately, the mystery is straightforward. The police probably would’ve figured this one out on their own, as there’s a particularly mundane reason for the murder (that I refuse to spoil), but because Bast is the first to do so, she’s in danger.

How will she get out of trouble? And will she ever forgive herself for making money at this particular establishment, considering they’re doing any number of things she outright despises?

The last two stories are different.

The first one, “A Christmas Witch,” is a pagan fable for young readers. Rowan is Wiccan, and wants to celebrate the winter holidays just like anyone else. But her family hasn’t explained what they do to celebrate the holidays, instead telling her to wait and see . . . and like any young child, this does not go over well.

Ultimately, Rowan figures it out and is left satisfied.

This is a cute story that I enjoyed very much; it’s short and pithy, very different in tone than the four “Bast” stories, but welcome all the same.

The final story is an essay that was originally included at the end of the first full-length Bast mystery, SPEAK DAGGERS TO HER. Ms. Edghill explains what her motivation was for writing this book — an old, unsolved mystery that she’d always wanted to explore, that just did not leave her alone no matter what she did.

So she wrote it.

(If she hadn’t, I doubt any of the other material would’ve existed, except perhaps for “The Christmas Witch.” But I digress.)

Ultimately, FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT is an entertaining short collection — about 100 pages in length — and I enjoyed it very much. (My only wish? That there were more Bast stories left to explore.)


IDEALITY — A-plus.


— reviewed by Barb

**Full disclosure: I helped Ms. Edghill find someone who could help her format FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT, and was surprised to see that she’d written me a dedication thereby. I didn’t do anything else with regards to this book, which is why I was able to review it. (We take our conflict-of-interest policy here at SBR very seriously.)

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Romantic Four-Play as Romance Saturday Returns

As it’s been a while since I’ve done a Romance Saturday post here at Shiny Book Review (SBR), I thought I’d serve up a special treat — four reviews of four different types of romances await the reader. And as Valentine’s Day was yesterday, I thought it might be interesting if I treated this more like a dinner — with an aperitif, an appetizer, an entrée (the main course), and a dessert.

Four romances. No waiting.

Let’s get started.

Our aperitif is by Sherry Thomas and is entitled THE BURNING SKY. It’s a young adult fantasy romance set in late 19th Century England, and features Iolanthe Seabourne, Elemental Mage, and Prince Titus of Elberon, who live in an alternate reality that intersects with England in such a way that magicians frequently cross from magical Elberon into non-magical England without too much distress. Titus is a Prince, but he does not rule as another realm has forced him into vassalage. He’s a teen on the verge of adulthood, doesn’t have any idea who his father was (his mother refused to say before she died years ago in an uprising) and his recently-deceased grandfather was such a bitter old man that Titus could barely stand the sight of him. And Iolanthe is a mage who commands all four Elements — Fire, Air, Earth and Water — even though she doesn’t exactly realize it at the start of the book.

More to the point, Iolanthe is the one foretold to kill the Bane — a man who’s lived more than one lifetime and cannot be permanently killed by a normal man or woman. And because mages who can command four elements are rare, Iolanthe was hidden for years and was not trained to the limit of her ability, either, in order to keep her from the Bane’s sight.

So when Iolanthe finally betrays herself, she’s a sixteen-year-old on the run. Prince Titus is her only ally, but she doesn’t fully trust him . . . more to the point, the only way to hide her is to bring her into 19th Century England, a place she doesn’t truly understand, and ensconce her at an all-male school, the famous Eton College. And to the Prince’s credit, he quickly does this, as Eton is both his prison and his refuge.

Quickly renamed “Archer Fairfax,” Iolanthe excels at most athletic pursuits, outdoes the boys in Greek and Latin, and in general enjoys herself thoroughly. But her feelings for the Prince cannot be denied . . . will they throw off the Bane, or won’t they? And will she ever be discovered as a female in disguise?

I enjoyed THE BURNING SKY in many ways, as it’s a quick read with a decent-to-better romance as Iolanthe and Prince Titus are fun characters with a nice dynamic between them. Ms. Thomas seemed to be enjoying herself thoroughly here, and her storytelling had wit and life as well as an understated, age-appropriate passion — all good.

However, it’s not a grade-A read. It’s closer to a grade-B read — well-executed, deft, pleasant, and completely forgettable once you’ve turned the pages.

Still, I’d read more of Ms. Thomas’s fantasy, no question.

Our appetizer is an English historical romance,  THE LUCKIEST LADY IN LONDON, also by Ms. Thomas. It stars Felix Rivendale, the Marquess of Wrenworth, and the woman who eventually becomes his bride, Louisa Cantwell. She’s a woman of gentle birth but little money, and feels she must marry well . . . this is a tried-but-true plotline, but there are a few interesting touches. Lord Felix is an appealing rake whose polish masks a ferocious intellect, while Louisa’s charm and light conversation mask the fact she’s his intellectual equal. And it’s because they’re both extremely smart that their sexual passion is so strong, a particularly appealing touch.

As usual with the romances of Ms. Thomas, the dialogue is crisp and for the most part well-executed, and the reasoning behind how these two got together makes sense.

However — and this is a big however — I found little life to this romance. Lord Felix was mistreated in childhood by both parents, and his pain is palpable, but I don’t see why Louisa would go for him as there’s nothing inside her that would seemingly respond to his pain. Yet she does so without complaint, partly because she wants his immense fortune (which, to be honest, she never hides from either the reader or Lord Felix), partly because he is her intellectual equal and she doesn’t expect she’ll ever find another man who is.

If you haven’t read any of Ms. Thomas’s work, THE LUCKIEST LADY IN LONDON should divert you for a few hours. But ultimately, it is nowhere near as good as her two best romances — PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS or NOT QUITE A HUSBAND (both reviewed here) — which is why I recommend you read those instead.

Our entrée is by debut novelist Giselle Marks, whose pleasant Regency romance THE FENCING MASTER’S DAUGHTER is a nice addition to the genre. It stars Edward Charrington, the seventh Earl of Chalcombe, recently of the 3rd Dragoon Guards, and Miss Madelaine Deschamps, the aforementioned fencing master’s daughter.

The novel starts off agreeably with Madelaine rescuing Lord Edward from a vicious streetfight. Three armed assailants had downed Edward due to an old war wound suffered during the fighting in France disallowing him to fight at his usual capacity, and he would no doubt have been killed if not for Madelaine and her man-at-arms Henri fighting them off. As one man was killed and another grievously wounded, Madelaine says to everyone that Edward did the deed — and because he’s an Earl, no one questions him any further.

Of course, Edward feels guilty that he wasn’t able to handle his own affairs. But as he’d been hit hard on the head and suffered a concussion, he truly couldn’t be faulted. He does his best to find Madelaine again, as he wants to reward her . . . and did she really have the face of an angel?

And why are people trying to kill Edward, anyway? He’s just another Lord . . . he doesn’t have immense wealth, doesn’t have any known enemies, and even Napoleon’s men shouldn’t care any longer because Edward is lame and is never going to return to the battlefield.

As the romance progresses, Madelaine finds herself falling for Edward, even though she’s vowed she’ll never marry (for reasons that must be read; I refuse to spoil them). So will he manage to convince her that he’s not like other men, most of whom have been roués at absolute best? Or won’t he?

All I’m going to say further about the plot is this — I enjoyed it, thought there was some life and energy there, and greatly appreciated the touches of wit Ms. Marks sprinkled throughout her novel.

There’s a lot to like in THE FENCING MASTER’S DAUGHTER. The fight scenes are well-executed and lively, the dialogue — what there was of it — was well-rendered, I liked both Edward and Madelaine as characters and wanted them to achieve their “happily ever after” ending, and the historicity was excellent.

But there are some weak spots here that puzzled me. For one, much of the plot seemed summarized. There wasn’t nearly enough dialogue in spots to suit me. There was hardly any internal monologue — what the characters are thinking has to be deduced from external events instead. I didn’t see any reason for this, either, because what Ms. Marks did is actually harder to render than giving readers a few quoted thoughts now and again.

Further, because the historicity is so good, Ms. Marks actually went a bit overboard in her use of description. It is a perfectly period Regency romance — I cannot find fault with it on that score — but for modern-day readers, the descriptions alone may be a bit too much to bear.

With a top-notch editor, Ms. Marks’ novel would’ve been a guaranteed hit, at least in this quarter — a solid A. But because Ms. Marks did not have that top-notch editor (whoever edited for her did a workmanlike job and was competent, but didn’t address the faults listed above), this is a B-level debut instead.

Still good. Still interesting. Definitely memorable. I’d gladly read it again.

But it should’ve been even better.

Finally, our dessert course has been prepared by the redoubtable Rosemary Edghill, whose time-travel romance MET BY MOONLIGHT is back in print and available at Amazon as an independent e-book. Diana Crossways is a modern-day Wiccan priestess from Salem who owns a bookshop. It’s a stormy Halloween night (Samhain, by any other name) and she just wants to get to her coven meeting, but a rare book has been dropped off that requires her attention.

As Diana takes charge of it and starts to turn the pages, a bolt of lightning knocks out power to her shop. Something compels her to go out into the storm rather than stay inside in safety, then another bolt of lightning sends her elsewhere . . . to a forest in England directly before the “Glorious Restoration.” (If you’re not up on your English history, we’re in 1647. Thomas Cromwell has taken charge of England.) A coven is there to receive her — dripping wet, shivering with cold — and while Diana does see an enigmatic presence as well (a young man, dark and handsome, but somehow alien), she cannot dwell upon it.

Diana’s taken in by Abigail Fortune, one of the coven members, and is passed off as Abigail’s niece, Anne Mallow, from London. Abigail doesn’t know what Diana is, but as it was Samhain and that’s a holy night to those of the traditional faith (not yet called Wiccans, but the forebears of same), Abigail doesn’t question Diana overmuch, either.

“Anne” finds herself trapped in time without the creature comforts she’s used to, amidst a rigid society made worse by Cromwell’s depredations, and cannot quite catch her bearings. But then she sees the young man again, this time dressed in severe plainness, and is told his name is “Upright-Before-the-Lord.” Of course, this young man’s name is nothing of the sort, but unlike Diana, when this young man was found in the forest, he was taken in by Puritans of a particularly obnoxious vintage.

How can these two lovers be united, considering the times they live in and all that stands against them? How much help can Diana expect from the coven, especially as they must be discreet as this definitely is “the Burning Times?” And will Diana ever manage to get home again?

All of these questions are answered in ways that are satisfying, realistic, and historically honest — a neat trick that very few writers are able to pull off.

MET BY MOONLIGHT is perhaps the best time-travel romance I’ve ever read. It has heart, style, wit, verve, historicity, realism, and emotional honesty — a phenomenal and poignant read, something every romance reader should enjoy if they have any sense or brains about them.

So your final grades are as follows for this day-after-Valentine’s Day Four-Play:





–reviewed by Barb

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Lackey and Edghill’s “Sacrifices” a Rousing neo-Arthurian Yarn

SACRIFICES, book three in Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill’s novels of the Shadow Grail, starts off exactly where book two left off: There are alumni of Oakhurst Academy actively “helping” the students, but students Spirit White and her four friends Loch, Addie, Muirin and Burke think something is desperately wrong.  (Please see the reviews for books one and two here.)  Somehow, the legend of King Arthur is involved, as the mysterious QUERCUS has hinted via computer message, and Spirit in particular is starting to wonder if many of these alumni are truly evil rather than merely obnoxious.

Making things even tougher, at least some of the other students at Oakhurst have been taken in by the alumni, all of whom work for a large computer company called Breakthrough Systems.  (Allusions to the terrible world economy, which apparently even magicians can be affected by, firmly anchor this story to our present-day reality.)  But as Spirit finds out early on in SACRIFICES, these alumni are evil . . . worse than that, they’re actually Shadow Knights, reincarnated from the days of King Arthur (which apparently weren’t legend after all, but history misrecorded as myth).  And they are bound on the world’s destruction . . . .

Everyone’s paranoid in SACRIFICES to a degree that may shock readers if they haven’t re-read LEGACIES and CONSPIRACIES recently (books one and two of this series, respectively).   But there’s a reason for that, which is enumerated very early on (right after the deft “what has gone before” summation in the first few pages to get everyone back up to speed): Students are getting “challenged” by the evil alumni.  If they come back at all, they wear the pin of Breakthrough Systems — are, in effect, Shadow Knights in training — while those who decline, presumably, are killed outright.

And long-time teachers at the Academy are not exempt from such things, either, especially if they try to help the remaining students outwait or outlast the Shadow Knights.  (This is one reason the book’s title Sacrifices has so much meaning.)  The fact that some teachers put their lives in danger — and that some may end up laying their lives down — helps to up the danger and complexity of the problem Spirit and her friends must face.

Finally, Muirin’s still playing a double-game as she’s dating one of the guys from Breakthrough Systems (one of the worst of the Shadow Knights).  Can she hold out long enough to get the needed information to Spirit and her other friends?  Or will she break under the pressure?  (Further reviewer sayeth not.)

Because, you see, the pressure is real.  The Shadow Knights wish to annihilate the world, and have the magic to do so.  And their only concern is to pick what they believe is the “right moment” — a moment before any of the magical forces of good, which must be somewhere even if Spirit and her friends can’t seem to find them (save QUERCUS, of course, and a few of the teachers at the Academy), catch on to their evil — to blow the world up out of spite.

How can five teens face off against these fully adult, fully evil people?  Well, that’s for you to read, but I highly encourage you to do so.  This is a really fast read with palpable menace, great historical references and truly heart-rending decisions that made me wish book four was out right now.   (I’ll be looking for book four in 2014, to be sure.  With avid anticipation, even.)

Grade: A-plus.

— reviewed by Barb

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“Arcanum 101: Welcome New Students” — Winning YA Urban Fantasy from Lackey and Edghill

Arcanum 101: Welcome New Students by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill is about Tomas Torres, a fifteen-year-old from the barrio.  Tomas saves himself and his younger sister, Rosalita, from a nasty encounter due to his previously unknown talent for pyrokinesis — fire-starting, but with the additional ability of being able to move the fires he calls about.  But in doing so, he calls attention to himself and ends up working for the local padrone — a very dangerous man — until he quickly ends up behind bars.

Fortunately for Tomas, he’s sent away to St. Rhiannon’s School for Gifted and Exceptional Students (“St. Rhia’s” for short) in upstate New York for three years of probation rather than hard time for arson.  St. Rhia’s is a place where psionics like Tomas, or magicians, like his friend and love interest Valeria Victrix Langenfeld (always called “VeeVee”), get trained.  Because they’re in the middle of nowhere, that limits the damage these untrained kids can do; it also allows these kids to fight against some really noxious magical things without anyone in authority getting wind of it.

Of course, Torres doesn’t believe in magic, much.  Nor does he believe in anything beyond what he can do himself.  This is something that needs to get knocked out of him, fast.  And as Tomas has adventure after adventure (some with VeeVee, some not), he starts to realize that the world as he knew it is a whole lot bigger — and a whole lot deadlier — than he’d ever imagined.

Fortunately for Tomas, he has experienced help at the ready, as Arcanum 101 is an offshoot of the “Bedlam’s Bard” universe.  That means such well-known characters as Eric Banyon, Kayla Smith, and Hosea Songmaker either teach at St. Rhia’s, or are counselors, and can help as needed.  The reason for these characters to help at a school like this is simple; none of them want these kids to have the types of growing pains they did.  And while none of the teachers overtly state this, the point still came across.  (Loudly and clearly, too.)

So there’s a rationale for the school.  And there’s a rationale for why these kids are better off at this school than they would be if they were simply left on their own.  Which is why Tomas, once he settles into it, decides he rather likes St. Rhia’s, even if it is rather far from civilization.  And his liking is not simply due to “get on the bandwagon” psychology, either — instead, it’s actual fellowship, which is hard to write well.  (Lackey and Edghill not only wrote it well, but got me to believe that Tomas indeed wanted this sense of fellowship, even when he didn’t know what it was.  And writing inchoate longing is even harder than writing about the sense of fellowship without it turning to treacle.  Full marks for the pair of them!)

At any rate, Tomas’s and VeeVee are good characters and I enjoyed reading about their adventures.  Better yet, I believed in their nascent romance, complete with ups and downs — some of which will be familiar to every teen whether they have Gifts or not — and believed it added greatly to the book as a whole.

Bottom line:  Arcanum 101 has magic, teens, a boarding school that’s nothing like the “Harry Potter” series, adventure, a believable, PG-rated romance . . . in other words, this is a winning effort, Young Adult-style, from the gifted duo of Lackey and Edghill.

The only minor drawback is that this is a short novel, somewhere in the neighborhood of 70,000 words.  But as it’s obviously meant to be the start of a whole new crop of adventurers in the “Bedlam’s Bard” universe — complete with Elves, Guardians, and bad guys galore — it works out just fine.

So what are you waiting for?  Go grab the e-book today!  (Then do as I did, and devour it in a few hours, cold.  Then enjoy the re-reads.)

Grade: A.

— reviewed by Barb

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Rosemary Edghill’s “The Vengeance of Masks:” Surprising, Different, and Compulsively Readable

The Vengeance Of MasksRosemary Edghill’s THE VENGEANCE OF MASKS is a cross-genre novel featuring fantasy, science fiction, situational ethics, and urban fantasy in one highly appealing package.  Edghill’s hero is Childeric the Shatterer, soon to be Emperor of the Eidoloni; we meet him at the ripe old age of eight in the royal city of Contradance.  This is when Childeric first finds out that his world contains many enemies, and that some of them are members of his own family, including his uncle, Prince-Regent Dormaoth, and perhaps even his own sister-and-intended-bride, Cyannice.

Over the next sixty pages or so, Childeric goes through many growing pains while he attempts to figure out how he’s going to survive his ceremonial Masking.  (Childeric must don the Mindmask and be united, ever so temporarily, with all of his ancestors, else he cannot become Emperor.)  This is an extremely dangerous undertaking at the best of times and has killed other would-be Emperors before, but Childeric must risk it because it’s obvious that Dormaoth wants nothing other than Childeric’s death.  And, of course, Childeric doesn’t want to comply.  (If he did, this would be a much shorter and far less imaginative novel.)

When Childeric dons the Mindmask, he calls upon Malvisage, a God — perhaps better thought of as a demon — to keep Dormaoth from killing Childeric outright.  However, Childeric does this before he has full control over the Mindmask, which allows Malvisage to run rampant.  Cyannice and many of Childeric’s other allies end up dead in a hurry, while most of the rest of the Eidoloni end up scattered.  Contradance becomes a ruin, while Childeric ends up hunted and alone, an outcast among his own people.

Then the novel shifts gears to our world as we meet up with fifty-one-year-old heroine Arcadia Stanton McCauley — Cady to her friends — who’s a writer, cinematographer, and dilettante.  Cady’s purpose in this novel is two-fold: it allows us to see Childeric differently (not just as the tragic hero he’s obviously been set up to be), and it also allows for some humor as Cady makes many sarcastic cracks.  But before she can do much to potentially affect Childeric’s outcome, she must be transported to Childeric’s world; this happens due to a car accident and a quick change of venue, something she doesn’t fully understand.

Of course, Cady’s first direct experiences with Childeric are extremely off-putting, partly because both she and Childeric meet in the Spiral Castle, a place that seems more dream-like than not.  Childeric, by this time, has become an angry, frustrated, and rather embittered thirty-something — a man who believes he’s fully responsible for the destruction of most of his race and all of his society.  Due to this, Childeric does not treat Cady with much respect or care, partly because he doesn’t treat himself with any respect or care, either.

Because of Cady, the reader finds out that Childeric is an alien — not a man at all — and that Childeric’s view of sex is considerably different than most of the human men Cady has ever come across.  But then, Cady ends up trapped in a crystal coffin — which is where the original Wildside version of THE VENGEANCE OF MASKS originally ended.  (By the way, the original cover art is on the right.)

Of course, Childeric has to get her out, which means we get to figure out how Childeric got from the destruction of Contradance up to his present-day, rather embittered and distrustful self.  (Granted, Childeric is distrustful and embittered with good reason.)  Then, as the two spar, they learn more about Malvisage, while Cady admits that she’s the one who originally wrote about Childeric in the first place (meaning she feels responsible for how he’s turned out).  Despite this soul-shattering revelation and Childeric’s powerful rejection of it, Cady slowly starts to realize that Childeric is worth loving, even as she realizes he’s a deeply flawed, cynical, and often extremely frustrating man to be around due to his background.

But before the reader can get too comfortable, the plot shifts yet again as we meet Military Specialist Class Eight Hix of Central Control, a far-flung interstellar empire.  Hix is human, recognizes Cady as a citizen (albeit a backward and barbaric one) and Childeric as a Genji, or as a genetically-engineered construct who’s definitely not a citizen.  Genji aren’t even supposed to be able to reproduce, yet the Eidoloni certainly did, something that Hix can’t seem to grasp.

Hix, as a character, seems really odd at first; he’s definitely narrow-minded, does not believe in what he snidely calls “dimorphic cultures,” and thinks Cady’s growing attachment to Childeric is, at best, quaint (at worst, it’s probably akin to bestiality due to how Hix views the Genji).  Yet by including Hix, Ms. Edghill is able to fully explore prejudice in a way that neither preaches nor is obtrusive — and as such, Hix works as both a plot device and as a character.

The last hundred pages of the book deals with more adventures for Childeric, Cady, and Hix, as it turns out that Hix is right, as far as it goes: it seems that the Eidolon Empire was supposed to be a colony, but something went wrong.  This is what led to Malvisage, the Eidoloni becoming a race and an Empire, and even to Childeric’s final tragedy.

How does it all turn out?  Well, that’s for you to read, but I highly encourage you to do just that for more than one reason.  The sexual politics and questions of situational ethics alone would be worth it, but then there’s the growing romance between Cady and Childeric, and all of the interesting things that happen to them . . . really, THE VENGEANCE OF MASKS is one of the best-written and compulsively readable fantasy/science fiction novels of the past twenty-five years, and it deserves to be read as widely as possible. 

Yet for whatever reason, THE VENGEANCE OF MASKS has thus far had trouble finding its audience, something I find inexplicable.  Considering the story of Childeric alone, THE VENGEANCE OF MASKS is comparable to works by contemporary fantasists Jacqueline Carey, Catherynne M. Valente, Michaele Jordan, and Jane Lindskold due to similar dark fantasy elements.  (What Childeric does is often unpleasant; he’s redeemable precisely because he doesn’t want to do these things.)  THE VENGEANCE OF MASKS also pays homage to Michael Moorcock, André Norton, and of course to Robert E. Howard.  So if you like any of these writers — or better yet, like all of them — you really owe it to yourself to read this excellent novel.

Bottom line: THE VENGEANCE OF MASKS is a highly original novel from Rosemary Edghill, an author at the top of her craft.   It is compulsively readable, often surprising, quite different and extremely interesting.  It’s a novel you owe it to yourself to read, most especially if you love fantasy of any sort, much less 1960s-inspired sword and sorcery epics.  

And as THE VENGEANCE OF MASKS is now available as a trade paperback, what’s stopping you from ordering a copy right now?

Grade: A-plus.

— reviewed by Barb

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Interview — Rosemary Edghill

Before we get into the interview, here’s a quick introduction to Rosemary Edghill and her work.  She has written many books, including the acclaimed Hellflower trilogy of science fiction novels (as eluki bes shahar), the Bast series of present-day Wiccan detective novels, four fantasy novels (including the Twelve Treasures series), four Regency romances, a couple of X-men tie-ins, one time-travel romance, and now the dark SF/fantasy hybrid VENGEANCE OF MASKS (reviewed here).  She’s collaborated extensively with Mercedes Lackey, most recently with DEAD RECKONING (SBR review is here; the SBR review for books 1 and 2 of the Shadow Grail series is available here), and has also collaborated with science fiction and fantasy grandmasters André Norton (THE SHADOW OF ALBION and LEOPARD IN EXILE) and Marion Zimmer Bradley (WITCHLIGHT, GHOSTLIGHT, GRAVELIGHT and HEARTLIGHT).

Shiny Book Review:  Ms. Edghill, thank you for coming to Shiny Book Review for an interview.  We’re very glad you’ve stopped by.

Rosemary Edghill:  Thank you for inviting me!  I’ve just finished what Bloomsbury calls a “virtual book tour” for my latest, a Steampunk Western With Zombies called DEAD RECKONING, and while I’ve never actually been book toured, I have to say that the virtual tour is a lot of fun.  It’s great to meet readers from the comfort of my own keyboard . . . .

Shiny Book Review:  DEAD RECKONING was a lot of fun to read.  What prompted you and Mercedes Lackey to write a steampunk Western?

Rosemary Edghill:  When we made up our mind to do a Western (I’d already had the character of Jett Gallatin in mind for some time) it would clearly, given our track records, have to be a fantasy.  And we were both huge fans of the ORIGINAL Wild Wild West (just . . . don’t mention that horrible movie.  Please.), which was really the very first steampunk.  So since we both really love SF, going steampunk was really a way to incorporate SFnal elements into what most people would see as a straight-up historical fantasy.

Shiny Book Review:  Speaking of that, does that mean DEAD RECKONING happened in “our” United States of America?  Or is this an alternate history/fantasy?

Rosemary Edghill:  DEAD RECKONING is a “secret history” as opposed to an “alternate history” — ie, no matter what bizarre elements surface in the course of the books, they will always be taking place in our own recognizable past.

Shiny Book Review:  Which character in DEAD RECKONING did you enjoy writing the most, and why?  And which one (or ones) did you enjoy writing the least?

Rosemary Edghill:  I love all of them when I’m writing them (even Brother Raymond!) but the ones I really felt sorry for were the women of the commune, who were being terribly exploited.

Shiny Book Review:  The way religion was subverted by Brother Shepherd in DEAD RECKONING gives an excellent “period feel” to the novel.  What types of religious movements (or counter-movements) did you study/read about that gave you the idea for Brother Shepherd and his cult?

Rosemary Edghill:  The Western Expansion period was a time of enormous religious experimentation in the United States.  This actually began fifty years earlier, with the rise of the Mormon faith in the 1820s.  In the period directly following the end of the Civil War, thousands of “Christian Primitive” and millenialist cults sprang up, many taking advantage of the looser social rules and legal strictures of the Western territories.  These cult/communes really haven’t changed much since the Anabaptists kicked things off in the 1400s, and were still going strong in the California of the 1930s — Raymond Chandler uses them as backdrop for a couple of his Philip Marlowe novels.

Shiny Book Review:  You’ve collaborated often with Mercedes Lackey; what’s it like to write with her?

Rosemary Edghill: It’s a lot of fun!  You’re never alone with a co-author!

Shiny Book Review:  Tell me about VENGEANCE OF MASKS.  What prompted this specific, dark-tinged plotline?

Rosemary Edghill:  Never never never discover Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone novels in the same month you start reading Dorothy Dunnett’s “Crawford of Lymond” saga.  I think somewhere in the bottom of my mind was: we all know authors put their characters through hell.  But what if it were done not from love, but callously and inappropriately?  What recourse would a character have . . .

Shiny Book Review:  That’s one of the reasons VENGEANCE is such an interesting book.  But speaking of your hero, Childeric, what is it that torments him so?

Rosemary Edghill:  He destroyed his entire world by being manipulated by the Dead God Malvisage into freeing him.  That can leave a guy with a real complex.

Shiny Book Review:  What about your heroine, Arcadia?  What in her responds so strongly to Childeric?

Rosemary Edghill:  She wrote the books about him.  I wanted to put her in the context of the early Sixties Sword and Sorcery revival — the Conan books were being reprinted everywhere, and they had billions of imitators.  I used to own quite a number of those: Brak and Blade and oh, every possible one-syllable grunt you can imagine.  And there were a lot of what we would consider today fly by night publishing houses out there, to which you might sell a book if you needed a quick few hundred bucks, and then find you’d signed away all rights forever.

Shiny Book Review:  What made you come up with such a unique and interesting plot, as this reads half like a fantasy, and half like science fiction (a la Sheri S. Tepper)?

Rosemary Edghill:  As for the plot, it really isn’t unique.  It’s a variation on an old fannish trope: “fan finds themselves in sourcetext universe of their choice”.  I’ve seen it done for Star Wars, Star Trek, and Blake’s 7 — the only change I made was to have Cady create the sourcetext she fell into.  And I don’t think that idea is unique either.  But as I’ve always said: if you find an original idea anywhere in my work, I will eat it.  Good stories aren’t about showing us something we’ve never seen before.  Good stories are about showing us things we’ve seen all over the place in a way we’ve never quite seen them.

Shiny Book Review:  Cross-genre books seem to be one of your specialties, going back to the Twelve Treasures series — what is it about books like VENGEANCE OF MASKS or DEAD RECKONING that first makes you want to write them, then makes you perfect them to the point the reader has a hard time putting them down?

Rosemary Edghill:   ::laughs::  Well, I HOPE the reader has a hard time putting them down!  The answer to that is another one of those bizarrely-simple-only-not ones: write what you want to read.  A writer’s first audience is themself: you tell yourself the story.  As for *why* this is the kind of story that attracts me, I can’t really say.  Maybe I’m just always hoping for magic to show up in my world — the fantasy kind, with swords and unicorns and heroes.  Especially heroes.

Shiny Book Review:  Nothing wrong with that.  At any rate, I’d like to shift the focus now and ask some questions about your writing career.  For starters, when did you first realize that you enjoyed writing and that you weren’t about to give it up?

Rosemary Edghill:  I started writing back in the 1980s, and I sold my first two books (one SF, one Regency) very quickly, and both on multi-book contracts.  So I had commitments to write several books from the very beginning, and like a good do-bee, I kept right on typing.  Later, of course, things got hard, and the market changed, and a lot of other things happened.  But I pretty much committed as a writer long before I evaluated the question of whether or not I wanted a career as a writer.  Hey.  Sometimes that happens.

Shiny Book Review:  What drove you to write your first novel, TURKISH DELIGHT?

Rosemary Edghill:  When I wrote TURKISH DELIGHT, I’d read through all of Georgette Heyer and was totally in love with the whole “comedy of manners” idea, but the books I was seeing on the stands fell somewhat short of the standard set by the Divine Georgette.  So I wrote my own.

I would be happy to still be writing them, but the overall market collapsed, including the St. Martin’s Press program that had been doing them in hardcover.  My editor, Lincoln Child, had moved on (to his own career as a best-selling novelist, as a matter of fact), and it was pretty much a case of my corner of the market having dried up.  At the same time, I’d just finished the last of the SF trilogy I sold the same week that I sold the first of the Regencies, and while my editor (Sheila Gilbert of DAW Books) liked my writing style, science fiction wasn’t selling.  So I ended up over in Urban Fantasy, with the Twelve Treasures series.  While I was selling multi-genre-ally from the beginning, it has to be acknowledged that there’s a certain cachet to hardcover publication, and while my sales figures weren’t terribly impressive on any of my first six books, the critical reviews were, and that helped a lot.

Shiny Book Review:  You’ve worked with two acknowledged Grandmasters, Andre Norton and Marion Zimmer Bradley.  What was that like?  And what did you learn from them that you’ve taken into other writing projects (solo and/or collaborative)?

Rosemary Edghill:  What I learned from each of them was to find out where the story was and tell it.  Both of them were really straightforward as writers, and focused most of all on the story.  I loved working with each of them: the two experiences were very different (with Marion I got notes at the end of each draft, and I was working from a lot of material; with Andre it was weekly phone calls as we went over the project just about scene by scene), both in the nuts and bolts of the method, and just in how the whole project was influenced by their personalities.

Shiny Book Review:  Tell me about your Bast series.  What was it like to write that?

Rosemary Edghill:  One of the reasons I wrote it was that I’d just moved Upstate and was terribly homesick for New York, so writing a story set in Manhattan was a way of going back there.  For another, I just wasn’t seeing a lot of Wiccan character fiction that wasn’t outright fantasy (full of spells and fantasy creatures) or that concentrated on the Wicca part of stuff.  Also, as I think I mentioned once to somebody else, the first in the series SPEAK DAGGERS TO HER, was my attempt to come up with (at least in a fictional setting) the answer to a question I’d had for a long time.    Because, you see, a friend of mine knew someone very much like Miriam Seabrook, who died in the way the one in the story does.  Who she got mixed up with, and how she died, and why, are questions that remain unanswered in the real world.  But it is the province of fiction to make a completed story out of a handful of unfinished facts . . .

Shiny Book Review:  Tell me about WARSLAYER

Rosemary Edghill: The Warslayer is one of my favorite books to have written (it has much the same plot as VENGEANCE OF MASKS, actually, only from a slightly different angle) but my very favorite parts of it are the ones I didn’t write.  The Forward and the First Season Episode Guide to “The Incredibly True Adventures of Vixen the Slayer” were written by noted author, my former editor, and all around nice guy Greg Cox.  He’d done guides for Xena and Hercules, so it was really a no-brainer to come and ask him to play.

As for the book itself, one of my favorite stories is that of The Accidental Hero — the ordinary person who stands up at a moment of crisis and peril and just goes for it.  And while Glory McArdle — ex-Olympic athelete, current cable TV sensation — isn’t entirely ordinary, she’s far from being the character she plays.  So that was totally a romp for me.

My one regret is that the book didn’t generate a sequel, since I would really have liked to tell more stories set in Erchanen. There’s this Sister Bernadette cosplayer from our world, you see, and . . .

Shiny Book Review:  You’ve written in many genres in the past; which genre, overall, would you like to work more in down the road?

Rosemary Edghill:  My forlorn dream is to write more space opera, since I started there, and I really love it.  And maybe someday I can figure out a way to get back there.  I just finished a short story for a small press anthology called GALACTIC CREATURES, where I experimented with the idea of a hard-science space opera: using the space-opera tropes that could be mapped onto a science-based future that does not contain things like handwavy FTL and miraculous fake gravity.  It involved many long nights on Wikipedia, but it was a lot of fun.

Shiny Book Review:  It sounds like it.  I’ll have to remember to look that one up. 

Anyway, since you’ve written in a great many genres, you must have had to research all sorts of things.  Which genre is the most demanding to research?

Rosemary Edghill:  The most demanding genre to research is near-past historical, fifty to a hundred years before your now.  Farther back, the period has been studied and written about, and most of all, there’s nobody still alive from then.  If you make a mistake, so long as it is imbedded in a plausible matrix of period work, you’ll probably get away with it.  With the near-past stuff, somebody’s always going to call you on it.

That being said, my favorite book of all I’ve written is still HEARTLIGHT, when I had to do huge huge huge amounts of research about the 60s through the 80s.  I wrote it in the late 1990s, and I was still having to chase down and nail landmark 80s fashions, fads, and news stories from the point of view of an outsider.  I hadn’t been taking notes!

Shiny Book Review:  Since you’ve written some X-men tie-ins and are familiar with the superhero genre, what do you think it is about superheroes that’s brought them into the mainstream? 

Rosemary Edghill:  Oh, that one’s easy: Money.  ComicCon got “big” when television and movie publicity machines started using it as their main venue to premier and pump up genre releases and programming.  Hollywood has crazy amounts of money compared to every other entertainment field, and it’s really the eight thousand pound gorilla.  So once it had monetized ComicCon, everybody looked around and saw all those superheroes just standing around.  But getting them onto the screen in a way the audience could buy in was still a long way off.  It was a question of “selling the sizzle” carried to its ultimate expression.  And it wasn’t the subject matter.  The *idea* of the superhero has been with us since the dawn of tale-telling.  Achilles and Beowulf both fill the social niche of the superhero.  But once you start dealing with people who can fly, or burst into flames, if you want to *film* them, you need to wait for your SFX to catch up.  

The other thing the Hollywood Superhero Renaissance was waiting for was smart scripts, and those really couldn’t be written by superhero outsiders.  Unless you’ve bought into the whole superhero mythos at the visceral level, the barrier to entry (i.e., to writing a script that takes the tropes of the comic book superhero seriously) is just too high.  And passing that sort of barrier on to moviegoing audiences has never been what the movies are about: their gig is to make you an instant insider.  And for that, the movies had to be put out there by people who already were.  As Chris Sarandon’s character says  in the 1985 FRIGHT NIGHT: “You gotta believe.”

Shiny Book Review:  You’ve written short stories, novellas, novels, take your pick.  What is different about the process of writing from the shorter stories to the longer ones?  And which type of story (short story, novella, novel) do you enjoy writing the most?

Rosemary Edghill:  Novels, the longer the better.  I used to hate long form, now I’ve discovered I love the elbow room (had to cut my last manuscript down from 1600 pages to 600 for publication: ouch).  The difference between a short story and a novel is that the short story, classically, deals with the single defining incident in the protagonist’s life: boom, you’re in.  Boom, you’re out.  Story done!  The novel, on the other hand, wants to show us how they got there, and where they’re going next.  It’s more about the journey than about the goal.

Shiny Book Review:  If there was anything you could change about publishing, what would it be and why?

Rosemary Edghill:  The IRS’s “Thor Power Tools” decision, which required that inventory be taxed as income.  It destroyed the backlist and the midlist in Publishing, and crippled a lot of writers’ careers.  Things are changing with PoD becoming more sophisticated and flexible, but that drives its own rights-grab problems, as it means the publisher controls the copyright of the book essentially in perpetuity, since with PoD, the book never goes out of print.  There’s a lot of grabbyhands going on in Publishing right now — our editors may believe we’re artists, but nobody else does.  All the upper echelons see, most places, is interchangeable Book Food Product units.

If I could change one other thing, I would wave my hand and institute Point of Sale Inventory everywhere in Bookdom as of tomorrow.  It would take me much too long to even scratch the surface of orders, inventory control, and returns in the Publishing business, but the bottom line is: Publishing really isn’t sure about what sold, or where, or when.  And it only develops some faint idea about a year and a half later.  When Point of Sale Inventory Control was instituted for CDs, Country became an 800-pound-gorilla OVERNIGHT.  (Okay, the third thing I would do is get rid of Amazon.  Because it is the Wal-Mart of the Internet, and its insistence on deep discounts for books is killing Publishing.)

Shiny Book Review:  Shifting gears, what is your writing process like every day?

Rosemary Edghill:  It’s pretty simple: get up, go to the computer, sit down, type.  I start by re-reading the previous day’s pages, then I start the new day’s work.  I have a set word-count minimum that I have to meet each day [in my head] but sometimes I’ll do a time-thing too, and set my stint for X hours.

Shiny Book Review:  What advice would you like to give to new and/or aspiring writers?

Rosemary Edghill:  Be honest with yourself.  Do you want to write and tell stories?  There are a lot of venues to getting them out there without going the Big Six published route.  Do you want to be a published author and make money from your writing?  The advice here is “don’t quit your day job”, because 95% of all published and publishing writers don’t make a living from their writing.  What do you really want?

To hone your craft, write.  To hone the related skills that are just as important, finish what you write.  To develop discipline, write every day.  There really isn’t other advice.  All the rest is frosting.

Shiny Book Review:  One final question:  if you could be the Galactic Overlord for a day, what would you change about the world, and why?

Rosemary Edghill:  I don’t think I could change everything I wanted to change in just one day, and I would not want to make sweeping changes that controlled people’s thoughts, like “stop being stupid” or “be pro-equality and women’s and gay rights”.  For one thing, anybody who reads fairy tales knows that always boomerangs badly.  For another, it just seems to me it would be wrong to take away anyone’s freedom that way, even if they’re abusing it enormously.  So if I only have 24 hours, I think I would have Incredibly Advanced Aliens come to Earth and give us FTL travel.  I think the major psychological problem we’re facing today comes from the dual sense of not having an available frontier, and the knowledge (without the wisdom to deal with it) that our planetary resources are finite and dwindling.  Having a whole galaxy full of colonizable planets would change that.  For the better, I’d hope.

Shiny Book Review:  And that concludes today’s interview with author Rosemary Edghill.  Thank you very much again for coming to SBR.

Rosemary Edghill: Thank you for having me!  I love to hear from readers (no matter what they read, because I’m always on the lookout for a new favorite author!) and I can usually be found either at:  or  My home page has a lot of bibliography and links, and it’s at:  Feel free to come by and chat about my books and anybody else’s.  Really!

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Exciting News for SBR: Rosemary Edghill Consents to Interview

Shiny Book Review is proud to announce that author Rosemary Edghill has consented to do a wide-ranging interview, which will run next Thursday, June 28, 2012.  Edghill, co-author of DEAD RECKONING along with Mercedes Lackey (previously reviewed here at SBR) and author of VENGEANCE OF MASKS (soon to be reviewed), will discuss her career, including the highlights of working with science fiction and fantasy Grandmasters Marion Zimmer Bradley and André Norton and her long-standing collaboration with renowned fantasist Lackey.  She’ll also give some helpful tips for writers, discuss her writing process, and talk about what she finds to be the most distressing aspects of publishing.

So be sure to come back next Thursday, as Ms. Edghill has many interesting ideas to impart due to her lengthy and wide-ranging career.  (You’ll be glad you did.)

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“Dead Reckoning:” A Zombie Steampunk Western Thrill-ride

Dead ReckoningMercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill’s new cross-genre novel is DEAD RECKONING.  It’s a zombie steampunk Western set in 1867 that features a trio of intriguing characters, Jett Gallatin (a seventeen-year-old “male” gunslinger), Honoria Gibbons (called “Gibbons” — she’s an inventor, a genius, and is slightly older than Jett), and White Fox (male, about the same age as the other two, raised from birth with the Sac and Fox tribe but most likely 100% Anglo by blood; he’s a scout).  All three are intelligent and spirited misfits, which gives them a quick way to bond while keeping the plotline from getting complacent.

DEAD RECKONING opens with Jett stopping off at a saloon in what seems like the middle of nowhere (but is actually west Texas).  She’s looking for information about her brother, Phillip, who enlisted in the Confederate Army years ago and hasn’t been seen since.  But instead of finding anything out about her brother, she ends up running for her life after zombies — yes, zombies! — attack.

Jett’s a skeptic, so this attack deeply unsettles her worldview.  But more unsettling things are on the way once she meets up with Gibbons and Fox, as these two know from the start that Jett is female (a closely-guarded secret) due to Jett needing immediate medical attention.  More to the point, due to Gibbons’ skill as an inventor (she has a steam coach she calls an “Auto-Tachypode” that usually cruises at a steady 10 mph), Jett realizes she’s not the only non-traditional female out there.

Gibbons, being if anything even more skeptical than Jett, is leery of the zombie explanation, which is why all three youngsters end up going back to the little hole-in-the-wall town Jett started in to look for clues.  Once there, Gibbons attempts several experiments, which lead her to believe that Jett was, indeed, telling the truth.  (Which is lucky for us, or there’d be no story.)

Worse yet, Gibbons and the others quickly realize there’s a corrupt “Man of God” involved, a man known as “Brother Shepherd.”  Shepherd has a way to “bring the dead back to life,” but it’s not a resurrection — instead, he’s actually bringing these people back as undead zombies.  Due to this seemingly miraculous power, a cult of rather gullible people have formed around Shepherd (many of them women); the few men “in the know” are with Shepherd because Shepherd pays very, very well.  (Which admittedly isn’t hard to do if you’re able to loot towns with impunity due to a semi-controlled horde of zombies.)

When Jett is captured while attempting to gain information from the enemy, Gibbons and Fox quickly decide to rescue her.  But will the zombies manage to get to Jett first, especially as Shepherd does seem to have some sort of weird control over them?  And even if the zombies don’t get to Jett right off, will Gibbons figure out how to undo whatever it is Shepherd’s done, as that’s the only long-term way to save Jett or anyone else?

All of this action-adventure is stimulating, interesting, and very fun to read.  But perhaps the best reason to read DEAD RECKONING is how faithful Lackey and Edghill are to the Western milieu, yet how easily they manage to fit both steampunk and zombies into the story without missing a beat.

Bottom line?  DEAD RECKONING is an excellent stand-alone, action-adventure novel.  So if you like Westerns, zombies, steampunk, or better yet, all three, go grab a copy of DEAD RECKONING once it becomes available on June 5, 2012.  You’ll be glad you did.

Grade: A.

— reviewed by Barb

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SBR 2-for-1 Special: Lackey and Edghill’s “Shadow Grail” Series off to a Rousing Start

Tonight’s reviews are for the first two books in Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill’s new “Shadow Grail” series, those being Legacies and Conspiracies.  These are urban fantasies and feature as their main character Spirit White, an ordinary teen from Indiana. 

Legacies coverLegacies starts off with a terrible accident, as Spirit’s whole family has been killed in a car accident.  That same accident landed Spirit in the hospital; she endures extensive rehabilitation in order to be able to walk around.  When she starts feeling a little better, at least physically, she finds that her parents had apparently left a will saying that Spirit should be sent to Oakhurst Academy in the event of their deaths — and as she’s never heard of Oakhurst Academy before, she doesn’t really like this.  Spirit’s parents weren’t wealthy, and she wonders, once she sees the lavish school (which is in the middle of Montana, far from the maddening crowd), how she ended up there of all places.   It turns out that Spirit is a Legacy — that Spirit’s parents had attended Oakhurst themselves, and never discussed it with her — and apparently there are many other Legacies out there in similar situations to Spirit’s own.

Despite these other folks in similar situations, Spirit immediately starts to flounder because Oakhurst isn’t just a preparatory school with an outstanding record; oh, no.  It’s a magical school, and everyone who attends must have magic — so even though Spirit hasn’t any more magic than a flea as far as she knows, she’s quickly ensconced in the school.  And she becomes friends with four others, all of whom have evinced magical talents Spirit herself doesn’t have: Muirin Shae (a chocoholic and caffeine addict; she’s wealthy and her stepmother doesn’t like her), Adelaide (“Addie”) Lake (a sweet girl who rarely raises her voice), Lachlann (“Loch”) Spears (he’s wealthy, he’s gay, and he quickly becomes Spirit’s BFF), and Burke Hallows (a jock, and Spirit’s eventual love interest).  These disparate teens all know that something about Oakhurst Academy has set them off, and they aren’t buying what the director of the Academy, Doctor Ambrosius, is selling, which is the main reason they take to Spirit right away.

But of course there are other reasons, the primary one being that Spirit is grieving.  She misses her parents.  She misses her sister.  She’s been thrown into demanding educational coursework, and even though Spirit herself doesn’t have a clue what her magical talent is (if she even has one), she knows magic is real by the talents her friends have — and accepts it rather placidly at first, as Spirit obviously has only so much energy and she’s using it all just to live.

But then, terrible things start happening; some students go missing.  And in doing some research, Spirit and her friends find out this has been going on for many years — the Wild Hunt seems to be involved (this, by the way, is the only “typical” arcane referent here, and the only sidewise reference to the Court of King Arthur), and yet the teachers aren’t doing anything about it.

So Spirit and her friends decide to mix in . . . while I’ll stop my review for Legacies right there, know that the action-adventure was crisp and believable, and the “teen speak” makes sense.  All the conventional trappings are there: this is present-day, so we have IPods, computers, instant messaging (IMs), e-books, you name it.  And we have a believable, workable system of magic, plus some authority figures that don’t ring true and some real bad juju going on.

In other words, as book one was a success, next is book two, CONSPIRACIES.conspiracies cover  Here, Spirit White and her friends continue to fight against the Wild Hunt as more kids — and even some teachers — have been taken.  No one is helping Spirit and her friends out openly, though there may be a teacher or two who is willing to help covertly as Spirit gets help from an unlikely and unusual source, one that is not named.  And now, Doctor Ambrosius has asked the alumni to come back to Oakhurst Academy in order to help the students “fight the evil,” yet these alumni don’t necessarily seem all that much on the side of the “good and the right,” either . . . so what’s to do?

Once again, Spirit and her friends are able to keep themselves alive, and they learn a few more things.  It turns out that at least some of them are Knights of the Grail — that is, they’ve been reincarnated, even though neither Spirit nor any of her friends know which person they might’ve been in the past.  And there also are Shadow Knights out there — those who originally backed Mordred (Arthur’s son) against him — and this conflict has escalated because of a number of factors (all of which I’d have to blow the plot out of the water to explain, so apologies for stopping with that).

Here’s what’s going on with Spirit’s friends:

Muirin is courted by one of the alumni assiduously, to the point that it sets Spirit’s “antennae” off because Muirin is only sixteen, at most, and this guy courting Muirin has to be at least twenty-one.  Spirit and Muirin become closer due to this and Muirin starts teaching Spirit about fashion (one of Muirin’s passions).

Loch is nearly outed by one of the alumni, which really worries Spirit as she’s not sure what to do about this.  (Loch doesn’t seem overly concerned, except they are in Montana and Montana isn’t exactly known to be gay-friendly.)  Loch had already determined that most of the alumni called in by Doctor Ambrosius were up to no good; that someone would be willing to “out” him for no reason just confirms his belief that these alumni must be fought.

Burke and Spirit become much closer, and their romantic relationship starts to deepen; unfortunately, his foster family (with whom he was very close) has been killed and he’s very upset.  (This might be one reason he takes to Spirit, though, even though it’s more subtextual than out in the open.  Spirit lost her whole family; Burke’s family was already dead, but he had a vibrant foster family he loved very much.  Then they, too, were killed, reasons unknown, but signs definitely point to one of the returning alums.)

Addie realizes she has a Destiny — soon after, the other three of Spirit’s friends also realize this (though Spirit, herself, doesn’t seem to have one) — and that means either something very good is in her future, or very bad.  In either sense, though, Addie won’t be able to avoid it, as a Destiny is something that absolutely must come to be even if you’re not exactly sure what it is.  (This seems akin to clairvoyance without actually needing a clairvoyant around to muddy up the works.)  Addie helps hold the disparate group together, as she definitely seems the most maternal; she’s gifted at organization, planning, and compassion.

So that’s where the Shadow Grail series stands thus far; we have five people who know they must fight against magical evil.  They know reincarnation has something to do with it.  They know that the Morte d’Arthur has more than a little to do with it, no matter how odd it seems.  And yet, they’re teens, with typical teen problems and angst, with the additive problems of these chaotic alumni and the fact that two of the five are seriously grieving at the moment.

I definitely recommend this series; it is a must-buy, mostly because it gets the issues right that teens have to deal with, and partly because it gets the grief issues absolutely right.  I’m looking forward to reading books three and four, and will be very interested to find out what Spirit’s magical talent is (as it’s still not been revealed), whether she and Burke will stay together, whether Loch will be “outed,” and whether the alumni truly are as evil as they seem.


B-plus, Legacies, only because of a slow start.  (I honestly don’t know of a better way to get all the information in there than what Lackey and Edghill did, mind you; they didn’t “info-dump,” for which I thank them.)  Nice action, intrigue, and hints of menace, along with getting the major “teen stuff” right.

A, Conspiracies.  Great action is shown here, and many more hints of menace, with the ante being upped by the additional attacks on teachers at Oakhurst.  When the alumni show up to “save the day,” but don’t end up saving much of anything, the plot deepens . . . excellent all the way ’round.  (Hurry up and write the sequels, please!)

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