historical fantasy


My next Robin Hood story is on Amazon!

When I started writing this story, I though that it would be a story for the Derelict themed anthology for Zombies Need Brains. But it wasn’t. Then I thought it would be a ghost story. Instead it became Robin Hood and the Fairy Knight.

I’ve been wanting to write a story from Marian’s point-of-view for a while now. When I was in the middle of the third chapter I realized that this was that story. So, I wrote the rest of it and wrote a new beginning from Marian’s POV. I hope you enjoy it!

Marian and her husband Robin Hood are trying to save a young girl from a horrible marriage. But a mysterious man kidnaps her righ in front of their eyes. Can Marian and Robin rescue her before she’s lost forever?

Fairies in Sherwood follows the adventures of Robin Hood, his wife Marian, his best friend Little John, Will Scarlet, and the other Merry Men. The series has also fairies who can be wicked or merely mischevious. But when mortals meet fairies, often the mortals lose.

Robin Hood and the Fairy Knight is a fun, lighthearted historical fantasy adventure novella. It has about 12,500 words.

My next Robin Hood story is on Amazon!

xmas

Happy Christmas Robin Hood is a Christmas short story.

I lots of fun writing it because I used one my favorite tropes: enemies forced to work together, for a while at least.

The ruthless Sheriff of Nottingham has cancelled the Christmas feast for the poor. But Robin Hood has barely time to wonder what’s going on, when he’s knocked unconscious. He wakes up in a cart, tied up. Next to him is the Sheriff, also a prisoner. Can they overcome their loathing for each other long enough to escape?

“Happy Christmas Robin Hood” is a fun historical fantasy short story

A short story set in the world of Robin of Sherwood TV-show!

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Publication year: 2019
Format: Audio
Running time: 49 minutes
Narrators: Barnaby Eaton-Jones, Andy Secombe, Michael Praed, and Nickolas Grace

I recently realized that a company called Spiteful Puppet has done several short Robin of Sherwood books! Three of them are available on Audible and I snatched up the one which has both Michael Praed and Nickolas Grace (Robin and the Sheriff!) among the readers.

It’s very short, so it’s not very complicated. The sheriff and a couple of his knights have accidentally met Robin at edge of the forest and are chasing him. They come across an abandoned church. Robin is wounded and falls through ice to the icy river.

He wakes up inside the church with a priest who seems more than a little odd. The priest rants that Robin is tainted by violence but offers him sanctuary at the church. But the sanctuary extends to everyone.

This was great, short adventure very much in the spirit of the show. I don’t know what people who haven’t seen the show would think, but as an old fan I was very pleased. It was great to hear the familiar voices and the audiobook even has the main theme!

The only thing I could complain about is that it’s too short, and I would have loved for the Sheriff and Robin confrontation to be longer. But otherwise, it’s very entertaining.

The first book in the Cleopatra’s Daughter historical fantasy series. It can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2011
Format: ebook
Page count: 351 at GoodReads
Publisher: Berkeley Books

This story follows the early years of Cleopatra Selene in Roman captivity. She’s the daughter of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt. It’s written from Selene’s first-person POV.

The story starts just before Cleopatra’s death. Selene, her twin brother Alexander Helios, and their younger brother Ptolemy Philadelphos are coming to see their mother. The twins are ten and Philadelphos is eight years old. Selene is carrying a woven basket and she can feel something moving inside. They meet their mother who is preparing to die. She gives them last advice and also gives them each a memento and a power. Then she sends them back to the palace and reaches for the viper.

When the Romans invade Alexandria, Queen Cleopatra is dead. The three children are confined to the palace. Eventually, they’re brought to Rome for Emperor Octavian’s triumph. They’re paraded in chains in front of the city populace which is a terrifying and humiliating. Selene must beg for their lives which her proud twin refuses to do so. The Emperor gives them to his sister to raise.

His sister Octavia is Mark Antony’s former wife. Her household has Anthony’s other children so Selene meets for the first time her half-siblings. They’re resent her and her brothers.

Selene and her brothers are raised in the strict Roman way and they can’t worship their goddess, Isis. Perhaps even worse, they’re pawns in the Emperor’s political games. Selene must grow up quickly and learn to play politics herself, to survive.

This is a coming-of-age story but quite a unique one. The Romans try to raise Selene and her brothers as Romans because they view Egyptian ways as decadent and immoral. Octavian is especially scornful of women and lectures that women must be modest and work hard. He hates Selene’s mother. He also hates Isis’ worshipers and to them Selene and Helios are prophesied saviors.

I was fascinated by this portrayal of Isis worship. Her worshipers have a personal connection to her, which is very unusual for the time. Her worshipers also come form all walks of life, from slaves to high-born. Roman didn’t approve of this kind of religion and oppressed the worshipers. Isis worship was portrayed as a clear forerunner to Christianity.

Since the book is from Selene’s POV, the Romans and the Roman culture is seen as evil. Octavian is a moody, sickly, power hungry manipulator and his wife Livia is very strict and cold and indulges her husband’s every whim. Octavia is also very strict but does have a soften side which isn’t seen often. Cleopatra’s and Antony’s faults and not really mentioned.

Selene was raised as a Princess; she knows many languages and can dance and play kithara. The Romans view dancing as sinful and they put the children to work doing chores. During the book, Selene also wrestles with her faith: how can Isis be real and allow her parents to die and Egypt to suffer? She also wrestles with how she feels about her mother.

The book has several magical elements, most of them focusing on Selene and Isis. A couple of times hieroglyphics suddenly appear on her arms, carved in her own flesh, her blood dripping from the wounds. There’s also some prophesies and one character can see different Rivers in Time.

I enjoyed this book but more for the glimpse of Ancient Rome and the culture clash than the characters.

A SF and F short story collection with the theme of food and eating.

Publication year: 2020
Format: ebook
Page count on GoodReads: 226
Publisher: Zombies Need Brains

The collection has a surprising number of humorous and downright whimsical stories which was great. But it does have more serious stories, too, and one is borderline horror. Some mix fantasy and science fiction. All stories have food in them and some of them focus on a particular dish.

“Blue” by Paige L. Christie: Blue Eat is a diner but not just any diner. The people there want to help everyone who comes in. A man whose past weights very heavy on his conscious can’t tell his story and May must work very hard to get it out of him.

“My Brother’s Leaves” by Diana A. Hart: Mei’s brother has spent so much money on wine and women that he’s in a terrible debt. When he dies, he leaves Mei is a very difficult position. Mei has no choice but to go through her brother’s memories in the hopes of glimpsing something that will help her. But it’s very dangerous to consume too much of the tea that shows her his memories.

“Snow and Apples” by A.L. Tompkins: Ivan’s beloved Marushka has died and the only thing he can do for her is to fetch some ghost apples. But they’re well guarded. Fortunately, Ivan has friends who might be able to help him.

“Sense and Sensitivity” by Esther Friesner: This is a slapstick comedy in written form. Midge is an agent of Department of Extraterrestrial Respect and Protocol which was formed shortly after the Malkyoh came to Earth. The aliens are ravenous gluttons who demand constant feasts but unfortunately they’re also allergic to various Earth foods. Midge is trying to both protect humans and be properly subservient to the aliens.

“The Silence that Consumes Us” by Derrick Boden: A military pilot crashes her space fighter with one of her enemies’ fighters. They end up on a moon which has barely breathable air. But no food.

“The All Go Hungry Hash House” by Andy Duncan: Three musicians go to a famous Hash House… and things go downhill from there. Another comedy story.

“Pickled Roots and Peeled Shoots and a Bowl of Farflower Tea” by Chaz Brenchley: A woman has founded a monastery in a remote location. A group of soldiers comes to the monastery with a mission their leader is determined to see through, no matter what.

“Course of Blood” by Howard Andrew Jones: This fantasy story begins with a feast. Three soldiers are looking for an enemy general, Hanuvar, who is apparently hiding in the town. Hanuvar has such a fearsome reputation that the soldiers say that they’re looking for someone who claims to be the general.

“A Real Llwelyn Scone” by Mike Jack Stoumbos: The small village of Llwelyn is famous for its scones and a couple of heroes a generation ago. Then a new lord comes to the village and demands to sample the famous scones. The trouble is that they require dragon’s tears to make and nobody in the town now is a hero. So they draw lots to see who will face the dragon.

“Tender” by R.S. Belcher: Monster living among modern humanity need to eat, too. They can order their very specific meals through an app called Tender. The main character is the man who delivers the orders.

“That Final Touch of Salt” by Mia Moss: The narrator is the spirit of a child. A witch, Mirror, cursed the spirit and trapped her to a phial and now forces her to work for Mirror and her family. The poor little spirit tries to escape but in vain.

“Alien Capers” by Gini Koch: This story is set in Koch’s humorous SF world. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really introduce the characters. The main character is a journalist and for a short time he acts as a bodyguard to a 19-year old prince. They are on a planet where all the aliens look like apes but are intelligent. The narrator and the prince are caught holding the crown jewels of a lot of worlds. It all starts in a banquet.

“Magick on the Half Shell” by D.B. Jackson: A fantasy history story set in Boston in 1761. Ethan Kaille is a thieftaker. He can use magic so he often catches thieves who use magic themselves. Sephira Pryce is one of the leaders of Boston’s underworld and a very dangerous women. When she has an offer for Ethan, he’s suspicious.

“Apocalypse Chow” by Jason Palmatier: The apocalypse happened and most humans are dead. But two people are still left and they hate each other’s guts. For now, they must stick together for shelter and food.

“Six Sandwiches to Place Inside a Pentagram to Summon Me to Your Presence” by Gabriela Santiago: This story is six letterd from Elle to her younger brother Kam. They instruct him on how to make various sandwiches and also reminisce on the past, her own and their shared past.

This was a fun collection which several funny stories mixed with more serious ones.

A stand-alone historical fantasy book set in 12th century Egypt.

Publication year: 1989
Format: print
Page count: 260
Publisher: Bantam

This is a book for horse lovers. It’s a fairy tale expanded to a fantasy.

Hasan is the pampered only son of a rich emir and a thoroughly self-centered, gambling, drunken womanizer. He also lives in Egypt in a time when all decent women live in harems. When he finally gambles away his father’s prized mares, his father has had enough and just tells Hasan that he’s going to be sent for a Beduin who will make a man out of Hasan. Hasan escapes. But instead of doing anything useful, he spends the night drinking, womanizing, and spending the last of his money. After he’s robbed and beaten, he staggers to the house of an old man who nurses him back to health. Recovering, Hasan meets the beautiful young woman who has been nursing him and rapes her. She’s the old man’s daughter. The old man turns out to be a magus and he transforms Hasan to a horse, a red stallion. The magus tells Hasan that he will be a slave to a woman and will die in the horse form.

Soon, a girl does buy Hasan the stallion. She’s Zamaniyah who is around 14 but already has a great eye for horses. She’s also the only daughter of Hasan’s father’s mortal enemy. She names Hasan Khamsin and starts to train him together with her father’s horsemaster, a Greek slave.

The POV characters are Hasan/Khamsin, Zamaniyah, and her eunuch slave Jaffar. Because all of Zamaniyah’s brothers have been slain (by Hasan’s father), her father had decided to raise her has a boy and his heir. She’s forbidden to enter harem, where all of her father’s women, including concubines, live and she’s forbidden to wear women’s clothing or makeup or anything that rich women of that time had. Instead, she’s taught to ride, fight, hunt, and care for horses.

The first half of the book is mostly about Zamaniyah training the horse Khamsin. The second half is set during the sultan Salah ad-Din Yusuf’s war campaign and is quite different from the first.

Zamaniyah is a great character. She always obeys her father, even though sometimes she wishes that she could be an ordinary girl. But on the other hand, she enjoys horse and knows that this is the only way she can train and ride them. But when she’s angry, she forgets to be obedient and quiet, so that nobody will notice how strange she is. She takes a liking to Khamsin and uses a gentle “Greek” way to train him as a warhorse. The women scorn her and the men can’t be friends with her, so her only friend is Jaffar, her eunuch slave who is devoted to her. She also befriends one of her father’s concubines who is a captured Frankish woman.

Tarr doesn’t shy away from showing us the Islamic world at the time, which includes (rich) women shut away to harems, slavery, eunuchs, and that woman are chattel to men. Most men don’t accept Zamaniyah but they must respect that it was her father’s choice to raise her as a boy. Also, the book dealt with surprising amount of rape, although not in any titillating way. So, despite Zamaniyah’s age, this is definitely not YA.

I thoroughly enjoyed Zamaniyah and Khamsin was mostly entertaining, too. I mostly enjoyed this story and except for the fantasy bits, I think it’s fairly accurate description of the times.

A stand-alone book about vampire Rick in the Kitty Norville books.

Publication year: 2020, comes out March 13th
Format: eARC
Page count at GoodReads: 192
Publisher: Tachyon Publishing

This short book reveals the backstory of Rick or Ricardo de Avila. I’ve only read the first three books in the series, so I haven’t encountered him before. Still, the book works.

Ricardo is over 500 years old but he’s always wanted to be on his own so he doesn’t know much about vampires and especially about vampire politics. In fact, he lived over a hundred years before he even heard the word “vampire.” He thought he was a soulless demon which was a huge blow to him because he’s a Catholic.

Three short stories are incorporated into the book: “Conquistador de la Noche”, “El Hidalgo de la Noche”, and “Dead Men in Central City”. In the framing story, Rick arrives to the Vatican to meet the Abbot of the Order of Saint Lazarus of the Shadows. Rick is very curious to find out more about these supposed vampire monks but the Abbot insists on hearing Rick’s story instead of telling about the order’s history.

Rick is the son of a lesser Spanish nobleman and he came to New Spain with Coronado. In the ten years he spent following his commander, his dreams of gold and glory died. When a friend he hasn’t seen in years betrays him, he loses his life but becomes a vampire. He’s still fiercely independent and when his new “Master” tries to control Rick, Rick refuses.

Rick lives on his farm for a couple of generations but when more vampires arrive from Spain, they’re very interested in him. He still isn’t interested in serving anyone else. He must defend his life, and friends, from the newcomers.

In 1868, Rick arrives just before dawn to Central City after his horse has broken her leg. With his supernatural powers, he manages to secure a safe place to sleep the day, but attracts the attention of Doc Holliday. Rick stays in the saloon as a bouncer for a week and talks with the Doc. Then an eager young gunfighter challenges the Doc.

“El Conquistador del Tiempe” is original to this book and in it Rick tells what happened 1848 in Santa Fe. He was there with a dying friend when he was warned that someone terrible is coming.

These short stories, without an overarching plot, really feel like moments in Rick’s life. Even though he’s a vampire, he respects life and doesn’t want to kill anyone. But when required, he defends himself and his friends. He’s very different from other famous vampires, because he has compassion for the people around him and wants to have friends, rather than servants.

This was a very good introduction to the character and I loved all the historical refrences. My only complaint is that there’s still quite a large gab between 1868 and modern days. Perhaps more stories? I’m sure Kitty fans will also like this book a lot.

The first book in the Daevabad fantasy trilogy inspired by Middle-Eastern folklore.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 19 hours 36 minute
Narrator: Soneela Nankani

Nahri is a young street hustler. She poses as a soothsayer and a healer who can summon and banish spirits. But it’s all just for show; she doesn’t believe it. She lives in 18th century Cairo which has been invaded by the Franks who fight Turks over the ownership of Egypt whose people they despise. She’s an orphan; her parents died when she was young, leaving nothing. She speaks many languages and dreams of being a real doctor.

But when she performs a mock-summoning, something very strange happens: she summons a real daeva, a powerful spirit. That act also brings strange and strong enemies who can even summon the dead. Nahri is forced to trust Dara, the daeva, who is furious at her and put her down all the time. But Dara also says that he knows what Nahri is, so she’s intrigued almost despite herself. However, Dara says that the only place were Nahri can be safe is Daevabad, the city of the daeva. Despite her protests, he essentially kidnaps her, and takes her to a wild flying carpet ride.

The other POV character is Prince Alizayd, or Ali. He’s the younger son of Daevabad’s king. He’s also a djinn, a magical being, like all his family and most of the people who live in the city and country. He’s lived and grown up in the military and so has lived quite a sheltered life. He’s aware, of course, of the injustices in the city and has tried to help in his own way. The shafits are people who are half-human and the djinn oppress them mercilessly: they can’t leave but they also can’t work. Ali is trying to help them but because of his family, he must conceal himself. But then things go terribly wrong and in the end, Ali is summoned to live in the palace.

This is a very ambitious work with very complex world-building. The history of this world is woven with history, especially Islamic history. The djinns are divided into lots of fractions and races, which complicated the reading. Apparently, the print book has a glossary but they audio doesn’t. The writer also uses occasional Arabic words for clothing. This isn’t a book you can just breeze through. However, this also means that much of the book is spent exploring these cultures and tensions.

Ali and Nahri are very distinct from each other; one might call them even opposites at the start. Ali is a very religious young man and a dutiful son to the king. He’s lived almost monastic life and scorns the pleasures his station would give him. Nahri has lived on the street almost all her life. She hasn’t had anything that Ali takes for granted. Yet, they’re both bright, curious people. They’re also loyal and want good for other people. Nahri is a very pragmatic person while Ali is an idealist.

Dara is a very interesting character. He’s very old and has spent centuries as a slave, so his outlook is quite different from the others.

For the most part, I enjoyed the book and the complexities of the djinns. However, I didn’t care for the start of a romance because I didn’t see at all (except that as a case of Stockholm syndrome). For me, there was also the disconnect between Islamic religion being younger than some of the characters who are supposedly following it. The stories about Djinn are also older than that religion. Devas are divine, other-worldly beings from Hinduism and Buddhism.

The ending leaves everything wide open. I already have the second book.

The first short story in the historical (fantasy) Avon Calling serial.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Publisher: SpearPoint Press
Page count: 33 (at Amazon)

Avon Calling serial is set in the 1940s New York. At a first glance, Betty Jones has everything a middle-class woman could want: she’s a stay-at-home mom for two kids and has an adoring husband. Sometimes she sells Avon’s cosmetics products. Yet, she has a side that her family doesn’t know about. Betty can hear other people’s thoughts and has formidable combat skills. She also has a troubled past and has changed her name.

This was a great starting story: it introduced Betty and her world and yet left a lot of questions unanswered. We find out that Betty’s mother also had the same ability and that she was cruelly used.

In this story, Betty goes to sell the cosmetics to a woman she knows but finds another woman, who has been battered by her boyfriend. Betty smiles and pretends not to notice, but when the evening comes, she pays a visit to the boyfriend and his small band of drug dealers.

I found the combination of cosmetics and Betty’s secrets surprising but also appropriate. Cosmetics can be used as a mask, to change a woman to appear more appealing to men and also to other women. It can be an armor, to shield a woman from the outside world or a way to fit in. Seeling cosmetics is also a great way for her to meet women who need help. Betty definitely has two sides and she works hard to fit in as mom and wife while going out at night to kick the backsides of cruel men.

Season 1 collection has ten episodes.

A mystery book which has two intertwined timelines. One starts at 1972 and the other 1790.

Translator: Seppo Loponen
Publication year: 1988
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2010
Format: print
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Bazar
Page count: 667

This book has multiple POV characters and two distinct timelines. While it’s advertised as a thriller, I think it’s too slow to really call it that. The two timelines especially slow it down.

It has one first person POV who is Catherine Velis, a young computer expert who is working for a very influential company. But when she’s ordered to do something against her ethics and she refuses, she’s put into the company’s shit list. She isn’t fired but instead is sent to Alger which isn’t a welcoming place to a working woman in 1970s. But she has no choice. The book starts in the New Year and her friends want her to hear a prophecy from an old seeress. But the prophecy turns out to be strange and disturbing, a warning of danger. Some months later, Cat is getting ready to move to Alger for a year, but first she goes to a chess game between international masters. Strange things start to happen.

In 1790, two girls are novices in a nunnery where they’ve lived almost their whole lives. Valentine is an impulsive, passionate girl who finds it hard to stay in the confined life. Her cousin Mireille is a more calm and thoughtful girl. But the French revolution is sweeping across the country, even to the remote nunnery of Mountglane and the abbess is sending her nuns away before the state can confiscate the nunnery’s possessions. The nunnery holds a great secret: for hundreds of years the abbesses’ have guarded the pieces and board of a magical chess game. Now, the abbess knows that her enemies want the pieces and the only way to safeguard them is to give some of the nuns a piece and send them away.

The abbess chooses Valentine and Mireille as lynchpins who can help the others when needed. So, the cousins are sent to Paris for a distant relative Jacques-Louis David, a famous painter. The girls are introduced to various people and the Parisian lifestyle. However, they don’t know whom they should trust. The abbess herself goes to Russia, to see her childhood friend who is now known as Catharine the Great.

The book has a lot of parallel storylines and in the historical section we’re introduced to a lot of famous people from the times of the French revolution. I liked that most of all.

Cat is a confident woman and it takes quite a while for her to even start believing in the magical chess board and its powers. The person who tags along to her journey is a rich chess master who is eager to solve the puzzles. She also has a small dog whom Cat doesn’t like. Both Cat and her friend are quite impulsive and do a couple of things which could have easily killed them. Mireille is a more thoughtful character but she, too, must make quick decisions because of events. She and Valentine are caught up in people and events in the French revolution and its aftermath.

Unfortunately, I felt that the book was too long. While the historical sections were actually more interesting to me than the present-day parts, I’m not sure if they really added much to the book. The story has some puzzles but not many.

Perhaps I had too high expectations. A blogger said that it was “the book DaVinci Code wants to be”. Yet, the only similarity is that there’s a historical mystery at the root of both books. It did have elements I quite enjoyed, like the evolving relationship between Cat and her friend, and pretty much all of the historical stuff.

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