Thursday, July 19, 2018

Blogger Review: Balefire by Jordan L Hawk

Whyborne’s Endicott relatives have returned to collect on the promise he made to help them take back their ancestral manor from an evil cult. In exchange, they’ll give him the key to deciphering the Wisborg Codex, which Whyborne needs to learn how to stop the masters.

To that end, Whyborne, his husband Griffin, and their friends Iskander and Christine travel to a small island off the coast of Cornwall. But when they arrive at Balefire Manor, Whyborne must not only face the evil within the ancient mansion, but the painful truth about his own destiny.

It's time for Whyborne to make good on his promise to help his Endicott relatives recover the family manor and once that is done he will recieve the key that will help him decipher the Wisborg Codex so he can defeat the masters.  With Griffin, Iskander and Christine at his side, Whyborne makes the trip but what he learns on this mission may not be what he expected.  No one knows what the future holds but destiny on the other hand may already be written but will it bring happiness or heartache?

I really don't know what I can say about Balefire that I haven't already said in reviews for the other entries in the Whyborne & Griffin series, but I'll try.  I really love how both boys have grown throughout their journey.  Whyborne has become more confident without losing his quietness, I hate to use the word "innocence" because he has seen so much evil but he still retains that part of him that borders on naivete.  As for Griffin, well he has always been the more outspoken of the two but he has become more accepting of Whyborne's powers and embraced his own gift.

As for Christine and Kander, well they just keep on trucking with their friendship to the boys, love for each other, determination to help good prevail over evil, and all the while doing it with wit and wisdom.  I can't imagine anyone not loving Christine's pluckiness but one scene that really stood out for me was even in the face of possible death she was livid over Whyborne's reckless destruction of an archeological find.  I don't think her outrage even lasted a full page but it stood out and was a perfect example of what makes Christine tick and why she has become a fan favorite.  She may be a secondary character with sidekick aspects but there is nothing secondary or sidekicky about her.

Heliabel is along for the journey as the ketoi "ambassador" which I thought was a delightful touch.  She's been around the whole series but I don't think we've ever seen this much of her in one entry.  Watching her step into a motherly role to everyone was lovely, especially Christine.  Now, their talks may not be something we seen on page all the time but you just know they were emotional, straight to the point, and exactly what they both needed.  I'll admit I missed Persephone and Miss Parkhurst but it was only right that they stayed in Widdershins to "hold the fort" as it were.

Balefire is a brilliant entry in Whyborne & Griffin series and the idea that there will be only one more breaks my heart but I know that Jordan L Hawk will bring it to a conclusion we'll never forget.  So if you haven't started Whyborne & Griffin's journey than there's no better time to start and if you are a W&G follower than you certainly don't want to miss this one.


Chapter 1
There were monsters in the woods.

I stood in the heart of the Draakenwood, before the twisted tree, in what had once been the seat of Theron Blackbyrne’s power. The place where Nyarlathotep, the Man in the Woods, had taught magic to generations of ambitious sorcerers in exchange for absolute loyalty.

The Draakenwood belonged to him no more. Widdershins had taken it, and the monsters now floating through the boughs and burrowing beneath the soil answered to no creature of the Outside.

The umbrae had placed the entrance to their burrow in the collapsed basement that once underlay Blackbyrne’s manor. Newly churned soil, heaps of stones, and other detritus showed evidence of their digging. The murmur of their conversation thrummed in my skull, like voices halfheard from another room. A worker slithered past, and I stretched out a hand to touch its gelid form.

“How are you settling in?” I asked.

If anyone had told me even as recently as two years ago, that I would stand unafraid among the creatures that haunted my worst nightmares, I would have called them mad. If they’d told me I would willingly invite the umbrae into the forest immediately outside of a populous town, my reaction would have been one of unmitigated horror.

Now, the Queen of Shadows regarded me through a single burning eye with a tripartite pupil.

She coiled in the main entrance of the new nest, her segmented body just small enough to fit inside a freight car. Someday she would be as vast as her mother in Alaska, as long as the train that had brought her here.

Her voice replied in my mind. “This is a good place, Brother. We burrow into the tunnels already here, expand them. Some are blocked; we will excavate them and learn where they might lead. The first gardens are already planted. The first nursery will be ready soon.”

“That’s good,” I said. “I’m glad to hear it.”

“Your brother-by-blood did not come with you today?”

“No.” Jack had accompanied the new queen, her attendant soldiers, and her workers on the long trip from the Alaskan wilderness. The bribes to get the cargo crates they hid in from Hoarfrost to a Whyborne Railroad train in San Francisco had been enormous, but Niles bankrolled the project and put Jack in his pay during the transfer. “Jack is working with me now. I’ve hired him on to assist with my detective agency.”

Money and detectives meant nothing to the umbrae. But they understood family very well indeed, so I let her feel my joy at seeing Jack again, along with my hopes for working with him in the future.

Pressure spiked in my head, and the taste of blood began to seep into my mouth. Human minds weren’t meant to communicate with the umbrae. “He will remain here with us,” she said. “This is good.”

“Widdershins knows its own,” I said ruefully. “And the Draakenwood belongs to Widdershins now. Somehow.” I wasn’t entirely clear on what the maelstrom had done to expand its influence after defeating Stanford and breaking the hold of the Man in the Woods.

A worker—perhaps the one I’d touched before—ventured toward me. This time its gelatinous body glided over my feet, picking away leaf detritus from my shoes, in much the same way as it would have cleaned any debris from the Queen of Shadows.

“All the children recognize you as one of ours.” The Queen of Shadows touched me with one of her feelers, slick and cool against my face.

I should have been horrified by the thought. Or wondered what was wrong with me, that my  adoptive human mother had rejected me, but the Mother of Shadows and all her spawn claimed me as one of their own.

This was the second of her daughters I’d met. The first little queen had hatched prematurely, thanks to the Endicotts, and would never have a warren of her own. The queen before me was her younger sister, laid and hatched later. We’d never set eyes on one another before last week, but that meant nothing to a species which communed directly from mind-to-mind.

The tang of blood grew stronger in the back of my throat. Though I had been changed by my encounters with the umbrae, I could still only remain in telepathic contact for a short time. “I’m glad you’re settling in. I’ll come back soon.”

“You can always use the Occultum Lapidem,” she reminded me. “It will be easier to speak to me through it, than with our mother so far away.”

“I know. Thank you.” I stood up and dusted myself off. “I’ll call upon you if I have any need, trust me.”

“You will have need.” She paused. “When the masters return, we will all have need of one another.”

It was why we had brought her here, to the Draakenwood. And yet, her words threatened to peel back the thin veneer covering my fear. The masters were coming, unless we discovered some method of stopping their arrival. Even if we fought them and triumphed, the thought of what we might lose in the process filled me with dread. The people I loved most in the world would be the first to fight, and I couldn’t allow myself to consider the prospect all of us might not survive.

“You’re right,” I agreed as I turned away. “We most assuredly will.”

Chapter 2
“Done?” I asked my husband as he emerged from the pit where the entrance to the umbrae’s tunnels lay.

Summer had come to Widdershins, which meant my wait had been at least superficially pleasant. The roots of the gargantuan tree overlooking the ruins of Blackbyrne’s house offered a relatively comfortable seat, and a nearby sapling a convenient place to hang my coat and hat. Fireflies danced amidst the dense green foliage, like a thousand fairies tempting incautious mortals to join their revels. Night birds called to one another: whip-poor-wills whistled madly, occasionally falling silent at the hoot of an owl.

The scene would have been perfect, if it hadn’t also been where I’d murdered my brother.

Murdered was perhaps too strong a word. Persephone and I shoved him through a rip in the veil and into the Outside, where he had presumably perished. Though Stanford had a better chance at survival than most, having grafted something of the Outside onto his own body, Nyarlathotep showed no mercy toward those who had failed him.

Griffin approached my perch, dusting off the knees of his trousers as he did so. “Yes. I think the umbrae will flourish here.” The light of my lantern revealed his smile. “I’d never have thought I’d sleep sounder knowing there are monsters in the woods, but there you have it.”

I summoned a chuckle, though I didn’t really feel like laughing. “Agreed.”

Griffin cocked his head. “Is something wrong, my dear?”

“Oh, nothing.” Or everything. I’d settled dangerous creatures beneath the woods adjoining a busy town. There was a very long list of people who wanted me dead. The end of the world was coming, and I didn’t know how to stop it. “I’m fine. It’s a beautiful evening, isn’t it?”

I glanced reflexively at the gigantic trunk of the tree as I spoke. The very spot where we’d tossed Stanford out of our world.

Griffin, of course, noticed immediately. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think. Naturally you have bad memories of this place.” He put a hand to my shoulder. His wedding ring flashed in the lantern light, the white pearl glowing like the fireflies. “I should never have asked you to come with me.”

“I imagine you have bad memories as well,” I protested. “After all, Stanford kidnapped you, locked you in a cage, and threatened to kill you.”

“True, though the umbrae have at least done such extensive remodeling of their new home, I couldn’t even tell you where the cages were.”

I had no such troubles recalling where Stanford had strangled me, demanding Father choose between us. Or where I’d stabbed him with Griffin’s old sword cane.

Or had my last glimpse of his face, distorted in pain and terror as he vanished from our world forever.

Stanford had tried to kill me first, of course. He meant to seize the fragments of the maelstrom within my flesh and that of my twin sister, and use its power to serve the masters. He would have hurt my town, hurt all the people the maelstrom had collected, and reduced Widdershins to nothing more than a tool to welcome the masters back into the world so they could enslave everyone. We hadn’t exactly been close.

“It isn’t that I feel guilty about killing Stanford,” I said.

“Nor should you.” Griffin sat beside me, slipping his arm from my shoulder to around my waist. I leaned into him gratefully. “For heaven’s sake, Ival, not even Niles blames you. Stanford murdered your older sister, he meant to kill Persephone, and intended to sacrifice the rest of us to Nyarlathotep. Not to mention the fact he murdered the heads of the old families, and worked with Bradley Osborne to take over your body, and—”

“I know; I know.” I held up a hand. “Stanford was a terrible person. We loathed one another since childhood. He left Persephone and me no choice but to put an end to him. Believe me, I’m well aware of all of this.”

“And yet you still wish things had been different,” Griffin suggested.

“Of course I do.” I stared down at my hands. My wedding ring bore a black pearl in contrast to Griffin’s white, its surface rich with hidden colors. “Why couldn’t he have just stayed in the blasted asylum? Why couldn’t he have left us alone?”

I’d thought the same thing many times throughout childhood. Bullying me had been Stanford’s favorite sport. If he had just let me be, how different things would have been for us all.

“It’s his fault, not yours.” Griffin’s hand stroked my arm soothingly. “You bear no blame in this.”

“I know. I’m not blaming myself. I’m not—not remorseful, or guilty, or…” I let out a long sigh. “I don’t know what I feel.”

“Family is difficult, sometimes.”

Heaven knew, Griffin understood that. He had a better relationship with the Mother of Shadows than with the human woman who had raised him.

He pressed a kiss into my cheek. “Sitting here won’t help things. Let me take you home.”

I nodded. We rose to our feet, and I put my coat and hat back on. Two soldier umbrae detached themselves from the upper boughs of the great tree, one gliding ahead of us down the path, the other behind. An escort, courtesy of the Queen of Shadows, as Griffin called her to distinguish her from the Mother of Shadows in Alaska. The umbrae served as guides as well; I was no woodsman, and the dense forest remained as confusing to me now as it had the first time I’d set foot in it.

Still, with the help of the umbrae, we navigated the Draakenwood quickly enough. The easiest path out was through the graveyard, and I tried not to look too closely at the mausoleums as we passed. Miss Lester had restored the damage Stanford did to the cemetery when he raised the dead  of the old families against us, but I’d never forget the sight of Guinevere’s corpse lurching toward me, trailing her winding sheet behind.

We’d parked the motor car at the gates. The police, under Chief Tilton, were familiar with our vehicle and knew to let us be. I supposed there were some benefits to my new status.

When we arrived home, it was to find a note wedged into the crack of our front door. Griffin and I exchanged a glance, and he pulled it loose. For a moment, I indulged in the optimistic thought that a potential client had come seeking his abilities as a detective. His business had taken a sharp uptick since February, especially among the old families. The decision to hire Jack to take on some of the simpler investigations had come from necessity rather than simple familial loyalty.

“It’s addressed to you,” he said.

Drat it. I took it from him and unfolded the paper. The stationery bore the imprint of the Widdershins Arms Hotel. Written in an elegant hand, it read:

Dr. Whyborne,
Please join me for a late dinner at the Widdershins Arms at your earliest convenience.
It’s time.
Rupert Endicot


Author Bio:
Jordan L. Hawk grew up in the wilds of North Carolina, where she was raised on stories of haints and mountain magic by her bootlegging granny and single mother. After using a silver knife in the light of a full moon to summon her true love, she turned her talents to spinning tales. She weaves together couples who need to fall in love, then throws in some evil sorcerers and undead just to make sure they want it bad enough. In Jordan’s world, love might conquer all, but it just as easily could end up in the grave.


Balefire #10

Release Blitz: Nothing Serious by Jay Northcote

Title: Nothing Serious
Author: Jay Northcote
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: July 18, 2018
Cover Design: Garrett Leigh at Black Jazz Design
What happens when “nothing serious” turns into something more complicated?

Mark O’Brien is finally being honest with himself. His relationship with Rachel is over and he’s moving out of the home they’ve shared for six years. They get along, but he can’t fix a relationship when the person he’s with is the wrong gender.

Jamie Robertson, one of the removal men, is huge and ridiculously gorgeous, and Mark is smitten at first sight. When a cardboard box splits, revealing items of a personal nature that Mark never wanted anybody to see, he’s mortified. But it sparks the start of a beautiful friendship with benefits.

As Jamie initiates Mark into the joys of gay sex, the two men get increasingly close and “nothing serious” turns into something rather important to both of them. But communication isn’t their strong point. Will either man ever find the courage to be honest about his feelings?

Please note that although this edition has been re-edited for publication, there is no new or additional content.

Author Bio:
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.


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