Servant of the Empire Review

Strangely, one of my all-time read blogs is a review on Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts, and I have not reviewed either of the other books. So here is my review.

One good thing is that I don’t need to refresh my mind to know what this book is about as I have read it at least 20 times. Obviously, it expands on book one, if it didn’t that would be boring. Big win for Mara (spoilers) and she survived another assassination by the hands of her mortal enemies, the Minwanabi. So all in all, not a fun-filled book one for Miss Mara.

I do love this book and series, one that the main character is a woman, and not a Xena, warrior Woman sort of gal throwing men like they are sacks of grain but I would never mess with her. Her skills in politics, business, war and espionage were her strength. Her recognition of the worth of a slave (which is the lowest life form you can be) was a pinnacle of this beautiful story.

In this story, another MC comes into Mara’s life, Kevin, a slave/war prisoner from the dimensional war between two worlds. How he brings a heart to this rigid caste system, showing Mara that the Wheel is corrupt and ignores common sense with humanity to people. He was instrumental in proving there was another path, not this blood-soaked path where her brother and father died to protect their ‘honour’.

There is so much more than I could gush over in this book, but the heart of a story was change, break the status quo. I love this book; I highly recommend reading it! Five stars


Pack of Wolves (Part 4)

Sun rose on the Smith farm; all the foster children were up and working doing their chores. They were all told that it is not a charity on the farm if they want to eat, the kids worked. Benan is out with Ruairì and James shovelling out the barn then redoing the hay. Heidi and Mariah milking the cows, Betty, Kelvin and Brad feeding the chickens, pigs and other animals.

All in all, it was a typical morning thing for Benan, but sometimes he wondered why the Smith’s kids never helped them with the chores, besides the twins coming over kicking over buckets or complaining that the job wasn’t done right. Any complaints about Joeb or Gertrude would mean at least being ignored or at worst punishments.

Washing up and getting ready for the bus for school by 7.30am, the fosters had to wait for the bus while the twins left later as they got a lift from their mother. Once on the bus, the seven fosters took up the front seats as this is the only time they have to themselves.

Benan looked at Ruairì, “I’ve been finding our morning chores easier today, how about you?”

Ruairi shrugs, not even a bead of sweat on his face. James crinkles his eyebrows, “You tore through that pile of hay in no time. Been on the ‘roids, Benny?”

“‘ Roids? Haha, little Jimmy.” Benan barks out a laugh, posing like a bodybuilder. “Like we could afford that sort of stuff and aren’t we supposed to start getting big muscles?”

“Yeah, but it seems weird.” James turns to look at Ruairì. “You guys have been weird since being sick.”

Benan hears a laugh from the barn door, “You, Fatty, with muscles? Best joke I have heard this week.” It was Joeb, Benan thinks to himself, why can’t there be one day that this little pest leaves us alone? “Even if you got muscles, you’ll still be a discarded loser!”

Just take it Benan, his words can’t hurt.

Ruairi stares at the farmer’s teenage brat. “Go, we have work to do.”

James nods, “Yeah, piss off, Joe.”

“You can’t talk to me like that. Or are you fighting Fatty’s battles now?” Joeb sneers. “My father would like to know that you tossed out trash were picking on me. He might just send you away if I complain enough.”

All the foster children knew that Joeb’s parents were decent people but would and have believed everything their twins have said. Neither one could do anything wrong in their eyes.

Benan gives an involuntary growl. His body shakes in anger, calling him names was one thing but threatening his family was another completely different kettle of fish. As he turns, Benan’s skin starts to stretch, the growling increases to deep bass.

Taking a step forward towards Joeb, Benan could feel his anger rising, his body flushed with heat. This is a trespasser, a threat to our pack! Fight to preserve pack!

Those words reverberate through Benan’s mind. His muscles bunch and grow. Skin starts to break, and slick wolf hair could be seen emerging underneath. The very air around crackled with anger around him, all there was to do is remove the threat!

The scent of fear and urine stung the air, Benan growled an appreciation of this, you should fear the pack, intruder! Now it is time to remove the threat!

Before the change could completely take control, Ruairi steps in front of Benan. His own eyes have started to change, a reaction to Benan’s transformation. Just starting into his eyes, Benan knew the pack was safe, not need to worry.

As Benan takes a deep breath. Words were exchanged with the interloper, but this was ignored by him. The flush of instinct cooled, Beta will fix this, the hunt has not started.

“Wow, where did that come from Ben?” Benan blinks at the pup, his eyes blurred realising he was looking at James. “That gave me the willies.”

Ruairi came over to Benan, “He is gone and won’t say anything. Let’s get back to work.”

James gives an affirmative while Benan shrugs at Roy’s comment and heads over to the new hay bales and picks one up in each hand. Why should he care about the Smith’s children or William any more he is a wolf, not the fat 15-year-old anymore, I could just run away and be a wolf. Hunt and have fun, not caring about all this shit!

At least one thing the chores have been getting easier for me Benan thought not realising that he is carrying two bales.

Snapping the ties of the bale with a twist of his hand, Benan starts to spread the hay over each pen’s ground. James, with his face full of worry, calls out. “Didn’t that hurt Ben?”

“He is fine, James.” Ruairì says. “but Ben should be using the knife as he would hurt his hand doing that.”

Putting on a fake grin, Benan picks up the knife and cuts the next bale.

After all the chores, the children rush around getting ready. It is their responsibility to be on time for the bus, not Farmer and Mrs Smith. Ruairì and Betty get the lunches ready, while Mariah double checks the younger one’s bags are adequately packed.

Being the last to have a shower, Benan could hear the commotion going on in the main living area. Looking at his reflection, could he see muscles under his flab?

Keep dreaming fat boy, you are an overweight failure who will be a nothing forever. You will never get a girlfriend because you are disgusting. You are pitiful and pathetic, just run or die. A little ‘pick me up’ for each morning. Guess you are nothing, and no one can make you feel worse.

Knowing that he will be at the library today, that will mean he will have to be quick out of class before his bully corners him again. If he could, he would just run away and be a wolf. No one would pick on him as he could just run away or bite them. His luck he would only be shot by some hunter, either way, Benan would not be missed.

Three loud bangs on the bathroom door distracting Benan with his musings. “Come on, Ben, you will miss the bus!” Mariah yells.

“I am coming, keep your shirt on,” Benan grumbles, dropping his voice. “It not like I am excited about school.”

Pulling on his shirt and shorts for another beautiful summer’s day, Benan leaves the bathroom. Everyone else has their backpacks on, Ruairì and Betty have packed the last of the lunches, only his and Mariah’s are gone.

Putting on a big simile. “Sorry, Mariah just was lost in the mirror on how sexy I am.” Posing like a model on TV, all the younger kids laugh. In a fake Fabio voice. “What can I say? I am the most beautiful man in the world, ha ha ha.”

This got another round of laughter, Betty, with a big smile. “Hey Fabio, here is your lunch.”

Bouncing over to the bench, winking at Betty. “Thank you, my dear, you are most awesome.”

Betty laughs at Benan, he is always silly in the morning, let’s hope he has a good day

Dropping back into his normal voice. “Hey, Betty and James, me Roy and Mariah are playing Fantazim in the library today, want to come to play too?”

“Sorry, Ben, but I am with my hockey squad this lunch. We want to do a few drills for this weekend’s game.” Betty replies.

James shrugs. “Why not, is Mariah playing with her counter deck?”

“I choose a different deck today, want a bit more of a challenge today.” Mariah gives a snappy comeback.

“Bring it!” Both Benan and James yell.

Pack of Wolves (Part Three)

Staying low, the three approached their bunkhouse. Being foster children, they weren’t allowed in the main household as that was for only Glenn, Marcy and their twins, Joeb and Gertrude tormentors of the children.

The lights were still on for the main household, so it should be a quick run and back through the window of their rooms.

Benan whispers to the others. “Didn’t realise it would be so smooth sailing tonight.”

Ruairì rolled his eyes and growled a little, Mariah pressed her finger to her lips, her dark eyes absorbing the light from the house. “Quiet!”

Doing a quick sign of zipping up his mouth, Benan followed the other two towards the bunkhouse. As they reached the window, Mariah heard a bang of the screen door, motioning for Ruairì and Benan to stop moving, she moved to the edge of the wall to peek around.

Glenn was standing at the door, drinking something, more likely a beer; scratching his beard then the groin. Throwing the beer bottle at the bunkhouse, he slammed open the screen door and stomped his way back in.

Breathing a sigh with relief, Mariah moved back to her pack mates. “It was just his nightly beer bottle throwing.”

Ruairì nods. “I’ll make sure to pick it up in the morn before the young kids leave for school.”

In the bunkhouse, there were five other children, Betty, James, Heidi, Kelvin and little Brad. They all have been here for years. The bunkhouse has four rooms, one for the boys, one for the girls, lounge and kitchen with a small bathroom. They had to pull their weight around the farm to earn food and other needs. It was a hard life, but they all banded together to make sure no-one was forgotten.

Climbing through the back window, Benan flopped on to the ground making a racket. Two lights popped on, and the two eldest besides the pack came out of their perspective bedrooms.

Betty and James saw Benan sprawled on the ground, both started to laugh but covered their mouths so no-one from the main house could hear.

Ruairì and Mariah came through then, seeing Benan rolling around on the ground. Ruairì kicked Benan with his toe. “Enough, you are making too much noise.” With a tsk from Mariah, he bent over to help up his fallen pack mate. “Was this to entertain someone?”

“Well not all of us can be like you, Rory,” Benan said, rising to his feet. Then pulls a super serious face. “I could just be like this all the time, woe is me…”

This got giggles and laughs out Betty and James. Mariah held up a hand, everyone stopped, she then cocked her ear to listen. Nothing. “They are not coming out tonight. What are you two up for?”

Betty, a mousy brown headed girl, smiles with buckteeth. “I heard something crashing around I thought I would check.”

James, an awkward Asian boy with a large purple birthmark on his face. “I saw that these two,” Pointing at Ruairì and Benan. “Weren’t in their beds, so someone had to protect the kids.”

Smiling at that, Mariah turns to the two younger children. “Glad we had you two holding down the fort, but it is time for bed for all of us. School tomorrow.”

Both of them started to ask questions, but with one look from Ruairì, they both quieted down. Benan came over and scooped up Betty to carry her off to bed, while Ruairì laid his hand on the back of James to lead him back to his bunk.

Mariah headed to the bathroom to make sure she washed off everything. A few smudges of mud and a little bit of fur in her hair but all in all, she was cleanish. Thinking to herself The shower has to wait until tomorrow.

Coming back in, there were her pack mates standing there. Benan heads into the bathroom, leaving the eldest by themselves.

“Do you wonder Mariah why that wolf scratched us and made us into wolves too?” Ruairì asked

Thinking a moment, Mariah replied. “Not sure, now we know we can change. I think I might do a little research in the library tomorrow. Did you want to help?”

Ruairì shrugs, “What else am I going to do? Too weak looking to play sports and you want us to stay under the radar.”

Since the attack, they have been stronger, but because of the outcast situation in high school, they couldn’t just start going around beating up the bullies. Even if they really wanted to.

Mariah nodded. “We will bring Benan as well. Just caught him three days ago from losing his temper at that bully, William.”

“What about William?”

A spitting hiss from behind them as they turn they see Benan walking out of the bathroom. His face ruddy with anger, his fists are white at the knuckles.

Worry glinted in Mariah’s face. “Ben, we are heading to the library tomorrow to study more on our condition. I would like you to come too.” She pleads to Benan.

“Why should I hide from that prick anymore?” Benan walked over and grabbed the back of three-seater couch, the wood frame cracked under his grip. “I am no weakling or fatty-fat loser anymore.”

Ruairì walked over, grasping Benan’s shoulder, his grip firm. “We know you are not a weakling or loser, you never were, Benan.” Then patted Benan’s shoulder. “We are just foster rejects, we have each other, and now we are more. Come to the library, and we’ll play a game of Fantazim.”

Benan’s eyes lit up, the anger drained from his face. He loved playing Fantazim, a card game where you play a Magi who commands the very elements. “This time I will beat you, I have a new deck made from earth and fire!”

Mariah walked over and hugged Benan. “How about a three-way game, I have my air/dark deck?”

Benan mumbles under his breath as Ruairì guides him the bunkroom. “I hate your deck, too many counter cards.”

Mariah smiles at her now true brothers but was surprised in the feat of strength Benan showed. Heading to her bed, she wonders How powerful will we all become?

Pack of Wolves (Part Two)

As the three teenagers wash off the blood and dissolving wolf flesh, they put on their threadbare clothes. Their shoes are worn down to a fragment of a sole. Besides that they are more than just foster children living together, they are pack.

Mariah looks up at the sliver of a moon, seeing that it has moved to be above them now. “We might miss our curfew. Fingers crossed they will not notice us coming in.”

The squat tubby one known as Benan, “Sure, Alpha, that is going to happen. And maybe the pigs will learn to fly.”

Standing behind Mariah is the lanky Ruairì, a quiet sort who goes out of his way not to waste words. Mariah rolls her eyes at Benan. “You know we refer to each other as our names, not of pack rank.”

“Yeah, I know but wish we had more people in with this secret.” Benan whines.

“Enough, Benan,” Ruairì scolds. “We can’t talk about us turning into wolves. We’ll either be locked up or killed.”

“Yes, oh so serious Rory…”

Before the two fools start up again, Mariah steps in between them. “We need to be going, as we are already late. I understand the frustration. We have these new instincts with no outlet until tonight.”

Ruairì, in his deep voice, contradictory to his slight body. “The chase and kill felt good. When do we hunt again?”

Benan bounces up and down. Being a large boy, his boundless energy surprises many. “Yeah, Mariah, can we go out again tomorrow?”

Scratching at her mop of curls. “I don’t think so but next weekend. If you two are having any issues with part changing come and find me, okay.” Both nod, “Good, we have a bit of a jog to get back. Let’s go.”

Benan grumbles under his breath, “Would have been easier to get back home as our wolves.”

Since their first change only days ago, the three foster children have noticed a few things. As their senses sharpened since the attack, their strength, speed and endurance have increased tenfold.

As the pack bound over fallen logs and rocks the three stay in the same formation they run as wolves, it took them no time to get out of the forest to the large farmhouse their foster parents live. The journey in the past would have taken them over half an hour, now they arrive back in less than ten minutes.

It has been ten days since the attack. It was when their foster parents, Glenn and Marcy Smith were out with their own children. They were supposed to be doing their chores but decided to bludge and lounge around the barn. Suddenly the animals started to go wild, bucking and kicking at their doors. Mariah was the first to see a large wolf standing at the barn’s entrance.

Not wanting to get in trouble, Mariah picked up a rake while the boys following her example, grabbed hay pitchfork and shovel to drive the wolf away. The boys, Benan and Ruairì who look towards Maria as a big sister following her lead.

As they approached the wolf, it looked undaunted by these three teenagers with farm tools. As they make moves toward the wolf thrusting out the ‘weapons’ hoping to scare it away. The wolf started to shake and grow, it’s flesh started to expand and rip. This image assaulted their minds, their sanity rebelling to what they saw. Dropping their improvised weapons, they all fell back in fear from the growing monster. Then blackness came to all three.

Hours past and they were woken by Glenn. Mariah, Ruairì and Benan could not explain what happened or why they all had four scratch marks on their shoulders.

After a week of fever and sickness, the three of them felt the need to leave for the forest. In the darkness of night, their newly acquired wolf form ripped out of their soft human shell. Which brings them to today and their first hunt.

Breaking free from the forest and moving over the cow paddock, Ruairì could see the lights of the homestead. This might be the last foster house they will all live in when they reach adulthood. Mariah is only six months away from her eighteenth birthday, Ruairì a year and Benan nineteen months.

What are they going to do as people or wolves? A troubling time indeed.

Pack of Wolves (Part One)

Running through the undergrowth, branches smacking the three young creatures. Their panting is sharp, the night is young. The most youthful misjudged the jump and snagged in a bramble patch. Fur ripped from his side.

With the yelp from the pup, the elder two stop and look at their youngest pack member, brown-furred with blond streaks through the coat, piercing blue eyes and even in this predicament the cub’s tongue lolls out in a wolfy grin.

The Alpha, Mariah, standing over the cub, covered in dark fur and deep black eyes. With a yip, a wiggle of her ears, an understood message was sent to the youngest. “Enough, Gamma, we must return soon or be discovered.”

Benan, the young cub seeing his alpha reprimanding him, tucks his tail between his legs. “Sorry, Alpha, I got caught in the thorns. It hurt.”

The third wolf, Ruairì, with a grey coat with a shock of auburn down the back with green eyes, aware with nose to the air, checking for threats. “Alpha, we need to move, the herd is reacting to our Gamma’s thrashing around.”

Benan growls at his Beta’s remarks. “So serious, it is our first hunt. Have some fun, Beta.”

Ruairì stares at Benan, his hackles rise with the challenge. Then Benan dips his head and rolls on to his back, showing his belly to the grey wolf.

With a whine, Benan cowls before Ruairì, “Um, I didn’t mean it.”

“Enough, both of you,” Mariah commanded. “We have a hunt, eat and then back to the house.”

As she takes off, her pack follows in her wake. Dodging around trees, the smells of the forest come alive as they run. The feel of the moss under their toes, the hoots and calls of night birds swooping down to catch their midnight meal. The scent of prey and fresh meat on the air, the three plunge faster into the woods.

A glimpse of a horn, a crack of a stick and the chase is on. Mariah drives forward to break off a weak member of the herd. Benan moves off to the right while Ruairì breaks off to the left.

Spotting a young deer retreating after its mother, Mariah pressures it, howling and barking to cause a mistake. Ghosting either side of Mariah’s pursuit is her pack, making sure when it is time to attack, they are ready.

The fawn trips and its mother bounds away, only the strong survive. As Mariah comes into hamstringing the poor fawn, it jumps away quickly. Now the real hunt has started.

Leaping over the underbrush, the deer narrowly misses another bite from Mariah. Little does it know that she is just herding it to an ambush ahead. A fallen log with a wide river next to it, an excellent place for an ambush.

As the fawn reaches the log, it has three choices; jump, duck or go around. All three possibilities have been prepared by the pack. With the biting and barking from Mariah, the fawn tries to run around the log. Waiting for it is Ruairì, with a leap and snaps, he bites down on the fawn’s back leg.

Benan runs over and bites the neck and with a quick twist, snaps it. All three wolves look down at their meal, their mouth-watering with hunger.

Mariah bows to the fawn. “Thank you, little one, your strength will be added to my pack. Know that your purpose in life has been fulfilled. Be at peace.”

Then with a bite and rip, Mariah starts to eat. Benan and Ruairì sit there panting with hunger, but the alpha eats first. After a few moments, Mariah moves back, and Benan dives for the meat. With a growl, Ruairì jumps on Benan biting his throat, dragging him down to the ground. His snarl vibrates through Benan’s throat, the young cub swallows, knowing his mistake.

Leaving this to the Beta, Mariah trots over to the river and starts to shake. Her fur starts to fall off in chunks, underneath fresh brown skin. With a popping, her knees reverse direction. Her canine teeth begin to fallout being replaced with human incisors. Ripping out of her wolf body, Mariah the person screams to the night sky.

Her brown skin awash with goosebumps from the cold air, her mass of brown curly hair still with an ear attached to it. Shaking her head, the ear flies off into the woods. Stepping out of the pile of wolf flesh, she walks over to the river to wash the blood off her body and to rinse out her mouth.

Behind her, she hears two more sound of ripping flesh, as Mariah turns her dark brown eyes on to her pack. Ruairì standing in his wolf leftovers. Pale skinny body, face and hair with bright red hair. Benan, squat with blond-brown hair, his blue eyes bright on his chubby face.

Mariah, tall and gangly standing naked in front of her two pack mates. “Wash off, we need to head back to our house, or our foster ‘parents’ will be pissed.”

A New Story

It has been a while since I have written a blog and I don’t want to talk about writing or editing I want to have some fun. So I have decided to write a serial story, something to parallel my next book Bloody Coin.

The first thing is what is the theme going to be? Giving about 30 seconds of thought, I want it to be about shapeshifters, a new pack created from newly changed werewolves.

My Pack

I start with either a concept or a strong character, as my MC is the pack, we’ll start there. There needs to be at least three, Alpha, Beta and Gamma. Looking at how wolf packs work, you need this dynamic.

Usually, there is a female and male Alpha, this time I do a female Alpha, male Beta and (?) Gamma, I might add a few more members in the future, but I will keep it to this three. Make them foster kids, as I can pull something from my background into the story.

As it will be a coming of age theme to link the emergence of their therianthropy, I will say they are between the ages of 15 to 17, the gamma being the youngest, beta and alpha being the same age.

Ethnicity is important, but as these three have been raised in the foster program, their ethnicity would impact their stories/backgrounds but not their interactions with each other. I will have to think on this one.

The setting is the next step. I want a large town but make it a blank slate, could be in Australia or the US or England. There will be colloquialisms, but I don’t want it to be stereotypical of an area. Urban and Contemporary.

Nice Quiet Town…

Conflict is the cornerstone of stories, adaption to their new forms, dealing with a new world, other supernatural powers (Could be Vampires, Sorcerers/Magi, Demonic Bad People or DBP for short or even ghosts) or other wolf packs. So many things to draw on

Possible Bad Guys!

This Sunday I will start the story with a new addition to the story every Sunday.

To Rant about Ranting.

It has been a while since I have had a little rant, I do like to rant but only to describe why ranting is so good for the soul. There are times that you come to a point in your life that you want to climb a mountain and scream your frustrations to the world. Unfortunately, that seems to be counterproductive in the public arena of life.

Seven years ago, I started my path on Ranting about the rant, it was very therapeutic as it allows me to write down the feeling of my I rant without the emotional attachments to the rant itself.

Defining Ranting

I have delved into the meaning of the word ‘rant’, how it was derived from ranten which originated from the Dutch word from the late 16th century or the fact there are five words in German, which mean to rant, four in Spanish and only two in French. Does this make the English language is more efficient than the Germans or does it say that our rants are just more annoying!?

Why I do like to rant about ranting without pointing out other ranters and how they choose to spend their time ranting. It’s merely that you can express words on a page without the preconceptions of actual meaning. Reasons and purpose don’t seem as crucial like facts and truth or even falsehoods and lies.

It is good without the drama of knowing the inner thoughts of the subject that no one cares about lacking the sincere conviction of your happy place. So go out there and rant away those meaningless meanings of nothing but everything except for the lack of excitement of brilliance.