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A Knight Fighting Against the Primal Darkness - an Editorial Review of "Annwyn's Blood"


Annwyn's Blood book cover

Book Blurb:


When Marianna was spirited away by unknown raiders, everyone expected a ransom demand to soon follow. Such was the peril of everyday royal life in the chaotic times following abandonment of the misty isles of Albion by indifferent Rome. But when weeks went by without word her father, High King Mattheus, dispatched teams of trusted warriors to find her and bring her assailants to account.


Young Erik, Scion of the House of Birkenshire, was one of these. Separated from his comrades and alone in hostile territories, he plunged headlong into forgotten vales and desolate coasts in pursuit, driven onward by precious memories of stolen tender moments. Then he stood before the grim fortress – wherein he found, not the innocent damsel of his youthful desires, but a terrifying beauty borne of an ancient evil that bound his soul to an even more primal force bent on regaining its place in the halls of human exaltation.


Now caught between two worlds, he must resist the temptations of his beloved-turned-succubus while protecting his family, his people and his world from the encroaching grasp of Arawn, Lord of Annwyn, Ruler of the Dead, Elder God of the Mabinogion. In this journey to regain his soul, the knight must find a way to strike the fatal blow against a resurgent primal darkness.



Author Bio:



Michael Eging author photo

Michael Eging has wanted to write since he was very young. His earliest memories are of carrying a battered old notebook around full of illustrations and stories. He would often transpose those ideas on his grandmother's old typewriter.

While in college, he was inspired by professors and visiting writers to BYU. Literary classics such as Song of Roland and Inferno were often in his backpack, along with Russian textbooks. Chapter 4 of Annwyn's Blood was written during this time as a short story.

Recently, Mike has pursued an interest in writing screenplays for feature films with his first option being a medieval epic, Song of Roland. He continues to focus on a variety of script/movie projects, most recently a horror thriller, Feast of Saint Nicholas, and a political thriller, The Prince.

He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Lori and his wonderful children. He dreams of one day driving in his old Defender to Alaska with his kids and their dog, Rufus.


Steve Arnold author photo

Steve Arnold grew up on a farm in Northeast Ohio where he spent his free time reading Burroughs, Lovecraft, Zelazny and Tolkien, and his earliest writing efforts were creating adventures for his Dungeons & Dragons group. A veteran of the Army and the Navy, he currently lives near his childhood hometown. He has won awards for his writing in collaboration with Michael Eging on "The Silver Horn Echoes: A Song of Roland", and has, with Mike, previously published "Annwyn's Blood: The Paladin of Shadow Chronicles Book One" which hit Number 1 in its genre in September 2021, and is currently working on Book Two, "Ash & Ruin".


Editorial Review:


THE ROMAN BASILICA at Canterbury rose from the green meadow like an ancient rimed galley, rows of window arches gaping like stony rowlocks over swells of creeping moss and lichen. All around, white robes of rushing novices fluttered past as so much sea-foam. Fearfully intent on their duties, the young would-be clerics rushed through the rutted streets past knots of senior priests engrossed in discussion of the Church’s daily affairs in Albion. Dylan, a scarecrow of a lad topped, appropriately, with tousled, straw-colored hair, sat on the rough wagon seat next to his father. He held his breath in awe of the edifice, this granite symbol of the Holy Communion between God and man. For a country boy, any structure larger than a thatched hut was an extravagance; and this was far beyond that. Yet the building was peaceful and sublime amid the chaotic human activity surging at its foundation stones.


From the very first lines, this story speaks to us, weaving a beautiful story with colorful language and vivid imagery. The introduction sets the stage effectively, pulling readers into a realm of uncertainty, where royal life is fraught with dangers that lurk in the shadows.

The world of historical fiction often feels familiar, yet Annwyn’s Blood manages to defy that familiarity, offering a rich tapestry of medieval history melded with elements of dark fantasy. Eging and Arnold, the masterful duo, craft a tale that adheres to all the checkboxes that make for a compelling narrative.


From the onset, the story enthralls its readers, beckoning them into a chaotic world where the lines between reality and the supernatural blur. The quest of young Erik, a noble on the perilous mission to find the kidnapped Marianna, serves as a potent driving force, making the plot’s momentum unstoppable.


Dialogue is done well, seamlessly woven into the story.


It's here. It must be. Archbishop John became the guardian of the flock and of Christ’s blood, and he doesn’t even know it!” Dylan paused, his face aglow with excitement. “When will they open the altar?” “The bishop said they’d pull it aside this afternoon then place the reliquary in tomorrow. After the ceremony, the altar will be sealed again as a shrine where the afflicted can come to beg solace from Saint Abelard.”

“Of course,” Dylan snickered. “And then the bishop will be able to afford the new robe and vestments from newly levied tolls, as befitting a man of his station. Look, we must find out if the graal truly lies here.”

“Why?” Cedric asked. “This is a responsibility way beyond us.”

“What if it falls into the bishop’s hands? He could unleash a cataclysm beyond imagination and not even realize what he bumbled into. Only the righteous can care for the graal.”

“Truly? Are you worthy enough to even contemplate seeing it, let alone touching it? And what do we do if we do find it? Do we run?”

Dylan put his arm on Cedric’s shoulder, “If it truly is here then we must do more than view it; we must protect it from the likes of John.”


The structure of the narrative was nearly flawless. It flowed seamlessly, making it easy for readers to immerse themselves in the story. This was some of the strongest parts of the story, along with the character development itself.


Erik's transformation is intriguing. From a young noble, driven by his youthful desires, to a knight caught in a world beyond his understanding, his character depth is profound. Marianna, too, is not just a damsel; she evolves, revealing layers of complexity.

The story maintains a consistent tone, ensuring that the historical elements align well with the fictional ones, providing a balanced backdrop, making it easy to follow, even if you’re not familiar with the historical timeline that it’s taking place in.


Without giving away any spoilers, the climax and conclusion are both riveting and poignant, making one eager for the sequel.


Mixing historical events with elements of dark fantasy and introducing the Elder God of the Mabinogion is a masterstroke. The blend of history, Christianity, and mythical elements make Annwyn’s Blood stand apart.


So it was that when the lookout reported the sail of another ship, Aldonzo just kept his head down, his right hand scrubbing despite the splinters and lye, his left cradled against his chest. He fervently hoped the ship approaching would be one of Cynric’s war vessels. But even that hope hung by a thread. The Anglan king possessed little by way of a navy and lacked sufficient skilled sailors to use even what he did have. And even if he had, they seldom ventured this far from land.


He kept at his work, removing the accumulated filth of regular neglect, working his way aft from the stem to the mast and listening to the shouts and orders around him. Yes, it was a trader’s vessel and, yes, it attempted to evade this vessel crawling with unkempt reavers. The other captain probably knew this ship for what it was even before it sailed into smelling distance. Slow and cumbersome, the merchant’s · · 213 ship would be no match for the faster raiders’ vessel. All around Aldonzo, the brigands prepared themselves for yet another plunder, yet more death


Eging and Arnold's collaborative writing shines brightly. Their ability to craft scenes, especially the intense battles between good and evil, is noteworthy. The descriptions are vivid, transporting readers into a world that’s both haunting and captivating. It really makes you feel as if you are there watching it all.


From the gradual build-up, intense middle, and the climax, the story arc is well-structured. It has its twists and turns, which keep you on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what will happen next.


While the novel does have its challenging moments - with intricate names and places that might require a re-read for clarity - this in no way detracts from the overall experience, and is typical fantasy stories. It's akin to diving deep into rich lore, where every re-read only adds depth to the understanding.


To sum it up, Annwyn’s Blood is a heady mix of history, fantasy, and emotion. It’s a testament to the brilliance of its authors and is undoubtedly a must-read for aficionados of the genre. The promise of the Paladin of Shadow Chronicles is incredibly high, and if this first book is anything to go by, readers are in for a treat in the subsequent ones.


*****


“Annwyn's Blood” by Michael Eging and Steve Arnold receive five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company


Award:


HFC Highly Recommended Award of Excellence

 

To have your historical novel editorially reviewed and/or enter the HFC Book of the Year contest, please visit www.thehistoricalfictioncompany.com/book-awards/award-submission


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