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Monday, July 30, 2012

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Shadowlands by C. M. Gray

SHADOWLAND: A TALE FROM THE DARK AGES
by C.M. Gray
Amazon Kindle, 2012
ISBN:  1471706397
Copy received from Tourz de Codex for blog tour.
All opinions expressed here are my own.

Book Synopsis:

‘I have lived more years than I can remember, probably more than the sum of all your years combined. Kings have called me friend and brigands have sworn to burn the flesh from my bones even if they have to search all seven halls of the shadowland to find me.’

On the night of midwinter’s eve, a storyteller takes his listeners back to the Dark ages and a tale from his youth.

Deserted by its Roman masters, Britain has been invaded by the Saxons at the invitation of Vortigern, traitorous leader of the Britons. Now, as the tribes unite to reclaim their land, one man must rise to lead them and become their true and only king.
  
Review:

Usher Vance and his best friend, Calvador, return to their village from an afternoon swim only to be trapped in a tree by a pack of wolves.  While they wait for the wolves to leave, they are forced to watch in horror as their village is wiped out by a group of Picts led by a man in black.  As they set off hoping to rescue Cal's sister and the other children that have been taken, both boys realize their lives will never be the same. Fortunately, the end up with an old warrior named Meryn who takes the boys under his wings and helps them on their quest.  But they are all surprised when their simple quest leads them to play bigger roles in Britain's future than they could have ever imagined.  Full of mystery and action this book is a great read for those who like a fascinating story about the history of a nation.

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I sat down to read this, but I was pleasantly surprised by the intensity and the great characters.  Usher and Cal won me over immediately as did Meryn.  Their courage and determination in the face of tragedy was admirable. I also found the book hard to put down, the action was almost continuous as Usher and his friends tended to go from one crisis to the next.  There was lots of fighting, the war kind, which was not only intense but kind of sickening, like war really is.  This book won't work for those who have problems with war violence.  But the story itself is awesome but not necessarily a happy one.  Of course, war doesn't usually end happily, the costs are so high for all involved.  And sometimes, as Usher discovers, country comes before personal desires. 

I found the flashback format interesting.  The story beings with Usher as an old man telling a made-up story to a group of villagers.  Then his old friend Cal shows up and urges him to tell the story of his own life.  As he does so, his current life circumstances become intertwined with his past. I found it fascinating the way the two came together at the end.

I'd recommend this book to readers who enjoy an action-packed story with lots of interesting characters, both good and bad. Note: There is quite a bit of war violence involved in this story.

Character Interview: Uther Pendragon

Tell us about yourself and your home.

My name is Uther Pendragon and my home is in the wild lands of Britain; a rich, green and fertile lands of rolling fields and dense forests.  At this time in my life I am king to the tribes of Britain and mine is a weighty task. The Romans governed these lands for nearly four hundred years and then left to defend a crumbling empire.... the tribes of Britain were leaderless. For reasons you may read about, I have been made king. Although by birth I was born to rule, I was completely unprepared...Knowing the tribes of Britain were unprotected and unprepared, invaders have been arriving at our coast; Saxons, Jutes and Angles on Viking raids. I love this land and have fought hard to unite the tribes and defend our land.

Tell us about your friends and/or family?

I was born in a village in the Eastern part of our land, as part of the Isceni tribe. In my early years I was raised with the name Usher, not Uther... But that is a longer story, one that I hope you may read about. My closest friend was Cal, Calvador Craen; we would hunt in the great, sprawling forests of the Weald, swim in the lakes and laugh with our friends and family. I remember living in the village as a good part of my life, right up until the wolves came...

My parents and I lived in a conical hut constructed with wood from the forest with a roof of thatch. When a new hut is needed in the village, the men construct it together; I like helping with that, it’s a very festive time as everybody comes together to help. The only hut that isn't round in the village is the hut owned by the elder, he is called the Reeve and his hut is larger and square in shape. All village meetings are held in his hut.
All the huts are very smoky inside as the fire that burns in the centre, that warms us and upon which in our hut my mother cooked our food, has no escape but the hole in the centre of the thatch; sometimes it takes a long time for the smoke to find the hole! The smoke does keep the ticks and bugs to a minimum, but when it smokes badly it makes life in the hut difficult, I always preferred to be in the forest with Cal trapping rabbits or better still, chancing across a young deer. Summers were a time of plenty with good game and many different fruits and vegetables to be found, we even made bread from small fields of corn, oats and barley that the villagers farm. 

Winters were long, cold and often hungry times, especially if the mice had spoilt the stored crops. I hated it most when it rained for days and days and everything became slick with the mud and soaked through so that we steamed in front of the fire which was never allowed to go out.

If you'd had a choice, how would you have chosen to spend your life?

My life changed the evening the wolves came to our village. Maybe if they hadn't come I would have died, maybe I would have grown up there, taken a wife and lived as an Isceni rather than leader of all the tribes. Would I have chosen that life if I could? I don't know, but we get no choice in the direction of our lives. My people believe that the spirits guide us and that there is reason behind everything that happens; however sometimes that reason is hard to find.

If I could choose to have spent a life of peace then I would certainly do so, what man would not? If I could choose that the Saxons never visited our shores, that the Picts stayed behind their northern wall and that Cal and I could grow old as friends in the village, then I would. But then if I had led that life I would never have met Merlin, my friend and councillor (he is one crazy old Druid!) or Samel the small warrior who has trained me in the arts of war. I would never have taken Igraine as wife and been able to call Arthur my son or Morgause my daughter. Would I change my life if I could? There is a price for every decision so I shall continue to leave mine in the hands of the spirits.

What were the worst things about daily life in those times?

The times during which I have lived and ruled were hard times. What many like you would find strange is that we share our homes and bodies with a host of fleas, ticks and bugs; but it is not out of choice! Mice and rats are a constant problem in the food stores and in the huts. Violence is a way of life and when someone has become sick, there is a genuine fear that death will follow, we have very little knowledge of the herbs and plants that cure. If we are lucky then the druids would aid us, they have this knowledge, but druids are a fickle people.

Oh, and I always hated the mud. Britain has always been a very rainy land which is a reason it is so green and our small crop plantings grow so well, but the mud gets everywhere, so we have become accustomed to being damp and muddy!

Tell us something about the druids.

I suppose I can tell you some things about druids, having been so close to one cantankerous old druid for so many years. Merlin is a little different from most druids, in that he will have a slightly sensible conversation, but only because it suits his ends. Most druids speak in riddles that just confuse me. They see through the mists of the spirit world, into the shadowland and claim a kinship and have conversations with everything from the trees to the birds. They guide us in many ways and have some strange rituals, but to trying to understand them is a task.

The druid council meets high upon the tor on the isle of Avalon, a hill surrounded by marshes and planted with a maze of apple trees. At the top of Avalon is a ring of stones that is their most holy temple. Other stone rings can be found about our land, as well as special groves of trees and deep natural wells that the druids hold most sacred; I have visited many such places with Merlin. They are strange sites that Merlin claims have strong energies connected to the earth, I have felt the strangeness of these places, but I do not claim to understand them.  

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1 comment:

  1. LOVE the character interview! It's so neat to hear about what life was really like back then. Makes me glad I have central heat and air conditioning!!

    ReplyDelete

 
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