Winter Vineyard Thriller

Review: The Field of Blackbirds

The Field of Blackbirds by Thomas Ryan is a thriller about Jeff Bradley, a former New Zealand military man, and his dangerous quest to find a missing friend.

A Dispute Over a Family’s Vineyard
A Dispute Over a Family’s Vineyard

Jeff’s business associate Arben has travelled to Kosovo to see into a dispute over his family’s vineyard. Jeff gets a message from his panicked friend, and then suspects the worst when Arben disappears.

In a swirl of corrupt officials and honest friends who are almost impossible to tell apart, Jeff looks for Arben in the post-war city. Double crosses and shadowy events turn Jeff’s search into a dangerous plunge into the Kosovo bitter weather to find the truth.

The Field of Blackbirds is a well-written journey of desperate people struggling to regain their humanity in the soup of crooked local politics. Mixed in was a ghost intelligence agency on a relentless pursuit of an international terrorist.

A Swirl of Corrupt Officials and Honest Friends
A Swirl of Corrupt Officials and Honest Friends

The taut plot had twists to the end. Thomas Ryan’s well-drawn characters made Lita cheer their successes and also doubt their motives. The story’s sense of place was so well-defined that at times Lita felt the numbness of Jeff’s gloveless hands, and she wrinkled her nose at the sour odor of fear.

The Gentle Readers who love thrillers that make them stay up all night would enjoy The Field of Blackbirds. Be sure to wear gloves while reading this book to keep Kosovo’s frigid winter from nipping your fingers as you turn the pages.

The Field of Blackbirds on Amazon US

The Field of Blackbirds on Amazon UK

The Field of Blackbirds on Goodreads

Thomas Ryan on Goodreads

Thomas Ryan website and blog

Magical Essence Transformed the Enchanters

Necronomicon Enchanter: Essence Kiss

Within the pages of the Necronomicon Enchanter book in Lita’s library, the curious may learn the Enchanters’ magical matters. Beware, for the knowledge might drive the reader mad with bitter desire and luscious regret. Today we read about the pleasures and dangers of essence kisses.

Previously:

The Best Way for an Enchanter to Disperse Essence was with an Essence Kiss
The Best Way for an Enchanter to Disperse Essence was with an Essence Kiss

The original Enchanters used their bodies to transform unpalatable tree magic into essence that non-Enchanter magicians could use. They produced potent charms to distribute magical essence. But charms were not the Enchanters’ preference. The best way for an Enchanter to disperse essence was through direct contact, namely an essence kiss. Although kisses were a lovely way to share essence with intimates, the savagery of the essence mad made the kiss impractical.

In an effort to decrease the madness, the Enchanters produced new charms containing diluted essence. And they faced other problems with the Enchanters’ Magical Discipline.

An Especially Savage Attack From One of the Essence Mad Forced the Enchanters to Take Drastic Measures
An Especially Savage Attack From One of the Essence Mad Forced the Enchanters to Take Drastic Measures

The ten mages’ magical power increased many fold, but they grew weaker in other surprising areas. They also struggled to protect themselves from weather extremes and the aggressive actions of the essence mad.

Matters finally became a crisis. After an especially savage attack that maimed and nearly killed an Enchanter, the ten enclave magicians took drastic measures to protect themselves.

Next time: Five Schools

Find out more about the books in the Enchanters of Sye world:

Enchanters' Enclave at Old Forest

Necronomicon Enchanter: Magical Discipline

Within the pages of the Necronomicon Enchanter book in Lita’s library, the curious may learn the Enchanters’ magical matters. Beware, for the knowledge might drive the reader mad with bitter desire and luscious regret. Today we read about essence madness.

Previously: Evolution of Sole-Source Magic

Enchanter-Beautiful Eyes
Enchanter-Beautiful Eyes

The Enchanters’ Magical Discipline

The ten enclave magicians learned from the sentient Old Forest how to prepare and consume the rich magical essence. According to the Old Forest’s instructions, they consumed tree essence five times a day for twenty-five days.

The essence glut irrevocably changed the mages’ bodies, their lives, and Sye. Their health became robust. Skin blemishes, stature, weight, and physical endurance improved significantly. The magical essence made them physically attractive, especially their eyes. Memory, the ability to learn complex spells, and the intuitiveness to construct elaborate magical mechanisms blossomed. Their intelligence and literacy also increased.

An Enchanter's Magical Essence Charm
An Enchanter’s Magical Essence Charm

The Enchanters’ bodies transformed the unpalatable tree magic into magical essence that non-Enchanter magicians could readily use. The ten magicians named their emerging craft the Enchanters’ Magical Discipline.

They created charms to store and deliver their essence. The ten Enchanters distributed hundreds of these charms to travelers who carried them to far-away towns. Some Enchanters left the enclave and established homes in the larger towns where they spread rich magical essence to anyone who wanted to taste its enchantment.

Essence Drove Some Mad With Magical Desire
Essence Drove Some Mad With Magical Desire

But there was a dangerous downside.

The onslaught of palatable essence was too much for some non-Enchanters to bear. These unfortunate ones lost their wits and developed an unquenchable lust for the magic. They coveted the essence charms. When the charms’ magic went dry, the mad sought the traveling Enchanters and attacked them to get magical essence from the source.

Next time: Essence Kiss

Find out more about the books in the Enchanters of Sye world:

Fey-Folk at the Lily Pond

Review: The Water Lily Fairy

The Water Lily Fairy by Mary Ann Vitale is a children’s fantasy about a fairy that brings secret gifts to a village.

The Fairy Hides in Plain Sight
The Fairy Hides in Plain Sight

One day a group of fairies fly by a pond filled with water lilies, and a curious fae lingers to see the playing children. She folds her skirt just so and hides in plain sight because she looks like a closed lily. The children are from such poor families that the fairy wishes there was something she could do to ease their dreary lives.

She stays hidden at the pond and overhears the grumbling of the villagers during the day, and then through the night scatters gifts in the streets to satisfy their wishes. For three nights she leaves increasingly wondrous presents. The fairy then does something unexpected.

The Water Lily Fairy is a simple story gently told. The book brims with lovely and colorful illustrations. It is a perfect book to read to a wide-eyed child before bedtime to bring dreams filled with shimmering fairy magic.

The Water Lily Fairy on Amazon US

The Water Lily Fairy on Amazon UK

The Water Lily Fairy on Goodreads

Mary Ann Vitale on Goodreads

Enchantment Begins in Sye

Necronomicon Enchanter: Evolution of Sole-Source Magic

Within the pages of the Necronomicon Enchanter book in Lita’s library, the curious may learn the Enchanters’ magical matters. Beware, for the knowledge might drive the reader mad with bitter desire and luscious regret. Today we read the first chapter and discover how Enchantment came to the Sye world.

Early Magicians Wanted to Improve Their Enchantments
Early Magicians Wanted to Improve Their Enchantments

Early Sye

Before Enchanters came, Sye’s plants and animals shared their world’s weak and scattered magic.

Early magicians with an interest in improving their spell craft formed a community. They cultivated the plants with the highest concentration of magic and ate the leaves. The magicians became ill from the plant’s raw magic. Many of them left the enclave, but the few that remained experimented with the flora.

Certain spells and physical preparation made the plants palatable for most, but the puny levels had little effect on the magicians’ magical abilities. More mages abandoned the effort until only five men and five women remained: Surat, Cha, Kesdin, Beel, Sahn, Ree, Narkin, Lika, Cinton, and Durme.

The Old Forest Taught the First Enchanters
The Old Forest Taught the First Enchanters

The Magical Chaos Theory

As Sye magicians have learned since then, the Magical Chaos Theory seeks order from the mess of random enchantment.

The turning point for the discouraged magicians came when the trees in the Old Forest in the eastern interior of Sye awoke because of the Magical Chaos Theory. What is now known as the Enchanter’s Ten originated from the ten enclave magicians. They also defined the Enchanter’s Two power number. Its enchantments manifest in the duality between male and female, plus the pairing of mind (causa) and body (soma).

Magical Essence Appears

These early magicians cultivated spells to communicate with the magically sentient trees. In a mutually beneficial exchange, the trees shed magic-rich bark and leaves. The ten mages then followed the trees’ instructions and transformed this enchanted tree detritus into chewy sticks sweetened with wood sap. They called it magical essence, and the ten could eat the concoction without falling ill.

Old Forest's Influence on the Enclave Magicians Forever Transformed Their Magical Abilities
Old Forest’s Influence on the Enclave Magicians Forever Transformed Their Magical Abilities

The Old Forest’s impact on the ten magicians’ magical abilities was profound. Sye’s magic would never again be scattered and weak.

After twenty and five days of eating tree essence, the ten enclave magicians became Sye’s first Enchanters. The Old Forest gave them vast magical power, but unexpected weaknesses threatened to destroy their hard-won enchantments.

Next Time: Enchanters’ Magical Discipline

Find out more about the books in the Enchanters of Sye world:

Pan's World

Review: Dark Mountain

Dark Mountain by C. B. Pratt is a fantasy about a hero for hire named Eno and his adventures to free the enthralled mine workers of a deranged magician.

Pan, the Goat-Footed Deity
Pan, the Goat-Footed Deity

Eno, recently home from a quest in Egypt, resumes his interrupted trip to his aging mother. The path takes him through Pan’s domain, and the woodland god has a deadly bone to pick with Eno.

On a previous adventure, Eno slayed Pan’s three daughters in self-defense. To make amends with the goat-footed deity, our hero must endure the woodland god’s curse plus do a good deed for Pan’s children.

Slavers ambush and capture Eno, along with a young man named Gwern. A clever ruse turns Eno into a shift captain of a most peculiar mining operation under a dark mountain. Gwern’s enslaved people have labored for generations in the thrall of an ancient mage who hears voices in the mountain’s rocks.

A Mage Hears Voices
A Mage Hears Voices

After the workers unearth the rock speaker, Eno then must use his superb strength, wits, and a touch of Pan’s curse to battle the darkest threat yet to Eno’s world.

Dark Mountain is a fun fantasy romp set in the time of Greek gods, ancient Egypt, and medieval villages. C. B. Pratt uses a skillful hand to create a vivid fantasy world where the reader smells the manure of the farmyards and feels the tickle of foaming ale on the lips. The conversations with the moody Pan are especially delightful. The Gentle Reader who likes heroic fantasy told through the eyes of a thoughtful strongman would enjoy Dark Mountain. This is the second of Eno’s enjoyable stories that Lita has read, and she looks forward to immersing herself in Eno’s next tale.

Dark Mountain on Amazon US

Dark Mountain on Amazon UK

Dark Mountain on Goodreads

C. B. Pratt on Goodreads

C. B. Pratt website and blog

Colors of Fairy Magic

Bestiarum Vocabulum: Fairy

The Bestiarum Vocabulum is the wizard’s encyclopedia of faerie beasties and mundane crossovers living in the lake and forest near Lita’s castle.

Fire Fairy
Fire Fairy

fairy [ˈfə rē] noun, c.1250; ME fairie < OF faerie, fae, fairy < L ftum < Vulgar L fta; also fey-folk fairy, faerie

  1. Denizen of the Clockpunk Wizard world.
  2. One member of the fey-folk class of diminutive magicians, distinguished for its multi-lobed gossamer wings. Their magic is flighty, fanciful, fragile, fantastical, fickle, and foolish compared to the other fey-folk. There are four types of fairies: highland fairies with wings the color of sunshine, water fairies with turquoise wings that sound like murmuring rills, woodland fairies with emerald and jade wings, and fire fairies with smoky orange and black wings the color of flames.
  3. Personages: Izlyesende (a boy-fey), Allura-ella and Tessa-marine (girl-fey) in Ephraim’s Curious Device, Old Bony Blue Eyes, and Glitter Ponies.
  4. See fey-folk, brownie, and boggart in the Bestiarum Vocabulum. Also see “Care of a Fey-Folk Fairy (Part 1)” and “Care of a Fey-Folk Fairy (Part 2)

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