Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ Roundtable Podcast part 1

New podcast with Janet Morris and Chris Morris:
http://www.roundtablepodcast.com/2014/10/20-minutes-with-janet-and-chris-morris/

Dave Robison of Roundtable Podcast says:

This week’s “20 Minutes With…” segment isn’t.

20 Minutes, that is.

Why? ‘Cause when you get the opportunity to sit down with your literary heroes, you don’t hold yourself to petty things like temporal constraints.

I and the exceptional Michael R. Underwood sit down for an incredible conversation with Janet Morris and Chris Morris, creators and editors of the “Heroes in Hell” series, numerous Thieves World tales featuring the cursed immortal Tempus Thales (whose adventures are continued in The Sacred Band of Stepson’s series), and more marvelous speculative fiction than can be listed on Wikipedia.

Seriously… there’s never been a conversation like this on the RTP before. DO NOT miss this episode.

We’ve had some amazing authors Guest Host the RTP, astonishing creators who’s ideas ring through genre fiction and the SpecFic community.

But I’ve never interviewed one of my heroes before.

The fiction of Janet Morris and Chris Morris (“Heroes in Hell”, “Thieves World”, and more) has been a fundamental influence on my taste and aesthetic in genre fiction and having them on the show was an unparalleled delight.

I knew I’d never be able to do it alone, so I was hugely grateful when Michael R. Underwood agreed to co-host the show with me. Between the two of us, we engaged in (waaaay more than) 20 minutes of incredible discourse with these eloquent storytellers, discussing the symmetry of music and story, the resonance of the craft of fiction and non-fiction writing, and how to “ascend from the pit of self-doubt into the light of self-knowledge and mastery”.

This is one episode you DO NOT want to miss.

http://www.roundtablepodcast.com/2014/10/20-minutes-with-janet-and-chris-morris/

“Hero up with the Sacred Band audio book: Listen. Like. Buy. Review. Share. http://thndr.it/1qNI36m”

“Life to you, and everlasting glory.”

Hero up with The Sacred Band

Join the Sacred Band of Stepsons.  Become a mercenary of the god of war. Fight for honor and freedom of  the human spirit. Heroes shape society. Meet ours. Become one of us.  Make the world better, one battle at a time. Learn what it means to say to others “Life to you, and everlasting glory.”

People share their hopes, their loves, their fears by listening.  The oral tradition changes humanity for the better. Change your fate with The Sacred Band:http//www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Sacred-Band-Audiobook/B00MU2VCEO/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srImg?qid=1410452704&sr=1-1 . You can play your part by listening to the story of The Sacred Band by Janet Morris and Chris Morris on audio books available at Audible.com and Amazon, and recommending it to others.

“Hero up with the Sacred Band audio book by Janet Morris and Chris Morris: Listen. Like. Own. Review. Share. http://thndr.it/1qNI36m

Find The Sacred Band audiobook written by Janet Morris and Chris Morris at Audible.com, on Amazon, and at iTunes.

A taste of Beyond Sanctuary in Mage Blood, now a Kindle Single and Audible.com audiobook.

Tempus – takes the fight to the Wizards…who will survive?

819kjBdQXrL._SL1500_

MAGE BLOOD [Kindle Edition]

Janet Morris

Tempus and his Sacred Band of Stepsons prepare to take the Wizard War to the Mages of Wizardwall in this gripping story set “Beyond Sanctuary.” With Jihan the Froth daughter at his side, Tempus and the core of the Stepsons ride into the embattled town of Tyse, where they find friends and foes among the witches, wizards, and warfighters. From the first full length novel inspired by the Thieves’ World (R) series, “Mage Blood” takes you into unknown realms fraught with unimaginable peril.

Hear the Stepsonsspeak in the Audiobook edition of Mageblood, from the Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy.

Hear the Stepsonsspeak in the Audiobook edition of Mageblood, from the Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy.

Chris Morris, narrator and co-author of The Sacred Band audiobook, speaks out:

Audio Book Narrator Interview one – Chris Morris

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http://www.amazon.com/The-Sacred-Band/dp/B00N1YRVH2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409504021&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Sacred+Band+audiobook

http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Sacred-Band-Audiobook/B00MU2VCEO/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srImg?qid=1409504150&sr=1-1

The Sacred Band mythic novel, unabridged by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, narrated by Christopher Crosby Morris

The Sacred Band mythic novel, unabridged by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, narrated by Christopher Crosby Morris

As part of the interviews discussing all parts of reading, writing and enjoying great books today something new. Audio books.  Audio books have been around for ages – I have copies on cassette tape (yes remember those?) and one on CD but now most are MP3 and far easier to listen to than having to change the tape every 30 minutes!

As the first of these interviews I am very pleased to welcome Chris Morris, author, musician and audio book narrator.

Welcome to Christopher Crosby Morris

Tell us a bit about yourself: I am all about sound. Most of us can hear farther than we can see and have deep sound vocabularies we seldom consciously bring to bear in appreciating more of all that goes on in our lives. My mission is to wake people to the enhanced quality of life available through fully developed hearing.

How did you become involved with audio book narration and production? We read aloud as part of our writing process, often repeatedly, until our prose is properly voiced. Telling stories, whether in prose or song, is a listening sport. To be able to produce our written works in audio versions completes our audience’s spectrum of storytelling accessibility and for many provides a more profound experience than reading. Plus, I know the sorts of nuance each character brings and can impart something of what they’re like at the nonverbal level.

Tell us about some of the titles you’ve narrated. Do you have a favourite amongst these? At some time or other I’ve read our entire catalogue aloud, rehearsing you might say. My favourite is I, the Sun, which is next up in our production queue.

Do you have a preferred genre?  Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this? I prefer heroic fiction. I do not/will not read dystopian material because it stifles growth of character, which is our destiny.

What are you working on at present/just finished? At the moment I’m reading Roy Mauritsen’s Shards of the Glass Slipper: Queen Cinder. I’m narrating it as I read it for the first time, so it had better be heroic or I won’t read the next one.

Tell us about your process for narrating?  I read a chapter at a time on my Kindle Fire HD. I review the day’s material and highlight the names of the speakers to avoid mixing them up on the fly. I record in Adobe Audition and, when I misspeak, pause a moment, press the ‘M’ key to leave a marker, then immediately read the passage again and continue; I find it easier to go back later and edit at the marker points than to stop the bus, excise the offending bit, and then punch in to begin again; it’s about flow and rapport and technical interruptions can quickly degrade one’s performance.

What aspects do you find most enjoyable?  A point comes when I disappear and the story takes over, although I’m emotionally immersive and a section fraught with feeling can throw me off centre enough to leak into the voice and one has to stop and regroup at such a point; I’m steeling myself to deal with some of the death scenes in I, the Sun. So what’s enjoyable is being the voice of moments that transcend considerations of normalcy and possess the scope to portray extraordinary circumstances to the audience.

Do you consider royalty share when looking for books to narrate? If not why is this? Yes.

Do you listen to audio books? I listen to anything narrated by Derek Jacobi or Jeremy Irons; I also admire Alex Hyde-White’s narrations.

With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling? Yes. But see below..

Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular? Audio storytelling, rather than being something new, is returning to us something very old in our DNA, the wonderment of gathering to hear a voice fill the darkness and elicit our participation in a tale as we imagine what we hear. All the world’s cultures need this very much now. The spoken word is primal in its power to involve us and, properly uttered, humbly magnificent, the grandparent of our better selves.

Can you remember the first audio book you owned? Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards) narrating the Adventures of Pinocchio.

If you are an author, do you produce your own audiobooks or do you prefer to look for an independent narrator? Why have you made this choice? Before committing to produce our own audio books we signed up on the ACX site and began sampling the narrator talent there, which is considerable. We engaged Alex Hyde-White and David Kudler, both of whom gave us singular performances of shorter works and were supportive when I mentioned I’d like to give narration a go.

What I bring to narration is musicality. Good singers proceed from a natural speaking voice to the edges of register, tone, and volume their rendition of a piece requires; narration is similar but with the added consideration that one’s ‘piece’ is a lot longer than the average song and that ‘guest voices’ have to be incorporated into the narrator’s own. Listening to others sing my book pushed me right over the cliff.

By the time I finished my first run through of The Sacred Band, I had learned to produce an anchor voice – a centre sound – to carry all the exposition and yet have enough scope to inflect humour or suspense and other tensions when called for. We all have this ability and developing it is my lifelong fascination.

Has ACX/Audible fulfilled your expectations? (such as earnings, ease of use, workload etc.?) So far so good. What I like most about ACX is the amount of homework they’ve done to address the needs of all the parties to a production. Since the audio book form is newly resurgent there isn’t the lore or fading dominance of crumbling “big houses” of audio book publishing – they’ve simply never existed – and ACX has a band of brothers feel to it at the moment that I like. Hope it lasts.

Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book? Not really. You do learn very quickly what your articulation preferences are. Glottal stops are unacceptable. Regional dialectics wear thin rapidly. Vocal caricaturization, if I may coin a term, or cutesy voices drive me straight into the arms of my nearest dog.

Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. I always wanted to be lanky.

Where can we hear your audiobook? You can hear a free sample of my new audiobook, The Sacred Band, written by Janet morris and Chris Morris and narrated by Christopher Crosby Morris, on Audible.com at: http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Sacred-Band-Audiobook/B00MU2VCEO/

or on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Sacred-Band/dp/B00N1YRVH2/

What will you be narrating next? After I finish Roy Mauritsen’s Shards of the Glass Slipper: Queen Cinder, I am scheduled to narrate I, the Sun by Janet Morris, Outpassage by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, and then Beyond Sanctuary by Janet Morris.

You are also an accomplished author and prose editor. Where can find books you’ve edited, and some of your books and stories? I have many published stories. Some of my most recent short fictions appear in the following anthologies, some of which I edited. [These links are for Amazon Kindle, but most titles are also available in trade paper on Amazon, and in electronic editions on Nook as well as Kindle.)

Lawyers in Hell    http://www.amazon.com/Lawyers-Hell-Heroes-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B0057Q0OIK/

Rogues in Hell    http://www.amazon.com/Rogues-Hell-Heroes-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B008JZCFMO/

Dreamers in Hell    http://www.amazon.com/Dreamers-Hell-Heroes-Nancy-Asire-ebook/dp/B00DEB1IJE/

Poets in Hell   http://www.amazon.com/Poets-Hell-Heroes-Book-17-ebook/dp/B00KWKNTTW/

My novels co-written with Janet Morris are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in Kindle, Nook, and trade paper editions.  They include but are not limited to:

Where can we learn more about you?

My music is very important to me. Because you asked how to learn more about me, I recommend you sample my most recent album, available as MP3 Music and on CD at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Everybody-Knows-Christopher-Morris-Band/dp/B004GNEF3A/

You can hear more of my music on: https://soundcloud.com/christopher-morris

You may read about my history and see my bibliography at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_(author)

http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Morris/e/B008L41JNO/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_2

Social Media links for Chris Morris (Christopher Crosby Morris):

https://www.facebook.com/JanetMorrisandChrisMorris

https://www.facebook.com/christophercmorrissings

http://www.sacredbander.com

http://www.theperseidpress.com/#

http://www.facebook.com/christopher.c.morris.7?fref=ts

For other interviews with Chris and Janet and their characters please look here:

Sacred Band

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/character-interview-number-three-nikodemos-fantasymythic/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/character-interview-tempus-fantasy/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/character-interview-ghost-horse-fantasy/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/author-interview-and-special-guest-janet-morris/

Hell Week

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/a-week-in-hell-day-5-marlowe/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/author-interview-and-special-guest-janet-morris/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/a-week-in-hell-day-1-devil/

New Sacred Band Tales: The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl on Black Gate

From Black Gate. To read on Black Gate:  http://www.blackgate.com/2014/05/25/love-in-war-and-realms-beyond-imagining-a-review-of-the-fish-the-fighters-and-the-song-girl-by-janet-morris-and-chris-morris/

 

Love in War and Realms Beyond Imagining: A Review of The Fish, the Fighters and the Song Girl by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

Sunday, May 25th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

The Fish, the Fighters and the Song Girl-small

“Your commander reaches for yonder stars and gods do eye him. And there are more Fates in the wide worlds of men than those whom he has aided.” – from The Fish, the Fighters and the Song Girl.

The Fish, the Fighters and the Song Girl
Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Revised Author’s Cut, published by Perseid Press (386 pages, May 24, 2012, $24.95)
Cover art: Peter Paul Rubens, “The Consequences of War” (detail), 1637-1638

The team of Janet Morris and Chris Morris once again grace us with another excellent collection of Homeric Heroic Fantasy, featuring Tempus, Niko and their Sacred Band of Stepsons. This compilation is comprised of both new stories and earlier tales, herein revised from the original Thieves’ World® series, stories such as “What Women Do Best,” “Power Play,” and “Sanctuary is for Lovers.” Brand-new tales, written especially for this book, include “Shelter from the Storm,” “Lemnian Deed,” “Ravener, Where Art Thou?” and the title story.

All the magic, action, adventure, humor and human drama I’ve come to expect from Janet and Chris Morris are here in spades, and there are enough revelations and plot twists along the way to keep you on your toes.

This collection takes place after the Morris’ masterpiece, The Sacred Band, and gives us more of the history of the Sacred Band as Tempus takes his Stepsons and Thebans north, a world away, into unexplored regions and a mythic country. Though they are courageous, these fighters, they are no strangers to fear. Though they are warriors, hard and tough, they are not immune to love and compassion, to decency and common humanity.

And though the gods at times play their part, there is never a chance that Deus ex machina will overwhelm these wonderful characters and seize control of the stories. In fact, at times it seems that the gods are really no match for the human and mortal characters. As in Greek mythology, which is the heart and soul of all the tales of the Sacred Band, the gods are as weak, as fallible, as jealous, and as imperfect as mortals – and sometimes even more so.

The Sacred Band-smallThe Fish, the Fighters and the Song Girl is a highly intelligent and extremely complex collection of tales that reads very much like a novel, and is built on a large and strong cast of characters who live and breathe, sweat and bleed. We meet new characters and revisit old, familiar ones.

And while we travel through unknown territory with Tempus, Niko and the Sacred Band, most of these stories are centered in good old Sanctuary®, where war is brewing between the empire of Ranke and the Beysibs of Harka Bey over control of that infamous town of rogues and thieves, whores and priests, mages and mercenaries.

Tempus and the Stepsons, the 3rd Commandos under Sync, and the Rankan Empire all want to rid Sanctuary of the Beysibs, install an interim ruler, and make Sanctuary an independent state. So that’s the background on what’s going on and the hub around which these stories revolve. Now, let me tell you a little about the players involved.

Once again we encounter Molin Torchholder, Vashanka the Storm God’s priest; he’s always trying to curb the actions of the Sacred Band, and this time out strikes a bargain with Tempus for his own secret agenda.

We learn more about the Stepson Straton and his love affair with Ischade the necromant; they set out to rescue Strat’s partner Sync, who’s been totally enthralled and held captive by Roxane, the Nisibisi witch who played such a large role in The Sacred Band and the Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy; her demon-familiar, Snapper Jo, now tends bar at the Vulgar Unicorn® and dreams of being human.

Herein we get tangled up with Zip, the Death Squad guerilla leader who introduced Sync to Roxane; he also gets romantically involved with Kama, daughter of Tempus, and becomes a player in the war for Sanctuary’s independence. Randal, the shape-shifting, jug-eared mage is here, too, and he’s still allergic to animal forms, especially when he changes into one.

Microsoft Word - 09 12 24 Sacred Band Cover white horse white foWe also meet Cassander the Healer, a gifted horse doctor who buys a live fish, a kite-ray that he needs to heal a young girl named Seriti. (Interesting thing about this fish: it’s used to create a sort of “organic battery,” which is then used for healing and purposes of interrogation. Cassander is like a heroic fantasy version of television’s MacGyver.)

Niko, right-side companion to Tempus, has been immortalized and is now the avatar of Harmonia, the Theban goddess of Balance and Justice. He has his hands full taking care of two children: Arton, who at times can see the future, and Gyskouras (Kouras), who is the god Vashanka’s son, through Tempus who actually fathered him. Jihan, Froth Daughter of the god Stormbringer, shows her maternal side when she and Niko defend the boys against deadly snakes sent by the witch Roxane to slay the lads.

As for Tempus the Sleepless One… as always, he has a full plate. When the two gods – Father Enlil (Lord Storm) and Vashanka the Pillager – vie for space and attention inside the head of an exhausted Tempus, Abarsis the Slaughter Priest, founder and now patron shade of the Sacred Band, comes to his aid and grants him one full night of rest. And Tempus will need that rest, for even more trials and tribulations await him.

Kama, his daughter, is on a covert mission and becomes apprenticed to Hakiem the storyteller, who claims to be neutral in this war, but seems to have all the right connections. New to the Stepsons is Gayle, a foul-mouthed mercenary who can build a string of profanity around a single word; he’s been assigned to protect Kama, even from those who are trying to help her. But then Kama is framed – implicated in, and about to be indicted for, sedition and attempted murder.

Meanwhile, Molin Torchholder wants to save and marry her, and Jihan claims to be in love with young Randal, the Hazard Class and shape-shifting mage. So Tempus decides it’s best to stop the marriage between Randal and Jihan; with Randal’s permission he then sets out to woo Jihan away from the young mage for many reasons of his own, not to mention for the sake of romance. But first Tempus must send out teams of Stepsons to find the traitor who framed Kama for murder and sedition.

There is so much more to this anthology and to these stories, so many levels and layers, and the fun is in the reading and discovering how all the many threads tie together to create a tapestry of great storytelling. As in all Janet and Chris Morris’s stories of Tempus and his Sacred Band, their writing is crisp and spot on. Their use of present-tense to grab the reader with a sense of immediacy and urgency is always well-played and never jarring. There is a balance and simplicity, a beauty and poignancy in their prose that is not overdone, not overplayed; they write with a deep insight into the human soul, with compassion and humanity. Here’s a favorite passage of mine that takes place when the ghost of Abarsis the Slaughter Priest appears to take Niko’s former partner to heaven:

She knew ghosts when she saw them; this one was a spirit of supernal power, a fabled strength, a glossy being of such beauty that tears came to Ischade’s eyes when it sat down beside Niko, ruffling his hair with a fawn-colored hand.

 

“I am Abarsis,” it smiled in introduction, and she saw the wizard blood there, ancient lineage, and love so strong it made her head hurt; she’d given up such options as this ghost thrived on, long ago.

“We need Janni’s soul in heaven; it’s earned its peace…”

Beyond the Veil Janet Morris-smallI like that passage a lot. For me it’s writing that aims for the heart, as well as the brain. The philosophy, the credo of the Sacred Band will make you pause to think, but the way the characters are written, whether heroic, villainous or something in between, will make you feel.

One thing I’d like to mention is the women characters. In a review of one of the Sacred Band books, the reviewer brought up the point that the female characters are either witches or goddesses. Now, part of that statement rings true to history, true to a time when women controlled most religions, when women ruled as queens. But women play much more diverse roles in the Sacred Band mythos than witches, goddesses, priestesses, and even whores.First, there is Kama, a Sacred Band warrior as deadly, as proficient in the art of killing as any man. There are the two Lemnians, Breisis and Ditki, who once fought against the Band but have now joined with them.

And then there’s Madame Bomba, a shrewd businesswoman who has her hands in everything, her eyes on everything, and her heart in the right place. These women are all empowered – they are forces to be reckoned with, such as: a witch that even the gods fear; a necromant who feels love and compassion; a goddess who wants to be human; veteran warriors who have not sacrificed femininity and gentility, tenderness and caring.

To talk more in depth about the plots of each story would be to give too much away. I think, I hopethat what I have given you here is tease enough and has piqued your interest enough to have you seek out this volume and lose yourself in the wondrously magical and yet all too gritty and real world of the Sacred Band. And for those of you who haven’t read my Black Gate and Amazon reviews of The Sacred BandBeyond SanctuaryBeyond the Veil, and Beyond Wizardwall, please check them out. I think you’ll like the realms of wonder created by Janet and Chris Morris.

http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Fighters-Song-Girl-Sacred-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B007VQIJFY/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403489117&sr=1-1&keywords=the+fish+the+fighters+and+the+song+girl

http://www.amazon.com/Tempus-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-Tales-ebook/dp/B00BI175EY/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403489152&sr=1-2&keywords=Tempus+by+Janet+Morris

http://www.amazon.com/The-Sacred-Band-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00AMLKJAI/ref=pd_sim_b_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=1G3G9V5GG6XR7RCPPG50

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Sanctuary-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FPDG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1403489228&sr=1-1&keywords=beyond+sanctuary+by+janet+morris

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Veil-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FIG0/ref=pd_sim_kstore_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=1MHWYTAZ81A5WRHZSY7K

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Wizardwall-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FH6G/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=1KR03JS0W4QV928YG748

All Sacred Band of Stepsons series books available at Amazon in trade and Kindle from Perseid Press. theperseidpress.com

Books shown above also available at Barnes & Noble in trade and Nook editions, and better bookstores everywhere.

Look at Amazon’s Sacred Band books catalog and find additional Sacred Band of Stepsons short fiction available only for Kindle and companion audiobooks from Audible.com. Look for our Author’s Cut editions of the Beyond Trilogy: Beyond Sanctuary, Beyond the Veil, Beyond Wizardwall, expanded by nearly fifty thousand words.

Life to you, and everlasting glory…

 

The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl, by JanetMorris and Chris Morris, reviewed by Joe Bonadonna for The Dowser’s Delusions.

A review of Janet and Chris Morris’ THE FISH, THE FIGHTERS AND THE SONG GIRL

 

More tales of the Sacred Band: Love in war and realms beyond imagining….

 

The Fish, the Fighters and the Song Girl, by Janet Morris and Chris Morris. Revised Author’s Cut, published by Perseid Press, copyright © 2010 by Janet Morris. 386 pages. Cover art: Peter Paul Rubens, “The Consequences of War” (detail), 1637-1638.  Image copyright © The Perseid Press, 2012. Reviewed by Joe Bonadonna.

 

“Your commander reaches for yonder stars and gods do eye him. And there are more Fates in the wide worlds of men than those whom he has aided.” – from The Fish, the Fighters and the Song Girl.

 

The team of Janet Morris and Chris Morris once again grace us with another excellent anthology of Homeric Heroic Fantasy, featuring Tempus, Niko and their Sacred Band of Stepsons. This compilation is comprised of both new stories and earlier tales, herein revised from the original Thieves’ World® series, stories such as “What Women Do Best,” “Power Play,” and “Sanctuary is for Lovers.” Brand-new tales, written especially for this book, include “Shelter from the Storm,” “Lemnian Deed,” “Ravener, Where Art Thou?” and the title story. All the magic, action, adventure, humor and human drama I’ve come to expect from Janet and Chris Morris are here in spades, and there are enough revelations and plot twists along the way to keep you on your toes.

 

This collection takes place after the Morris’ masterpiece, The Sacred Band, and gives us more of the history of the Sacred Band as Tempus takes his Stepsons and Thebans north, a world away, into unexplored regions and a mythic country. Though they are courageous, these fighters, they are no strangers to fear. Though they are warriors, hard and tough, they are not immune to love and compassion, to decency and common humanity. And though the gods at times play their part, there is never a chance that Deus ex machina will overwhelm these wonderful characters and seize control of the stories. In fact, at times it seems that the gods are really no match for the human and mortal characters. As in Greek mythology, which is the heart and soul of all the tales of the Sacred Band, the gods are as weak, as fallible, as jealous, and as imperfect as mortals – and sometimes even more so. 

 

The Fish, the Fighters and the Song Girl is a highly intelligent and extremely complex collection of tales that reads very much like a novel, and is built on a large and strong cast of characters who live and breathe, sweat and bleed. We meet new characters and revisit old, familiar ones. And, while we travel through unknown territory with Tempus, Niko and the Sacred Band, most of these stories are centered in good old Sanctuary®, where war is brewing between the empire of Ranke and the Beysibs of Harka Bey over control of that infamous town of rogues and thieves, whores and priests, mages and mercenaries. Tempus and the Stepsons, the 3rd Commandos under Sync, and the Rankan Empire all want to rid Sanctuary of the Beysibs, install an interim ruler, and make Sanctuary an independent state. So that’s the background on what’s going on and the hub around which these stories revolve. Now, let me tell you a little about the players involved.

 

Once again we encounter Molin Torchholder, Vashanka the Storm God’s priest; he’s always trying to curb the actions of the Sacred Band, and this time out strikes a bargain with Tempus for his own secret agenda. We learn more about the Stepson Straton and his love affair with Ischade the necromant; they set out to rescue Strat’s partner Sync, who’s been totally enthralled and held captive by Roxane, the Nisibisi witch who played such a large role in The Sacred Band and the Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy; her demon-familiar, Snapper Jo, now tends bar at the Vulgar Unicorn® and dreams of being human. Herein we get tangled up with Zip, the Death Squad guerilla leader who introduced Sync to Roxane; he also gets romantically involved with Kama, daughter of Tempus, and becomes a player in the war for Sanctuary’s independence. Randal, the shape-shifting, jug-eared mage is here, too, and he’s still allergic to animal forms, especially when he changes into one. We also meet Cassander the Healer, a gifted horse doctor who buys a live fish, a kite-ray that he needs to heal a young girl named Seriti. (Interesting thing about this fish: it’s used to create a sort of “organic battery,” which is then used for healing and purposes of interrogation. Cassander is like a heroic fantasy version of television’s MacGyver.)

 

Niko, right-side companion to Tempus, has been immortalized and is now the avatar of Harmonia, the Theban goddess of Balance and Justice. He has his hands full taking care of two children: Arton, who at times can see the future, and Gyskouras (Kouras), who is the god Vashanka’s son, through Tempus who actually fathered him. Jihan, Froth Daughter of the god Stormbringer, shows her maternal side when she and Niko defend the boys against deadly snakes sent by the witch Roxane to slay the lads.

 

As for Tempus the Sleepless One…as always, he has a full plate. When the two gods – Father Enlil (Lord Storm) and Vashanka the Pillager – vie for space and attention inside the head of an exhausted Tempus, Abarsis the Slaughter Priest, founder and now patron shade of the Sacred Band, comes to his aid and grants him one full night of rest. And Tempus will need that rest, for even more trials and tribulations await him:

 

Kama, his daughter, is on a covert mission and becomes apprenticed to Hakiem the storyteller, who claims to be neutral in this war but seems to have all the right connections. New to the Stepsons is Gayle, a foul-mouthed mercenary who can build a string of profanity around a single word; he’s been assigned to protect Kama, even from those who are trying to help her. But then Kama is framed – implicated in, and about to be indicted for sedition and attempted murder. Meanwhile, Molin Torchholder wants to save and marry her, and Jihan claims to be in love with young Randal, the Hazard Class and shape-shifting mage. So Tempus decides it’s best to stop the marriage between Randal and Jihan; with Randal’s permission he then sets out to woo Jihan away from the young mage for many reasons of his own, not to mention for the sake of romance. But first Tempus must send out teams of Stepsons to find the traitor who framed Kama for murder and sedition.

 

There is so much more to this anthology and to these stories, so many levels and layers, and the fun is in the reading and discovering how all the many threads tie together to create a tapestry of great storytelling. As in all Janet and Chris Morris’ stories of Tempus and his Sacred Band, their writing is crisp and spot on. Their use of present-tense to grab the reader with a sense of immediacy and urgency is always well-played and never jarring. There is a balance and simplicity, a beauty and poignancy in their prose that is not overdone, not overplayed; they write with a deep insight into the human soul, with compassion and humanity. Here’s a favorite passage of mine that takes place when the ghost of Abarsis the Slaughter Priest appears to take Niko’s former partner to heaven:

 

She knew ghosts when she saw them; this one was a spirit of supernal power, a fabled strength, a glossy being of such beauty that tears came to Ischade’s eyes when it sat down beside Niko, ruffling his hair with a fawn-colored hand.

 

“I am Abarsis,” it smiled in introduction, and she saw the wizard blood there, ancient lineage, and love so strong it made her head hurt; she’d given up such options as this ghost thrived on, long ago.

 

“We need Janni’s soul in heaven; it’s earned its peace…”

 

I like that passage a lot. For me it’s writing that aims for the heart, as well as the brain. The philosophy, the credo of the Sacred Band will make you pause to think, but the way the characters are written, whether heroic, villainous or something in between, will make you feel.

 

One thing I’d like to mention is the women characters. In a review of one of the Sacred Band books, the reviewer brought up the point that the female characters are either witches or goddesses. Now, part of that statement rings true to history, true to a time when women controlled most religions, when women ruled as queens. But women play much more diverse roles in the Sacred Band mythos than witches, goddesses, priestesses and even whores. First, there is Kama, a Sacred Band warrior as deadly, as proficient in the art of killing as any man. There are the two Lemnians, Breisis and Ditki, who once fought against the Band but have now joined with them. And then there’s Madame Bomba, a shrewd business woman who has her hands in everything, her eyes on everything, and her heart in the right place. These women are all empowered – they are forces to be reckoned with, such as: a witch that even the gods fear; a necromant who feels love and compassion; a goddess who wants to be human; veteran warriors who have not sacrificed femininity and gentility, tenderness and caring.

 

To talk more in depth about the plots of each story would be to give too much away. I think, I hope that what I have given you here is tease enough and has piqued your interest enough to have you seek out this volume and lose yourself in the wondrously magical and yet all too gritty and real world of the Sacred Band. And for those of you who haven’t read my Black Gate and Amazon reviews of The Sacred BandBeyond Sanctuary, Beyond the Veil, and Beyond Wizardwall, please check them out. I think you’ll like the realms of wonder created by Janet and Chris Morris.

 

Life to you all, and everlasting glory.Image

Joe Bonadonna’s capstone review of Beyond Wizardwall for Black Gate

Tribulations Herculean and Tragic: Beyond Wizardwall by Janet Morris

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Beyond Wizardwall

Woe betide the soul who loves too much, wants too much, dares too much.

I finish my reviews of the 5-star, Author’s Cut editions of Janet Morris’ classic of Homeric Heroic Fantasy, the Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy, with the third and final book, Beyond Wizardwall. This was the toughest of the three to review because there is so much that happens and so much ground to cover. This is also the most dramatic, tense and emotionally powerful of the three books. Let me begin with a little recap in Janet’s own words:

Heavy snows had put the war against Mygdonia and its Nisibisi wizards into hiatus. Niko’s commander, Tempus, called the Riddler, had employed magic to bring his mixed cadre of shock troops (Rankan 3rd Commando rangers, Tysian ‘specials,’ hillmen of Free Nisibis, and Niko’s unit of Stepsons) back to Tyse for the winter. Fighting had ended inconclusively, with the Mygdonian warlord Ajami still at large.

They ride into Tyse triumphant and settle in to wait for spring, content with the season’s work. All except Niko. Everything in this excellent novel revolves around Niko, (who is also known by his war name, Stealth), for what trials he endures and what tribulations he suffers are Herculean and tragic, and form the core of this novel.

In the first chapter he’s at wits’ end, quitting the Sacred Band after he gets rousted by a pair of arrogant 3rd Commandos, wherein things quickly turn ugly and he kills one of the soldiers. Niko escapes and goes into hiding at Brother Bomba’s whorehouse.

This is where the triad of Niko’s troubles begins. First, there is Askelon, the entelechy of dreams, regent of the seventh sphere and an archmage with delusions of godhood. He rules the sleep of all, from his ephemeral archipelago of dreams, Meridian. Then there is Roxane — shape changer, soul eater and vampire-like witch, who devours the essence of life from hapless mortals. Finally, we have Enlil, the northern Storm Lord and god of the armies. All three come to haunt Niko.

Beyond Wizardwall Ace paperback-smallAskelon wants Niko for the purity of his soul, who steals his sleep and wants Stealth for an avatar. Roxane the witch, Death’s Queen, wants Niko’s body and a bit of his soul. And Enlil wants Niko as a representative on earth. Pulled in three directions by three powerful beings of higher octaves, Niko is being driven mad, which leads him into a whirlpool of drink and drugs. To make matters worse, Brachis, High Priest of Vashanka, (the Rankan storm god who has disappeared), comes to hire Niko to assassinate Abikithis, the emperor of Ranke, for the good of empire, Vashanka and Niko’s own soul.

Now, still searching for Niko, wanting him for the murder of one of their own, the 3rd Commandos trash Bomba’s bordello, but Niko manages to escape.

Enter Tempus: The Riddler wrestles with his own demons. Demigod and immortal though he is, he bears a curse of his own: those who love him die of it, and those he loves are bound to spurn him. And Niko, being his right-side companion in war and life, may suffer from that curse, as Tempus himself has long suffered from it.

The Riddler’s heart is troubled, for he has deployed Niko before, pushing him and using him to flush out Roxane the witch, but she’s still at large. Now Tempus fears that Roxane has again possessed Niko and is spying through his eyes. He needs to find Niko, not only to set things to rights, but to find out what Brachis the High Priest wants, and to save Niko from the 3rd Commandos, the special unit Tempus formed and trained in his younger days.

To top it all off: there is much anger, competition and jealousy between the Stepsons and the Commandos. Furthermore, Vashanka, the Rankan Storm God who once was Tempus’ patron, has disappeared. Tempus blames himself for the witch stalking Niko, and he will finally bargain with Enlil — save Niko, leave Niko be, and take him, the Riddler, instead. Ah, but things are never quite that easy.

Enter Randal: Seventh Level Hazard Mage, who is also part of the Sacred Band, the only wizard with whom they agree to work. When he returns home he confronts the mysterious suicide of his guild’s murderous First Hazard Mage. After Niko is found and rescued, Tempus orders Randal to keep an eye on Stealth, his one-time, right-side partner, to protect him and keep track of him. But as you can guess, that’s not going to be an easy task, either. And events are soon set into motion that will quickly throw Randal into the very thick of things.

Beyond Wizardwall hardcover-smallEnter Cime: The dangerous, seductive mage-killer, sister of Tempus in spirit, if not by blood. She breaks into the mageguild one night, casts a spell and seduces the First Hazard, and then murders him. She and Tempus will form a joint occupation to rid the world of sorcerers, except for Randal. If it was up to her, Cime would rid the world of gods, too. Despite her distaste for wizards, she will team up with Randal to help track down Roxane who, weakened and ugly and badly injured after the mage-war, wants a magical globe that Randal possesses.

Don’t forget: Roxane also wants Niko, and she uses an innocent young boy named Grippa to get at him.

And then there’s Kama, Tempus’ beautiful daughter, a soldier with the 3rd Commandos, who falls in love with a Stepson named Critias, and who seems to have a secret agenda all her own. Needless to say, she manages to cause a few problems. What does she want? Whose side is she on? What does she seek, besides her father’s approval? What part will she play in the events to come? Jihan, the Froth Daughter of the god Stormbringer, also returns to complicate Tempus’ immortal life, and with her is the young boy with wizard’s blood, Shamshi, whose sad fate will eventually play out in The Sacred Band,which I previously reviewed here, for Black Gate.

As Fate and the gods would have it, all-too soon things heat up further for Niko when he’s captured by priests and goes on trial in a kangaroo court designed to find him guilty of murder. He is tortured and maimed beyond all mortal endurance, and what he suffers in one tense, emotionally-charged scene will cut to the core of your heart as it cuts to the heart of Tempus the Riddler. And Tempus, near the end of his own wits, finds a way to capture Roxane, only to end up making a bargain with her, to gain her help in saving Niko.

This is a novel of passion and love, powerful and character-driven from start to finish. It’s brilliantly conceived and executed, packing more in its 415 pages then the previous two books combined. Just to give you a sample of what else goes on: During a festival of songs, games and physical prowess, there is a hostage crisis culminating in a surprising decision by Tempus, and what orders he gives to his Sacred Band. While the war between Ranke and Mygdonia is on hold for the winter, assassination is nevertheless in the air, and there’s a military coup in the works to put an old friend of Tempus’ on the Lion Throne of Ranke. But Ranke is doomed unless their missing god Vashanka is found, for without their god no hand at the helm of empire could be steady enough to put her back on course.

The Sacred Band-smallAh, but no strategy of war lasts long after battle is joined, and everything seems to be going wrong, especially after Randal the mage decides to go against Tempus’ orders when he is sent to deliver a message to the Rankan mageguild and discovers, to his dismay, the truth about who the chiefs adepts of his guild just happen to be. There is also a very strange and highly unlikely, often pesky little hornet, and the “reveal” of what that creature is will catch you off-guard… and there’s this cool, orange-haired, gray-skinned demon named Snapper Jo who Roxane summons to serve her.

Beyond Wizardwall is a wonderful novel that expertly caps the Beyond Sanctuary Trilogy in a surprising and satisfying conclusion. It’s a novel of complex characters caught up in complicated situations. Once again, Janet Morris gives us a literary classic of Heroic Fantasy. This is a textured novel, layered with themes of brotherhood and loyalty, love and betrayal, of the magic and majesty of horses, of boys growing into manhood, and the tragedy of those who die all too young. This is a novel filled with fine writing, exciting and talented writing. For example, here is Morris describing simply and most eloquently, the archipelago of dreams known as Meridian:

“Here was no life as men knew it, no days piling one upon the last inexorably; but a different life, a different nature, malleable and ruled by the flux of nature. Sometimes Meridian was beautiful, sometimes horrid, for it held every dream and every dreamer from all mankind’s befuddled flock.

These had no tomorrows, no yesterdays, but only dramas, lusts and fears and doubts — and joys, melodies to set its golden streets vibrating with the turning of the spheres. Meridian was one of the four metaphysical compass points of creation; as such, its existence was never wholly in one realm or another, but roving on a cosmic wind that changed with every dream and dreamer.”

Microsoft Word - 09 12 24 Sacred Band Cover white horse white foThere is plenty of action, humor, sex, pathos, magic and mystery, as well, and the narrative moves as swiftly as a blood-bay stallion at full gallop. This is Heroic Fantasy at its best, the kind I favor, and this Author’s Cut, which has been revised and expanded for this handsome, brand-new Perseid Press edition is a classic of the genre. But above all, Beyond Wizardwall has heart and compassion. Janet Morris writes about people; her characters live and breathe with the kind of vibrancy and solidity I find inspiring and influential to my own work.

For in the end, without human conflict, without emotional drama, without character growth, without heart,all you have is a narrative. And the soul of this novel is this: we feel the humanity and compassion in Niko; we feel the pain in Tempus’ own heart, know how deeply he loves, how he fears that love. We feel his aching and longing, and what torments his soul. And even in the character of Death’s Queen, the soul-eating witch Roxane, we learn that she can love and that she, too, understands compassion. Once again, bravo Janet Morris!

Life to you, and everlasting glory.

Beyond Wizardwall: The Revised Author’s Cut was published by Perseid Press on November 17, 2013. It is 415 pages, priced at $24.99 in trade paperback, or $6.99 for the digital edition. Cover art detail from The Fall of Phaeton by Peter Paul Rubens.

Read my previous reviews of Janet Morris’ novels here:

The Sacred Band
Beyond Sanctuary
Beyond the Veil
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