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Ariel knows that to accept the Shadowblade's deadly gift of fighting skill and power is the first step on a dark path to tyranny. Blade adepts are hated and feared––and ultimately hunted down and killed.
She has no choice. It's her only chance to rescue her sister from capture and slavery by ruthless Rapathian invaders.
It's a desperate but simple decision until she meets Marin, Captain of the Eldrin, the elite force of Mage-warriors protecting King and realm from attack. Pledged to fight invaders, they are also sworn to capture and kill dangerous Blade adepts.
Now Ariel has to convince Marin and his highly skilled team of fighters to help her rescue her sister––and that they can trust her to fight alongside them.
Failure means instant death. But the path to success is long and hard. Love and war would be complex enough without having to resist the temptation that too much power brings––or the interference of powerful Elementals focused on revenge...
Shadowblade is the first book in A Dance of Fire & Shadow, the new fantasy adventure-romance series from Jay Aspen.
Perfect for fans of Sarah J Maas & J RR Tolkien
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Great new fantasy series!
Original and compelling
Great story, interesting characters, plenty of action.
Couldn't put it down!
It can’t be!
It has to be a dream, a nightmare. In a minute I’ll wake. The bodies lie where they fell, scattered between the houses like heaps of bloody clothes. It feels disrespectful to simply run and dodge between them while pausing only to check that my mother and sister are not among the dead, but I have to reach my house. I have to find my family––
I burst through the door and into the kitchen, my heart pounding and my mouth dry.
A few things scattered, smashed on the floor but it is as if whoever stormed through here was in a hurry and looking for something in particular. Even in my anxiety and panic I can see this is not the aftermath of a search through every item for anything worth stealing. Everyone knows the Sylvani are not in the habit of hoarding gold or jewels, so we are not often troubled by bandits.
Maybe that’s why we’ve grown soft. The elders said we would come to regret it.
I check the bedrooms. Nothing. The dye shed. Hardly disturbed. Maybe the stink of the dye put them off. Only the barn left to search. The heavy wooden door is open, swaying back and forth in the breeze, and I’m suddenly terrified of what I’ll find in there.
I can hear Sahan whickering as she picks up my scent. Inside, I’m glad for the comfort of stroking her glossy dark brown coat and mane, feeling her reassuring warmth. .Something still lives and breathes in this place of death.
Another warning chill runs down my spine. We may not have the sort of hard currency most bandits are after but they do steal horses if they find them. Sahan is no plodding load-carrier but she’s tall and rangy, swift and nimble enough to be of value to any ambitious robber hoping for a quick getaway.
Now I’m finding space to think, I can’t remember hearing about any band of thugs who are in the habit of murdering indiscriminately. Perhaps for reasons of practicality rather than mercy. Live victims being more likely to gather future plunder than dead ones––
Sahan twitches and pulls against my hands, trying to break free from her half of the barn but she’s not heading for the door. I follow the direction of her eyes to a bundle on the floor in the far corner, almost invisible in the shadows. I run towards it, somehow knowing that this is my mother even before I turn her over and see her face.
My hand feels sticky. There is blood running from a wound in her neck and her left arm is soaked in it. She’s still warm. If I can get her stitched and bandaged she’ll be all right. We have an emergency first-aid bag stored in every building and there is one right here…
Of course. She was trying to reach it when she passed out.
I grab the bag and get a compress on the wound, holding it tight with one hand while I search for sutures and needle with the other.
Suddenly cool fingers grasp my arm.
"Ariel. Don’t. I haven’t much time. Just listen."
I almost start crying with relief.
"You’re alive. I thought… Just hold on there and I’ll get you fixed––"
"Too late. I can feel it. So listen for once in your life." This is another family tease and she tries to smile but the effort is too great.
"The soldiers took only the young and strong. Probably to use or sell as slaves. You can find Alina and the rest of them, but you must follow my instructions..."
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In the aftermath of a deadly invasion, Samaran is a land in turmoil.
Bandits prey on cities and farmsteads, corsairs prowl the high seas.
Ariel has earned her place with the elite Mage-warriors of the Eldrin, sworn to protect King and country––but power comes with a cost. The Elementals who can bestow dragonfire and ice-skills are wild and unpredictable, focused on their own long-term goals.
But now the sinister power behind the war is taking shape and form. The strength and skill of the Eldrin will be needed to lead the resistance.
For Ariel, life has become complicated. Visions of the distant threat haunt her dreams, her sister treads a precarious path as royal concubine and bodyguard, her Elemental ally seems to have gone rogue––and the love of her life has ended their relationship.
If only she can control the wild power inside her to defeat the raiders…
Then maybe she can protect her sister from the schemes of influential conspirators––and maybe even persuade Marin they can be reunited when the fighting is over…
Elf, dragon, wolf, and a mysterious Mage-warrior weave a dangerous path in this fantasy adventure-romance epic from Jay Aspen.
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Original fantasy series
complex plots and dynamic action
interesting characters and action.
A compelling read
“Deris! I thought you were still at sea? Where is Marin? What happened?”
Green Elf-eyes crinkle a little. “I see you’re still as impatient as ever. First, we must get Marin inside. I have been keeping him alive all through this last day’s journey but my power is almost gone. Come.” He turns back to his horse and helps Marin dismount, but not before I notice the lines of exhaustion on his aquiline features and the way his long dark hair is plastered to his forehead with sweat and grime. Even so, he is still able to carry the full weight of his half-conscious captain into the infirmary while I hurry behind him.
As soon as Marin is laid out on the nearest bed I start to peel off his mail and clothing, searching for the wounds through the mass of blood on his face and neck.
“Deris, save me some time. You must know––”
“Here.” He guides my hands to the deep stab through chainmail and surcoat on the left side of Marin’s chest, almost invisible beneath the coating of half-dried blood. I lay my palms over the jagged opening and close my eyes, focused on letting powerful life force pour into the torn flesh and punctured lung. The sudden intrusion of it jolts Marin back to consciousness and my hands twitch in response to the pain and shock he feels.
He grabs my wrist, his grip still powerful in spite of his wounds.
“Ariel, no! Stop. There are others who need you more than I do.”
Deris leans forward to intervene, determinedly peeling Marin’s fingers off me.
“No, they don’t! If you hadn’t been half-conscious you would know just how close you were to…”
He breaks off, an edge of anxiety and impatience in his manner I have not seen in him before. The Fae are usually more controlled, more enigmatic than humankind and Deris is no exception. Confirmation if I needed any that Marin would indeed have died on the journey here if our loyal Elf-friend had not been there to save him.
But why has Deris returned from his sea-patrol so early?
A low wolf-growl of impatience.
I massage the soft fur behind her ears, knowing that she can’t usually resist the pleasure of it.
“Lupine! You’re usually more stoical than this. As soon as you’re mended you can go out on the next patrol––”
The growl takes on a sharp edge and her ears prick up, instantly alert. Wolf-sense can detect anyone approaching even before the lookouts sound the alarm. I’m on my feet in an instant, drawing the two crysteel blades from the harness at my back and running to the door even as the warning drumbeat booms from the lookout post.
I reach the square just as three horn blasts give the signal for friends approaching. I can feel the relief drifting in the air as the other defenders slow their pace and sheath their weapons. The hiss of crysteel nesting once more at my back whispers a small reassurance that we may have a few more hours of peace.
If luck is with us this day…
But when the first wagon of the caravan rumbles across the cobbled paving to halt right in front of me, it brings bad news as well as good. The heavy cart is flanked by our militia outriders, bloody swords gripped in their hands, exhaustion etched on their faces.
I look up. There are bodies laid out on the flat leather covering that protects the top of the load. Bodies in bloodstained militia livery and chainmail. The sides of the wagon are blotched with patches of dark red, glistening against the seasoned wood.
Anxiety grips my heart even as I glance back over my shoulder and call to Sasha.
“Quick! Get everyone except Garth out of the clinic. It looks like we have more serious casualties coming in and we have to give them priority.”
She disappears at a run. I know I can rely on her to have enough space ready by the time we bring in the wounded.
The next phalanx of riders arrives in a clatter of hooves and as they rein in I can see how many of them are supporting a wounded comrade. I run forward to grab the nearest casualty as he half-falls from the saddle, holding him upright until his friend can dismount and carry him inside.
A familiar lilting voice comes from behind me.
“Ariel. I need your help with Marin.”
I turn abruptly to come face to face with the powerful Fae warrior I had not expected to encounter for many weeks yet.