by Kristen Taber
Book 1: THE CHILD RETURNS
Seventeen-year-old Meaghan has no idea her perfect life has been a lie — until she witnesses her parents’ brutal murders at the hands of red-eyed creatures.
After nearly sharing their fate, she escapes with her best friend, Nick, who tells her the creatures are called Mardróch. They come from another world, and so does she. Now that the Mardróch have found her, she must return to her homeland of Ærenden or face death.
Left with little choice, she follows Nick into a strange world both similar to Earth and drastically different. Vines have the ability to attack. Monkeys freeze their victims with a glare. Men create bombs from thin air. Even Meaghan’s newly discovered empath power turns into a danger she cannot control.
But control becomes the least of her worries once the Mardróch begin targeting her. When Nick confesses he knows the reason they want her, she learns the truth behind the kingdom's fifteen-year civil war — a long-buried secret that could cost Meaghan her life.
Book II: THE GILDONAE ALLIANCE
Several months after Meaghan’s return to Ærenden, the kingdom’s war has taken a turn for the worse. The Mardróch army hunts the new King and Queen, destroying villages in its wake. And Meaghan and Nick, training for battle in their remote section of wilderness, are far from safe. Danger hides in shadows and behind innocent faces. Allies become foes. Each day is a fight to survive. But in the end, only one threat matters. And it’s a threat they never see coming.
Book III: THE ZEIIHBU MASTER
Separated and on opposite sides of the kingdom, Nick and Meaghan face different pursuits which could change the balance of power in Ærenden forever.
While Nick trains the villagers to be soldiers, Meaghan and a small rescue party venture into Zeiihbu to find Faillen's young son, before Garon can use the boy's power to destroy those still fighting against his rule.
Everyone knows Meaghan could be on a suicide mission, but when Nick stumbles upon a secret concealed in one of the southern villages, he realizes that Garon might not be Meaghan's greatest foe. The enemy most likely to kill her is someone who has also promised to keep her safe.
EXCERPT FROM THE CHILD RETURNS
THE WALLS fell in first. A flash of light and smoke came next. Or could it have been the other way around? It happened so fast, she could not remember. The air smelled funny, like when Papa put out the fire before bed. It filled her mouth and her nose. It stuffed her lungs and clogged her breathing. Then it turned thick and black so she could not see. She coughed. She tried to stand, to run, but her legs sagged beneath her. Tugging on a curtain, she pulled three times before she grew tired of toppling over, and crawled toward her bedroom. She called for her mama, but heard only the sound of distant screams through the smoke. None of them was Mama.
“Mama? Mama?” she cried again, feeling her way along the floor. Her fingers brushed a rug, soft and cool compared to the stone floor. A glowing fire consumed part of the room, heating the stone. It crept toward her. Fires hurt. Papa had told her she should not touch them. Sometimes she thought about trying to see if he was right, but she did not want to try with this one. It seemed angry. Its flames popped and snarled.
The couch began to glow, and then disappeared as the fire swept over it. It folded in half, crashing to the floor with a loud bang. She yelped. Tears stung her eyes and wet her cheeks. Her arms shook. Her legs trembled. She backed away, and found the table that usually stood in the middle of the living room. It must have toppled over too. It lay on its side next to a body that looked like Mama.
AN INTERVIEW WITH KRISTEN
-What made you want to write?
I remember learning about storytellers in school—the men and women who lived before books and before writing, who handed down history and morals by regaling their tribes with tales of monsters and Gods, who spoke softly by the fire at night, commanding everyone’s undivided attention through perfect words and vivid descriptions.
They fascinated me. I suppose because my grandfather acts like them. When he tells a story, people stop to listen. They hang onto his sentences, awed by the pictures he paints. And because of him, I realized at a young age that words hold the greatest power over our lives. A kind word can make our day better. A sour one can turn a good day into a miserable one. Words can transport us to a different time or place. They teach us to treasure our past or warn us not to repeat mistakes in our future. They capture our emotions, our imaginations, and our hearts.
Because stories came to mean so much to me and because my grandfather is my hero, I began writing sometime in grade school. It wasn’t until I started writing novels that I truly understood the power of words though. Storytellers don’t command words; words command storytellers. Writing isn’t just a want. It’s a need.
-What draws you to fantasy?
Fantasy has always kindled my imagination in ways other genres can’t quite match. Battles get my heart racing. Monsters create fears within the darkest parts of my mind. New cultures teach me to respect our differences. The challenges fantasy heroes overcome remind me that all problems are surmountable, even if they’re the size of a small mountain or a large dragon. But most importantly, witnessing the birth of a new world shows that nothing is impossible; we’re only restricted by the boundaries (or boundlessness) of our own dreams.
-Name a fun fact you learned researching this project.
While trying to decide what I wanted to name Garon’s army of monsters, the Mardróch, I spent hours researching mythology on evil creatures. I eventually started delving into stories related to nightmares and discovered that the word “nightmare” actually derives from folklore. In many countries, bad dreams were attributed to night “mares” or evil spirits that caused sleep paralysis in their victims. Since the Mardróch also cause a form of paralysis, I derived their name from the Swedish word for nightmare, Mardröm, combined with the Gaelic word for bad, droch.
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?
I’d love to drink with both Cal and May at the same time. Cal because he can definitely hold his own and I think he’d start telling some fascinating stories with a few drinks in him. And May because I’d love to see what she’s like when she lets her guard down. She’s always so serious, so controlled, because she feels she has to be, but I suspect she’s more like her sister than she lets people see. But even if neither of them fulfills my expectations, the two of them would guarantee some lively arguments.
-For aspiring writers, any tips?
Never stop learning. Devour grammar books. Join critique groups. Read, read, read. Make friends with other authors. Learn from them without judgment and share what you know generously. Even if you’re the world’s #1 bestseller, there’s always something new you can learn; your craft can always get better. But that’s what’s most fascinating about writing. You can never be perfect at it, but there will always be a way to strive toward that goal.
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
Science Fiction. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to getting details right in my novels. I’d be too afraid of breaking some odd physics rule in whatever science I invented to actually attempt it. Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a great space-themed book or hang a Tron poster on my wall (and I do). I might even be a closet Trekkie. Might, like I might breathe occasionally.
Kristen spent her childhood at the feet of an Irish storytelling grandfather, learning to blend fact with fiction and imagination with reality. She lived within the realm of the tales that captivated her, breathing life into characters and crafting stories even before she could read. Those stories have since turned into over a hundred poems, several short tales, and five manuscripts in both the Young Adult and Adult genres. Currently, Kristen is completing the five-part Ærenden series from her home office in the suburbs of Washington D.C.
Join me in thanking Kirsten for an awesome interview!
And don’t forget to comment to win prizes.
Kristen will be awarding a $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour as well as 10 copies of The Gildonae Alliance (Aerenden #2) Audible Book to 10 additional commenters.
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