#EnterTheFantastic | Enter the realms of “The Gifted and the Cursed” – within the second novel of the trilogy “Tristan’s Folly” by Marcus Lee

Posted Monday, 30 November, 2020 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: During my 3rd Year of co-hosting @WyrdAndWonder, I was able to participate on my first blog tour with Storytellers on Tour which was featuring the author Brianna Sugalski on her “Disenchanted” blog tour. What I appreciated about Storytellers on Tour is their dedication to Indie Authors of Speculative Literature and their ability to find authors who are telling stories in Fantasy which intrigue me to read. Fantasy has been a challenging genre for me to explore even a bit moreso than Science Fiction – which is why I feel blessed to be on their blogger team. Whilst some of their tours I might seek out a book to consider for review, I also actively enjoy hosting creative content using book photography and/or featuring their authors in conversation (ie. interviews) or giving them the breadth of joy to write a guest post based on a topic of my choosing. Overall, Storytellers on Tour are dedicated to creating community and for championing those of us who are choosing to share our readerly lives each day we bring content to our book blogs. 

I received a complimentary copy of “Tristan’s Folly” direct from the author Marcus Lee in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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What kept me rooted to the pages of “Kings & Daemons”:

As you first alight inside the Ember Kingdom you are greeted by such a terrible reckoning of the high fatality rate which has afflicted the women in this world. For a couple who knew what was coming the day their daughter was bourne it was not bringing them the luxury of happiness (by her birth) but rather the pain of the loss which was imminent. Except to say if that had happened this story would not have a fierce warrior as a heroine as even in infancy. Maya had a special awareness about the world as she intuited pain and understood healing. The lengths in which her parents went to keep this secreted from others in their world points to a harder look at what any parent would do to defend and protect their child. You feel emotionally rooted in these opening scenes to where you want to stand in solidarity with this family and also become one of the guardians of Maya to ensure she is allowed to grow in this loving environment of her family without outside influences which might seek to separate her from her parents.

To keep herself removed from her own society she had become a forager of whom was allowed to be gone long hours of the day and return at dusk. The hardest part to understand about Maya’s life as she was growing out of girlhood into womanhood is the loss of her mother which was never fully resolved and the fact that in order to be alive she had to mask her truer nature as much as  her true identity. Even the ways in which she presented herself was the illusion her parents had chosen for her rather than the most ideal situation to continue for such a long time without drawing notice to oneself. You feel for Maya because she is not allowed to live authentically nor is she allowed any of the common courtesy you’d expect a child and young woman would be granted – such as conversation, friendship and being one with her own community. She was living a full step removed from this community and you had to wonder – what were they afraid of? What threat did her birthright and gift afford her that others afeared? Those are the thoughts going through my mind as I entered into the initial chapters and tried to muse about what could have happened in this world to have such a locked mindset which heavily prejudiced itself against each other.

There is such a humbling and honest scene involving Maya and the awakening she had with her gift – it is tender and sweet, with the innocence of how new birth and a re-genesis of the organic healing from within her can affect the natural environs she touches with her presence. It involved a rose and it is how this particular flower found its new roots under Maya’s tenderness of care and the thoughtfulness of how she helped a plant heal itself was truly a remarkable passage in the opening pages of Kings and Daemons! She is someone who can cause a transfiguration of growth – from the point of decay to the celebration of rebirth and it is beautifully written to give you this founding sense of what her gift means to her as a person (as it renews her own spirit to use it and cultivate it) and how that gift translates into the world in which she lives.

Taran by contrast is an interesting bloke in this world who is also harbouring a secret of his own about the innate gift he has developed first out of fight or flight circumstances and secondly out of his own instincts which have served him well. His own childhood had its own challenges wherein where Maya was folded into a loving home life despite the concerns of her parents that others might discover her truer nature – Taran was blighted with a childhood wherein his art of defence and skill to deflect his father’s domestic violence against himself and his mother was a defining part of his younger years. Yet despite what they had against them both Taran and Maya shared the will to not just survive but to survive with their gifts aiding their efforts.

Whilst reading Taran’s entrance into the story, I must admit, part of me wondered if this bloke could run out of luck because he enjoyed living on the edge of society. He might not have chosen this life for himself as that was a consequence of his father’s domestic abuse (which personally felt like an injustice of its own) but it was a life he had carved out of the embers of his former life and it had enabled him with enough to survive on in a world that was unwelcome to both change and strangers. As a wanderer you could say Taran would immediately connect with Maya because she wanders in a different way than he does in her own community. Each of them self-exiled away from both prying eyes and the framework of their societies.

I was truly bewitched and enchanted by how Lee has writ this novel – you feel so dearly rooted to both Maya and Taran whilst your reading that you can barely notice anything else in your own world after you’ve entered theirs! So much so, when Maya was being pursued by a hunger-mad pack of wolves it brought me back instantly to seeing The Neverending Story for the first time as a child and the terrifying moment where Atreyu has to defend himself against a wolf. Not since that cinematic moment have I found another writer whose writ such a harrowing account of predator vs prey when it involves a wild animal and a human. You are on the very edge of your seat as you want to encourage Maya as she flees for her life but then, at that moment where both instinct and hope seem lost – it is a battle of will to turn the pages and see what happened!

-quoted from my review of Kings & Daemons

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On my connection to Marcus Lee: I first crossed paths with Lee during the blog tour for Kings & Daemons in August 2020. Being fellow writers and voracious readers – it felt like a natural extension of the first blog tour, we would have something to talk about together about this world being built within the series of the Gifted and the Cursed as well as outside of the series itself. We continued to ‘chat’ privately after the blog tour and then, shortly before the start of the second we reconnected finding we’re both at different junctions of our writerly careers. However, I withheld discussing my thoughts about the sequel until my review for the second blog tour was released.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Lee through our respective joy in being writers as well as enjoying discussing the merits of Speculative Fiction as it applies to Dark Fantasy. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time or continuing to read their releases as they are available. This also applies to hosting a guest feature by the author I share a connection.

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I will be the first to mention, this series is completely removed from my regular readings of Fantasy and a complete forward step outside all my zones of comfort – which is why if you are curious why I was originally tempted to read the trilogy and why I am continuing to read it now – it is quite simple: I love to challenge myself! To go into a niche of genre I am not as well versed in travelling through and/or to seek out stories with the layers of depth I love finding as a reader. Even if on the outside of starting those stories it would look like a full step removed from anything I’d generally seek out to read. Sometimes those are the moments you discover the stories which give you a hearty challenge to both read and dissect. This is one of those series for me.

Yet, it wasn’t until I started to binge watch the military drama series “Army Wives” this November (ie. I nearly saw the full three seasons of the show within less than a forthnight of watching it!) – I couldn’t quite put my finger on how I came to have an appreciation for Sword & Sorcery stories. The truth of it is – it was the fierce spitfire character of Pamela (Chase’s husband on the series) who tipped the missing gaps of my memory – as she was involved with an ill-fated tv series I loved back in the ’90s which was ROAR.

However, it won’t surprise too many of you who’ve been following me for awhile to know I have had occasion to blog about this particular genre in the past, as I was smitten with the ‘idea’ of a tv series pilot moreso than I was keenly curious to watch it. In other words, I sought out a way to interview the actors involved with the Sword & Sorcery pilot as well as the filmmaker and author behind the series; knowing I couldn’t read the books series which inspired it nor could I watch the pilot itself considering what you see on the takeaway shots and BTS videos via YoutTube! Take a gander at the interview I’m mentioning and perhaps the series might be a better fit for you – as it stands, I’m wicked proud of the interview and what I learnt out of interviewing everyone I choose to speak with about the production and their role in it.

If you visited with me for my first review in this series, you already know I have made a few notations about the level of violence and excessive use of violent sequences within the context of the story itself. Which became a bit of an underline issue with me as I am not a reader who appreciates explicit or excessive violence in any of the stories she’s reading but as you gleamed from my review, this particular book was the exception to the rule in regards of finding an author who redeemed himself by the breadth of how he wrote the larger scope of the story itself and how he endeavoured to give a layered central arc to thread into the next two installments of the trilogy.

Again, I could have had quite a few small battles excluded from the journey Maya and Taran were taking towards the Witch-King because it soon became a bit too repetitive for me to constantly see people swinging swords or stabbing with daggers and all round was nothing but death and the dead stacked in a reckless act of violent outrage. And, that too is also a keen aspect of the novel – as Dark Fantasy illuminates the darker variants of ourselves and our souls – keeping to that theme, Lee has used different techniques to showcase how darkness can overtake the mind, the body and the soul to where it is a maddening fight to find freedom from under that kind of influence and that is at the heart of where we first enter into this series. These people are fighting for not just the right to live and the will to live but they are fighting a battle against an enemy they cannot even fathom being real.

I might be a hard sell at times as a reader but it boils down to each individual author and how they choose to tell their stories – if they do it well, they have me hooked into their world and if they choose to make choices which remove all my enjoyment of reading their stories; I am a reader whose never afraid to call foul and claim a book as an DNF.

As I saw the calendar ticking down the hours for me to begin reading Tristan’s Folly, I must admit I had a certain level of anxiety. Where would the sequel fit within my readerly barometer of what I can both handle reading and appreciate reading? Which of my personal thresholds of angst would be tested and how would I walk out of the experience as both a reader and as a book blogger who inks out her thoughts and shares them with her readers?

The one blessing I had is trusting whichever way I walked out of this novel, the author would understand what I had to share about it because he already knows my bookish preferences and where I stand on some of what is inclusive to his genre of choice and the methodology of how its written. When authors understand the book blogger experience it makes reading their stories as a book blogger much more enjoyable because we don’t have to defend how we blog or how we choose to blog our readerly life – because all of us are blogging our honest thoughts, impressions and opinions about the stories we’re reading. There is a certain vulnerability to that kind of experience and after seven years as a book blogger, I still find myself feeling especially grateful and blessed to be in a position to read as diversely as I can whilst seeking out new genres, subniches of genres and literary styles as I have every month I’ve sought to propell myself forward into new dimensions of literature.

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Notation on Cover Art: I am simply in love with the cover art for this book series –

#EnterTheFantastic | Enter the realms of “The Gifted and the Cursed” – within the second novel of the trilogy “Tristan’s Folly” by Marcus LeeTristan's Folly
Subtitle: The Gifted and the Cursed (Book Two)
by Marcus Lee
Source: Author via Storytellers on Tour

Tristan’s Folly. An ageing fortress built over fifty years ago to repel the invading hordes of the Witch-King, Daleth, an invasion that never materialised – until now.

Now the stronghold is a crumbling reflection of its former might, with a mere fifteen hundred men all that stands between Daleth’s savage horde of a hundred thousand, and certain doom for the Freestates.

As Kings and Daemons face one another, there is but one shining light that pushes back the encroaching darkness, but even her flame is slated to be extinguished thanks to Tristan’s Folly.

In this epic tale of a battle against the odds, the best and worst of humankind collide … sacrifice, bravery and love, set against betrayal, greed and hatred.

Genres: Cosy Horror, Dark Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Fantasy Fiction, High Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 979-8698105718

Also by this author: Kings and Daemons, The End of Dreams

Also in this series: Kings and Daemons, The End of Dreams

Published by Self Published

on 26th October, 2020

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 291

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The Gifted and the Cursed Trilogy:

Kings and Daemons by Marcus LeeTristan's Folly by Marcus Lee

Kings & Daemons (book one) | see also Review

Tristan’s Folly (book two)

The End of Dreams (book three) ← forthcoming release!

This is a Self-Published novel and series!

Converse via: #Fantasy, #EpicFantasy or #HeoricFantasy or #SwordAndSorcery
as well as #StorytellersOnTour #  & #EnterTheFantastic as #JorieReads

About Marcus Lee

Writing hasn’t always been a serious hobby for me … but it has always been there, lurking in the shadows, serving me well when called upon.

As I look back over the years, I realise I was guilty of writing many short stories, as well as poetry, and I’d like to think, that even if they were never intended to be published, they were nonetheless warmly received by the intended recipients.

Then in 2019, I was inspired to write not just a short story, or poetry, but a book. Then, suddenly, one book turned into a trilogy and a labour of love, and it was a love I wanted to share with the world.

So, here we are. The pandemic that put my career in sport on hold also gave me the opportunity to lavish time on my alternative hobby, or if demand dictates my new career.

However, only you, the reader, will decide whether this trilogy, which is still a work in progress, will be the first of many. I genuinely hope so.

Who knows, now these creatives juices are flowing, I might just keep on writing anyway.

Epic fantasy has been my favourite genre since I first read The Odyssey and The Illiad as a seven-year-old. Now it’s my turn to see if I can bring another world to life in the imagination of others.

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a notation about the world within this series:

When it was revealled that the King in this world [the Ember Kingdom] is afflicted with the same delusions of Voldermort I nearly smirked because it explained why I was feeling so dearly comfortable in this world! Whenever you can find a bit of familiarity in a new world your exploring in Fantasy it helps you align more closely to the current timeline of the story you’re reading. However, I think I honestly prefer the way Lee was tackling this in his world moreso than in the other world because this was presented in such an interesting vein of interest. It was matter of fact but it also was telling – of a person who had darkened himself to the dark arts and no longer had any semblance of remorse due to their greed. You can reach that insight faster in The Gifted and the Cursed series because the villain of this world is not hiding in shadows or tucked away from sight. He’s visible and his motives are equally transparent.

The violence that is in the Ember Kingdom is what is expected as Lee has done a good job of navigating the reader through those sections and passages with a lot of foreshadowing. If you’re familiar with Voldermort and the world in which he lived you won’t be gobsmacked by what you find inside this novel but I would admit, the scenes that Lee has constructed are also what I’d consider Horror Lite – meaning, their quite horrifying on one side and able to be read and put aside on the other. If you’re a reader whose familiar with vampires you will have no issues at all reading this story. Though to be truthful if you use my own reading sensibilities as a barometer – if I can read and take out the good out of this world of darkness anyone can as well.

I had to do a bit of research online as I had forgotten my long lost conversations in high school with my best friend when we had discussed daemons vs demons. One instance I had forgotten is that they are more likely to inhabit a person with psychic abilities than someone without them but what I couldn’t decipher is where the vampirism comes into play? As that it is the best way to describe their worst character trait and yet it is how they survive (if you consider it surviving). It was this trait of theirs which did push the envelope a bit for me in certain places of the plot but thankfully Lee glossed over those bits and kept them tamer than he could have bless his heart!

A large ensemble cast of characters with their own baggage to carry:

Nearly all of the characters within Kings and Daemons has a back-history of either neglect, abuse or shunning (by either community or family) – in fact, at one point I was hoping perhaps one of the characters might have been spared of this history but I think it owns to the world in which these characters live as we are not entering a world that has a healthy heart right now. This world is on the brink of collapse because the soil and the living environs as well as the food chain is all decaying and dying. There is a malaise over the population as much as there is this fever of necessity for everyone to chase after the same resources due to the limited means in which this world can support itself.

This is a story which unfolds per each character’s journey – meaning you get to spend time with each of them, seeing their own world-view, understanding their own journey and noodling out the connections which unite them in the world itself. This multi-POV styling allows you to learn a greater depth of the world a bit faster than you would if you were confined to one character who had a Quest or a personal journey to undertake throughout the story itself. The story moves like an open window inside a labyrinth of doors wherein each new door you open you are seeing this world from a new pair of optics which grant you more licence into the world and how it is ordered.

Having said that – the main characters to look towards as guides into this world are as follows:

Maya – felt she was the character everyone could relate to the most due to her internal will of hopefulness and the kindness she had within her to see the good in people. She was not tainted by the dark arts but the dark arts have an interest in her which is not known for awhile.

Taran – had a destiny to become interlinked on the same path of Maya and it was his interesting background and gift which proved to have more enlightening moments to be shared further into the story than when they first met.

Astren – he has several secrets of his own and he is the key to understanding the fuller scope of this world and how the spirit walking works.

Rakan – uniquely enough he was the one character I didn’t think could become redeemed or find redemption from the path his life had taken him. Which proves we should never overlook a character when their path has the most growth to be found.

Kalas – the one person who was my least favourite if I were to be honest because I never feel myself warming towards the vile characters in a story or the ones who are questionable in where their alliances lie; I would also consider this character morally grey. Interestingly enough he is the story’s historian and speaks at long lengths about the history of the Ember Kingdom.

Daleth the Witch-King – there are no words to describe him which would due him justice. You have to see his vile self for yourself and take out of his character what you will. I, for one, was awaiting for the day where someone would upset his throne and end his rule.

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on where we left off in ‘kings & daemons’:

I grieved before even Maya could grieve herself – of how challenging it was now for her to process the limitations of her gift and what her gift truly was about to give others who had forsaken her since she was a child. If nothing else – Lee had writ into her story a small churning of redemption when observers of her newfound fate realised something imperative – if what they witnessed was an act of healing how was that suddenly wrong and a measure of the dark arts? It was like her act of selflessness was a proving of a point within her community that not everything led to believe is true and sometimes the truth is muddled by what it is disguised as by others who are in power.

In the midst of all of this a small revelation is revealled which points to the sequel – Tristian’s Folly is a place and a point of reference in Kings and Daemons. What is worth mentioning more is that the dark arts in this story are co-dependent on a tangible object and whomever has this object let’s just say they are no longer themselves. It is an interesting approach to showcasing how the mind of men can become turned and twisted into a version of themselves they do not recognise as becoming altered. It is a full spin on brainwashing but also of possession which also plays an equally strong role in this story.

The romance comes along a bit slowly at first and then sort of takes over the last quarter of the novel and it was a bit of a refreshing turning of events due to the anguished bloodshed of the rest of the book. For me, the romance felt like a marriage of convenience – two people who were destined to become a partnership due to circumstances which united them. I believe the romance will strengthen and deepen as time moves forward but for now, I think because of the situations it was more a necessity than true love in the traditional sense.

I have a feeling if the people gain their true freedom from his oppressive rule and by the shadowing of this world by the daemons who only seek to cause wreckage and unrest – I believed this world could become a new mecca of forgiveness, re-genesis of the natural world and a peace unlike this world had known previously. We will have to remain patient to see how it plays out in the next installments but this is a strong foundation and entrance into a new Dark Fantasy world where the grip of darkness is seeking to erase the Light.

These sections was originally shared on my Kings and Daemons review and I felt if my readers and/or visitors of the blog tour found this review as the first on my blog for the series, I wanted to ensure they could better understand the key dynamics of the series as it is being built installment by installment leading into the climax and conclusion of the third installment which will round out the trilogy next year in 2021.

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my review of tristan’s folly:

What is it they say about the folly of men and fools alike? As you settle into Tristan’s Folly, Lee doesn’t grant you time to rest on laurels, as straight after we re-meet up with Taran, Maya and Rakan (as well as a few extras in their steed) – he launches us into a new conspiracy we might have not have felt prepared to see unfold but if you reconsider a few sequences of events in the past, part of this revelation could almost have been foretold. Especially considering I was never quite sure if I trusted Astren as he felt like the one character who held all the cards and was not the kind of person who would reveal his hand until he knew his advantage was sealed.

Interestingly enough, I don’t believe Daleth ever viewed himself as being capable of weakness but as it was suggested but not directed within his purview of knowledge – even Daleth has a fate sealed betwixt and between the fate he believes he was gifted and the fate which is for-spoken to be his by the curse of his choices. This was an interesting turning point because Daleth until now was only shown with brutal strength and a clear conscience of will; he owned his choices to be the default ruler in this world unkindly bent on destruction and dominion. To see him taken down a peg – if only in theory at this junction felt sweet somehow because he felt quite untouchable throughout Kings & Daemons due to how he was able to rise into power and overtake this world.

Ever since I first read Shakespeare and in particular, Julius Caesar a lot of what I understand about insurrection and the power struggles of those in rule can be related back to Shakespeare’s pen. He had a keen way of disclosing the lengths men would take to rule and how the thirst of power was a greater pursuit than duty and honour. Stepping past the bloodshed for a moment in the opening bridge of Tristan’s Folly (*) it is interesting to note how those in power can be felled by singular actions of those nearest them who endeavour to undermine their control and reset the standard of how any person in a role of power can be removed by those acting against them in secret. I felt even Shakespeare might have been proud about how Tristan was surprised by the actions of a few who suddenly took on the majority and upturnt the status quo in his world.

Another aspect I loved from Shakespeare Lee was including in this sequel is the ability to defuse a situation of battle by condemning a foe to become a friend. If you keep a watchful eye on those you distrust you cannot be surprised by their future actions and I felt this was a smart choice and a legacy of continuity between both stories as well. There is a theme of redemptive maneuvers wherein those who would otherwise fight each other to the death can come together through diplomatic means to find not just common ground but a worse enemy than the one they first felt was their truer nemesis. In uniting together with a mindful goal of mutual interest, foes can act as allies and repair the trust issues at the same time which first set them apart. I appreciated seeing this carried out in the sequel as it was a uniting front originally and it was carried out well once again. Especially considering how Lee likes to place a ragtag bunch of persons together and give them a chance to have their own ‘found family’ full of the scars of war.

A favourite sequence of scenes for me was when Taran, Maya and their motley crew were given the chance to right the fates with Tristan’s men and guards; they each undertook skill tests with either their swords or their bows; giving the men and their audience something to talk about long after the tests were given. It was a keen way to see each of their personalities rise to the surface as well – especially to note who was the most competitive (ie. Maya) and whom struggled the most to prove her mirth (ie. Yana). This also gave us some background behind how Tristan rules and how he likes to operate the power delegation under him as he has full respect by the men in his army. It was here I felt Maya and Taran felt the most relaxed, hopeful even of what the future might yet bring into their lives. As previously until they arrived here, the only thing they knew for certain was war, bloodshed and sudden death. You couldn’t help but cheer them on as they made new alliances and remained hopeful of the events they could not alter but had the courage to face together.

Seeing what makes a man fall from his own folly and the absence of understanding the boomerang effect of self-created karma is what inspired me forward into Tristan’s Folly. This was definitely a story about how one man saw himself as greater than others in his command and only kept his best interests in play – for all his ill choices, he only acted on what would allow him to keep his own safety immune from the war everyone else was vowing to fight on equal terms to each other. It was his cowardice towards owning his own nature and the ways in which his devious mind knitted itself into a framework of logic only he understood that made this story wicked entertaining. For he felt he had found the ultimate way to smite the lives of those he was sworn to protect but a part of me wondered if he hadn’t learnt anything at all about the balance between individual gift and the measure of a curse which can erase the goodwill of any gift.

Daleth relied too heavily on his own pride and the craft of how his tall tales had a placebo effect on his soldiers who might choose to follow him today but I questioned if that blind allegiance might reverse itself once they knew the error of their ways by how much inaccurate fallacy was in his claims. You don’t see the overtly confident Daleth in this portion of the series – rather, he is questioning both his actions and his thoughts whilst giving me the strong impression that even he is confused about what is predestined for his life. It is most curious – the closer Daleth becomes to proving his worth to those who follow him, the closer we get to see Daleth being the harbinger of what brings about his downfall.

The longer it was taking for Maya and Taran to find themselves free of being embattled into the evolving war with Daleth, the harder they felt all routes which led them here to the Freestates were a futile wish fulfilled by a desperate choice. Their hope was starting to wan and I couldn’t blame them – the odds were stacking against them and despite their best efforts, the numbers of their army with Tristan were a far cry from the ones of their enemy. Even though the numbers weren’t the full picture of how men win battles – the gravity of what they were undertaking soon became apparently clear about how much they dared to believe in the impossible. It fuelled them and you could tell how much they wanted to win for the greater good of their world.

Maya’s gift (a resurgence of lifeforce to any organic material which needs healing) has long since fascinated me within the series which is why we were definitely treated in this sequel to see how her talent for her gift and the abilities of her gift continue to expand on what we originally knew of it. There was a flickering of Maya’s after effects of usage which gave pause to the wider issues of this world between the gifted and the cursed whilst at the same time – when she had the men place the spears in the ground and then used those as a catalyst to create the fortified new state of protection they could yield, I was quite impressed! She has a lot to give and yet, I still feel as if she’s still coming into her own realisation of what her gift gives to the world whilst it takes something else away from her the more she uses it.

The inter-dynamics of Tristan’s men in arms was an interesting spin on how those who are in positions of power under you can either determine your fate or can cause a greater concern for the fate of everyone else around you. Tristan’s men were at times reliant on their instincts to protect their King and equally vulnerable to giving into their own fears about what is happening (whether real or imagined). It was curious to watch his ranks falter and re-strengthen as they worked out whom to trust and which route was best for all to follow moving forward.

At the heart of the series is the love story of Maya and Taran – of how they found each other and how their love grew out of the battle to survive the oppressive overreach of Daleth. Theirs is a romance that is rooted out of their relationship having a strong foundation of friendship and the mutual respect they each shared for the others’ gift. Without each other by their side, I am quite sure they would not have survived as long as they have now as they have a way of renewing each others’ strength as much as they are the truer compliment of each other as well. You cannot help grieve alongside them when their fears and anxieties about the prospects of their future are revealled – of the checks and balances they undertake to better recognise their advantages and disadvantages to re-engage in war with Daleth and yet, find small measures of joy in renewing their affirmed love for each other as well. The ways in which Lee has presented their relationship’s growth throughout this sequel re-affirms why this series seeks to redirect the reader off the war itself and re-align the reader’s eye on the more important aspects of what life is meant to give everyone. It isn’t about conquest or war nor is it about the rise of power – there is a unifying will to seek out one singular part of our lives which redefines the purpose of all men (and women) and truly illuminates our purpose through the strongest light possible.

Yana’s efforts to insurrect her own footing into the confidences of those round her was a bit discomforting knowing that her intentions were without honour. She could have given more to their cause if she hadn’t turnt her back on what a more just person might have pursued. Her mind was stuck on one particular goal and whatever came next paled in her original plans to overturn a relationship she had no right to interfere against. It spoke to her truer nature and of how she never set out to establish her own path to walk. She was constantly conniving her way into measures of confidence and trust with those round her and yet, part of me questioned how she could ever find true happiness if her happiness was completely tethered to the destruction of joy in others.

The greater crust of the story is about the battles themselves – the art of warfare and of how those who fought for either Daleth or Tristan had to choose their actions wisely against the intelligence of their enemies. Neither side would admit defeat and both sides felt they had the upper hand against each other – to more or less extent, this was true but the greater issue is what this world would yield once the battles concluded. What could be left of a world where everyone was pitted against each other and where those in power had their own agendas to see through which contradicted the reasons why the men and women fought in this war?

The hardest part of the story of course are the attacks of conscience of the players in this war whom are not below undermining others free will in order to gain something themselves. They seek to take what they feel is rightly theirs when in reality, it never was theirs at all. This plays out continuously as two persons in this story are content to pine after what they cannot have and then in the end, choose to take what cannot be given freely. It is this under-thread of deceit which has the greatest power to change the course of the souls in the series because of how much their survival is connected to the war itself. Each battle won is a small step forward towards the freedom of the world and yet, some battles are not on the battlefield but held in closed quarters where people bank against their own soul for the prize they desire moreso than the life they breathe.

NOTE: When I originally was reading ‘Kings & Daemons’ – I noted that Tristan was both a name of a character and the name of a setting in the series. At first, I thought the sequel was named after the setting but as I read the first thirteen pages of ‘Tristan’s Folly’, I felt my first instinct might have been the better insight out of the two I conjured in my previous readings of the series – that this installment was rooted in and out of Tristan’s (the character) actions and choices as a pawn in the larger scale of the war against Daleth.

Fly in the Ointment: Content Notes:

A note about the level of visual violence:

Although I was forewarned this novel was darker than the first and has an increasing bout of violence inside, I was hoping perhaps a lot of that might have remained tempered against the drama of the evolving story and the greater focus placed on the momentum of the story between installments which held both my interest and my curiosity about the revelations behind the stories in this series.

Except to say, quite early-on it was apparent due to the increasing polish of Lee’s style of the craft and the maturity of where his writing has grown between Kings & Daemons and Tristan’s Folly – this one is far brutal in visual violence than the first except both pushed the boundaries of what I could consider tolerable. The key difference with this one is that instead of being threaded into the heart of this installment’s overall story before the violence would overtake the scenes and I felt it might have settled better with me if we had had the same pacing within the shifting with this installment as well.

I would say if you are familiar with my review for A Knife in the Fog  and the sequel, Queens Gambit – you will know there are just certain aspects of visual violence which pushes me far behind where I want to go as a reader. Lee still holds back a bit from where I felt the other author would have pushed this further into outright horror and gore but evenso, there were some sequences where there is no need to imagine what could be happening because enough is disclosed for you to see it for yourself. Thus, in certain instances, I elected to skip forward to escape the visuals which took me out of sequence with the main story-line.

A note about the darker elements of the story:

Aside from the violence which is concurrent with any story set against war – the darker seeds of how darkness and light are in a match against each other also comes to the forefront of this installment as well. As I had forementioned the daemons of this world are co-dependent as a vampire would be on both the death and lifeforce of those they choose to overtake for their own survival. This is redirected throughout the sequel but with a darker path forward as there is as much hidden from the sight of the lead characters as there is transparency.

I was never very fond of vampire stories and have struggled with the few which build on this background of how life must be taken from life in order for their life to be sustained. This doesn’t just involve persons near the daemon but also animals which I always felt was a step to far as it just isn’t something I desire to know about or read about in any length of disclosure. For those sensitive to these kinds of scenes, tread lightly into this sequel because it is darkly lit and bridges itself closer to the side of Fantasy Horror. I was much more invested in the character journey of Maya and Taran than I was in seeing more of the elements of Horror reaffirmed and revisited.

on the fantastical writing styling of marcus lee:

One of the more interesting aspects of the first installment is how Lee explained ‘the gifted and the cursed’ as it wasn’t just wicked folly for the reader to contemplate the origins behind the naming of this series but rather, it was a justified name in how the people within this world experience gifts and curses. This is part of the intricate layering Lee has built into the backbone of this world and has built a powerful sub-focus about how this world functions on the imprints of both magic and the darker arts of where curses effect the lives of those who do not yet realise the scope of this world’s darker truths.

This becomes an anchouring of sorts in the opening passages of Tristan’s Folly – wherein you see the maturity of the writer emerging in his sophomore release. There is a tautness of execution in this sequel, of where the vision of the story merged well with the dexterity of where Lee’s writing has grown from the first to the second installment of the series. I love seeing this growth emerge in an author’s collective works as it points to how each of us who chooses to write stories has a well of creative experimenting to achieve as we emerge into our writerly style and voice.

This second installment alights us where we last left Maya and Taran as they were endeavouring to make their way to the Freestates and for them, this signaled a chance to reclaim a footing of their future by choosing how their fates would be decided at long last. As I prepared to re-enter this series, I re-read the last quarter of Kings and Daemons to feel rooted and reconnected from whence I’ve last left this world. The only surprise I found is I felt we had a missing giant with our fearless entourage? The hardest part to reconcile though is the power play which sought to separate and dismantle the connection between Maya and Taran; this was foreshadowed and foretold throughout the series until now but to read it arriving within the context of the story was the hardest part to endure because of how well Lee created their romantic arc and the ways in which he articulated the love between them. It is one of the hardest disconnections to resolve due to what was motivating the separation and how it occurred.

The character I never felt could be redeemed enough to see in a different way of light was Kalas – although in truth, he is the hardest character to like due to how connected he is to Daleth and the evolution his character has to undertake especially in the opening bridge of Tristan’s Folly. I credit this to how Lee kept this character closely attached to the lead character’s own trajectory through their journey towards freedom and re-established his central theme of arc to unite within their own pursuit of overturning the darkness of this world.

What will be interesting to me is how this world will be brought forward to a day of reckoning – where the conspiracies against everyone are brought to the light of day and how the truth of what fuelled certain choices and actions would have against the will of those involved. There are a lot of unanswered questions but also, a lot of secrecy and deceit still left to redeem. The conclusion of the series hinges against the final vision Lee has for his characters and I am curiously hopeful the ending strengthens the time we’ve spent in this world. As there is a chance The End of Dreams is a foreboding conclusion about how hard you can fight to survive a war but how the war itself cannot give back what it has taken from your soul.

Fantastical Elements:

→ The power to heal and regenerate life from point of illness

→ Telepathy

→ Dreamscaping and/or Astral Travelling

→ (pursuit of) Immortality

In this world, the experience of travelling whilst asleep is known as spirit travelling but they also experience spirit talking which I felt was a very intuitive way of describing both as you truly are one with your spiritual half as you’ve left your physical self behind. It was one of the beautiful aspects of this world and how it was built by Lee.

As you dive into the Ember Kingdom you learn more about these traits and these gifts but they are muddled and clouded a bit by the incessant bloodshed and the power play by the Witch-King to have a control over his people which is influenced by the daemons themselves.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 30 November, 2020 by jorielov in #EnterTheFantastic, ArchDemons or Demonic Entities, Blog Tour Host, Content Note, Cosy Horror, Dark Arts (Dark Magic), Dark Fantasy, Excessive Violence in Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Fly in the Ointment, High Fantasy, Horror-Lite, Immortals, Indie Author, Self-Published Author, Storytellers on Tour, Supernatural Creatures & Beings, Sword & Scorcery

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