#EnterTheFantastic | Enter the realms of “The Gifted and the Cursed” – in the conclusion of the trilogy “The End of Dreams” by Marcus Lee

Posted Wednesday, 3 March, 2021 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 “The End of Dreams” 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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My thoughts on behalf of “Tristan’s Folly”:

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.

-quoted from my review of Tristan’s Folly

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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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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” – in the conclusion of the trilogy “The End of Dreams” by Marcus LeeThe End of Dreams
Subtitle: The Gifted and the Cursed (Book Three)
by Marcus Lee
Source: Author via Storytellers on Tour

As Daleth the Witch-King and his horde ready themselves for the final battle, a small alliance prepares for a desperate last stand.
However, the alliance is weak and fractured, led by a king interested only in retaining his wealth and a lord commander consumed by his thirst for revenge. With a seemingly unbeatable army before them, invisible foes amongst them, and broken hearts between them, the alliance appears destined to fall.

Yet in these dark times, her light almost extinguished, a peasant huntress is soon to be queen. But if she can find what was lost, she might prove to be more powerful than two kings combined.

This war will bring about the end of dreams, but for whom, the gods have yet to decide.

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

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 979-8598984192

Also by this author: Kings and Daemons, Tristan's Folly

Also in this series: Kings and Daemons, Tristan's Folly

Published by Self Published

on 23rd January, 2021

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 400

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The Gifted and the Cursed Trilogy:

Kings and Daemons by Marcus LeeTristan's Folly by Marcus LeeThe End of Dreams by Marcus Lee

Kings & Daemons (book one) | see also Review

Tristan’s Folly (book two) | see also Review

The End of Dreams (book three)

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:

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.

(*) This was originally shared on my review for Tristan’s Folly whereas the character breakdowns were originally shared on my review for Kings and Daemons.

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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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my review of the end of dreams:

The tight group of characters who are at the heart of the trilogy are a bit separated now as we enter into the third and final installment. As per the conclusion of the second novel in the series, Maya was separated from Taran and distance never did bode well for two souls so entwined as they are themselves. What is further interesting is how each of them is handling their separation and where their thoughts still intermix with each other despite the fact neither is in close proximity of the other. For Maya, you can see the toll her life has taken on her person and the ways in which the life she’s had to lead has affected her internally – her gift, the beautiful way in which she could affect the physical world has lessened and nearly become dormant, which made me think about Taran and how he could instantly intuit how to help Maya restore herself and the world round them. They were two halves of a whole and without their partnership in place you could see how each of them were suffering being apart.

I was not surprised by the plans of Daleth – he only has murder and plundering on his mind – he operates on the premise that fear is the path towards domination and by ruling through nightmaric practices which causes more duress than strength in leadership he considers himself a success. His delusions of power have only intensified over the course of the series and it was fitting to see himself taken down a peg by the severity of his injuries even though I knew that was only a temporary fix to the destruction he readily causes upon the people of this world.

And, those people are another interesting layer of perspective on the world at large – as they believe most of what they are told and when they are given a measure of truth rather than a lie, they cannot always see the difference in the knowledge being given to them. The sombering truth is that the lies have outweighed the truths and at some point, they chose to believe in what they wanted to see be true rather than the truth of what was truly happening to them and their world. This is a sad fate even Maya had to acknowledge herself knowing that even she didn’t have the measure of influence she once had and how disheartening that was to realise now.

I’ve noticed a shift in character and personality with Taran – it has been coming on slowly and in different spurts since the initial battles with Daleth and Tristan alike but also after the influence of Yana whose the woman whose fallen for a bloke whose in love with someone else. Taran isn’t the same person he was when Maya first met him or even the man she fell in love with all along – he’s changed and not necessarily in a good way. He’s more apt to being violent now, he has less tolerance and his heart seems blackened by vengeance and revenge – just as Yana recognised herself you can see how the layers of his heart and soul are transformed. It is a steep switch from the man we’ve been championing throughout the series and yet, those internal and external changes were warranted in many ways due to what he’s survived, what he’s seen and of course the losses he’s endured. A part of me just hoped more light might have staid kindled within him than what has taken root instead which gives me the impression he might be too far gone to be saved.

Seeing Maya finding a way to get the better of Tristan and change the tides against him without his foreknowledge was one of my favourite passages early-on in the story. It served him right to be outsmarted by Maya but it was how she chose to tell him what she’d done and the method of deceit on her own part to hide the truth of what she accomplished sweetened the scene for me!

Similarly to how happy I was Rakan tried to reach out to Taran and change his mind about a choice he made about his emotions and the feelings he’s been attempting to suppress about Maya. He made an important judgement call in the wrong frame of mind and that choice is now still affecting his own well being – something Rakan can see better than Taran, as Taran’s heart and sight is closed as he believes he didn’t make an error but saved himself his own sanity. Only Rakan and the reader can see the truth behind that false belief and how devastating the actual effects are on Taran. And, yet, in time will Taran realise his mistake? He has one fatal flaw at the moment and that is not wanting to deal with his loss and the emotional turmoil a loss like his can affect his heart. I believed in what Rakan had to share with him – it is better to go through all of what life brings than to take a shortcut and circumvent what you need to resolve lateron.

The one person I knew was going to have a harder fall than most was going to be Yana. If Daleth was the character blighted by his appreciation for war whereas Tristan was blinded by his pursuit of power – Yana’s main fault was aligning her heart with someone who could never love her the way she deserved. She had worked so hard to change the heart of one man whose affections lay elsewhere that she never truly allowed herself to find happiness with someone else. It is her story which felt the saddest because of the trickery involved and the ways in which she choose to affect Taran’s heart and mind which played a role in his own anguish which was affecting his own health too. There is no path forward for the wicked and Yana never seemed to understand that if you first seek to trick someone into affection anything they feel after that is not necessarily true love.

Tristan was easily mollified and yet he had a deathly layer of fear bursting out of his speech whereas Daleth unlike Tristan believed in his own abilities to the brink of insanity where Tristan needed others to align with him in order to feel confidence in his actions. In other words, Tristan oft allowed himself to become a puppet for the cause whereas Daleth was definitely the person in charge and took no fools in his army; he knew what he wanted and he didn’t let his conscience dissuade him either from that course.

There was as much battle scenes in this final installment of the series as there were in the second and despite the fact I know most of the others who read this story will be enthralled with that particular aspect of the series, for me, it is the heart of the drama and the relationships between the lead characters which always secured me inside the series itself. In that regard, the battles aside (as I didn’t read all those sequences this time round as to be frank, it was too intensely violent for me!) what truly captured me the most was the healing and reparations of the love at the centre of this trilogy.

You felt so much for Taran and Maya since the very first installment and then, through the actions of others their love was tested, tried and nearly dissolved in death so many times over it nearly felt like they were star-crossed and living out a nightmare bit by bit. They had such a high volume of deceitful parties vying to overtake their lives – from rulers in power who were more concerned with their own affairs than the lives of those they served to the people they felt they could trust and turnt out they were just as bad off as the ones in power. Everywhere they turnt – only a scant few were worthy of their trust and of their compassion, which is why the series had such a sombering strength within it to be read. To see how they could overcome their enemies and the obstacles set before them to the brink of what cannot be physically, emotionally or spiritually endured.

The ending was where my anxieties ruled the most – as I had a suspicion this might end one particular way and in many respects it nearly had only be be surprised by a final chapter Lee gave us all. This was the ending I had hoped might be the final resolution to Taran and Maya’s storylines – but throughout the series, it was hard to pin it down to how Lee would resolve the journey they undertook, the war which ravaged their world and how the healing process could finally redirect this world out of war and back into a grace of living again. It wasn’t just the lives of the people who were affected by the daemons and the wars, but also the biosphere of the world, the lifeblood of the harvests and the grace of the flowers. Everything in this world was set against a sea of darkness and to find a method of courage to seek out the light and have this world find its true source of healing is what held my grip on the story the most.

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 second 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 both of the previous installments except both pushed the boundaries of what I could consider tolerable. The difference between this third installment and the second in comparison to the first 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:

A lot of life has been lived since the first two installments and perhaps I am nearly outside of what I can handle for Dark Fantasy in the early bits of 2021 – but I found myself struggling to reconcile the darker elements of The End of Dreams moreso than I had in the previous two installments – except of course for the sequel Tristan’s Folly which I found overtly violent and harder to read in general. At least, the conclusion tries to recapture the pacing and shifting narratives of the first Kings and Daemons and rightly does in many regards – but for me personally, with a lot of transitions and shifts in my own personal life – I think I was hoping this might have been a lighter read than the previous two and instead was confronted with a harder and darker read than expected.

on the fantastical writing styling of marcus lee:

In the quieter moments of the story, we have passages such as the ones which featured Ultric speaking with Maya about how its the stories we share which enlighten our lives the most due to how stories have a way of speaking past the pains of a world and towards the light of hope in our lives. How stories in of themselves can provide a lifeblood of hopefulness and in that quietness the void of where darkness tries to overtake everyone’s mood and outlook can become further erased through stories which seek to re-establish what is plausible. Especially if everyone chooses to dare to believe in what is not always as impossible as it might first seem.

It is these moments of narrative prose and insight where Lee shines the most because speaks to the heart of the series – where the writer is trying to step forward through the storyline and become almost an omnipotent character in of himself where the fuller wisdom of the series is viewed in moments you are not expecting a revelation to be made in this view of thought. I’ve noticed this happening throughout all the installments of the series but I am not sure if I made a notation about it until now. In some ways it is a more hidden way of breaking the fourth wall as it can serve as foreknowledge shared by a character or it can be viewed as knowledge seen and shared by someone ‘out of step’ with the timeline of the story and someone who has the overall scope of the story already mapped out (ie. as a writer would) and is trying to insert a bit of hope in the sequences for the reader and/or the characters.

I am not sure if I can continue to read this authors’ collective works as they are dearly violent and dark – this trilogy is a testament of that – and unlike others in this genre, I know I won’t be able to read another Dark Fantasy anytime soon as it just takes too much out of me to read them. However, what I appreciated the most about my journey into this series is that my instinct for knowing the whole series was rooted in the story of Maya and Taran proved to be true and for that I applaud the story Lee revealled to us all – as this is very much a story about two people who fell in love and how their love transformed their world. And, as everyone knows – I love reading romances!

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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 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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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 Wednesday, 3 March, 2021 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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