A book review: Talon - book 1 - by Julie Kagawa (I have tried to keep it spoiler free!)
‘To the outside world Ember Hill is an ordinary girl, but Ember has a deadly secret. A dragon hiding in human form, she is destined to fight the shadowy Order of St. George, a powerful society of dragonslayers.
St. George soldier Garret is determined to kill Ember and her kind. Until her bravery makes him question all he’s been taught about dragons.
Now a war is coming and Garret and Ember must choose their sides – fight to save their bond or fulfil their fate and destroy one another.’
Talon is the first in a series of 5 books about Dragons. Set in a busy beach town location, Ember and her brother Dante are 16-year-old dragons who are given the summer to assimilate into human society. Early on it is clear that Ember, whilst enjoying her freedom away from Talon - a secret society of controlling dragons - misses being able to shift into her true form. Dante, on the other hand, is a rule follower and is in constant fear that Ember’s actions will get them sent back to their Talon base. We learn that Talon has an enemy, a highly trained group of soldiers whose purpose is to kill dragons. Julie Kagawa’s story truly begins when a St George solider is sent to find the dragons posing as humans; this erupts into a gripping tale of joy, lust, misplaced loyalty and heartache.
Julie Kagawa writes in the first person, cleverly switching perspectives through different chapters so that the story is told from the main characters’ perspectives. This gives the reader the chance to understand the thoughts and motivations behind each character but can also make you feel frustrated as only you as the reader know all points of view!
As much as I enjoyed reading Ember’s point of view, my favourite character was a solider of St George - Garret. The St George solider was sent to find who the dragon was that Talon sent to infiltrate human society (obviously we know this is Ember and Dante). Garret is only 17 but we learn that he has been through a lot in his life. As the story progresses, I felt that he was growing as an individual and felt truly conflicted in his cause. It was the age old story of feeling torn between what felt right and duty. In the interest of trying to stay spoiler free, I won’t tell you which side I was rooting for! I will tell you, however, that he read as a very handsome and fit individual and that can help a reader get along with a character!
The interactions between characters felt realistic. When I read Ember’s chapters, I felt as though I was a 16 year old girl who just wanted to be free to fly as a dragon. At times, she did annoy me but only because she just didn’t seem to grasp what I wanted her too. Again, this could be because I knew other perspectives - a great tool in getting me to keep on turning those pages! When I read Garret’s chapters, I felt torn and confused, wanting to do the right thing. I also really liked the romance that blossomed and found myself reading quicker to find out what happened next.
One interesting thing to note was how my feelings towards certain characters changed. Without giving too much away, a rogue dragon threatens the mission and at first, I did not take too kindly to his presence in the book and how he came between my favourite characters. However, the author’s clever storytelling slowly led me to a sudden and unavoidable realisation that I actually cared for this character. I was slightly irritated but pleasantly surprised how I had completely changed my mind on him and ultimately, this altered what I originally wanted to happen in the end.
Was the story gripping?
Yes! Absolutely! I started reading this book on a girly weekend away with my best friend. By Sunday afternoon I had finished and was onto book 2. I have to stress that it is the characters that drew me into the story. I read one review somewhere about how they didn’t like it because there wasn’t much ‘world-building’. Now, reading is a very subjective experience and for me, the foundation of this book was how the characters brought the story to life. I was only vested in the outcome because of the character arcs (and Garret, I really like Garret).
Talon is the perfect book if you’re looking for:
I would recommend this novel to teenage readers (and, let’s face it, to those of us older than a teenager but loving the feisty drama that normally accompanies such an age), who enjoy mythical creatures in a modern setting, with romance and mystery sprinkled on top.
Overall, I would rate this book ***** out of 5 stars.
Whether this is because it has been a while since I read a book I liked, or because it was a genuinely fabulous story, don’t just take my word for it and have a read!
Let me know what you think about Talon when you brave this world of scaly dragons!
Book 5 is out now - and, if you’re like me, you’re waiting patiently for the paperback to arrive on your doorstep on the 3rd May.
A lot of you now know that this past year has been a bit busy for me. Firstly, I moved jobs. I am still a teacher but I’m in a different school now with year 6. Year 6 is the last year of primary school and so my role is to get them through their end of Key Stage Tests (SATs) and prepare them for secondary school. This last part was made for me as I started work in a secondary school working with year 7’s where part of my role was to help students transition. I feel confident and love the work that I am doing - mostly. Of course, as many teachers are aware, the constant paperwork, the marking (and in year 6 they write a lot!), the planning and everything else can be a huge strain on a work life balance. I am so incredibly lucky to have a great partner in life as he also teaches and so understands when work crosses into our evenings, weekends and holidays. He is also doing his work!
Outside of work, I got married! Saturday 10th February 2018 was the day I married the man of my dreams. Getting ready for it took up a lot of my spare time so when I wasn’t planning, marking, doing assessments, paperwork, you name it, I was doing all things wedding. My mum was an absolute godsend. She was the one that trailed to my numerous dress fittings, to the shops to look at pretty girly things, round my house to help me make stuff and, of course, she made my cake. My mum used to own her own cake business where she made wedding cakes (this was before she went into teaching herself - secondary school though) and so made our cake as part of her gift to us. It was beautiful. I wanted to keep it so it was a four tier cake dummy decorated with objects that meant something to my new husband and me. I saw a cake idea on Pintrest that I liked and basically asked Mum if I could do my own version! So we had the Death Star from Star Wars, the Golden Snitch from Harry Potter, the Stark Logo from Game of Thrones, Simba from Lion King, the red rose from Beauty and the Beast, the Chelsea Lion, Captian America’s shield, Thor’s hammer, baby Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy and I’m not even sure if I’ve listed everything! (I will post pics with this!).
Considering how many months of planning it took, the day itself went by in a blur. In fact, if wasn’t for our wedding video and photos, I’m not sure I’d believe we’d got married! They say the day goes quick which I fully believed but not sure I was prepared for. Our Bailey boy was there, causing chaos as usual. We’d hired someone to be his ‘chaperone’ so that we knew he was taken care of, we know our boy and we know he’s not the easiest of dogs and so didn’t want to be worried about a guest (most likely my brother) missing out by taking care of him. We hired someone who walks dogs and boards them so she came really early to look after him, could give him cuddles and treats while we were at the church and then was hand to help with photos and after, drove him to the kennels where he stayed inside the owners home with my husband’s family’s dogs Alfie and Mollie.
Normally, Bailey is pretty photogenic as he likes the attention, but there was so much going on that day it was nice he had a constant with him to get him through the meets and greets (he lapped it right up!). Apparently, he totally freaked out though going over floor boundaries such as going from the carpet to the tiled flooring and vice versa - who knew we had a weird dog? My family dog Chester was also there but being a senior boy, he was easily looked after by my dad or brother, Chester was just happy to bimble along with guests, getting strokes where he could. Due to his back legs, he isn’t one for jumping or pulling so was a very relaxed, quieter version of my two year old! Chalk and cheese you might say!
So the day started with my bridesmaids and me getting ready; hair and makeup arrived at 7am to get us all done. We had stayed the previous night at the place we were getting married: Stoke Rochford Hall - it is an absolutely beautiful place. We got married at 12.30pm although I have been reliably told I was about 15/20 minutes late. Whoops. To be fair, I had no concept of time and isn’t the Bride supposed to be late? It was apparently freezing in the church. On our wedding video you can see the air we breathe as we speak! The service went smoothly (from what I remember!) and then we went back to the Hall for our welcome drinks. Again, this flew by! We hired musicians, a string duet called Chapel Hill Duo, who played absolutely beautiful music. We asked for their twists on modern songs and we even had them play the theme for Game of Thrones! We had some photos, got cuddles with Bailey, had a drink and then it was time for our meal. My main was a gorgeous mushroom risotto and my husband (it still feels weird saying that) had beef fillet with some fancy potato. I won dessert though as my choice was a raspberry and white chocolate brûlée and the other option was strawberry trio - see? Mine was bellissimo! The party after was brilliant, my friends stayed dancing with me throughout the night and I had a really great time. Can’t believe months and planning and it was over in 24 hours. Every moment was worth it though when I look back at photos and see how happy I was.
I’m going to leave it there for now but feel free to have a look at a collage of our wedding day! Let me know what you think of the amazing cake and how cute do my boys Bailey and Chester look?!
On Tuesday 2nd May 2017, I had the privilege to spend the evening at ‘The Priory Ruskin Academy’ in Grantham. I was invited in to talk about Aphora, how I came up with the story, how long it took to write, how the characters evolved and so on. The school were fantastic at hosting me, offering drinks and canapes for attendees. I had the pleasure of meeting several students who were avid readers and I really enjoyed meeting my target audience! They were wonderful, engaged and it was clear reading is in an important part of their school life. Reading is also a passion of mine and think this love of reading should be promoted within schools as it is such an important aspect of daily life.
After having met several people before the event started, it was amazing to be able to talk so in depth about Aphora and share how my own experiences led me to this world I have fallen so in love with. I wrote the first chapter whilst at school for a piece of GCSE coursework in year 10. At 15, I was fully immersed in all things supernatural and just could not pass up the opportunity to get some of the crazy ideas that run through my head on paper. The encouragement from my English teacher to continue writing it was all the support I needed at that point, I felt ‘wow, maybe I have something here’ and so the next few years I spent writing Aphora on and off. I spoke about how to begin with, I didn’t really know about Cate or Aphora itself, the opening chapter was already formed in my head and it wasn’t until I thought about a story arc (thank you to all English teachers who taught me how to use one!) that the world of Aphora was formed. I finished Aphora during my degree but left it alone when I first entered work. It wasn’t until I started teaching myself, surrounded by uncapped imagination, that I wondered why I wasn’t pursuing it. It was then I brought Aphora out to edit and publish. I won’t go into all the boring details about publishing now but, as I mentioned to the students on Tuesday, to me, getting my story out there was for me. If I’m not writing for myself, to please myself, then what’s the point? I am taking small steps every day to fulfil my dream of being an author. And guess what? I already am. If it wasn’t for following another passion of mine - working with children - I may never had had the realisation that I had to publish Aphora and that I had to continue writing. What I made clear at the event was that my head is full of ideas, some might say weird ideas (my dad still brings up how I have to have my curtains closed properly in case there is something outside) but are we all not a little weird? Wouldn’t life be boring if we were all the same?
Like the children I work with, I always seem to find endless ideas and possibilities: worlds, places, people, events, they come to me through dreams, through reading and using what I come across in my daily life. I would struggle if I couldn’t express that. So I will continue to write, one small step at a time. Sometimes I will be extremely busy at work (teaching can sometimes take over your life!), but with careful planning I can make room for all my passions. I spend my days working with some amazing children, hoping that I am making a small difference, and then I spend my holidays writing. I work harder during the week so that I free my weekends up to see my family and keep up to date with my website and events. It is possible if you make it so. I may also be an avid Disney fan and Walt Disney has one of my favourite ever quotes, one I think it quite appropriate for my imagination and work ethic: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Whether you are one of my students or a reader, if there is one small piece of advice I can share, it is that.
With thanks to Gary Lawrence for photography!
Photo credit: Gary Lawrence
A post with lots of things to share!
Firstly, I promised a quick sneak peek into what Alex and Cate are doing in Aphora - A New World so keep reading for a teaser at the end of this post.
In other exciting news I will be at a local school in Grantham on May 2nd for an evening about Aphora. This is a great opportunity to talk to the target audience of the book and answer any questions readers may have about Aphora. I'll be discussing how Aphora grew from an idea to a book, how I wrote it, the highs and lows and how it became a published item. As an insight into some things about Aphora, I thought I would answer some questions I have received already from Facebook, Goodreads and face to face contact with readers:
1. What made you start writing?
Reading, I believe, is the first step to writing, you wouldn’t start cooking without searching for some recipes! I have always loved reading ever since I was in primary school. My Mum would take me to our local library where I would sit in the children’s section and just read books off the shelves! It helped that my Mum read a lot so I had that positive influence. I was very much into all things supernatural and adventure so I have always written short stories when I had ideas and this evolved to longer stories. The thing about my writing is that I would start penning down ideas that would actually come in the middle of a story. It wasn’t until I was later into my teens that I understood the idea of an actual story arc - I have my English teachers to thank for that!
2. How long did it take you to write?
Aphora actually started during my GCSE’s when we had to write a narrative for coursework. I began the story of Aphora, the first chapter where the woman is running from the monster, for year 10 homework. I received a lot of positive praise for this and my English teacher encouraged me to continue writing it. This then became a personal focus during my A-levels (after a major re-write) and then I concluded Aphora during my degree. It was then left alone whilst I went into my final year at university and it wasn’t until two years after graduating that I went back to it. I remembered how much I loved it and how much passion I felt whilst writing it, even the dark hours when nothing seemed to work, and I decided to edit it ready for publishing.
3. How did you name Aphora?
To be honest, I think I made up a name whilst dreaming one night and it kind of stuck! The world Cate lived in I wanted to have a different name to ‘Earth’, something that implied a bit of mystery and magic.
4. What are the benefits of self-publishing?
There are many benefits to all routes to get a book published. For me personally, self-publishing is about getting your name out there.
5. How many books do you plan to write? Endless books! I have many ideas that I can’t wait to use but the sequel to Aphora comes first.
If you have any questions that you’d like to know the answer to then please ask and I’ll answer them in another post!
Right, as promised, here is a quick un-edited, excerpt from Aphora - A New World:
“Cate!” a distant male voice shouted out, except the voice was from within her mind and not outside the girls’ toilet. “Please Cate, wake up!” it was muffled but the words were clear to her ears. The man behind the voice was panicked, concerned and…familiar. She shook her head and left the toilets walking straight out and into a solid wall of muscle.
“I’m so sorry!” she started as she looked up and then stammered. The man was tall, broad shouldered with a tight dark green t-shirt stretching across his chest highlighting his well-defined body underneath. Dark brown hair sat ruffled on his head, as if he had just woken up, intense blue eyes sparkled down at her, winking mischievously.
“Don’t you worry, nothing a pretty girl like you can’t help make better.” He spoke deeply – but something sounded off, not quite whole.
“I just…I just didn’t see you.” She replied, now conscious of how close she still was to this man, his face familiar yet her senses quivering. A bang behind her. She spun to see the exit doors rattle furiously, the frosted glass blurring the outline of a man.
“Cate!” she heard the voice again, it came from the doors and it was louder this time.
“Do you think we should go help him?” she asked the stranger before her. When she faced him she took in a sharp breath, the man looked angry, dangerous even, but then his demeanour changed as he looked at her again.
“No Cate, he doesn’t matter.”
“How do you know my name?” she asked, shocked. He reached up and brushed the back of his hands across her cheek, she couldn’t help but shudder – his contact made her skin tingle.
“Because, it’s me Cate, it’s Alex, don’t you remember me?” he caressed her mind with his smooth, silky voice whist his fingers traced her jawline sending sparks of electricity through her body. She lost all control of her senses when he lent in, she tipped her head up in response, waiting for him, sighing softly when his warm mouth met hers.
I feel I must apologise for hiding the past couple of months, my health took a turn for the worst in what can only be described as, in true Lemony Snicket’s style, 'a series of unfortunate health disasters' – but more on that another time. Now, I am back to writing which is seriously needed as a summer deadline is fast approaching (when you consider editing time too) plus I really missed Aphora, not to mention several new projects which are screaming to be written but will just have to wait.
I currently, however, have to rest with my leg up after a torn cartilage injury; I’m beginning to move more freely having ditched the crutches (honestly have no idea how people use them for so long, I was frustrated with incredibly painful hands after 3 days!) but this has lead to the worst calf pain I’ve ever had I think, apparently shortening of the muscle and cramp is normal – if someone says that to me one more time whilst I’m trying to really concentrate on just limping somewhere, I will not be held accountable for any injuries on said person! In case you haven’t guessed, I’m not very good sick person, I hate being bed bound or ill especially when it revolves around being very much dependent on others – uck... On the plus side, I’m able to spend some time with Aphora's sequel this week and I will be releasing a short sneak peak later this week: where do you think Cate and Alex went?
By the way, I’ve just realised I’ve saved this blog post as a word document on my laptop as ‘blig post'; maybe I shouldn’t try to write at 11 o’clock at night!
Sorry, random tangent there! Whilst I’ve been away some exciting things have happened! Later I will be spilling the beans (and details) over a promotional night at a local school with a chance to chat with me about Aphora and writing in general! This will be a great way to meet the people the book is aimed at and if it encourages others to write and be interested in books then I can’t wait.
Books at any age are important but coming from someone who used books to escape as a teenager, they can provide a real life line to answers that don’t always seem clear at that age – yes, even books about vampires, werewolves, ghosts, you name it! I probably read it! From love and lust, to friendship, bullying, loss, grief, responsibility, realising your true potential, overcoming obstacles, difficulties and diversity. Books and stories are powerful tools of self-promotion. It helps me to write which is why I do what I do but if I can help even just one person escape their life for a little bit and help them realise something positive about themselves then I consider that amazing and a profit I could only dream of.
In other news, Bailey has a mighty fine story to tell – lots has happened to the pup in the last month or so and yes, it does involve his usual mischievous antics! In addition to that, he will be turning 1 in a little over a month so we will be planning a joint birthday with his brother. If you want to find out more, head over to his blog for a Bailey pupdate!
Tonight marks the night before Aphora goes live. It marks years of blood, sweat, hard work and tears to getting Aphora to where it is today. I am so incredibly proud to say that from tomorrow I will be a published author, it has been fun but tremendously hard and I can’t wait to see where it goes – I also can’t wait to get on with the next instalment as it has taken a back seat these past couple of months and I’m eager to get back the world of Aphora and out of the world where I go cross-eyed (and a little crazy) reading the same pages over and over again. As of tomorrow Aphora will be available on Amazon for £2.99 as an e-book with a printed copy available to purchase following in the next week; if you’re eager, click on the link to pre-order a copy and guarantee the e-book to be on your kindle device on the 2nd December!
The last few weeks and months have been difficult but Aphora has kept me going. Only last week did my proof arrive for the printed book and I was ecstatic, I’m not sure poor old Bailey knew what was going on except he may have been given a few extra treats in reflection of my mood. Since then, he has been a little naughty but more to follow on his blog about that. Anyway, I digress, I am currently reviewing the printed edition of Aphora and will be linking the final version alongside the e-book by the end of next week. In all honesty, it has been a lot more enjoyable and relaxing reading a physical copy of my work that trawling through pages on my laptop!
I almost forgot! Today is the 1st of December. And I LOVE Christmas. It truly is the most wonderful time of year in my book (pun, fully intended). When personal issues arise I always know Christmas will help me feel better and I’m crossing my fingers that this is true for this year. I have been wrapping presents and dreaming of all the Christmas decorations I will be buying. Last year saw my house a little bare as we were all packed up and ready to move into our first owned home together, however, fast forward to six weeks later and we were only just moving…imagine the annoyance of living out of boxes for several months as it had taken a while packing everything up with us both working full time! Oops, I have side-tracked again! So Christmas last year fell flat (decoration wise anyway as I was surprised with a city break to Berlin for the Christmas markets!) so this year I hope to bolster my mood with the wonderfulness and brightness that is Christmas decorations. I’m talking tinsel, lights, cute little signs, door mats: the lot. I cannot wait. I love the scents, the music, the family time and family time is something I truly cherish.
So as it is now officially the start of Christmas (and yes, the 1st of December counts), I want to wish everyone a very happy and merry start to the countdown (advent calendar chocolate, check). I hope you enjoy Aphora and more in the festive weeks to come.
Until next time,
Finding the time to write has become somewhat impossible. Trying to launch my debut novel has taken more out of me than I ever imagined. I am proof-reading, designing covers, uploading previews and draft versions on many different platforms all of which are far too technical for me and so take more time than actually necessary. As well as this, maintaining my website and trying to develop a social media presence – things I was very aware I would have to do when I started down this path – have left me surprised about how much I didn’t know. I say all this yet I have enjoyed this process; I feel I am beginning a journey that I can’t wait to travel, a journey I didn’t think I would ever take but I am.
Working full time and trying to write has definitely been a challenge but with a bit of motivation I aim to achieve anything, and this is the message I want to get out to you, my readers. I thrive on bringing strong, independent and wilful characters to life, characters who may even connect with you on a personal level, who prove that obstacles are there to be overcome, to make the journey worthwhile – no matter how twisted that journey is. I have always said, and still stand by, that if it’s not difficult or challenging then it is not worth it. That is true for being an author.
I am slowly getting there with breathing life into my debut novel, Aphora. Currently I am working on getting a full cover design so that I can create a paperback version to have along-side the e-book. My own personal opinion is divided between being able to read a book anywhere, anytime with an electronic device and also opening the first page of a book, the scent of a new story unravelling in-front of me. Whichever medium takes your fancy, I hope you enjoy Aphora as much as I did creating it and that Cate is a character in which we all see a little of ourselves in: someone with hope, desire and motivation.
Within the next couple of weeks I hope to get Aphora released – perhaps ahead of the deadline if I can (it’s still good to have goals!). This will be an achievement and will mean I can continue working on Aphora’s second instalment – I am already excited at some new developments and am itching to get down on paper! For now though, I will continue to work during the day whilst in the evenings, with my beautiful puppy Bailey dozing by my feet, I will try to make Aphora perfect. I am writer and this is my life.
- Rhian Edwards
Aphora's front cover and blurb have been released!
I really enjoyed trying to create this blurb to give away just enough of what happens but yet still keep the story shrouded in mystery. Writing the blurb almost felt like summarising Cate's first adventure; I hope you get to know a little bit more about our heroine.
Reads on for a full description of Aphora:
Sixteen-year-old Cate is your average student, trying to maintain a social life, a boyfriend and complete her homework on time, that is, until she discovers she is the last of her bloodline: an Aphora Guardian.
Destined to save her world from Ziamen - a parasitic, demonic world connected to Aphora, Cate must learn to work with her hostile Guardian Protector Alex, struggling with his feelings towards Cate and the lingering guilt over her mother's death.
As demons and monsters Cate once thought myth seek to destroy her at every turn, a horrifying twist uncovers the truth about the pair's entwined fate. In time Cate must make a choice: will she choose her prophesied Guardian duty?
Or will revenge consume her?
Cate's journey is only just beginning in Aphora so to discover her world why not pre-order Aphora? Click here to go to Aphora's page on Amazon.
In the meantime dip into the free sneak preview of Aphora where the first two chapters are ready to download!
See you next time!
- Rhian Edwards
To begin, I would like to welcome you to my website and hope you bear with me as my debut novel is published. I hope you find the website interesting and I look forward to spending more time with you all. Join me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn more about Aphora and other worlds in progress.
As Aphora is set to launch December 2016, keep your eyes open for a free sneak preview of the first two chapters coming to Amazon late October, after which Aphora will be available for pre-order!
In the meantime take a look at Bailey’s Blog, a fun tale from the perspective of a very cheeky golden retriever; he sure has given me a few giggles (heart-attacks) over the past few months.
Stay tuned for a full blurb and front cover of ‘Aphora’. To be the first to know, why not sign up for my Newsletter for all the latest news?
See you next time!
- Rhian Edwards