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In this sequel to The Goddess’s Choice (Reliquary Press, 2012), the Crown Princess Samantha and Sir Robrek struggle to solidify their rule in the aftermath of the king’s murder and Duke Argblutal’s attempt to usurp the throne. They are thwarted at every turn by those who seek power for themselves and desire to prevent their marriage. Just when they think their problems are solved, a deadly curse begins to spread throughout Korthlundia and Samantha becomes pregnant.
In my sword and sorcery novel, The Soul Stone, Samantha must fight off priests, enemies, and her closest advisors while Robrek discovers the reason the goddess chose him as king, to defeat the Soul Stone, a stone capable of sucking the soul out of its victims, which threatens to obliterate all life in the joined kingdoms. Their archenemy, the Bard Alvabane, awakens the Soul Stone and plans to use its power to reclaim Korthlundia for her people (a people driven out over a thousand years ago by the hero Armunn). Armunn had to sacrifice his life and soul to contain the Soul Stone. Will Robrek have to do the same? Will the young couple have only a few short months to love each other?
Although having read The Goddess’s Choice adds depth to The Soul Stone, it is not necessary. The Soul Stone is a complete story of its own.
Y’all probably know by now my deep love for fantasy, and The Soul Stone looks like it has everything I’d want in a fantasy novel: castles, swords, sorcery, magical stones – YEAH! We’ve got all sorts of goodies for you: an excerpt, some geeky backstory on Jamie, and a giveaway too. Happy Wednesday, and you’re welcome.
Take it away, Jamie…
I admit to being a lifelong geek and began to love fairy tales when my older sister told me them when I was a child. My favorite was one that I have since learned nobody else has ever heard of, “The Princess and the Glass Hill.” This fairy tale formed the basis for my first novel, The Goddess’s Choice. In brief, the tale goes like this. Once upon a time, a farmer had three sons. He doted on the oldest two and despised the youngest. One fall near harvest he finds a quarter of his grain destroyed by some unknown force. He sets his oldest son to stand guard. The oldest son hears a horrible noise in the middle of the night and flees in fear. In the morning, more grain has been destroyed. The same thing happens the subsequent night with the second son. Finally, the youngest son begs to be allowed to protect the grain. Having little choice, the farmer agrees. The youngest son also hears the horrible noise, but instead of fleeing, he fights his fear and approaches to find a magnificent bronze horse with a bronze saddle and armor. He takes the horse to a stable in the woods and cares for it in secret.
The next year the same thing happens, but this time the youngest son finds a silver horse with a silver saddle and armor. The third year he finds a gold one with gold saddle and armor. He takes them both to the forest stable and continues caring for them in secret.
Shortly after the youngest son finds the gold horse, the king of the land announces a contest to win his daughter’s hand in marriage. He places his daughter on the top of a glass hill, and over a three-day competition, all who desire to compete are to attempt to ride their horse up the sheer side of the hill. The princess is to throw a gold apple at who ever does the best each day. At the end of the contest, the man with the most apples will win the princess and become the king’s heir.
The farmer’s two oldest sons plan to compete in the contest, and the youngest son begs to be allowed to do so as well, but the farmer refuses, insisting that the youngest son stay home and do the chores. After his father and two older brothers leave, the youngest son hurriedly completes his chores , rushes to the forest stable, saddles the bronze horse, and dons the bronze armor. He follow his family to the capital. When he arrives, nobody has had any success in climbing the hill. He approaches at a gallop and makes it one third of the way up. The princess throws him the apple, and he rides away and gets home before his father and brothers.
The second day on the silver horse, he climbs two thirds of the way up and again receives an apple. On the final day, he climbs to the top on the back of the gold horse and receives the third apple.
The next day is to be the day when the man who claimed the apples presents them to the king. The youngest son is finally allowed to go with his family, and to their utter shock, he steps forward and places all three apples at the king’s feet. The youngest son and the princess are married, and they live happily ever after.
I was also captivated by this story, but it was the youngest son I identified with, not the princess who gets handed off as a prize. As I got older, this part of the tale bothered me, and in my retelling the princess is every bit as strong of a character as the young hero.
As I grew older, fantasy novels took the place of fairy tales as my favorite genre, but I continue to be drawn to the stronger female character.
The Soul Stone picks up where The Goddess’s Choice leaves off, recounting the further adventures of the two main characters—Samantha, the queen of Korthlundia, and her consort, Robrek, the sorcerer. It may be that Robrek has powerful magic, but Samantha indisputably rules the kingdom.
At bedtime, Alvabane sat at her dressing table brushing her long hair. It had once been a bright, rich red, but it had dulled with age and was now mostly grey with only a few strands of color to remind her of what once had been. It seemed a metaphor for her life—small flashes of color to remind her of her once bright purpose.
One of those flashes, Erick, set her nightly goblet of fortified wine next to her hand. She needed the strong alcohol to dull the pain of her joints so she could sleep. Erick had served her for ten years. When her former servant had died, he’d been sent by her people, despite the fact that she’d only been a disappointment to them.
She turned to thank him, but the words died on her lips as she saw the reproach in his eyes. Alvabane turned back to her mirror. Tonight was the night of the new moon. She should have been preparing to perform the rites of the dark gods, not preparing for bed. “They have forgotten us,” Alvabane said. “The Soul Stone does not live.”
In the mirror, she saw Erick’s eyes narrow. He was not yet twenty and still had the optimism of youth. He still believed the Stone would come to life again when the gods willed it. He believed it would again be the weapon it had once been. Created in the far past by magic which had since been lost, it had been used by her people to protect themselves from the barbarians that now ran free over Korth and Lundia.
“I will perform the rites next month,” she promised, but so had she promised last month and the month before that. The stairs to the bottom of the East Tower were agony to her knees. Erick made a mewing sound, reminding her what he’d sacrificed to serve her and the dark gods. She herself had cut his tongue from his mouth when he came to her as a ten-year-old child. He had surrendered it stoically. Only the Bards were allowed to sing the rites of the gods. All others who heard them had to be rendered mute so they couldn’t repeat music not meant for their tongues.
“Do you think you have sacrificed more than I?” She turned to face him. “I submitted to the brutish duke’s bed for years. I gave birth to a child of rape. All so I could remain near the Stone. I performed the rites faithfully every new moon for decades. And for what, I ask you? The power of the Stone remains trapped behind the shield the demon Armunn created from his own soul. That shield can’t be destroyed. I have dedicated my life to trying, but it is impossible. The Soul Stone won’t live again!”
Erick mewed again and looked toward the tapestry on the wall. It showed the map of the desert of Sehra, to the south of Korthlundia, where her people had lived in exile since Armunn and his hordes had trapped the Stone and then driven them from their homeland. Blinking back tears of despair, she turned from him. “Do you think I have forgotten? Every generation fewer of our children are born. Only by returning to the land of our birthright can we be strong again.”
She got up and went to the tapestry, touching it lovingly. “Do you not understand? The dark gods have found me unworthy to be their messenger. I once thought I was the child of the prophecy, the one who would drive the descendants of Armunn’s hordes back across the mountains into Korth and reclaim the land they call Lundia as our own. But I was wrong. I’m an unprofitable servant, an unfit vessel.”
|Soul Stone Pendant|
- A Soul Stone pendant & copy of The Soul Stone (winner’s choice, print or ebook if US, ebook if INT)
- a $10 Amazon gift card (INT)