Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Ashael Rising by Shona Kinsella - Book Blitz + Giveaway

Ashael Rising

Ashael is a hunter-gatherer woman, apprenticed to Bhearra, the healer and spiritual leader of their tribe.

The Zanthar are invaders from another world who extend their own lives by stealing the life-force of everything around them. They were last seen on KalaDene 200 years ago. They have returned, looking for The Vessel, a being prophesied to hold the life-force of the land.

Iwan is a slave to the Zanthar, descendant of those taken as slaves the last time the Zanthar visited this world. He is sent out as a spy, while his mother is held hostage to ensure his compliance.

When Ashael meets Iwan in the forest, neither realise that she is the one the Zanthar are looking for. The fate of KalaDene and all of its people rests on her shoulders.

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 Iwan first arrives in Oak Cam, Ashael’s home. He is filled with guilt over lying about his purpose here but also concerned for his mother’s well-being, as the Zanthar hold her hostage against his good behaviour.

What he saw on the other side made him let his breath out in a low whistle. They stood on the edge of a large clearing, with a huge fire burning at the centre. People milled around, some hurrying, some strolling. Around the periphery of the clearing, nestled amongst the trees, were grass-roofed wooden huts, woven together in such a way that they almost looked alive. He heard sounds from above and looked up. More huts were built on the sturdy branches of the massive trees that surrounded the cam. Walkways made of wood and rope swung over their heads from tree to tree.
Iwan had never seen anything like this place and yet it immediately felt like home.
‘Come on,’ Ashael said, taking his hand again. ‘I should take you to meet Joren and Bhearra.’
Ashael led him across the cam, letting go of his hand when a heavily pregnant young woman approached them. She was a full head and shoulders shorter than Ashael, though they looked to be around the same age. Glancing around, Iwan realised that Ashael was unusually tall. None of the women he saw even neared her height, and only a few of the men did. Which meant that he, too, must look unusually tall because he was able to look down on Ashael. Would that be a problem? Would it make them question where he was from? But then, he realised, Ashael herself looked quite different from most of the people he saw. Her hair was black, like theirs, but it had red streaks through it which he didn’t see on anyone else. She was taller, of course, and she was more lean; her skin was a deeper shade of bronze; her eyes so dark as to be almost black, while most of those he could see were lighter shades of brown or green.
Iwan snapped out of his thoughts when he realised that Ashael was introducing her friend to him.
‘Alayne, this is Iwan,’ Ashael was saying. ‘He comes from far to the south. He’s been travelling. We met in the forest so I offered him a hot meal and a place to spend the night.’
‘I would have done the same,’ Alayne said, looking him up and down frankly. ‘It’s rare that we meet someone from so far away. You must tell us all about your journey before you move on.’
‘It has been uneventful. It would make a boring tale. Until I met Ashael and the split-tail, that is,’ he answered.
‘Split-tail?’ Alayne asked, furrowing her brow.
‘Arrowhead,’ Ashael said. ‘Split-tail makes sense too, with the odd colouring they have on their tails.’
Iwan grimaced as Ashael told her friend the story of the snake. He had been here for less than a day and had already drawn attention to his difference. Would they believe the snake had a different name in the south or had he already condemned his mother with careless talk?
‘Brave as well as handsome?’ Alayne said, grinning at Ashael. ‘Maybe I should go foraging more often.’
Ashael laughed. ‘I don’t think Gethyn would appreciate that.’
‘Probably not,’ Alayne said, rubbing her swollen belly, a fond smile lighting up her face. ‘The fear of competition might do him some good, though.’
‘I had best go and introduce Iwan to Bhearra and Joren. Will you be at the gathering later?’ Ashael asked.
‘I will. It’s my turn to tend the Heart-Fire tonight.’
‘We can speak more then.’ Ashael gestured to Iwan and he followed her as she set off towards two trees at the far end of the cam.
Iwan had never seen trees so large. They would have towered over the walls of the keep he grew up in. As they drew closer, he realised both were hollow at the base, each with a door and windows carved into them. As he watched, the hide curtain covering one of the doorways moved aside, revealing a young man around Iwan’s own age, maybe a few years older than Ashael. He was tall with broad shoulders, his long hair pulled back from his face.
‘Well met, Joren,’ Ashael said, raising her hand in greeting.
‘Ashael, good evening,’ the young man responded, then noticed Iwan. ‘Who is this?’
‘Joren, I would like you to meet Iwan.’ Ashael nudged Iwan forward a step. ‘His cam is far to the south. He has been travelling and we met in the forest. I thought we could offer him a meal and a bed for the night.’
‘Of course.’ Joren made the greeting gesture Ashael had made earlier. ‘Welcome to Oak Cam, Iwan.’


Author Bio 
Shona Kinsella is the author of Ashael Rising, (Unbound, 2017) the first in her series, The Vessel of KalaDene. She is also one of the editors of the British Fantasy Society’s fiction publication, Horizons. When she is not writing or wrangling her three children, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. 
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