Tag Archives: dark fantasy

October & Horror: A Perfect Blend (MARTUK . . . the HOLY Review)

Martuk … the Holy

Book One

JONATHAN WINN

Martuk-ebook-cover-Tim-2-TwitterGenre:  Horror, Literary Horror

ISBN:  978-1480035690

ASIN:  B007HPQPV4

Number of pages:  446

Word Count:  89,000

Cover Artist:  Timothy Burch

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** BEWITCHING BOOK TOUR Giveaway **

Win 5 e-copies of Martuk . . . the Holy by clicking this link:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ba112f392/

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BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In a crowded Left Bank cafe, an immortal man sits, the phantoms crawling near, the heat of their whispers stinging his cheek …

and Martuk … The Holy begins.

One thousand years before the birth of Christ, a golden god damns Martuk with a kiss. In a land ruled by a wounded king, life everlasting steals his mortality from the bottom of a golden cup. Finally, generations later, a Messiah who has the power to heal breaks under the weight of Martuk’s demons, stumbling to his death defeated by darkness.

From his home in modern Paris, he writes, his memories lush, his words evocative. Revisiting his impossible life, he vents his rage and shares his loneliness. From bloody battles with a demon he cannot escape to the ghost of a beauty who haunts him still, this is his story.

This is Martuk … The Holy.

REVIEW:

If you enjoy books with a new twist on a familiar plot similar to Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code”, then you will most certainly love “Martuk . . . the Holy” by Jonathan Winn.  This intense, gripping tale will keep you turning pages, biting fingernails, and re-evaluating your beliefs until the final sentence.

I’m not sure if Winn’s book can be classified into a single genre . . . or even a sub-genre. It’s multi-faceted and that’s part of the appeal. The fact  Martuk . . . the Holy is a debut novel is impressive beyond words.

Martuk is a tormented immortal with roots in ancient history. Before you start thinking Adrian Paul and the TV series, “Highlander”, let me assure the differences are vast. Martuk . . . the Holy is a dark story filled with demons, angels, beastly abominations, horror, sexuality, violence and a provocative biblical twist. All that adds up to a fascinating, complex read that will thrill most readers and upset a few. Be warned . . . it’s not easy reading.

At times, you might feel confused because there’s a lot going on. The story covers past, present, future and can jump scenes before you’re emotionally ready.  Martuk is written in first person, told in flashbacks and flash forwards because he’s a seer. Winn’s ability to transport the reader to various periods in history as well as build a fantastical world filled with breathtaking detailed imagery is astounding. Even scenes with horrifying violence transmit a beauty that both sickens and beguiles.

At this time, Martuk . . . the Holy averages 5 stars on Amazon. Add my 5 stars to that ranking.

Invest your time in this book. Authors like Jonathan Winn are a rare treat.

EXCERPT:

His scream brought me back.

The blackness lifted again, those Beyond the Veil disappearing again. I was on the stone again. He was straddling me, his hands on my throat. Again.

I opened my eyes.

Above me, he sat, his mouth open in another loud scream, a roar, the pain of his loss obsessing him, driving him to hurt me.

He bent low, his sweaty face inches from mine, the skin flushed red and dripping with sweat. Shaking his head, he caught his breath, his eyes wide with disbelief as I died and came to life again and again, his mind, still blunted and thick with wine, not comprehending the impossible.

He roared again, the spit rolling from his mouth to stain my lips and run down my cheek to tickle my ears.

I tried to move. Tried to breathe. Tried to escape. But it was useless.

I didn’t have the strength.

Yes, my demons had left me. I suffered, losing life, the Veil so near yet so far, tempting me with its peace, its quiet. Abandoned by my strength, the human in me unable to escape this man’s anger and rage, his brutality.

He lifted my head and smacked it against the stone, the thwack rippling over my skull, my eyes closing, the burning pain stealing my breath.

I had endured this once, long ago. So long ago. Trapped and held by cruel hands, my head hitting the stone with a crippling thwack while the stars twinkled above.

He tightened his grip around my throat.

Where were you? I silently asked. Oh my God, my demons, where were you?

My chest was on fire, my lungs burning, every bone hurting, every inch of skin screaming for release, for relief, for surrender.

The darkness was coming again.

Help me.

There they stood, Those Beyond the Veil, their faces pressed close, watching me.

Help me, please.

They stood near suddenly, watching. Impassive. Unresponsive.

Having slipped into the Fog to move among them once again, I could see their unfinished forms wandering, their shapes shifting like a delicate fog. There were noses and chins, perhaps eyes, arms and legs and torsos and breasts. There were children and parents. Parents of parents. Some watched closely, the fragile gaze curious and afraid. Others stood in the distance, lost in the dreams of a life once lived. I didn’t know.

But they were shapes. Listless, ineffective shapes.

I thought of the altar lifetimes ago. How they had abandoned me then. The poisoned brew at my lips. The smell of blood. The smell of fear. The warmth on the soles of my feet as the darkness wound its way up my shins, my thighs, whipped itself around my waist and crawled up my chest as I drank and drank and drank.

I gasped, the air filling my lungs as I came back to this world. The world of stone and roaring fires, smoldering bodies, and an angry beast driven by anguish choking the life from me. This horrible reality ripping me from the Fog once again.

He was resting, this beast. Still straddling me, he fell forward, leaning forward, his weight crushing as, his chest on mine, he rested his forehead on the stone as he caught his breath.

He would stir again. I knew this. And the frustrating cycle would begin again. I knew this, too. I would suffer, my chest exploding, tears washing my cheeks, his drool slipping from his lips to slide down my chin, the pain of death endured yet again.

I need my demons. The restless, useless Dead couldn’t help me. I need my demons. I needed my strength. My power. To live, to rise up and seek revenge. To slaughter this man who had killed my angel. Who had brutalized her, leaving her for dead on the side of the road, in the dirt, the leaves, the grass and the trees. I needed that impervious strength I possessed lifetimes ago.

To hurt him the way he had hurt her, I needed my demons.

On the verge of exhaustion, he lifted himself, his eyes heavy, his skin sweating in the glow of the fire. He still sat on me, breathing deeply, his chest rising and falling, his shoulders slack.

Glancing to the side, his eyes focused and saw his dead daughter charred black, her flesh red and raw. And then his wife in the water, her flesh scorched, her skull red and raw, the fine dark hair burned away. His sons, his dead sons, laying peacefully as if in sleep, their heads awkwardly twisted.

The grief returned.

His face crumpled in tears, his chin trembling, the sobs struggling to escape as a shudder of pain rippled through his shoulders. He swallowed, paused, shaking the emotion away. He then turned to me, his eyes no longer heavy, his breath no longer ragged, his chin no longer trembling, his shoulders strong and straight.

He bent low, his lips almost on mine, and roared, his open mouth easily covering my face from the dip in my chin to the top of my nose. And then he sat up, his hands around my neck.

Lifting my head, he brought me close, looking at me for a moment, watching me. Wondering, perhaps, how I, this weak nothing of a boy, of a young man, a beardless, smooth, skinny young man, could possibly have killed so many so quickly.

The tears threatened again. He swallowed before snarling, gritting his teeth. And with my face still so close to his, he screamed again.

Yes …

Just as my own tears came again, just as I lost all hope of this nightmare ending, just as I surrendered to the darkness swallowing me once more, the peace of the Veil taunting me with a quiet I can never claim as my own, they came.

Look …

The Whispers inched near, the heated breath slipping over my skin, the darkness, their darkness, their blessed darkness, the effective, terrifying darkness of my demons, clouding the air as his thumbs tightened around my throat.

We are here.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Screenwriter, playwright, actor, and now award-winning author, Jonathan Winn was born in Seattle, WA, and currently divides his time between the East and West coasts.  Martuk … The Holy is his first book.

Blog – http://martuktheholy.com

Twitter –  http://twitter.com/Jonathan_Winn

Facebook – http://facebook.com/MartukTheHoly

Contest Alert and “Storm Dancer” Virtual Tour

I know, I know…I posted about this book already but is there ever “too much” of a good thing?

STORM DANCER by Rayne Hall is currently enjoying a successful virtual book tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The author has graciously agreed to offer a free ebook to one lucky winner at each stop. Today it’s my turn to present the opportunity to win “The Colour of Dishonour – Stories from the Storm Dancer World”.The Colour of Dishonour 24Jan13

All you need to do for entry is leave a comment.  I’ll choose a winner at the end of the day. It doesn’t get any simpler than that!

I read STORM DANCER and while I enjoyed the world building, I’m one of those sensitive readers who doesn’t do well with rape, fantasized or not, and extreme violence. So perhaps this wasn’t the best book for my tastes. That being said, I know there are a lot of readers who have – and will – continue to enjoy this epic tale. It’s dark. But it’s also redeeming. The characters are well thought out and colorful. Ms. Hall has penned over 40 tales and knows how to create a strong story arc. 

I’ve included a short excerpt and additional information about STORM DANCER. Read on….then make sure you leave a comment to enter the contest!

STORM DANCERStorm Dancer Button 300 x 225

Rayne Hall

Genre: Dark Epic Fantasy

Publisher: Scimitar Press

ISBN: 9781465716651 Smashwords

ISBN: 1230000010279 Kobo

ASIN: B005MJFV58

Number of pages:  400

Word Count: 150,000

Book Description

Demon-possessed siege commander, Dahoud, atones for his atrocities by hiding his identity and protecting women from war’s violence – but can he shield the woman he loves from the evil inside him?

Principled weather magician, Merida, brings rain to a parched desert land. When her magical dance rouses more than storms, she needs to overcome her scruples to escape from danger. 

Thrust together, Dahoud and Merida must fight for freedom and survival. But how can they trust each other, when hatred and betrayal burn in their hearts?

**’Storm Dancer’ is a dark epic fantasy. Caution: this book contains some violence and disturbing situations. Not recommended for under-16s.  British spellings.

Book Trailer http://youtu.be/tI5oxeOziQM

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Note: Storm Dancer has dark elements which some readers may find disturbing. Not recommended for readers under 16, not suitable for YA blogs.

Contains British English. Some words, spellings, grammar and punctuation will be different than American English.

STORM DANCER – EXCERPT – First Scene (1500 words)

Even in the shade of the graffiti-carved olive tree, the air sang with heat. Dahoud listened to the hum of voices in the tavern garden, the murmured gossip about royals and rebels. If patrons noticed him, they would only see a young clerk sitting among the lord-satrap’s followers, a harmless bureaucrat. Dahoud planned to stay harmless.

The tavern bustled with women – whiteseers hanging about in the hope of earning a copper, traders celebrating deals, bellydancers clinking finger cymbals – women who neither backed away from him nor screamed.

The youngest of the entertainers wound her way between the benches towards their table, the tassels on her slender hips bouncing, the rows of copper rings on her sash tinkling with every snaky twist. Since she seemed nervous, as if it was her first show, he sent her an encouraging smile. Ignoring him, she shimmied to Lord Govan.

The djinn slithered inside Dahoud, stirring a stream of fury, whipping his blood into a hot storm. Would she dare to disregard the Black Besieger? What lesson would he teach to punish her insolence?

Dahoud stared past her sweat-glistening torso, the urge to subdue her washing over him in a boiling wave. For three years, he had battled against the djinn’s temptations. To indulge in fantasies would batter his defences and breach his resistance. He focused on the flavours on his tongue, the tart citron juice and the sage-spiced mutton, on the tender texture of the meat.

Govan clasped the dancer’s wrist and drew her close. “Come, honey-flower, let’s see your blossoms.”

She tried to pull herself from his grip. Panic painted her face. Against a lesser man’s groping, she might defend herself with slaps and screams, but this was the lord-satrap. She was too young to know how to slip out of such a situation, and none of her older colleagues on the far side of the garden noticed her plight. The other clerks at the table laughed.

“My Lord,” Dahoud said. “She doesn’t want your attentions.”

“She’s only a bellydancer.” Contempt oiled Govan’s voice. Still, he released the girl’s hand, slapped her on the rump, and watched her scurry towards the safety of the musicians. “These performers are advertised as genuine Darrians. I have a mind to have them arrested for fraud. I suspect …” He ran the tip of his finger along his eating bowl. “They’re mere Samilis.”

Dahoud, himself a Samili, refused to react to the jab. Govan was not only satrap of the province, but Dahoud’s employer, as well as the father of the lovely Esha.

“Samilis are everywhere these days.” Peering down his nose, Govan swirled the wine in his beaker. “Not that I have anything against Samilis. Given the right kind of education, their race can develop remarkable intelligence, practically equal to that of Quislakis. They can make valuable contributions to society.” He stroked the purple fringe of his armband, insignia of his rank. “Provided they respect their betters.”

The other clerks at the table bobbed their chins in eager agreement.

Dahoud the Black Besieger would not have tolerated taunts from this pompous peacock, but Dahoud the council clerk had to bow. Submission was the price for guarding his secret.

At the entry arch, a short man in the yellow tunic and turban of a royal rider was consulting with the tavern keeper.

“Is that messenger looking for you, my Lord?” Dahoud asked.

Govan shifted into his official pose and summoned the man with a flick of his sandalwood fan. The courier walked on bowed legs as if he still had a mount between his thighs. Conversations halted, glances followed him, and whiteseers peered, anticipating business.

Lord Govan put on his official smile to receive the leather-wrapped parcel.

“Forgive me, my Lord,” the herald said. “The message I carry is for Dahoud, the clerk.”

Govan’s hand pulled back and his smile vanished.

Dahoud’s stomach went cold: The Queen or her Consort would not write to an ordinary clerk. After three years of respite, his anonymity was breached. He stripped off the camel-skin wrap and broke the scroll’s seal. The ends of the purple ribbon dropped into the mutton sauce.

“The High Lord Kirral, Consort to the Great Luminous Queen, greets Dahoud, council clerk in the satrapy of Idjlara: Present yourself at the palace without delay. The Queendom needs the Black Besieger. K.”

The expansive curves of the signature “K” claimed more space on the parchment than the message.

In his bowl, the uneaten mutton was going cold, whitish grease separating from the sauce. A large fly drifted belly-up in the liquid, its legs clawing for a hold in the air. The memories of siege warfare wrapped around Dahoud, those sour-sweet odours of fear and faeces, of disease and burning flesh.

At twenty-five, he had a conscience heavier than a brick-carrier’s tray and more curses on his head than a camel had fleas. He had left the legion to cut himself off temptation, to deprive the djinn of fodder. After a siege, rape was legal, a soldier’s right, practically expected of him, part of the job. By returning to war, he would forfeit his victories over his craving. The djinn would again be his master.

Yet he ached to wear the general’s cloak again, to silence sneering bureaucrats, to make women take notice. He lusted for that power the way a heavy drinker, deprived of his solace, ached for a sip of wine. The yearning to wield a sword ached in his arms, his chest throbbed with the urge to command, and his loins flamed with the dark desire. He felt the panting breaths of women and their hot resisting bodies, smelled the scent of female fright and sweating fury.

“Why is the Consort writing to you?” Govan leant forward to grab the document. “You’re out of your depth with royal matters. I’ll read and explain.”

“Why should I want your counsel?” Dahoud tucked the rolled parchment into his belt.

“Don’t get pert, Samili!” Govan barked. “Give me that letter.”

“The Consort summons.” Dahoud rose. “Good afternoon, my Lord. Don’t expect me back soon.”

He strode to the exit, his mind reeling like a spindle. Could he deny that he was the Black Besieger? Refuse a royal order? Lead an army without stimulating the djinn?

On a low stone wall near the entrance gate, a row of whiteseers perched like hungry birds. Whiteseers had glimpses of futures others could not even imagine. One of them slid off the wall and sauntered in his direction. A coating of pale clay covered her sharp-boned triangular face and her long hair, and painted black and blue rings adorned her clay-whitened arms.

“Your hands,” she demanded.

“I need to know what will happen if -”

“Give your copper to a soothsayer,” she snapped. “We white ones only give advice. We can see the future; we can see several futures for everyone, but we won’t tell you all we see.”

“Advice is all I want.”

“That’s what they all say. Yet everyone asks for more. I give one piece of advice, the best I can give to help a client. They always demand that I tell them what I see. Well, I won’t.” Nevertheless, she grabbed the copper ring from Dahoud’s fingers and threaded it on her neck-thong. Her tunic smelled of old sweat and mouldy wool.

She grasped his hands to pinch their flesh, her long nails tickling. Her white paint contrasted with Dahoud’s bronze tan. When she felt the pulse and lifted his hand to her face to listen and sniff, he could have sworn he saw her blanch under the white clay as her closed eyes stared into his past. She sagged forward and stayed in a silent slouch.

At last she straightened, her eyes wide, her mouth open, but no words burst forth. So she had seen what he had done, and worse, what he might do once more.

“I assure you, I’ll never again…”

“I can’t read if you chatter.” She frowned at his hands. “My advice: Get stronger arms.”

He flexed his biceps, startled. “My arms are strong! I do trickriding, I wrestle, I lift weights.” Every night, Dahoud exercised until his muscles screamed, to block out his cravings and punish his body for its desires.

The seer’s mouth curled with contempt, making more clay crumble. “You’re not listening. I didn’t say strong. I said stronger.” She pinched his biceps. “Much stronger.”

“What difference can arm muscles make?”

“I told you to give your copper to a soothsayer.” She ambled off, leaving a cloud of unwashed stink and crumbles of clay.

Dahoud hurried to the stable to ready his horse. He had to persuade the Consort not to send the Black Besieger back to war.


RayneHallWithSkullAndHair by FawnheartAbout Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight Scenes, The World-Loss Diet and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.

website: https://sites.google.com/site/raynehallsdarkfantasyfiction/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RayneHall

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/rayne.hall

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4451266.Rayne_Hall