Spotlight & Excerpt: Divinity’s Twilight: Remnant + Giveaway

Divinity's Twilight Remnant blog announcement

Cover - Divinity's Twilight Remnant
Divinity’s Twilight: Remnant
by Christopher Russell
Published: September 14, 2022
Series: Divinity’s Twilight #2
Genre: Epic/Steampunk/Military Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Adult
Pages: 650
Publisher: Illyrium Publishing

Divinity’s Twilight: Remnant is the much-anticipated sequel to the multi-award-winning epic fantasy novel, Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth.

Power is a curse.

As Vallen and his fellow cadets flee fallen Darmatia, he is forced to confront the ghosts of his past. The friend who perished that he might live. The girl whose smile haunts his nightmares. Now, a third voice joins them—something dark, something ancient. And the more Vallen uses his magic, the stronger it becomes.

Tools exist to be used.

The flames of Sylette’s vengeance are all but quenched. With each passing day, the dominion of the Sarconian Empire grows, and her treacherous father’s throat drifts further from her reach. Sylette’s last hope is a coded message, one that promises a growing resistance against the Empire. But even if she gains the means to avenge her mother’s murder, one question remains: how many ‘tools’ is she willing to sacrifice to see her vengeance through?

What color is love?

Renar has learned to hide a great many things: his emotions, his art, and one truly devastating family secret. But when he must face the man who’s controlled his life from the shadows, will he choose the family he’s always known, or the dysfunctional crew he’s been shackled with?

For every ending, a beginning.

Embers of conspiracy flare in Nemare and Sarconia. A resurrected Sarcon plots to reclaim his imprisoned flesh. As the winds of war swirl and forgotten myths rise, the choices these cadets make could save their country . . .
. . . or unleash something far, far worse.

The Empire Strikes Back • Portal, Portal on the Wall, Don’t Show Me My Past, Lest I Fall • Ice Queen of Hearts

Universal Link

Content/Trigger Warnings:

Shown on Page (things clearly told to the reader):

Fantasy violence and death
Mild gore
Child abuse
Fade to black sex
Drug/alcohol abuse
Magic-induced suicide

Alluded to (things only mentioned in passing or hinted at):

Animal cruelty (mythical creatures)


Chapter 9:  “What’s Best”


Charkur 3, 686 ABH

Nemare, Royal Capital of the Kingdom of Darmatia


“Whoa there!”
With a screech of iron on cobbles, the carriage lurched forward, then settled to a stop in front of the broad steps of the Heronah mansion. Renar Iolus hurriedly hid his silver pocket knife inside the sleeve of his fine coat. He’d altered the hem just enough to conceal it against his forearm, though the resultant wad of scratchy fabric chafed miserably against his skin.
He shifted to the left on the velvet padded seat, leaning against the window and feigning that he’d been staring at the passing city sights during the ride. When the cab door opened, he favored Ral the coachman with an innocent smile.
“Here already?”
The dusky-toned, bare-scalped courtier bowed at the waist, his twinkling black eyes a match for his impeccable servant’s garb. “Yes, Young Master. Didn’t you see us pass the estate gates?”
Renar scampered down the hanging carriage steps. At the bottom, he strained skyward, standing on his tiptoes to reach the second gold button above Ral’s waistband. Ha! he thought. I’ll be taller than him in no time!
“Obviously, Ral,” Renar replied, waving the arm that didn’t hide the knife. “The jalliper berry bushes lining the drive are in full bloom, their mauve buds contrasting beautifully with the thin sheathes of ice encasing their branches.”
Ral’s dark gaze flashed concern. He ducked into the carriage, and when he reemerged a moment later, he held a lace embroidered pillow. The same pillow Renar had used to cover up the carving he’d been etching into the interior paneling of the carriage.
“What is this?” Ral asked, tone accusing.
“A pillow?”
“Indeed. A pillow which you used to cover up vandalism of the Colonel’s prized carriage.”
Renar bristled. “Vandalism? My art is an improvement on the drab ornamentation my father thinks passes for culture in military circles.” He jerked his arm toward the coursing waterfall scene he’d etched into the wood.
The wrong arm—a horrible mistake. Before he could snatch back the limb, Ral grabbed his elbow, pinched it hard enough to make Renar’s eyes water, and rolled up the sleeve to expose the outline of his knife. Two tugs at the hidden pouch sent the blade tumbling toward the ground. Graceful as a sweeping brush stroke, Ral caught it between two fingers, raising it above his head which Renar couldn’t reach even if he jumped.
“Colonel Iolus gave this to you as a gift.” Disappointment etched Ral’s hard features, but Renar heard something odd in his voice: an almost wistful sadness.
“Am I not free to do with father’s gifts as I please?”
Ral inhaled sharply. ” . . . No. This is a combat knife.” He traced the tapered blade and tapped the channel meant to drain blood away from the cutting edge. Revulsion twisted Renar’s stomach. Fighting disgusted him to the point of sickness. “You should not be using it to draw—”
Carve,” Renar insisted.
“—on the Colonel’s carriage. You know how he views your . . . hobbies.” Ral chose his final word carefully, kindly. Far kindlier than Renar’s father, Colonel Hardwick Iolus, would have.
The boy’s throat constricted, going dry as the desert wastes beyond Nemare’s walls. “Will you tell him?” he whispered. Somehow, speaking the words aloud made Renar believe they’d come true.
Flicking his wrist, Ral tossed the knife into the air, catching it by the blade in his other hand on the way down. He passed it back to Renar—hilt first—but the wide-eyed lad was lost in thoughts of how to sketch the skilled attendant.
Charcoal for the skin, rubbing it in after application for a smooth finish. Long lines for the blade toss. Have to give the impression of motion, as Gabonni’s Ten Techniques suggests. Highlight the gleam in his gaze by making the area around the eyes darker, and . . .

Renar blinked. The mansion’s thick double doors were open before him, letting blocky shadows and the early spring chill into the grand, marble-floored foyer. Ral was at his side, and two similar servants flanked the opulent elegoras-crafted doors.
The courtier chuckled. “The Veneer took your senses again, Young Master.”
There was no reason to argue. Whenever the compulsion to draw, carve, paint—any type of creation—hit him, Renar lost all awareness of where and what he was doing. This time he’d merely pocketed his knife and climbed the estate steps in a daze, but at other times he’d disappeared from the Iolus estate or fallen down the manor stairs.
Unfortunately, his clumsiness was the least of his father’s reasons for despising the pursuits that brought him joy.
“What was it?” Renar asked. Their host, the daughter of the Heronah family, had yet to appear. “I’m curious what gave me away. Father took my last sketchbook, and you had no reason to suspect I had anything else to work with.”
Ral chuckled. “Your description of the julliper berries. Spring comes early in Nemare. There’s no ice left on the bushes.”
The colorful curse building in Renar’s throat was stilled by the sunflower bouncing down the steps. Dainty slippers on pale legs carried a beaming girl in a yellow smock down the sweeping staircase before them. Golden light, slanting from the stained glass window on the landing behind her, bathed her in a radiant glow that perfectly complemented her bouncing flaxen curls and choice of dress. Renar had scarcely a second to appreciate her radiance before she hurled herself into his arms.
“Rennie!” she cooed. “I’m so glad you could come. I have so, so much to tell you. More than is written in a library worth of books . . . probably.”
“You’re choking me, Angelie,” he managed through her tight embrace. Angelie, a name derived from the angelic Veneer themselves. Like the lilac scent of her hair, it suited her well.
“Oh! We wouldn’t want that.” She danced back with agile steps, then clutched Renar’s hands and began dragging him from the room. “Come, come! There’s something in the ballroom for you, but you must promise not to peek. Oh!” She exclaimed again, pointing a finger at Ral. “You can stay here, Ral. I know he doesn’t like to fight, so I’ll protect Renar if any bad guys attack. Have scones with Maja, or something.”
“I can’t refuse a command from my future mistress,” Ral soothed with an exaggerated bow.
“Good. We’ll call for you when we’re done.”

Author Bio & Information:

Author Photo - Christopher RussellChristopher Russell (native of Williamsburg, VA) is a 29-year-old mechanical and aerospace engineer (graduate of the University of Virginia) who has loved reading since the day he picked up a book and writing since he could scrawl his first letters. After voraciously consuming titles from every genre—ranging from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings—he decided to combine the expertise from his professional education, passions, and Christian faith into a fantasy epic bridging the gap between magic and science. He currently resides in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his loyal dog, Vallen, named after the protagonist of his first work. For behind-the-scenes information on all of Christopher Russell’s works, visit



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct link

Starts: September 22, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: September 28, 2022 at 11:59pm EST

Tour Schedule

Spotlight, Author Interview & Excerpt – Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth + Giveaway

Divinity's Twilight Rebirth blog announcement

Cover - Divinity's Twilight Rebirth

Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth
Series: Divinity’s Twilight #1
by Christopher Russell
Genre: Epic Fantasy/Steampunk/Military Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Adult
Pages: 464
Published: September 22, 2020
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing

Content/Trigger Warnings:

Shown on page:

Fantasy violence
Mild gore

Alluded to:

Child abuse
Drug/alcohol use

A world consumed by war . . .

An ancient evil resurrected . . .

A millennia old bargain comes due . . .

When two blades clash, the third will fall, and the fate of all will be jeopardized. To save Lozaria, the failures of the past must be atoned for by a new generation of heroes. The time has come for mortals to cast off sight and, in doing so, truly come to see . . .

Victory is never absolute.

Seven centuries ago, the forces of order won the Illyriite War on the plains of Har’muth. Darmatus and Rabban Aurelian slew their elder brother, Sarcon, the despotic architect of the conflict, then sacrificed themselves to banish the cataclysmic vortex opened with his dying breath. The first advent of the Oblivion Well was thwarted. Even without their vanished gods, the seven races of Lozaria proved themselves capable of safeguarding their world.

Or so the story goes.

The year is now 697 A.B.H (After the Battle of Har’muth). Though war itself remains much the same, the weapons with which it is waged have evolved. Airships bearing powerful cannons ply the skies, reducing the influence of mages and their spells. Long range communication has brought far flung regions of Lozaria closer than ever before. At the center of this technological revolution are the three Terran states of Darmatia, Rabban, and Sarconia, who have fought a near ceaseless campaign of 700 years in an attempt to best each other. The roots of their enmity lie buried beneath the wasteland of Har’muth, a place all three nations consider best forgotten.

However, an ancient power sealed within Har’muth has not forgotten them, and the descendants of those who fought on that field must now take a stand to rectify the mistakes of the past.

You’re So Vain (You Probably Think This Book is About You) • If I Only Had a Body • Let’s Get Down to Business, to Defeat the Sarcs

Universal Link
Amazon US


Main Cast in Action (697 A.B.H, After the Battle of Har’muth)

And, start! Let the brawl begin!”

Tannen’s loud starting signal rang across the stadium as Vallen sprang out of the starting zone. “Take me up, Velle! Flashbang, Leon!” White glyphs, almost like snowflakes, appeared in front of Vallen in a staircase leading forward and upward. He jumped from one to another, each increasing his speed as he took off above and across the zones below. Behind him, Velle had her eyes closed, hands extended, concentrating on forming the platforms that would take him right to the enemy. A prodigious mage, even among the Sylph, she possessed a wide range of glyph-based enhancive and healing magic. In a typical mage, this focus on buffing her teammates would mean they couldn’t fend for themselves. However, the twin daggers at her waist and the innate blood magic her people were known for more than made up for any deficiencies.

Vallen raised his weapon above his head and silently bid it transform into an opaque shield as Leon began the second portion of their winning combo. Leon was a very rare mage, one of the few capable of performing light magic. An individual’s proficiency with magic was usually hereditary, but like Vallen, he had bucked that pattern. At the moment, he was firing flares of light from his staff into the sky, where they burst with dazzling light like firesh’crakera. Anyone not covering their eyes would be temporarily blinded by the magical illumination, helpless against assault unless they had a countermeasure. As the brilliance faded, Vallen reverted his shield to its original form.

His weapon was made of a unique metal and was given to him by Steward Metellus since it synergized with his abilities. Now he expanded it into a long, curved blade—a krenesh blade, modeled after the heavy weapons used by the nomad Vladisvar. He had seen one in a bazaar as a child and had thereafter dreamed of possessing one. With his form-shifting companion, he now could.

The thrill of bringing out his favorite device vanished as his next step failed to connect with a glyph. Vallen’s first thought, as he fell, was that Velle must be playing a trick on him. However, he was still high enough that he could see back to the home and first zones from whence he came. There, Velle had her daggers drawn and was engaged in combat with the Hue from Renar’s team, who had jagged-edged bucklers strapped to all four of his blue arms. Wielding a fencing sword, the female Terran with him was keeping Leon on his heels as he dodged and parried with his clunky staff. And between them, racing up the middle, was Renar, greatsword on his shoulder and only a little more than a hundred meters from their flag.

Vallen’s shock was tempered by his abrupt need to arrest his downward progress. He swung his krenesh with both hands, casting a powerful gust out from the blade that cushioned his impact onto the roof of the cruiser in zone four. He instantly activated the electric shield around his body that he had used to block Major Reev’s icicle strike earlier that day. Without any guidance, it shifted and redirected the efforts of the Elementalists attempting to blow him from his perch.

What had happened to result in the impossible scenario before him? He looked up at the telescribers as he allowed Tannen’s bleating announcement through his barrier’s coursing energy. “What an amazing move. I’ve never seen anything like it! Unter, the bulky Hue from Renar’s Renegades, applied enhancive magic to strengthen his shields and body. Then Lilith, his partner, used explosive fire magic while strapped to his back, becoming a living engine that propelled both forward. In no time flat, they’ve plowed right through the cruiser, the village, and the marsh! And their leader, Renar, followed right behind! Incredible!” Above, the telescribers showed the replay as the combination move blasted through the artificial terrain.

Major Reev concurred, “No doubt about that, Tannen. They combined their abilities to smash straight through the obstacles in their path and reach their opponent’s doorstep. Unter and Lilith took some damage using their magic in such an unorthodox manner, but the element of surprise this tactic has won them might be all they need. Velle and Leon are hard-pressed, and Vallen looks dumbfounded. Of course, that’s how he always is, so it’s hard to tell if current events are even getting through to him.”

“Shut up, wench!” Vallen yelled fruitlessly at the announcer’s box. He turned around to see a scorched gash through the cruiser that marked the insane path his opponents had forged.   Think, Vallen, think. You’re better than this. He needed a plan, and he needed it quickly, or he was actually going to end up losing to Renar. Think!

“But Major, do you actually think Renar Iolus is behind this brilliant stroke? No offense to his father, General Iolus, but Renar’s team has been in the bottom third of his class this entire season. That statistic aside, they’ve never shown us any tactics beside splitting up to go one versus one. This is definitely a new one from them.”

“You’re actually on to something for once, Tannen. About a month ago, Renar’s fourth squadmate, a reptilian Moravi named Ich’oth, was recalled to the Moravi Atoll due to a shortage of males for their annual breeding rituals. I leave the particulars of such an arrangement to your imagination, but this left a slot open on his team. Only within the past week was this slot filled by a scholarship student from the Rabban Imperium: Sylette Farkos.”

“Is she the mastermind behind what we’re seeing?”

“I would have to assume so, given the upset brewing below us. Oh, look, there she is now, about to—”

Vallen barely had time to register the attack before the dagger came shooting through his shield and past his head. He whipped about, watching the silver-haired girl approaching through the wind. The image was blurred, both because of his own shield and the airflow around him. He twitched his head left, narrowly dodging another dagger that he didn’t see coming. The attacks were invisible to his sight—or at least impossible to see under current conditions. By the Veneer, am I actually at a disadvantage?

Time to change scenery. Vallen reverted his blade to a rod and ran back toward his side of the field, dropping ten meters from the top of the cruiser to the dusty ground of the village zone and releasing his electric field. He sprinted another twenty meters into the middle of the dilapidated town before turning to face his opponent.

Smart or not, she had the gumption to follow him. Now that he got a good look at her, she was actually quite striking in a noble, majestic way. Long, silver hair topped a well-proportioned, cute face and a lithe, athletic body. However, she was petite and small of stature. The nobility of her bearing came from the set of her jaw and the air with which she carried herself. When she spoke, though, the voice that emerged was soft-spoken and silky, as though to counterbalance her hard stance.

“I never thought you would run from me, Vallen Metellus. Out of all the things I thought you’d do, that was not one of them.”

“I’m full of surprises, my darling. I want to take this opportunity to apologize for any rudeness I may have shown your team earlier. Obviously, with you in charge, Renar has become infinitely more capable than he ever was before. Why don’t you throw this match and you can tell me more about your tactics over dinner and a bottle of Ithran wine?”

A dagger materialized over her left shoulder and fired with considerable force at his face. This time, Vallen was able to see it coming and dodged easily. “I’ve heard all about your insufferable charms, and to be frank, I’m not impressed, neither by them nor by you. As far as I can see, you’re a spoiled womanizer who’s done nothing more than play at soldier for the past four years. Hardly the legend everybody chalks you up to be.”

“And you’re a space manipulator, more specifically, a conjurer, who can change the properties of her conjurations on the fly. Though it seems you’re stuck making daggers at the moment.”

Her mask of calm faltered. “Wha . . . how? You’ve only seen it three times!”

“Never let your enemy see your trick more than once.” Vallen sketched a mocking bow.

“But how did you know I can change the properties? And the part about me only being able to make daggers?”

“Your first dagger got diverted by my electric field and missed. The second was on target, meaning an adjustment was made to account for the shield. And the third you formed right in front of me. I may be a philandering playboy who doesn’t give a care about academics or authority, but that doesn’t make me an idiot.” He shot her his winningest smile.

Sylette’s calm quickly returned as she summoned a dozen daggers into existence. “I see. But knowing a trick and avoiding it are two different things.” All of them were released at once, set on a crash course with various points on Vallen’s body.

Vallen urged his weapon into a long staff, which he spun to the fore while casting a gust of wind from its edges. The force of the gale blew the daggers off course and onto wild vectors through the air. Immediately, Sylette adjusted their aim, bringing them down on him from whence they’d been knocked. Another thought, and the staff was again a round shield above Vallen’s head, from which he emitted a torrent of flame that incinerated the projectiles.

But he wasn’t done. Shield shifted to warhammer, which he brought down to earth with the aid of a burst of wind. The weapon shattered into the ground, willing it to buckle and shoot forth pillars of stone beneath Sylette’s feet. As the columns rose, she somersaulted backwards, landing gracefully beside the emerging cascade.

This was the true nature and power of the Triaron. It wasn’t that Vallen was more powerful than any other mage. It was simply that he was more versatile. In short, the Triaron was an Elementalist sorcerer who was both an Invoker and an Armsmage. He could cast any element from any weapon without an Engraved or verbal catalyst. And “any weapon” also included his own body to a small degree, hence his ability to project a limited electric field. Furthermore, Vallen’s ability to manipulate the elements extended to the unique instrument Metellus had gifted him, which could shift to his liking. Not needing to speak and being able to attack in almost any manner with any type of weapon was an indescribable advantage, one that had never seen Vallen bested in combat.

His current situation had the potential to be the first.

Let’s take stock of things, Vallen decided. Matteo was useless, check. Velle and Leon could beat their individual opponents one on one, check. He was currently tied up in a fast-paced skirmish with a highly mobile opponent who couldn’t beat him but could keep him occupied, check. This left Renar free to influence the match as he saw fit, which was probably Sylette’s plan all along. Occupy him while Renar won the three versus two battle back at base. More disturbing, all they had to do was cross into their home zone, and only Matteo and Velle could fight all three—correction, only Velle could fight all three. 

“Having a good ponder over there?” Sylette was sitting cross-legged on one of the smaller pillars he had summoned, another dozen daggers floating about her head.

“You do know you’re the only one between me and your flag, right?”

“That was my intent. And that means it’s three on three back at your base. Going to break your rule about going for the flag? I thought you liked the challenge of winning by TKO?”

“Exactly how much research did you do to win this?”

“If you’re frustrated, evidently enough.”

Actually, Vallen considered, this is shaping up to be fun. Maybe there’s something interesting about this noble, feisty girl. “You know, I think I will win by flag cap after all.” He summoned a glaive and propelled himself forward using the ground at his feet. Sylette launched her first wave of daggers and conjured more in their place.

“Let’s see you try . . . Triaron.”

Author Interview:

1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be.
Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth began with its villain. I had a multi-tiered concept for an antagonist who would be an immediate threat to the protagonists and the world while at the same time being an individual the reader would discover more and more about with each subsequent book. What their motivations are. Why they walked the path they did. What influence did they have on the past, and how did their actions result in the present-day conflict.

It’s difficult to discuss the villain without spoilers, but suffice to say they are a character many readers hate to love. They empathize with their goals and, in some cases, actively cheer for this individual to succeed. Witty, hyper-competent, and extremely powerful, Divinity’s Twilight has a truly fearsome antagonist who provides the protagonists with challenge after challenge.

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
I thought I was a pantser—an author who starts writing and discovers their plot, characters, and world-building along the way. Turns out, I’m the opposite: an outliner.

Once I began planning out my story in an Excel spreadsheet, my plot and character arcs become so much tighter and my foreshadowing started leading to more engaging payoff at the end of my books. There are still things I think I can improve in Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth. Most authors will tell you the same about their early work. But the experience writing it allowed me to better understand my craft, and that’s the primary goal of each and every book an author works on.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
The role of a side-character named Renar Iolus. As the (self-proclaimed) rival character to one of the leads, he was supposed to be a one-off Malfoy who caused trouble for the main cast, then disappeared into the void of expendable cannon-fodder.

Yet like a rancid fart, Renar hung around. He wrote himself into the main adventure, clung to the coattails of the main characters, and survived the mid-book climax of Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth. From there, he earned himself a POV role in book two, immediately endearing himself to me and gaining a tragic back-story that’s sure to make him a reader favorite. Renar’s become part of the series’ heart and soul, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
Divinity’s Twilight refers to the world’s modern era, in which the gods and goddesses haven’t been seen by mortals for over a millennia. I can neither confirm nor deny whether their lingering influence will have an effect on the story, but given that it’s in the title, that’s probably a safe bet.

Rebirth has numerous story-based meanings, and I leave it up to my keen and discerning readers to figure out what they are.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
Yes! And given that most of them are based on character traits yanked out of myself, I’d say the fumbling fool might have some idea of what’s going on, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

The most obvious of these is Matteo Alhan, one of the novel’s three main leads. At the start, he’s a cowardly bookworm afraid to stand up for himself or others and all too willing to retreat into fictional worlds more pleasant than his own. Sound familiar? Well, I’m delighted to have fantastic friends and family who’ve helped me grow beyond my doubts and misgivings, but Matteo is much the same as I was in high school. Will Divinity’s Twilight give him a chance to shine? Read and find out!

Other military instructors are based on teachers I’ve had, and Matteo’s supportive parents are inspired by my own. I’ve also done volunteer work for a group of local nuns whose warm, compassionate natures gave rise to one of the religious orders in the series.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
I’m never certain about a book’s themes until long after I’m done writing it. Just as it’s difficult to grasp the scope of a mountain when you’re climbing it, it’s hard to understand the true meaning of a book while you’re working on it.
Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth is a book about TRUST. In a similar vein, it’s sequel, Divinity’s Twilight: Remnant, is a book about LOVE. But let’s focus on that first one.

This book sees a group of young men and women thrust into a life-or-death situation alongside people they hate, doubt, or simply don’t care for. Some are rivals. Others view those around them as pawns or tools, to be used or discarded as necessary. Personalities clash and chaff as the group tries to decide who should lead and what their goals should be. And when strong, charismatic individuals butt heads, weaker, more introspective people tend to withdraw into themselves.

Trust requires them to break down those barriers. To come to understand themselves first, and then those around them. It is a difficult, messy process, full of miscues, frustration, and backsliding. And though they by no means achieve perfect harmony in a single book, their progress enables a frosty royal to crack open her heart, a coward to find his purpose, and a narcissist to confront the past that has long held him shackled. It is not an end to the journey of trust, but it is a beginning.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?
Chapter 18. It involves a very touching moment between a mother and her daughter, a heart-tugging lullaby, and a scene that still rips tears from my eyes every time I read it. Book two (Remnant) is the best book I’ve written, but Chapter 18 is the strongest moment in book one.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
Vallen, the main lead and one of two characters on the cover.
His personality is straightforward enough. Vallen is a narcissist with an infallible faith in his divinely manifested abilities and utter disdain for anyone unable to keep up with him. Underneath that thorny exterior, he’s . . . far more complicated (READ: SPOILERS).

Writing an unlikeable character is easy. Getting the reader to empathize with them—to convince them to stick around for their inevitable growth—is the tricky part. I think I managed to navigate this treacherous path by giving Vallen an attachment to his adoptive father, a snarky wit, and a foil he could trade barbs with as they dueled for least favorite character.

However, I think it was necessary to start Vallen at the bottom of a pit overflowing with his own ego and selfishness. It is feasible for a good man to become great. But a wretched man? That is a character arc worth following, and I can only hope my writing skill will make Vallen a fan favorite by the end of the series.

9. What are your immediate future plans?
Book 2 (Divinity’s Twilight: Remnant) – Available online and in-stores on Sept. 14, 2022! As I’ve heard from my editor, “Jesus Christ, this book is good.”
Book 3 (Divinity’s Twilight: Revelations) – Projected release in 2023. This is the end of the first of two arcs in Divinity’s Twilight, and boy, is it going to be a doozy.

Untitled Asian Fantasy – Another project in the same expanded universe as Divinity’s Twilight, the Constella, featuring a thermodynamics based hard magic system, a frozen post-apocalyptic landscape, and yokai (demons) aplenty.

Untitled Co-Authored Epic Fantasy – A grimdark project with Allegra Pescatore of Last Gift fame. This four POV novel will follow characters with dueling interests trapped in a deteriorating city on the verge of revolution. Utilizes an incredibly cool and unique magic system with some terrifying economic and cultural ramifications.

Untitled Co-Authored Satirical Fantasy – A comedic project with Allegra Pescatore centered on a chosen one who can’t control his powers and may end up dooming the very world he’s prophesized to save. Hysterical and irreverent, we poke fun at tropes and fantasy conventions with every sentence, paragraph, and chapter.

Gravitas Novella Sequel – At some point in the next two years I plan to return to the world of Gravitas, Lestadt, and continue the tale of the ruthless Lord Fixer Scraw. My grimdark steampunk novella left him in the middle of a crisis, and it’s high time I give him some novel-form resolution.

About the Author:
Author Photo - Christopher RussellChristopher Russell (native of Williamsburg, VA) is a 29-year-old mechanical and aerospace engineer (graduate of the University of Virginia) who has loved reading since the day he picked up a book and writing since he could scrawl his first letters. After voraciously consuming titles from every genre—ranging from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings—he decided to combine the expertise from his professional education, passions, and Christian faith into a fantasy epic bridging the gap between magic and science. He currently resides in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his loyal dog, Vallen, named after the protagonist of his first work. For behind-the-scenes information on all of Christopher Russell’s works, visit


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct link

Starts: July 28, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: August 3, 2022 at 11:59pm EST

Spotlight & Excerpt: Crown of the Sundered Empire, by JC Kang


crown of the sundered empire

Crown of the Sundered Empire
by JC Kang
Series: Heirs to the Sundered Empire (#1)
Published: October 9, 2019
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Military Fantasy
Pages: 596
CW: Graphic Violence

POSSIBLE ULTIMATE TOUR EXPERIENCE TICKETS: Represent, Elves and Dwarves and Orcs, Oh My!, It’s All About the Journey, Snark It Up, The More the Merrier

Only the demon in Tomas’ glass eye can save his village.
It might cost him his soul.

In a broken land where conquerors dream of empires, Tomas dreams of a day when the townsfolk won’t taunt him. After all, he’s the fishing village kid with a misshapen face.

Only the Rune vendor’s daughter treats him well. To win her heart, he relies on a quick wit and local superstitions to convince her he has Diviner’s Sight.

But if he did, he would’ve foreseen magic-fearing invaders plucking out his mismatched eye.

Or the demon trapped in the glass replacement. It reveals a world beyond human vision, while whispering temptations in his mind.

Now, with his village caught between the advancing armies of the Sun God’s mortal descendants and His Chosen People, Tomas must use a combination of calculation, cunning, and demonic insight to maneuver the forces of his world against each other—prince against prince, princess against princess, army against army—or see his home crushed forever beneath the wheels of war.

But to do so carries a dire risk.

Because using a demon could condemn your soul.

Goodreads / Universal Purchase


Chapter 1: Inauspicious Start to the Day

Despite his mismatched eyes, sixteen-year-old Tomas Larelli had never seen the future. That didn’t keep everyone from assuming he could, nor did his scruples prevent him from denying it. After all, with a face that only a monkey could love, he had to find ways to get people to like him.
“Oi, Tomas.” Old Gian waved from a neighboring boat. “Thanks again for teaching me that knot you invented. It’s helped secure my nets. How did you ever figure it out?”
Tomas raised his oars and tapped under his green eye.  “Diviner’s Sight!”
Or, a little bit of imagination. His mind had painted the image of the rope, weaving its way through its own loops. The result was the dozens of fish flopping at his feet. With a nod, he resumed his rowing.
His boat glided through the Inland Sea’s placid blue waters, passing between his island village on the right, and the Barrows on the mainland to the left. He shuddered and formed a ring with his thumb and finger to ward off evil. Tortured spirits of humans, sacrificed to the orc gods a thousand years ago, still haunted the towering mounds.
On the other side of the Barrows, the wooden pyramid of Solaris came into view; and then beyond it, the red-tiled rooves in the town of Lorium.  His stomach fluttered.  Soon…
“Oi, Tomas,” a croaking voice called from the docks.
Tomas squinted as he rowed closer. A sablewood bireme flying a crimson flag with a nine-pointed silver sun loomed large over the far wharf. Its black hull made it difficult to pick out the figure waving from the closest dock. Probably Mauritizio, since he was always the first out to buy the best catches. The fine linen shirt and trousers he wore didn’t match his sun-roughened skin.
Mauritzio craned his neck. “Another bumper catch, I see.”
Grinning, Tomas tapped beneath his eye yet again. “Diviner Sight can’t go wrong.” Nor could studying the currents and tides, the way they swept lines through the Inland Sea. Nobody else had to know his secret, though. He gestured to his boat’s bottom, where the fish continued their desperate thrashing.
Mauritzio took hold of a pylon and leaned over. “Whitefins.  Very nice. I’m feeling generous today. I’ll give you a copper draka for two.” He tossed a rope.
Catching it, Tomas moored his boat to the pylon. He looked up and grinned. The foreign bireme in town would drive up the price of fish. “Two copper drakas for three is generous.  What you offer is banditry.”
Mauritizio looked over his shoulder to where the other fishmongers were now approaching like sharks to blood. He turned back. “Deal.”
It was a fair exchange, and though he could’ve waited for the other fishmongers to come and haggle for more, Mauritizio had always been kind.
Not to mention, there was somewhere Tomas had to be.  His hand strayed to the vial in his pocket. “You’ll find thirty-three fish in there.”
Making a show of counting with his finger, Mauritizio nodded. “Then two silver and one copper draka for you.”
“Two coppers.” Tomas chuckled.
Mauritizio threw his hands up. “Ah, can’t get anything past your nets. Darn Diviner’s Sight!”
Or math. Coppers grouped in tens in his mind’s eye.
Imitating the Diviners of old, Tomas looked past the setting Blue and White Moons, to the Iridescent Moon. It waxed toward its third crescent.
The market would open soon.
“Good for both of us,” he said. “I know where the fish will be, and you get to sell them for profit. My Diviner’s Sight says you’ll make at least four silvers from them today.”
Mauritizio bowed.  “You’re never wrong, of course.”
If only because Tomas paid attention to market prices. He held out his hand with an arch of his eyebrow.
Mauritizio opened his purse, pulled out two silver and two copper coins, and pressed them into Tomas palm. “Nice doing business with you.”
Tucking his slingshot into the back of his pants, Tomas climbed onto the dock. He hurried along the main road deeper into town, trusting Mauritizio to collect the fish. Again, he looked up at the Iridescent Moon, never moving from its reliable spot in the sky, always cycling through its twenty-four phases in a single day. There wasn’t much time left. His heart pattered.
The creaks, thumps, and fish reek of the docks gave way to the rich textures of the marketplace.  The earthy smell of spring vegetables from several stalls. The hammering of the blacksmith on the east.  The bright colors of cloth in the shops to the south.
Burly men, whose crimson tunics marked them as rowers from the Serikothi ship, mingled among the townsfolk and catcalled the women. Ethnically Arkothi, like the locals, these foreigners had olive complexions.
It stood in contrast to their officers in high-collared jackets, who had lithe builds, brown hair, and bronze complexions. These smaller, shorter men belonged to the Eldaeri, a long-lived race which proclaimed to be the sun god’s Chosen People. In his limited experiences, Tomas had found them to be as arrogant as their claim.
“Tomas!” cried a farmer from a vegetable stall as he entered the marketplace. “Can you tell me when the next rain will be?”
“Two days,” Tomas said. At least, that’s what the earthworm activity suggested. He locked his eyes on a kiosk at the far end.
A shock of golden hair flashed among the trays of magic light baubles and lamps.
A smile tugged at his lips. Patting the vial in his pocket, he quickened his pace.
“When will a Runemaster Imperator return with the Crown of Arkos?”
After three hundred years since the sundering of the Arkothi Empire, probably never. Tomas laughed. Let them believe in long lost emperors and their equally missing crowns. “I can’t have you betting against me in the gambling dens.”
“Tomas,” yelled out the baker from across the way. “Are we safe from the Teleri?”
“I’ll be back with your answer, and I expect a fresh loaf of your best bread in return.” Tomas flashed a smile. It would give him time to ask around and find out more about the aggressive empire’s latest positions.
In this, Constable Antonius would know more.  The mayor’s son, and indeed, the town’s favorite son, was striding from the other end of the market.  The shiny buttons on his crisp blue uniform glinted in the morning light, and a sword dangled from his hip. Their eyes met, and the constable’s smirk punctuated his strong jaw, heavy brows, and high nose. Then, his gaze shifted toward their mutual destination, just ten paces away.
Tomas had to get there first.
At the kiosk, stocky Julius spread out rune-inscribed antiques and modern light bauble lamps.  He stepped to the side, revealing his daughter.
Time seemed to slow as Sofia tossed her hair over a shoulder. Sunlight caught silver highlights in the sea of gold. Unlike everyone else’s sun-darkened olive skin, hers was as fair as the sandy beaches back home.  It made her bright blue eyes stand out. The neckline of her green velvet dress plunged low enough to hint at her budding curves.  She was like the Goddess Ayara arriving on earth for the first time. Temple bells chimed in Tomas imagination.
You brighten my day more than the sun.  Tomas rehearsed the greeting in his mind, gulping hard in hopes he’d actually be able to articulate it. You brighten my day more than the sun.  He covered the last ten paces in just eight strides. You brighten my day more than the sun. Math, logic, market trends, and tides were easy compared to talking to a woman. “You… sun. Brighten… Good morning, Sofia.”
She flashed him a radiant smile, that indeed brightened the day more than the sun. “Good morning, Tomas. How are things on Twins Island?”
Tomas’ gut twisted. While everyone else asked him about their future, the town beauty was the only one who ever inquired about his well-being. “Fine… uh, just wonderful.”
“You said you’d have a surprise for me today?” She batted her eyelashes.
Tomas’ face flushed as hot as sand in afternoon sun. He reached for the vial in his pocket. “I brought—”
“Ah, Monkey Face Tomas, ever the rube.” A deep laugh boomed behind him. A huge hand clapped him on the back.
It just about knocked his heart out of his chest. Tomas gritted his teeth. Every instinct screamed to lay a fake curse on Antonius, but it would only make Tomas look petty. He relaxed his jaw. “Good morning, Antonius.”
Sofia’s father, Julius, paused from polishing a rune-infused fire starter and turned around.  His wide shoulders bulged from his blue vest.  With his thinning black hair, crag nose, and small eyes, it was hard to believe he’d sired such a beauty. A friendly smile formed on his lips. “Good morning, Antonius. Sofia, give Antonius a trinket, will you?”
Tomas stifled a growl. Of course, Antonius was the most desired man in town, son of the mayor, who was mayor only because he’d married some lord’s cousin’s nephew’s sister-in-law. With Antonius’ good looks and status, he already had enough girls to fill the long-departed Runemaster Imperator’s harem.
Meanwhile, Tomas was just an ugly fisherman from a provincial island. He forced a friendly smile. “So, Antonius, what’s the latest news of the Teleri advance?”
Antonius smirked. “Trying to squeeze out every last fish sale before they come and you flee back to Twins Island?”
“Of course not,” Tomas said. “I just wanted to know. Last I heard, they’d encircled Mykos.”
“Encircled? It’s called a siege.” Antonius puffed out his chest, his eyes flitted sidelong toward Sofia.
Sofia just blinked her long lashes at him.
Tomas’ gut knotted even more. “Right, a siege. It’s just two days’ march from here.”
Antonius snorted. “Stick to Divining, and leave soldiering to soldiers. They have to capture Mykos first, or leave their supply lines exposed. Mykos can hold out indefinitely, because the Teleri’s dumb Bovyan brutes lack the siege engines to breach the city walls. On top of that, they have no means to deny Mykos access to the Inland Sea and trade with the Serikothi.” He lifted his chin to one of the crimson-uniformed rowers at the tanner’s.
Tomas cocked his head. It didn’t make sense, because… “Couldn’t the Teleri leave soldiers back to protect their supply lines? Or send cavalry ahead?”
Gasping, Sofia covered her mouth. “Is that what Diviner’s Sight is telling you?”
Antonius’ bellowing laugh just about shook the stall over. “If it is, I’d tell him to get a new eye. Teleri Bovyans might be able to overwhelm anyone in the open field, but there’s no way they’d risk sending troops here without first securing—”
Shouts and screams erupted from the west end of town and grew louder.  Here in the marketplace, the merchants all pointed and chattered among themselves.
“What’s going on?” Sofia came out from behind her stall and peered toward the commotion.
Hand on his sword hilt, Antonius straightened. “I’ll go see. I think—”
A tide of townspeople rushed into the square, first from the main road, then from the four side streets. Some tried to leave toward the docks, only to turn back.
The press of humanity surged like a wave, taking Sophia with them. Tomas snatched her hand, only to be pulled along. Antonius waded through to reach her, until another surge of people crashed in from the other side.
“Sofia!” her father yelled, hand outstretched from the stall several paces away.
Above the stutter of desperate feet came clopping hooves. Tomas looked to Sofia, to make sure she was alright, then to Antonius. “Horses!”
“Where? Oh!” Antonius gawked.
Behind the flood of people from the main street trotted a column of enormous horses, ridden by enormous men. Chainmail jingling, they carried spears with black banners emblazoned with a nine-pointed gold sun.
“Bovyans…” Antonius gasped.
Bovyans! Tomas could only shrink back. Descended from the mortal son of the Sun God, Solaris, they’d once been noble protectors of a land torn apart by the Hellstorm. Originally a source of hope and order to replace the Runemaster Imperator who’d abandoned his sundered empire, they’d since transformed into the barbaric rulers of the Teleri Empire. Until now, he’d never seen one.
Let alone dozens.
Most had dark hair, though there were a handful of blonds. With their fair to olive skin tones, the majority could be mistaken for any of the three indigineous ethnicities of the North. A handful had darker complexions, ranging form bronze to light brown. Their main difference from other humans was sheer size. Ranks of Bovyans now blocked the six entrances into the marketplace, preventing anyone from leaving.
Tomas’ forehead scrunched up. Something didn’t make sense. Bovyans were nothing if efficient. If Antonius was right, that they wouldn’t risk attacking Lorium without first taking Mykos, why were they here now?
“Eldaeri from Serikoth.” A Bovyan pointed at a small, crimson-uniformed officer not ten feet from Tomas. He lowered his spear and dug his heels into the horse’s flanks.
Townsfolk jostled and made way as the Serikothi drew his naval sword. It looked flimsy compared to the Bovyans’ arming swords. Indeed, the officer looked flimsy compared to the behemoth bearing down on him.
Hooves thundered across the ground. People screamed and pushed. Shielding Sofia with outstretched arms, Tomas found himself on the edge of the panicked circle, so close that the rush of air and smell of horse battered him as it charged by.
The Serikothi officer stood frozen in place, his eyes rounded. The spear punched through his chest with a sickening thud, and he let out a straggled cry. His broken body crumpled to the ground as the horse slowed and wheeled. A pool of blood spread under him.
Bile rising, Tomas shielded Sofia’s eyes with one hand, and covered his mouth with the other.  She pushed his hand aside, and gasped.
“Serikothi!” a voice boomed across the square.
Why were the Bovayns targeting the Serikothi? Tomas craned to get a better view.
Horse hooves thundered. Swords rasped from scabbards. Bovyans rode among the running and screaming people, cutting down unseen victims.
“I surrender,” a voice pleaded somewhere nearby.
“A galley!” yelled another Bovyan. “Secure the docks!”
The docks. Tomas’ heart joined the bile in his throat. If the Bovyans swarmed the docks, there’d be no escape.  He had to get there first. Because rumor had it that horrible things happened to the women in the Teleri Empire.  He took Sofia’s trembling hand. “We need to escape the town.”
Face sickly pale, she gave a tentative nod.
Tomas closed his eyes and envisioned Lorium’s layout as if he were a bird flying above. With the Bovyans attacking the Serikothi galley on the west end of the docks, they might be able to sneak to his boat on the east.  He pulled her along, working through the terrified throng. More people emptied into the square from the six entrances. Several Bovayns circled the area, but none patrolled the space between him and the small alley between two shops on the east side.
“Sofia! Tomas!” Antonius’ voice carried over the people. “Come back!”
Tomas hazarded a glance back.  In the arc of his vision, at least three Bovyans met his gaze.  He froze. From their positions, their plan was clear: the invaders were herding people into the square. Now, the sobbing townsfolk had mostly stilled.
With just a handful of constables armed with rapiers, and only a few knives among the locals, there was no resisting. Not after the Teleri shocktroopers had made short work of the Serikothi officers.
Tomas tucked his slingshot deeper into the back of his pants. His village was famous for its sharpshooters, but he wasn’t one of them, and a couple of rocks would do nothing against so many armored men.
A hush fell over the townspeople as one of the Bovyans rode forward.  He was a head taller than the others, the squared shoulders of his black tabard giving him the look of a demigod. When he spoke, his voice boomed. His accent sounded so… official, as was to be expected from a people originating in the Sundered Empire’s heartland. “Captain, bring the Serikothi forward.”
Bovyans pushed through, prodding a dozen of the crimson-clad rowers and two of the shorter Eldaeri officers into the space before the leader, and pushing them to their knees.
“I am Governor Keris.” He loomed over them like a storm cloud over a tiny boat. “I will soon be in possession of your galley, and I need a crew.  You will be paid a gold draka per month with bonuses for good work. If you agree, rise.”
Tomas exchanged glances with Sophia. The Serikothi didn’t even pay that much to ship crews. Their Eldaeri rulers were also famous for their harsh treatment of their Arkothi subjects.
All but one of the rowers and one officer stood, heads bowed.
Keris pointed to the kneeling rower. “You do not wish to join?”
The man raised his head. “Begging your pardon, Governor, but I have a family in Serikoth.  If word got back that I served the Teleri… well…” his meaningful glance fell on the officer at his side.
“I understand. Surrender your weapons, swear on Solaris you will never take up arms against the Teleri Empire, and you may return home.”
What? So easy? Tomas scanned the townsfolk’s faces.
The rower’s eyes widened, and a murmur went through their ranks.  The crowd, too, chattered at this development. Two of his compatriots returned to their knees.
Keris motioned to one of his underlings. “Take these recruits and record them into your register.”
The henchman thumped his chest with a fist, and gestured for the rowers to rise and follow him.
“Not you.” Keris set his spear in the path of the Serikothi officer. “The Eldaeri race has falsely claimed to be the Chosen People of my ancestor’s divine father. This is an insult to the gods. Captain, execute him, and the other.”
A collective gasp just about sucked the air out of the square. Eyes panicked, the Eldaeri turned and started to run, only to meet the thrust of a Bovyan sword. The other officer scrambled to his feet, but two Bovayns dispatched him with brutal efficiency. Blood pooled where their bodies fell.
The people cried out again. A sour taste rose in Tomas throat. Before today, he’d never seen someone brutally murdered; now, he’d witnessed three. And, there were other slain Eldaeri Serikothi elsewhere in the marketplace. The Bovyans were ruthless.
Governor Keris pounded his fist to his chest.  “Now that we’ve gotten that ugly business out of the way… People of Lorium. You are now under the protection of the Teleri Empire.”
Protection? Occupation was more like it. Tomas had to sneak to his boat with Sofia, and row back to his village. It might be within sight of Lorium, but the Teleri would have to find someone who could get them past the Jaws first.
If these invaders could reach the island, though, the governor looked like he could conquer it all by himself. His gaze raked over the locals.  “Our protection comes with a price, but it is a fair one. We shall buy your surplus grain and fish directly from the farmers and fishermen at market prices, and we will never take more than the town can spare.”
A handful of groans broke out from the middlemen like Mauritzio, and the tax collectors from Mykos, the seat of government.
Keris scowled, quieting the throng.  He pointed north across the water to the Lyara’s Golden Bowl, gleaming atop the mountain that overlooked Tomas’ village.  “I also need someone who can take us to Twins Island.”
A pit sank in Tomas’ stomach.
His home. The Bovyans wanted his home.


Author Info

JC Kang’s unhealthy obsession with Fantasy and Sci-Fi began at an early age when his brother introduced him to The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Trek, and Star Wars. As an adult, he combines his geek roots with his professional experiences as a Chinese Medicine doctor, martial arts instructor, and technical writer to pen epic fantasy stories.



Follow the rest of the tour
Scroll Up