BBNYA Semi-Finalist Spotlight: Dark Apprentice, by Val Neil

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This year, the Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA) is celebrating the 50 books that made it into Round Two with a mini spotlight blitz tour for each title. BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 15 finalists and one overall winner.

If you want some more information about BBNYA, check out the BBNYA Website or take a peek over on Twitter: @BBNYA_Official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety (If you love beautiful books, you NEED to check out their website!) and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.


Dark Apprentice Cover

Dark Apprentice
by Val Neil
Publisher: Living Relic Press
Length: 470 Pages
Genre: Fantasy
Age Category: Adult
Date Published: 4 April 2021

A psychopathic wizard. An immortal mage. An epic battle of wills.

Nikolai doesn’t want much out of life: sex, immortality, and the power to disembowel anyone who crosses him. But with dark magic forbidden, his only option is Medea–a mage so deadly even the Enforcers give her a wide berth. Despite dire warnings that her apprentices don’t survive, Nikolai won’t stop until she agrees to train him. After all, he’s a killer himself.

Barbaric and brutal, the training is a far cry from what Nikolai expects. When a mysterious illness strikes Nikolai down, he suspects he’s found the secret to Medea’s longevity. He resolves to find out what happened to her previous apprentices. If he can locate the source of her power, he can turn it against her.

Medea swore off training dark wizards–none of them take the craft seriously and the ungrateful bastards always try to kill her. This one definitely seems the backstabbing type, but magic is dying out and she hasn’t felt such magical strength in centuries. If she can control the boy, show him that magic is more than curses and necromancy, he might obtain the power he desires. If not, well . . .

What’s one more dead apprentice?

Amazon CA / US / UK
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Author Bio:

Val was diagnosed with autism at the age of forty-one and couldn’t be happier to have her weirdness professionally validated. She lives in California with her ADHDer spouse, three children (two neurodiverse and one undecided), a normal number of dogs, and an abnormal number of birds.

For a free short story, witty ramblings and recommendations, sign up for my monthly newsletter: subscribepage.com/t7a2d4

Web: valneil.com
Twitter: @ValNeilAuthor
Facebook: facebook.com/valneilauthor

Spotlight: To Steal the Sun, by S.M. Carter

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Welcome to the official release of To Steal the Sun by S.M. Carter! Read on for details and grab yourself a copy of the book!

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To Steal the Sun
by S.M. Carter
Publication Date: October 11th, 2022
Genre: Adult Fantasy/ Heist Fantasy/ POC/ LGBTQ2+ Representation

3 DANGEROUS rogues. 2 nations at WAR. 1 IMPOSSIBLE heist. Ocean’s 11 meets Game of Thrones. From one of the creators of WARFRAME!

THE KICKSTARTER SENSATION THAT WAS OVER 700% FUNDED.

When Raik, the most cunning smuggler this side of the desert, finds where the Ivory King vaults his magical runes—he builds a crew to execute an elaborate heist.

Among them is Kahli Mahanta, a religious assassin with blind ambition. A young rogue, Kirin, with wit sharper than his arrows ought to be. And Amara, the so-called Nightspirit, whose raven-hair conceals even darker secrets.

It won’t be easy. They’re opposed by the curved blades of the magic-deranged, watched by a paranoid king, and hunted by gaunt beasts that click in the cold desert night… All the while discovering that trusting each other might be the most dangerous mission of all.

To Steal The Sun is a tale of unlikely heroes thrust together in a new refreshing fantasy. One cast in vibrant silks, fragrant spice, and the relentless glare of a radiant sun.

Check Out these Reviews!


Excerpt:

Kahli

As the sun bled out and shadows struggled to find their final depth, Kahli knocked on the door of a humble home. The clay building, like most in the northwestern city of Jharwada, seemed a crude shell to Kahli, having trained and prayed in the tent structures of the south.

From inside, a woman called out in a timid voice. “Hello?”

According to Kahli’s orders, this was a soft walk—innocents were not to be killed in the service of the Divine’s will. And so, Kahli Mahanta, Auxiliary Hand of the Divine, knocked louder.

The worn grey curtain covering the home’s only window slid open, revealing a lanky woman draped in a dark cotton servant’s wrap. She stared with sunken eyes. She looked twice Kahli’s age, but they were of similar height—which was crucial to the plan.

Kahli leaned out of the shadows, revealing the unveiled half of her face. She hoped it allowed the woman enough of a glance at her golden-brown skin and blond hair to mistake her for a newly arrived Tireenian servant. Kahli presented her left palm in a gesture of respect between equals and imitated a reassuring smile that touched her eyes above the veil.

The locks clicked open, and Kahli’s expression became genuine. A strong shoulder could splinter a doorframe well enough, but a smile did the Divine’s work in silence.

The woman opened the door, eyes wide. Kahli, not one to leave curiosity unsatisfied, stepped forward and struck the woman in the throat. The woman clutched her neck and gave a strangled cough as she collapsed back into her home. Kahli slipped in, a ghost in the night, closing the door and turning the locks.

Tears streamed from the servant’s eyes as she knelt on a fraying embroidered rug in the candlelit foyer of her home. She wheezed for air and tried to regain her footing.

Kahli adjusted her black veil, making sure its silk edges hid the scars covering the left side of her face.

“Sister, if y-you wish to meet the Divine, k-keep struggling,” Kahli said. She allowed a heartbeat for the threat to sink in, to let the servant understand her words through her accursed stutter.

“If, instead, y-you wish to endure the suffering of the living, c-close your mouth and remove your clothes.”

The woman obeyed.

***

An hour later, Kahli walked into the palatial residence of the high satrap of Jharwada, draped in the servant’s sarong. The disguise fit lengthwise, but her athletic build made it tight around her thighs and shoulders. Kahli took in shallow breaths and shortened her stride to compensate.

Skirting along the massive foyer, she tilted her head toward the shadows and moved to the wooden staircase at its far end. The room was remarkable compared to the plain design of every other structure in the city. Hanging vines covered the walls, and twisting trees wound up the stone columns. It was a strange mating of granite sculpture and plant life she’d seen only in the overgrown jungle ruins of Tireen.

At regular intervals throughout the room, candelabras burned saffron-scented wax. But the main illumination was moonlight, which stabbed through the glass-domed ceilings, highlighting the occupants within. In the center of the room, two veiled women in silk twirled in a traditional Jaru dance, accompanied by a plucked sarod and wavering flute. Men and women in lavish purples, yellows, and burgundies lounged on couches, watching the performance and sipping palm wine.

Kahli restrained a sneer. Divine-damned fools. Unfocused and soft. Pretending to appreciate the old religion’s art only to gain the favor of their high satrap, who was rumored to be a connoisseur of Jaru traditions.

Kahli’s life was pledged to the Kithkarnin Order. A pledge that changed after her scars and demotion, after Hayanna and the trial. But a pledge that remained strong. The Book of Kith said: A dedicated mind is the calm sea on which the Divine sails.

Keeping to the shadows and moving with light, brisk steps, Kahli reached the wooden staircase with its base so entwined in roots, it appeared to grow from the floor. The frame creaked as she ascended two steps at a time. The high satrap resided at the top. The letter from the First had been succinct and clear:

The High Satrap of Jharwada has fallen from the Ivory King’s graces. By his holy decree, she shall be ushered on a soft walk.

Her locket should be collected as an item of memorial.

This letter, from the highest-ranked assassin in the world, was a gift from the Divine.

Never had any Kithkarnin ranked outside the group of Primary Hands been given a target of the satrap’s importance. All Kahli wanted since her scarring and demotion, all she prayed for, was a chance to rise in the ranks.

And this was it.

Purchase a copy of To Steal the Sun Here!


About the Author

S.M.Carter

S.M. CARTER is an author and game developer.

As an author he has contributed to multiple comic anthologies and writes the ongoing graphic novel, AARDEHN, with artist Eric Vedder. As a game developer, he is credited as creative director of THE DARKNESS 2, and is one of the creators of the smash-hit game WARFRAME.
He lives in London, Ontario, Canada with his wife and two children.
He once caught a fly with chopsticks.

S.M. Carter


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