Hello again, and thanks for joining us for another edition of Genre Talk here on The Novel Approach Reviews! Today we have DSP Publications author J Tullos Hennig here to tell us about her upcoming Historical Fantasy release Summerwode. So before we get down to the brain-picking part, let’s have a look at what Jen has brought us.
The Summer King has come to the Wode…
Yet to which oath, head or heart, shall he hold?
Once known as the Templar assassin Guy de Gisbourne, dispossessed noble Gamelyn Boundys has come to Sherwood Forest with conflicted oaths. One is of duty: demanding he tame the forest’s druidic secrets and bring them back to his Templar Masters. The other oath is of heat and heart: given to the outlaw Robyn Hood, avatar of the Horned Lord, and the Maiden Marion, embodiment of the Lady Huntress. The three of them—Summerlord, Winter King, and Maiden of the Spring—are bound by yet another promise, that of fate: to wield the covenant of the Shire Wode and the power of the Ceugant, the magical trine of all worlds. In this last, also, is Gamelyn conflicted; spectres of sacrifice and death haunt him.
Uneasy oaths begin a collision course when not only Gamelyn, but Robyn and Marion are summoned to the siege of Nottingham by the Queen. Her promise is that Gamelyn will regain his noble family’s honour of Tickhill, and the outlaws of the Shire Wode will have a royal pardon.
But King Richard has returned to England, and the price of his mercy might well be more than any of them can afford…
Carole: So Jen, so good to have you here today! Why don’t we dig right in. Tell us about your genre.
Carole: Um. Ahem. We seem to be having a few technical difficulties. Let’s just say the Books of the Wode, including the new release Summerwode, are historical fantasy with a firm foundation in history and several left turns at mythic and legendary. Right?
JTH: *More silence*
Carole: Are you with us, Jen? What can you tell us about your book?
New Voice: I’m afraid Herself ent coming. See, she said she was only trying to make nice and play by the rules of blogging, and I laughed at that, told her “aw, pet, when has our like ever played by any rules?” and… well. She’s a wee bit tied up at t’ moment.
Carole: Not coming? Rules? Wait a minute, who is this?
New Voice: And it ent exactly my book this time around, it’s Gamelyn’s. About a full of twisty turns as that mind of his. He’ll be along directly, by t’ by. Seems Herself is fairly clever at untying knots. Though you’d think she’d be happier there, bein’ all hermit-like, an’ all—
New Voice: Well, she’s got my book to write next, after all. And Gamelyn’s a bit eager that she has it done, eh? Not that I blame him, with what happened in Book Four, where—OW!
Yet Another New Voice: That would be what these people call a… ‘spoiler alert’, I believe? You’ve not even introduced yourself… your mother raised you better than this. My lady Carole of the Talking Genres, allow me to introduce my mouthy friend, Robyn Hood. You might have heard of him?
Robyn: Introductions are boring. All these questions are boring.
Robyn: Didn’t mean nowt by it, pet.
Carole: Well, we have to tell people about the newest book.
Robyn: Then get on with it and tell ‘em it’s a smashing read, eh? I like it.
Gamelyn: You have Marion read it to you.
Carole: Okay, look. While it is, as you say, a smashing read, we’re kind of here to tell people why so they’ll read it too. And since you’ve apparently… er. What have you done to Jen, anyway?
Robyn: Told you. She’s tied up—
Gamelyn: (helpfully) Literally, he means—
Robyn: Because that bloody thing she taps out our words with—
Gamelyn: (still helpful) “Goddam box of merde”, she calls it—
Robyn: –lost a lot of what we’d already told her, so she’s been trying to start over. ’Tis what happens when you trust papers and ink and don’t’ keep things in your head—
Gamelyn: We thought it would give her some focus. Along with the lovely sharp scimitar I hung over her chair—
Carole: Right, you know what? I’m sorry I asked. So here’s how this is going to go. I’m going to—
Robyn: Take care, lass. The last person who got all short with Himself, here, got really short.
Carole: I’m fairly well acquainted with a few assassins myself, y’know.
Robyn: You fancy the like, then? Aye, well, lying with an assassin’s akin t’ snogging a porcupine some days, ent it? (Loud stage whisper) All those daggers, hidden everywhere.
Carole: Dear God, I’m sorry I mentioned it. Okay, can we just…. *shuffles through questions* No, not that one. Definitely not that one. And neither one of you will answer that one. *tosses questions* I don’t even know anymore. Why don’t you just tell me what you want to talk about?
New Voice: Faith, milady, but with these two, if you don’t point and shoot, you’ll end up miles off course and wonder how you got there.
Robyn: Aw, Marion, we ent that bad.
Marion: Huh! You’re forgetting I’ve known you since you were born. And you, Sir Assassin, since you were nine.
Gamelyn: And here we are. Who would have thought—
Robyn: Spoiler alert!
Marion: No spoiler there, if you were payin’ any sort of attention. Now what’s all this then about milady Jeanine? What have you done this time?
Carole: Excuse me, but WE STILL DON’T HAVE ANY INFO ABOUT THE BOOK!!!
Marion: Well, why ent you saying so?
Carole: …Yeah, I can see I’m not in charge anymore.
Marion: *shrugs* ‘Tis only just past Beltain, after all. Himself’s wearin’ his horns a wee bit proud.
Robyn: Spoiler alert!
Gamelyn: You really have to stop saying that, you know, when it’s not.
Carole: *glares* When this is over, I’m going to find where you’ve stashed Jen. Because I happen to know she’s half decent with rope and knives herself. Now, Marion, since you’re the only one who seems like you’re older than ten, can you please, please tell us something about Summerwode?
Marion: I’d say it was the most exciting yet. It’s the second in the new trilogy, and it’s where everything turns. There’s magic—real magic—encroaching on the world, and the Queen has offered us a pardon.
Robyn: Only we have to go to Nottingham to fetch it, ent we?
Gamelyn: I told you not to.
Robyn: Weren’t your decision, were it?
Marion: I have a 6 foot stave. In my hands.
Carole: *blinks at Marion* *then at Robyn and Gamelyn* *back to Marion* Teach me your ways, Master Yoda!
Marion: Yoda? Master?
Carole: Oh, right! Well, you see, a long time ago in a…. Um. Sorry, different fandom.
Robyn: What’s a fandom?
Carole: It’s a place where you and Gamelyn can shag like… uh. Never mind, you do that already. Just…. Okay, why don’t we all pretend I’m not even here since you’ve been doing it all along anyway, and let Marion tell us about Summerwode. (Please, God.) *cough* Marion?
Marion: As you can see from our two bad boys, Summerwode holds a lot of tension and a virtual tangle of misunderstandings. Secrets withheld, promises both kept and broken. The dangers are very real, when you take into account a King’s reputation both good and ill, the great game of thisworld’s politics, and the otherworlds beginning to resurface, where time isn’t as… ah… linear as one would think
Carole: That… wow, Marion, that was actually really helpful. Thank you.
Marion: Me mam allus said ’tis does who have to show sense when the bucks are too busy sparrin’ or ruttin’.
Robyn: We have to live each moment like it’s our last, pet. Like it says here, in Herself’s own words. *parchment rustling*
Carole: Wait a minute, where did you get that excerpt?
Robyn: I ent the Thief of the Shire Wode for nowt, lass.
Carole: Okay, seriously, what have you done with Jen?
Robyn: I told you. She’s busy with Book Five. Ent got time to allock about.
Gamelyn: We stepped up, did the right thing and volunteered to do the whole tour for her—
Robyn: Herself seemed all set to agree, then for some reason decided it weren’t a good idea.
Marion: Fancy that.
Carole: *sounds of parchment being thrown into air* Fine. You read the excerpt. I’m going to rescue Jen.
Robyn: *calling after* I’d leave her, was I you. She’s brassed off as a holed-up bear ‘bout now…
Gamelyn: Milady Marion, would you do the honours? Set the scene?
Marion: Well, the outlaws have received a royal command to attend the siege of Nottingham Castle, and they’re—understandably, mind—feeling sommat out of place.
“You look proper fetching in those breeks.” This from Much, behind Robyn and just inside the drawn-back pavilion entry.
“I wish I could say the same for you in that Templar’s tabard.” Marion had lingered with him.
Then, “Why didn’t you say anything?” If the wretched tone in Marion’s voice set a crack in Robyn’s heart, Much’s answer shivered it into anger.
“Marion, you knew it was temporary, me being banished, like—”
“It must run in your bloody Order,” Robyn growled, just loud enough and with a glare toward the pulled-back pavilion flap. “Bein’ so reticent, like, with sommun as shares your bed.”
Within the entry, Much had his mouth open, about to make some retort. He thought better of it and shut it with an audible pop.
Marion let out a curse that could have scorched the pavilion’s fabric.
“You’d best start talking, man, and keep on,” Robyn muttered, though to which Templar, he was uncertain.
Another silence, then more conversation—this low, unintelligible. Robyn grinned—no pleasant expression—and crept closer, ready to lob another volley should it be necessary.
He halted. Frowned. Cocked his head and snuffed the air, turned sharp eyes upon the drifting smoke; previously aimless, it sucked backward, then curled forth.
The soldiers began to appear, then, silent and armed to the teeth, akin to phantoms in the wisps of murk and sun. Despite any impulse to duck back into the pavilion and hide, a dull fascination kept Robyn there, watching the men pass with ranks doubling, tripling, all parting like water around the surrounding pavilions.
The odd lull receded and filled itself with a singular rhythm; Robyn realized it was the dull tap… tap… of sword against shield, timing the tread of heavy boots, the clink and thap of chainmail against leather, the heat and menace of determination.
Some of them were Templars.
They were converging upon the gatehouse. Just a stone’s throw away, the army—and it was one, no question there—stopped.
There was a grind and clank from the main gate. A small door revealed itself, creaking outward from the great one’s leftmost corner. The waiting army angled forward—slight, but there—and a shaky voice issued from the three-sided gap. A rich baritone echoed in answer, bouncing off the gatehouse door.
Robyn knew that last voice. With a tiny skip and step forward, he confirmed said recognition: the tall, white-clad Commander of Temple Hirst with—of course—his most trusted bodyguard. Both of them standing in the bloody front of the battle line. Hubert was speaking to the one who was hiding behind the little door, and Gamelyn stood beside him, holding the Templar’s banner, with shoulders squared and russet-gold head bared beneath an abrupt shaft of the inconstant sun.
That same bit of sun spilled upon the gatehouse tower. It illuminated, through a tall and bloody narrow opening, a figure lurking behind the thick, curved wall. The odd combination of sun, smoke, and shadows betrayed a glint, here and there, wielded within. Likely a crossbow.
Eyes narrowing, Robyn kept his gaze upon the arrow loop, shrugged the longbow from its place athwart his shoulders, and fingered a flax string from its pouch at his belt.
Whatever Hubert was saying, the man at the door wasn’t having it, not a bit.
The sun making its play for Gamelyn’s bright hair slid behind a bit of smoke, and the gatehouse went dark.
Robyn stepped his bow with a soft grunt of effort, slipping string over horn tip, and kept eyeing that arrow loop. The sun crept back; one shaft of light in particular kept dancing, above and behind, to backlight the crossbowman in the upper gatehouse. Pulling a quintet of arrows from his quiver, Robyn set to knotting three in his hair.
“What is it?” Marion came up beside; he spared a swift glance. Much was nowhere in sight, and her eyes were swollen, but the look in those eyes dared Robyn to so much as mention it. And—he smiled—she carried her own bow, strung and ready.
“Hearken where our Summerlord bides.”
Marion’s eyes widened, and her pale eyebrows did a dance, one up and the other down. But all she said was “Aye, well, no wonder Much lit out like he were afire” and drew several arrows from the quiver at her hip.
Robyn loved his sister.
“Y’ canna chain t’ wind,” he quipped. “Such wishes are for Christians and rich men.”
“There’s more’n one bloody crossbow sighting our lovely Templars. Two there on the hoarding, one… nay, two”—he could see another now, moving into position behind the second loop—“in t’ loops, and… bloody damn!”
This as the smoke stalled upon a breeze and the gatehouse went into shadow.
With a breathy paean to the wind, Robyn drew several arrows from his quiver, slow and sure. “You’ve the lighter bow, Mari. Best cover the ones up top.” He pushed, light and ready, into his grandda’s longbow as she nocked and fisted her own arrows. “I’ve marked those buggers behind the loops; do they so much as twitch, I’ll have ’em.”
“Who let this…?” A cry rose from within the walls and garbled into more shouting. The man at the door whirled angrily, then lurched sideways with a yip and disappeared. Several of the front-line soldiers leapt after as the door was heaved shut—one ran into it with a curse.
More shouts, with one from behind the wall that left no doubt. “Shoot!”
And everything went to hell.
Crossbows discharged. Lances flew. The ground troops dove left and right, wrenching their shields atop them like turtles ducking into their shells. The Templar banner alone remained upright, sprouting from a ceiling of shields as, from the wall-walk—and more, from those damned dark arrow loops—the bolts kept coming.
Marion loosed once, then again. With a shout, a man fell from the hoarding and crashed into a brace of the waiting shields, an arrow in his throat. Robyn danced sideways, watching another quarrel spring from the loop; he loosed a desperate shot, chance and trajectory alone. It slid between the narrow lintels as if greased, and there was a yelp. Had he hit? No way to tell; instead he took aim at the other loop. Whoever was stuck in up there—they weren’t the normal dusted-off clot handed a crossbow—kept loosing bolts with unerring efficiency into the soldiers below….
And still no sign of Gamelyn, though the piebald banner flew, obdurate. The shields below it were beginning to resemble hedgehogs. Robyn’s heart clenched to quivering in his breast, forced tight his breath.
Surely he’d know, if….
The throaty bellow made Robyn start; indeed, ’twould have brought the cows in from a hundred-acre field. Save that all the cattle here were English, and that was definitely Frankish talk.
More shouts resounded against the high bailey walls. A burly, bright-haired man fair exploded from the fancy crimson pavilion a stone’s throw west, still spewing Frankish.
It was answered by a round of cries—“Pour le roi!” “Du roi!”—and a mass of crossbowmen poured from behind the pavilions, rushing the gatehouse.
Roi? That was their talk for a king…. Robyn fisted two more arrows, all the while eying the man who still bellowed like some Frank bull. King Richard? Nay, that was unlikely. His tent was big and fancy, but the man wasn’t dressed to match. His fair hair bore no crown, was tied back all haphazard, its gingery cast picked out by a shaft of breakthrough sun. He’d an even ruddier complexion, with cheeks and nose that seemed more too much wine than too much sun, and a bit too much around the belly, as well, for some warrior king.
Something in him required pause; a pure vitality slapping at Robyn’s face like sand in a whirlwind. And the man’s bellow would stir an army from sloth to ambition, at that.
Robyn shook it off with a curse, aimed another arrow for that far loop, and hissed the wind-breath from entreaty into desperate command. Marion too was waiting, arrow to string, for another of the topmost bowmen to show themselves….
Sun rippled over the gatehouse, backlight and satisfaction and, as if similarly conjured, a rush of crossbow- and pikemen converged from behind the crimson pavilion. One of them was yelling, in Anglic: “Archers! We need more crossbows!”
Marion picked off the last of the wall crossbowmen.
But Robyn saw only the two forms, backlit behind those arrow loops. With a half-breathed snarl, he loosed; one, then immediately another.
And just like that, no more arrows came from the loops.
With an inveterate fascination in other worlds and times, J Tullos Hennig has managed a few professions in this world–equestrian, dancer, teacher, artist–but has never successfully managed to not be a writer. Ever.
Her most recent work is a darkly magical & award-winning historical fantasy series re-imagining the legends of Robin Hood, in which both pagan and queer viewpoints are given respectful voice.
(You can subscribe to J Tullos Hennig’s newsletter at either the Musing blog or main site—you’ll receive the first and earliest notification on all updates and news, plus a gift: several short stories seldom seen in the wild.)
For those who don’t win the drawing, Greenwode & Shirewode are on sale starting (quite apropos) on May Day/Beltain, for a limited time through: DSP Publications, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo!
And now for the GIVEAWAY! Jen is very generously giving away the entire ebook ‘bundle’ of the first three books of the Wode series, to catch up with in time for Summerwode’s release! 😮 You can enter to win by commenting here and signing up to Jen’s mailing list via the Musings blog or the main website. Please click on the Rafflecopter link to begin. A winner will be chosen this Sunday, May 7th, 2017, so until then, good luck!
We’ll see you next time on Genre Talk when Copilot Extraordinaire Elizabeth Noble welcomes Amy Lane to the hotseat to tell us about her Fantasy/Paranormal release A Quickening, Vol. 1. Until then, that’s all for this week, and thanks for spending some time with us!