March Book of the Month
REVIEW BY AUTHORS TALK ABOUT IT:
A most unique fantasy, The Falcon of Imenotash rejects the common tropes of the fantasy genre; instead, it is a creative, distinctive, incredibly memorable work that incorporates everything from strict politics to mystical shapeshifting. It is exceptionally well-written, whether the scene is a battle, an act of lovemaking, or one of cruelty and abuse. Holly Bargo’s strong, tactful, and descriptive writing leaves the reader wanting more, chapter after chapter and long after the book is finished. The Falcon of Imenotash is a spectacular novel, captivating from beginning to end, and a most fulfilling read for anyone searching for a great fantasy novel that isn’t just the same old fluff.
Chapter 1 Excerpt
From two steps behind and slightly off to the right, he watched his lady walk with stately grace and ignore the thinly veiled sneers of contempt, jealousy, avarice, and resentment from the provincial kings who sat in their imposing thrones that lined the great hall. Captain Edan Morrellen, captain of the palace guard and all military personnel of Imenotash, regarded his lady only with pride and loyalty. She’d done much good for the province, leading it back to productivity and prosperity after a generation of greedy, shortsighted, and careless rulers.
It mattered not to him that a woman ruled. She’d proven herself more than capable. He served her with pride.
She stopped a respectful distance from the gilded throne and bowed deeply, again showing the proper respect, and murmured, “Your Majesty. I have come as you bade me.”
Giroch, emperor of the Harudin Empire, stroked his bearded chin and nodded.
“Welcome, Aridis. It is good to see you again, sister.”
Edan’s queen nodded and replied in kind, “And it is a pleasure to see you again, your Majesty.”
“We shall speak privately later,” the emperor stated, not bothering to check whether Aridis had time in her busy schedule to accommodate him. He was the emperor; everyone always had time to accommodate him. He glanced at the captain of Aridis’ guard and added, “Do you feel an armed escort necessary within the walls of your old home, sister?”
Her expression remaining serenely impassive, the provincial queen simply replied, “It is law that no woman approach the emperor without male escort. Captain Edan accompanied me on the journey to the capital and is more than capable of serving as my escort here.”
The emperor nodded his acceptance of the captain’s double duty and waved his hand in dismissal. Aridis bowed deeply again and retreated to the empty throne in the great hall, the throne assigned to her province. Maintaining a protective, yet still respectful, distance between himself and his lady, Edan escorted her down the long, marble-floored room. He discreetly pulled a clean handkerchief from a coat pocket and wiped the throne’s surface clean of whatever nasty substance one of her peers had spilled on it. Their resentment, envy, and greed spurred them to such petty, mean-spirited attacks and he despised them for it.
“Thank you, Captain,” she murmured as she shrugged off her cape and draped it over the seat to protect her gown. “Drop the handkerchief on the floor. A servant will clean it for you.”
He obeyed and took his place beside his queen’s seat while the next provincial ruler answered their emperor’s summons to present himself and be acknowledged. He stood straight and tall and attentive. She sat straight and tall and attentive. Both knew their places and conducted themselves with dignity, while keeping keen watch over the proceedings and the powerful men who surrounded them.
When Giroch finally decided to take a break for his midday meal, those assembled, either at his command or in supplication, also departed. Edan accompanied his lady, his soldiers falling into step behind him as she led her company to the quarters customarily reserved for the ruler of the backwater province of Imenotash.
The emperor’s servants had set out a feast of roasted meats, seasoned vegetables, exotic fruits, and sweet cakes. Edan could not help that his belly rumbled eagerly at the heady fragrance.
“Gentlemen, fill your plates,” their lady commanded.
“My lady, you should choose first,” Edan protested.
She turned large, dark eyes upon him and did not smile. “There is more than sufficient here to feed us all. And, truthfully, I am not very hungry.” She gestured toward the tables groaning beneath the burden of comestibles. “Eat, for you and your men are hungry. I shall be content with whatever is left.”
The command in her voice brooked no objection. He nodded and bowed and picked up a plate. Following his example, each of the eleven other warriors served themselves and carried their heaping plates to a courtyard outside where they could breathe fresh air and enjoy the early spring sunshine as they ate.
“Stay, please,” Aridis requested of her captain. “I would listen to your observations of this morning’s events.”
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
The evening of what was supposed to have been election day, I began reading a new book. That's not an unusual occurrence. I only got a few chapters in before I closed the book and deleted it from my Kindle. That, too, is not an unusual occurrence. I'm a picky reader, although the quantity I read might indicate otherwise.
It wasn't the writing that turned me off. The author uses language effectively.
It wasn't a failure of editing that made me turn away in disgust. The writer obviously uses an editor who's competent.
It wasn't the story premise, either. The story begins with a young woman fleeing for her life and freedom after having been abducted and forced into sexual slavery. I can admire such strength, resourcefulness, and courage. I've written heroines with that kind of moxie. The plot has the heroine going after the wealthy, powerful degenerates responsible for the atrocities committed against her and other young women, like the movie Taken, only our girl becomes the badass out for vengeance.
Nope. It was the language. The words the author used. Or, rather, the words the author had the so-called heroic figures use. They exploit the heroine, debase her, speak of her in derogatory terms, speak to her in insulting terms ... and to make matters worse, she likes it. It excites her.
This kind of stuff disgusts me. It offends me. There's an utter lack of respect, regardless of the heroine's point of view and internal monologue. The heroes do not respect her. She does not respect herself. Aretha Franklin ought to be spinning in her grave.
I know a lot of readers enjoy this type of fantasy. I could be politically correct and say that's okay, but I'd be lying. I don't think it's acceptable because we think in words. Our values and opinions are derived from what we hear and read, communicated in words and deeds. Words accompany deeds and describe them. Words fire our imaginations and sink into our souls. Words inform us and teach us. They frame our thoughts. What are we if we have no words?
The words we use matter. Shakespeare was only half-correct. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but the meanings assigned to words also influence our perception of the objects and actions they describe. Using an offensive term ascribes the insult of that term to whatever it names.
Words matter. Yes, they can and do hurt and cause harm, especially when they lead to subjugation, oppression, bigotry, and prejudice.
March Book of the Month
A grunt of pain, followed by a metallic hiss, awakened Edan instantly. His sword pulled free of its scabbard and whistled through the air as he launched himself at the two intruders trying to subdue his lady’s guard. Although the men attempted to remain quiet, inevitably their fighting knocked over a small vase on the cupboard against the wall. Exploding pottery shards and the sounds of a struggle not entirely suppressed woke Aridis.
Sitting up, she blinked and quickly realized the situation. She scrambled off the bed and scuttled to the bedroom door. Flinging it open, she cried out, “To me!”
Four of her guard answered immediately, followed by six more who woke from their rest, weapons ready to hand. Since the quiet had been broken, the men called to each other.
“Surround her!” Edan snapped as he drove the point of his sword into one of the intruders.
Four of his soldiers immediately set Aridis in their center.
A cry in the dark and then a wet gurgle announced the second intruder’s death.
Edan wiped his sword on the dead man’s clothes and commanded, “Ready the horses. We leave now.” Turning toward the four men who surrounded his queen, he said, “Pull on your cloak, my lady. We cannot delay.”
She shook her head, eyes wide. “We cannot leave like this.”
Edan approached and two of the soldiers stepped aside for him. Looking down into the dark gleam of her eyes, he said, “Their bodies will give sufficient reason for our hasty departure.”
“This will surely offend the emperor.”