Category Archives: Fantasy

K. T. Munson: Worlds of Light and Shadow

Recently I’ve been reading novels by newer, largely unknown indie writers. By way of helping them along, I’ll be introducing some of them here. These authors are up-and-coming, at varying stages in their development as writers. They may not all have the polish of traditionally published authors, but I think they all have potential and deserve encouragement.

Born on the eve of a war that all but destroyed his kindred, the Shadow Clan, Ki is raised by the surviving elders. His whole life has been spent in training for just one purpose: to kill forty-two sinful people and collect into himself their souls, thus releasing them from their evil and becoming the savior of his race. Mission nearly accomplished, he discovers that his last two targets have committed no sin. One is a child too young to bear any guilt. The other is Elisabeth, a brilliant young “fringe sciences” researcher who harbors a terrible secret: she is half human, half demon. But she has suppressed her darker side and remained pure, so Ki cannot kill her. Yet.

Still stranger things are afoot. In a realm of planets joined to each other, to the Netherworld, and to the magical Divine Court itself by five Gates, dark forces have been awakened. People’s spirit animals are vanishing. Whole families are committing suicide without reason. Dangerous creatures from the Netherworld are breaking through to the planets, attacking and abducting whoever they find. For reasons she does not comprehend, Elisabeth alone holds the key to understanding these strange events, but she needs Ki’s help. Would-be killer and would-be victim must form an uneasy alliance to halt the spreading darkness. In the end, they will learn that neither of them are what they once had thought.

The Sixth Gate is the first volume in a planned trilogy (The Gate Trilogy). K. T. Munson has spun a complex, intriguing fantasy world filled with creatures of light and darkness. The story pulled me in from the start and kept me going, although I found it a bit easier to set aside in the middle than I did at the beginning and the end. The ending more than rewarded the effort, though. Pity I can’t tell you about it without giving away too many things! The characters were in the main well-defined, although I didn’t quite get the level of evil vibes I would have expected from the principal villain. The settings were quite good, particularly the look and feel of the Netherworld. I could well imagine myself slinking through its shadows, hoping to remain unseen. Overall, I’d put the story elements at a solid 4.5 stars.

I found the writing a bit uneven, though. Some parts were quite good, especially in the earlier chapters, while other could use a fair bit of tightening. In particular, some of the dialogue and intense action scenes could use some help. However, these are issues most indie writers face in their earlier works, and I found the text readable enough to give the writing 3 stars. Overall, then, I feel justified in granting 4 stars to this novel. I look forward to book 2, The Nowhere Gate, being even better.

I recently asked K. T. Munson about the novel and her writing. Here’s what she said:

The world of “The Sixth Gate” is quite complex and vibrant. Where did it all come from?

Equal parts research and my brain! In my mind my characters are alive on these complex worlds and I’m simply writing down their lives. However, I only get snapshots in dreams and the like, so I have to fill in the pieces—hence the research.

I found the relationship between Ki and Elisabeth intriguing. He is out to kill her and she knows it, yet they must work together to combat the growing darkness. On top of this, they both carry a lot of that darkness within them. Could you comment on how all that plays into their relationship?

You’ve touched on one of the very important central themes to the book and series as whole: We are all born with the capacity for cruelty and for goodness. In a way I wanted to show that two people who are very similar in their inner struggles and circumstances took two different paths because of their environment. We are shaped by the conditions of our birth, but they do not have to define us.

Without giving too much away, a point of clarification I’d like to make here is Ki wants to save Elisabeth by freeing her soul. He thinks of himself as a savior and doesn’t really consider his ‘darkness’ to be dark. It isn’t until Elisabeth becomes his mirror that he starts to question everything about his mission and by extension his ‘truths.’ In turn Ki is Elisabeth’s catalyst to help her come to terms with who and what she is. However, the acceptance of her demonic half is down to her in the end.

There are a lot of mythological creatures as well as (it seems) creatures of your own making. How much did preexisting mythology enter into your world-building?

Great question! It isn’t explored as much here, but many of the creatures throughout the series are either my own creation or borrowed from mythology for very deliberate reasons. I did use mythologies from across the world and through time, more so in Morhaven which you’ll see more of in the next two books.

However, I borrowed from existing or historical societies as a loose foundation on each planet and then built up around them my own flourish of cultures, belief systems, and social structures to create each unique planet. It was a lot of work to build 6+ unique planets, and there is so much more on each planet that isn’t explored because it isn’t relevant to Ki and Elisabeth’s story. Thankfully I love world-building, so even though it took time, it was a lot of fun!

This is book 1 of a planned trilogy. What can you tell us about the next book?

Thankfully, I’ve already written the next two books. I’m happy to report that because there has been so much positive feedback I’ve been working like a madwoman to get the second book ready for publication later this year, rather than next year. For the next book you’ll want to hold onto your seat because you’re in for a wild ride!

The second book, The Nowhere Gate, starts off with Ki completely without memories or a body on an unknown planet. Meanwhile, Elisabeth’s search for Ki takes her and Nanette to Morhaven where Elisabeth must face new perils, from creatures to the cunning Det Mor Clan. It is under the pretense that Nanette serve her month with Ethandirill in the Netherworld.

What advice to you have for readers or writers?

For fellow writers, keep writing. Let your stories be told. For readers, bless you! Novelists like myself need readers like you who are searching to be transported to other worlds.

Where can readers find you?

On my blog, my mailing list, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  Instagram, Goodreads, my Amazon Author Page, and Smashwords.

Chrys Cymri: Strange Incursions

Recently I’ve been reading novels by newer, largely unknown indie writers. By way of helping them along, I’ll be introducing some of them here. These authors are up-and-coming, at varying stages in their development as writers. They may not all have the polish of traditionally published authors, but I think they all have potential and deserve encouragement.

Penny White is a faithful and caring Anglican priest with a bit too much familiarity with alcohol. That might explain why, coming upon the scene of a traffic accident, she finds herself giving last rites to a fatally injured dragon. Yes, dragon. Curiously, inebriation didn’t conjure this situation. The deceased dragon is real, and her pastoral care for the exotic creature is about to catapult her into a new Church role: Vicar General of Incursions. Turns out our world and another coexist in close proximity, connected by “thin places” where those who can sense them–or who just stumble upon them–can cross between. Stranger still, that other world is populated by, among other things, dragons, unicorns, griffons, harpies, and snail sharks.

The Vicar General of Incursions has to deal with accidental crossings. Somebody has to do that because, trust me, you don’t want a snail shark infestation! Still, Penny has enough on her plate already: her much younger brother, just returned from New Zealand with computer skills but no cash and even less sense of responsibility; her husband’s accidental death in a boating accident a few years before; deathwatch beetles eating the pews; clueless parishioners; other people’s tragedies. For anyone else, it would all be too much. But Penny has a thing for dragons, not to mention Dr. Who and Star Wars and whatnot, so she can hardly refuse the appointment. Besides, at least one dragon seems to have a thing for her. As does a certain police inspector. And more seriously, the death of that dragon in a traffic accident may have been no accident.

The Temptation of Dragons reads like a cross between Harry Potter and The Vicar of Dibley. It’s a fun romp through fantasy and reality, tinged with humor and pathos. Both story and writing are solid, proving that indie writers can indeed publish material every bit as good as anything that comes out of a traditional publishing house. There is a healthy dose of Anglican religion, but not in a preachy way. It’s simply a necessary part of Penny White’s life, done well because Cymri is also a priest. I’m looking forward to reading the next installment in Penny’s life, The Cult of Unicorns, as well as the subsequent novels. So, zero complaints, five stars. Well done!

I recently asked Chrys Cymri about the novel and her writing. Here’s what she said:

This is a wonderful novel. Is it your first, or had you written other novels before?

My first two novels were traditionally published in 1996. Sadly, these only sold around 5,000 copies each, so the publisher and my agent dropped me. I continued to write, but only a couple of years ago did I decide to publish what I’d produced during those years. Penny White, however, is only two years old.

Like Penny White, you’re a priest. How much of her is really you?

When my bishop told me, “I really enjoy Penny White,” I felt the need to tell him, “But I can assure you I don’t drink as much as she does.” We do have similar tastes in whisky and Doctor Who, but she is far more reticent than me. (I have a tendency to say what I think and then get into trouble for it). I don’t have her same family experiences and, sadly, there’s no darkly beautiful dragon haunting my back garden.

I couldn’t help but notice (as I said in my review) certain resemblances to both Harry Potter and The Vicar of Dibley. How much (if any) have either of those influenced the development of the Penny White series?

I like Harry Potter, but I’m more of a Narnia fan, and I think that might be the greater influence. I’ve only seen a couple of Vicar of Dibley episodes, but I did enjoy Rev and, again, that’s probably had more of bearing on what and how I write.

Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about Penny’s further adventures?

Well, the romantic triangle continues, but isn’t the major focus of the series. I’ve just finished the fifth novel, and there is a resolution of sorts. In the fourth book, The Vengeance of Snails, we finally discover the truth about who Clyde really is. Penny becomes far more involved in the magical country of Lloegyr as the series goes on, and discovers that there is a dark side to her adventures.

What advice to you have for writers or readers?

Writers: Don’t publish too soon. Make sure you have people read your novels, and take on board their criticism. Readers: Please do leave reviews. It keeps us writers going when we’re plugging on late into the night after a long day at work.

Where can readers find you?

On my website, Facebook, and Goodreads.