A big welcome today to Lou Hoffman as the final stop on her blog tour for Ciarrah’s Light from Harmony Ink Press. She’s sharing an exclusive Peek at Book 4, Dragon’s Rise, and the living history behind The Sun Child Chronicles.
Hi, I’m Lou Hoffmann, very happy to be here on Drops of Ink for the Ciarrah’s Light blog tour finale. Ciarrah’s Light is book 3 in The Sun Child Chronicles, and book 4 is on the way in 2019. So how about a sneak peek? Here Lucky gets a glimpse, not so much at what comes next, but at what happened a very long time ago.
An hour, Lucky thought. Two days ago I fought in a battle with aliens and dead people and… ended my mother’s nightmare. Yesterday I went to a meeting where I found out people still hate me. Today I had a bit of non-fishing with Han, a game of Skippers with Cook, and a game of Skies with Aunt Rose, and now I have one hour before I have to leave. My boyfriend’s gone home, one of my best friends is missing, my other best friend is on a mission, and my dog isn’t even here.
Lemon Martinez apparently had taken pity on him for once, though. He purred comfortingly—and uncharacteristically—curled into a loose spiral of gray fluff next to Lucky on a sun-washed flat rock in a quiet corner of the Behlvale. Not far away, a worker was singing a rhythmic song, maybe keeping time with the movements of rake or hoe in the Sisterhold’s kitchen garden. Much closer, a pair of hand-sized golden dragonflies flashed in and out of the sunlight, their wings making a droning hum over the splash and bubble of the creek.
“Springborn.” Lucky had just that day learned the name of the creek, and now he announced it to Lemon, who didn’t seem to care.
The whole scene could, Lucky supposed, be called idyllic, a word he’d also recently learned. Be that as it may, he wasn’t in the mood for peace and country sunshine. He didn’t want to leave the Sisterhold. Not yet. He had questions he wanted answers to, and he felt pretty darn sure that at best he’d come back from Nedhra City with more questions instead. At worst… he didn’t want to think about it.
Fidgeting, he drew the Black Blade from its sheath, which was hooked to his belt at the moment, and squinted at the violet gleam echoing the sunlight deep inside the obsidian. It brought to mind another afternoon in the sun, and he realized one of his questions could be answered then and there.
“Ciarrah.” Lucky mentally called the blade’s name and waited no more than a second for her response.
“Remember when we were playing… um, I mean practicing sword stuff?”
“I’m a rock, Blade-keeper. Memories are embedded in me.”
“Is that a yes?”
There was no way to know for sure if Ciarrah was doing the equivalent of an eye-roll, but somehow Lucky thought she might be. He smiled at the idea before communicating, mostly just being stubborn, “Well? Is it?”
When Ciarrah answered, her “voice” had a lilt that might have been laughter. “Yes, young Light-wielder, I remember all that has happened to me and all that I have been told or shown over these last thousands of years, beginning with the day I first met our great ancestress Naht’kah.”
“Naht’kah, the dragon? The one I read about in that book? Isn’t that just a… story?”
“Oh, but there is no such thing, Luccan, as ‘just’ a story! In stories lie the greatest truth. Sometimes it’s hidden in fictions, but sometimes at the core of a legend is the true account of what has come to pass. Naht’kah is quite real.”
“You mean was?”
“She lives. You may meet her one day.”
Why that idea should freak him out, Lucky wasn’t sure. So many crazy impossible things had happened in the last year, what was one more? Still…. He began his usual comforting chant out loud. “Normal, normal, nor—” He stopped and shook his head, then gave himself an order. “Never mind! Nothing is normal. I mean everythingis normal. I mean whether it’s normal or not, it is what it is, and no use pretending different.”
That settled that, he figured, once and for all time. Remotely he thought admitting that truth might be some kind of sign he was growing up, but the idea didn’t interest him in the least, so he got back to the reason he’d started the conversation with Ciarrah in the first place. “So, when we were doing the sword stuff, Ciarrah?”
“You said you could tell me about the twelve-rayed sun symbol. Han told me it’s part of my emblem. I want to know what it means.”
“Ah, yes. I can. But it is a very long and complicated story if you are to know the whole truth. I wonder….”
Lucky waited, but Ciarrah seemed lost in thought, and he pictured her scratching her beard like Thurlock, which of course made no sense at all. This time, he rolled his eyes. “You wonder what, Ciarrah?”
“Since I’ve become acquainted with the magic of the Key of Behliseth, something might be possible that wasn’t before. Perhaps you can enter into my mind if you Wish it. Then I can open the door to my memory of the tale I was shown, and you can live it with me.”
“The Wish can’t work that way, I don’t think,” Lucky said, letting a bit of disappointment slip into his mental tone. “Unless I’m about to die or something, it has to be something for the good of others.”
“Oh, but Sun Child, it will be. Now do as I say….”
Though it couldn’t be more than an hour after noon, as Lucky focused on Ciarrah’s hypnotic flash and hum, dusk fell over the Behlvale like a feathered blanket. In a matter of seconds, the moon frosted the Oakridge’s granite face, limning the leaves of the great oak on its summit as they shimmered in a sudden wind. Lucky heard Ciarrah call his name from somewhere below him. Shaking with either cold or fear—because this was a lot like falling into the dark world his mother’s shade had taken him into—he let himself descend into the mind of the Blade.
In moments, as if awakening he came to another world—a world Ciarrah painted for him. It wasn’t Ethra, Lucky felt certain, though he had no idea how he knew that. And, he realized a split second later, it wasn’t Earth either.
“This is before, Blade-keeper. The worlds you know as two remained as one through these eons. Fear not. You are safe, shielded in my stone.” After a few seconds, sounding much more practical and possibly slightly annoyed, she added, “Please remember to breathe.”
Lucky had indeed been holding his breath, though he hadn’t realized it, and now he let it out and began to breathe in a natural rhythm. He relaxed, felt almost sleepy, and to his relief, the blue, gray, and violet dark she’d led him into lightened, first showing traces of red, then streaks of orange, then the gold of a dawn in a world long vanished, the first he would experience there of countless many. He watched that sunrise brighten as the sun rode the hilltops until it came to a solitary obelisk, a nature-born spire of stone capped by a massive clear crystal, weathered smooth and—he could tell even from where he stood atop the ramparts of his city’s walls—without a single flaw.
He labored in fields, bathed in pools, slept in huts and palaces. He ate fresh-killed roasted meat, drank mead and wine, gathered grain and toasted flat cakes on hearthstones. He was a babe in a mother’s arms, a child riding a cart behind her father. He was a man, worked a trade, cared for a child, grew old. He was a girl who fought in a war, he was her brother, who grieved her death. Lifetimes and centuries passed and every day of it that same sun rose. Every Midsummer day it crept along the tops of the hills until it lay centered in that perfect crystal, and for the time of less than forty breaths, twelve hard-edged rays shot forth from its center to dominate the sky. And through the many lives and countless years he still felt Ciarrah’s dark hum in the grasp of his hands, and the Key of Behliseth still sang its light and heat into the center of his chest, and he was still Lucky. He was still Luccan Elieth Perdhro. And especially, above and below and throughout it all, he remained Mannatha.
So much time passed that the shapes of the hills and valleys changed, seashores and river channels shifted, cities and kingdoms rose and fell, and the end came quick in comparison. In the space of a single life—that of a palace guard—Lucky watched the sun change. One Midsummer, a black seed appeared at her heart, a corona of pure white surrounding it, and each of the twelve rays broke into a spectrum showing gold only at its center, flanked by bands of violet, green, magenta, and blue. Each year the sun’s gold grew less while the black and white flaw grew larger and the rays flared as if the colored lights were at war. The guard—Lucky—stood atop a watchtower just outside the palace of a great queen, a witch, most said, yet he believed in her goodness, admired her in a distant but loyal way. She believed the world would change forever the next time the Midsummer sun met the crystal, and her magical preparations grew frantic as the day drew near.
Already, the world had changed. The ground quaked. Storms set the forest ablaze and flooded the deserts. Frightened people blamed one another and fights broke out in taverns, at town crossroads, and on vast battlefields. No one listened to the voices of reason preaching calm and kindness. Privately the guard believed the hate on the ground might be what blackened the sun.
Regardless, the great change approached, and it couldn’t be stopped now.
Midsummer day dawned cold and dim, in keeping with the change in the world’s weather over the last years. People laughed and clasped hands in relief when the sun broke through the clouds and skimmed the hilltops, even though she was but a dim remembrance of the brilliant summer sun of not so long ago. All the palace, all the town below, and perhaps, the guard thought, all the world stood with breath held as the sun made its final movement to align with the still-unblemished crystal.
Black and white had vanquished the sun’s gold, and her rays had become a sheet of seething, battling colors.
Lucky could not define what happened to him then. The world he’d been in didn’t end, time didn’t pass, he did not change. But immediately, nothing of what had been remained. The Blade tugged at him, pulling him back to his own life, but he responded sluggishly and before he truly returned to his comfortable rock in the Behlvale he caught a glimpse of a life, long in the past, but soon after the rift.
A prince of the City of Suns, he led his people to crystal temples and towering statues topped by six-rayed likenesses of the twin suns of Ethra. Bells rang out and the sky came alive with light and song. But the long-ago prince knew, just as Lucky knew in his real, present Ethra, that something had gone very wrong with his world.
Thanks for stopping by. Questions and comments are awesome and appreciated, and they’re also one way to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway, which ends November 4!
Author: Lou Hoffmann
Title: Ciarrah’s Light
Series: The Sun Child Chronicles
Series book number: 3
Series type: True series, read in order
(All series books are available for review)
Publication Date: October 16, 2018
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Cover artist: Catt Ford
Length: Novel, about 120,000 words
Genre, tropes, types: YA Fantasy (sci-fi elements, LGBTQ+ Characters include Gay Teen MC, limited romance elements, series is coming-of-age/meeting destiny)
Notes: Includes violence in fantasy setting, no sexual elements, MC age is 16
Keywords: fantasy, epic fantasy, sword-and-sorcery, dragon, magic, wizard, shifter, destiny, battle, YA, teen, LGBTQ+
Twitter Hashtags: #YA, #Fantasy, #dragons
Like series: (per readers): Ascendant by Craig Alanson, Mage’s Guild Trilogy by Andi Van, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Amazon paperback: Coming soon
B&N paperback: Coming soon
Books 2 Read Universal Link – ebook
Cursed and exiled to Earth by a witch, Lucky has only his name, a pocketful of strange items, and the destiny to become the Sun Child and lead his world through its darkest time. In an epic adventure full of dragons, shifters, talismans, magic, alien enemies, shifting time, and wars waged for survival, humanity’s only hope is one young man’s unquenchable strength, spirit, and heart.
Luccan, future Suth Chiell of the Ethran Sunlands, also known as Lucky, has just completed a harrowing quest, but his adventures and hardships are only beginning. There’s little time to rest before his ghostly mother’s specter attacks, drowning Lucky in horrible nightmares that drain his life and nearly kill him. Only through the power of his enchanted obsidian blade, Ciarrah, can Lucky claw his way out of the shadowy visions and back to daylight. But further horrors await him when he wakes up, and his country needs him—their Sun Child—more than ever.
Unstoppable wraiths—products of an advanced but dying alien world called Terrathia—are attacking, and swords and arrows cannot stop them. Fortunately Ciarrah’s magical light can, and with his dragon-kin uncle Han, his winged horse, a horde of shifters from Earth, and the wizard Thurlock at his back, Lucky faces the enemy, determined to put an end to his mother’s destructive evil once and for all. But will stopping her end the horrors facing his world?
The path from the valley floor up to the top of the ridge wasn’t at all horse-friendly, so he left Zef to graze at the bottom. He enjoyed the physical exertion of climbing. It pushed worries further toward the back of his mind, and by the time he got to the top he was feeling more lighthearted than he had at any time since leaving Morrow’s farm—which had been either weeks or months ago, depending on whose time you counted by.
Lucky walked along the ridge toward the northern end. The ridge was bare of tall trees there except for the single oak that gave it its name. Probably the upthrust granite that formed most of the upland on this end, coupled with constant crosswinds sluicing down from the hills on all sides, kept all but the strongest of trees to a low, aromatic scrub. Once there had been more tall, broad trees, though, or at least one more. A long-ago fallen log made a perfect bench for someone who wanted to enjoy those breezes, take in the panoramic view, and be alone with his thoughts.
Lucky settled onto the log and looked out over the Behlvale, which stretched miles across, and many more miles long in both directions. It seemed vast, and the solitude of it peaceful. But after a few minutes of gratefully breathing air he didn’t have to share with anyone, he admitted that honestly, he didn’t want to be alone. He wanted to be with Rio.
Rio, the youngest of Stable Master Morrow’s seven sons, was the only real boyfriend Lucky had ever had, and he hoped it would stay that way. He was young, and who could know what would happen? He could have lots of boyfriends before it was all over. But he loved Rio—loved for real—and Rio loved him back, and Lucky didn’t want to move on. If keeping what he and Rio had meant missing him and being lonely, he was willing to do it.
That didn’t mean he had to like it, though. He remembered running his hands through Rio’s thick black curls, caressing his cheek with its maturing black beard, kissing him. He thought about looking into Rio’s eyes, putting an I love you into real words, walking with him and holding hands. When he imagined these things, he thought he felt an echoing ping against his heart, and he decided to believe Rio was thinking of him too.
It wasn’t more than seconds before the sweet joy of that thought turned into blue loneliness, but minutes passed before he realized that the darkness creeping into the corner of his vision to the northwest wasn’t the product of his sorrowful reverie. Peering into the distance, he saw several men moving about in a place where a series of tall, narrow stones stood in no discernible pattern. One man wore white robes, and magic disturbed the air around him like a vaguely purple heat mirage. Where the man faced and gestured, pillars and curtains of shadow were taking shape, anchored in or suspended from the stones, billowing and blossoming like fountains from the ground.
And they looked hauntingly, alarmingly familiar.
“Uncle Han? Can you hear me? It’s important!
Reviews/Reader comments on the series:
“This is an amazing series. I’m really looking forward to reading more of it and I’d love to see this visualized. For what it’s worth, this is impressive—this is easily up there with McCaffery, Flanagan, and Jordan (easier to read than Wheel of Time though)….” — from an email to the author from Joe Bone.
“This story is magical, fantastical and sure to be a winner for young readers that enjoyed Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart series, Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap series, or even a touch of Madeline l’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time books. The cover is striking and colorful, and sure to appeal to those skimming bookshelves for a fantasy series to remember.” —Mt Snow of Rainbow Gold Reviews (on book 2)
“The author perfectly blended old and new characters in this fantasy series. I think the best parts of the book were when Lucky was being heroic. I can’t wait to read book three! […] I would recommend this book for ages 12 and up. If you like fantasy and fiction, you would love this book!” —Nictaf, reviewer at LitPick Student Book Reviews (on book 2)
Ciarrah’s Light Release Events:
Blog tour: October 12 – 31, 2018, schedule here
Podcast appearance: October 26th 9:30 AM on GAYBC News
Book Signing: Barnes and Noble, 1530 Black Lake Blvd, Olympia, WA 98502
Book Signing: Half-Price Books: 1520 Cooper Point Road, Olympia, WA 98502
Ciarrah’s Light Release Events Giveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Lou Hoffmann, a mother and grandmother now, has carried on her love affair with books for more than half a century, and she hasn’t even made a dent in the list of books she’d love to read—partly because the list keeps growing. She reads factual things—books about physics and history and fractal chaos, but when she wants truth, she looks for it in quality fiction. She loves all sorts of wonderful things: music and silence, laughter and tears, youth and age, sunshine and storms, forests and fields, flora and fauna, rivers and seas. Even good movies and popcorn! Those things help her breathe, and everyone she knows helps her write. (Special mention goes to (1) George the Lady Cat and (2) readers.) Proud to be a bisexual, biracial woman (of European and Native American descent), Lou considers every person a treasure not to be taken for granted. In her life, she’s seen the world’s willingness to embrace differences change, change back, and change again in dozens of ways, but she has great hope for the world the youth of today will create. She writes for readers who find themselves anywhere on the spectrums of age, sexuality, and gender, aiming to create characters that live not only in their stories, but always in your imagination and your heart.