Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Schooled in Magic series

Introducing “The Conjuring Man” by Chris Nuttall

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Folks, it may seem quite odd to discuss a new book I’ve edited on Christmas Day. That said, I wanted to discuss it ASAP because I enjoyed working on it and feel that it’s one of Chris Nuttall’s best novels to date. (Below is the cover, which is a particularly nifty piece of artwork by Brad Fraunfelter. It gets pride of place for obvious reasons.)

As you see, this novel is called THE CONJURING MAN. It’s the third book in a series that started with THE CUNNING MAN, and features Adam, a nonmagician who’s studied theoretical magic his whole life but wasn’t sure what he could do with it until he went to Heart’s Eye University. Adam starts off as somewhat of a callow youth; though he was always well-meaning and treated most people the way he wanted to be treated, he has typical teenage angst going on. Because of that, Adam was manipulated unwittingly by a guy who called himself “Arnold” who claimed he, too, had no magic…but actually was a combat sorcerer (meaning he not only had a lot of magic, he had studied to become particularly good at magic used expressly in combat; since “Arnold” is evil, he also uses his combat magic for personal gain). Arnold is a running foil in all three books of this series, which is a spinoff from the Schooled in Magic universe featuring Emily, a young woman from Kansas in our world who was grabbed from our world by a nefarious magician, saved by an enigmatic one who then sends her to magic school (as Emily has a ton of magic), and has all sorts of interesting magical adventures. Emily’s the one who set up the first-ever university on Chris’s Nameless World (names have power, you see) at Heart’s Eye, which had been a magic school until it was overrun by a necromancer, then liberated after Emily and a few friends destroyed the necromancer, and you need to know that because Adam kind of has a crush on Emily. (He’s never met her and wouldn’t be able to pick her out of a lineup unless she’d introduced herself, but Adam reveres Emily due to the innovations she’s brought to the Nameless World, including Arabic numerals.) It’s not a romantic crush, but it’s still present, and must be considered as a main driver of how Adam behaves throughout all three novels.

Got all that? (I know it’s lengthy but at the moment, it’s the best I can do to sum things up.)

Anyway, Adam grows, changes, and becomes a much more well-rounded, interesting person throughout this trilogy. His girlfriend is a powerful magician named Lilith (yes, that’s her on the pitchfork, flying), and the two of them, along with several others, have come up with a new field: magitech. (How magic and technology intersect, and how both can benefit each other, in short.) Adam, like Emily, has changed the world, but Adam doesn’t see it that way; he still sees himself as just a normal, average guy who loved magic but had none in his blood, so apprenticed originally to an apothecary as that was the closest he could come to his goals. He was sent to Heart’s Eye by his first master at the apothecary, which proves to be the making of him…and that’s where this blurb comes into play for THE CONJURING MAN, as it’s about where Adam is at the start of the third book, much less the problems he and Lilith still continue to face.

Adam has come far.

From a lowly apprentice, and a powerless one at that, he has discovered a whole new field of magic, combining magic and technology into one, and become the leading light of the university.  His innovations have made many other things possible, from powerful magics anyone can use to hot air balloons and flying battleships.  And the world has changed beyond hope of repair.

And yet, the war is not yet over.  King Ephialtes of Tarsier may have lost one army, but he has others – and secret weapons, capable of keeping his aristocrats in check and eventually destroying the university.  As his own people rise in revolt, and Adam and the rest of the university’s population are drawn ever further into the fighting, an old enemy plots his final moves …

… And the final battle between the old world and the new is about to begin.

At any rate, I loved working on this novel, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as well.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all! (Holiday blahs aside, of course.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 25, 2022 at 2:57 am

Friday Reading Fun: Chris Nuttall’s Two Newest Fantasy Novels Are Out…

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Folks, I have to admit that I am biased in favor of Chris Nuttall. I often edit for him, and indeed edited the two newest books I’m about to talk about here at my blog. (One, THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY, I co-edited with author and editor Christine Amsden, and of course Twilight Times Books publisher Lida Quillen also keeps an eye on things, so it’s like having three editors for the price of two.) But as with Kayelle Allen’s newest book SURRENDER LOVE, these books are just so much fun that I have to write about them.

First, take a look at this gorgeous cover by artist Brad Fraunfelter:

THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY is the 22nd book in the Schooled in Magic series, and stars Emily, a young woman from our Earth’s Kansas who was translated to the Nameless World in her mid-teens. Emily was bookish to a fault before she was brought over; unfortunately, she was originally meant to be a human sacrifice to a necromancer. She was saved, at the last minute, by an enigmatic man who goes by the name of Void. (I have to put it that way, as true names are seen as more powerful than not, so most sorcerers and sorceresses go by use-names or partial names like a nickname.)

In the intervening twenty books since the original SCHOOLED IN MAGIC novel, Emily has grown, changed, and developed. She’s unquestionably powerful, and as Void’s surrogate daughter (he’s more or less adopted her; the people in that world think she’s his true offspring), she’s recently been on an extended internship with Void learning about the roots of magic. She’s also killed six or seven necromancers along the way, not to mention several people who wished her ill. And during most of the novels, she’s had a running adversarial relationship with a young woman named Nanette…and yes, that’s relevant to the discussion. (Trust me.)

So, Emily starts off THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY by fighting off a posse of corrupt magicians in the pay of one of her adversaries, Master Lucknow. (Chris would tell you I’m skimming over a lot of stuff, here, but I’m trying to highlight the best without getting unduly bogged down in details. That’s hard in a twenty-two-book series.) Void helps her at the last minute, as he often does, then Emily is taken into custody by Lucknow under the eyes of Void and Emily’s mentor, Lady Barb. (Yes, she’s named after me. But she has blue eyes, for one…I definitely don’t. Going on…) That way, Emily can have as close to a fair trial as possible, while Void goes and rallies her other allies (of which Emily has many.)

Now, how did Void know Emily was in trouble again? This time, her boyfriend — a young sorcerer by the name of Jan — went to go get him. This was a real problem for Jan, because he had been an apprentice of Master Lucknow’s. (When you work against your master, that effectively ends your apprenticeship nine times out of ten.) Jan isn’t as engaging as Emily’s two previous boyfriends, Caleb and Cat, nor have we seen as much of him as we’ve seen of Caleb and Cat. (Emily has a talent for keeping her friends close, even if they once were her boyfriends.) But he did the right thing here, and that’s all that counts.

Anyway, a deal is brokered by another of Emily’s allies, Queen Alassa of Zangaria. (Emily is a Baroness there, though she truly doesn’t like it.) Alassa and Emily are old friends (to the point Emily does not have to say Your Majesty except in public), and the deal brokered is for Emily to go to Alluvia — a place that’s in massive unrest, partly because the peasantry there have risen in Emily’s name.

Of course Emily had nothing to do with that, but that was one of the justifications Master Lucknow was using to get her arrested, tried, and jailed. So it has to be mentioned as a plot point.

What is Emily going to find there? How does Nanette play into this mess? And will Jan lose his apprenticeship, or not? All of these questions, along with some truly shocking plot twists, will be answered by the end of THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Void much since the beginning. There is a reason for that. He is key to the end, in such a way that I can’t talk about it unless I want to give the whole game away. (And I truly don’t want to do that; what’s the point in you going to read the book if I do?)

Next, it’s time for another lovely cover, again by artist Brad Fraunfelter:

In THE FAMILY NAME, we have two equally compelling stories going on at the same time.

First is Akin Rubén, the Heir Primus to the Rubén Family (a huge family that is wealthy, well-run, and overly proud of its descent from nobles from the old Thousand-Year Empire). Akin is engaged to a young woman, Caitlyn Aguirre (known as Cat; note that Cat in this series is a very capable woman, while Cat in the Schooled in Magic ‘verse is a very capable man). Technically, they’re betrothed, and have been since about age twelve; this was done to broker a peace deal at the time as the Aguirre family is also extremely wealthy and powerful. The two of them together can perhaps steer a more peaceful course, but there’s infighting within and without both families that’s been causing distress since they were betrothed. Fortunately, Akin and Cat have grown to love one another, and truly want to be married.

Second is Isabella Rubén, the disgraced twin sister of Akin. If you read THE FAMILY SHAME (and I truly hope you have; it’s a marvelous book), you know that Isabella has dealt with major changes in her life that were brought on because she’d taken part in an attempted coup with a disgruntled member of the Aguirre family, Stregharia. Only the fact that Isabella was just twelve at the time saved her life, and she was packed off to remote Kirkhaven to deal with a mad warlock named Ira. She did that, but along the way met a young man, Callam, who has similar talents as Akin’s fiancée Cat does. They both have these talents (Callam and Cat) because they have no magic at all, which is rare in that world, but necessary for the forging of powerful Objects of Power. (Think of it as blacksmithing and you’re not too far wrong.)

Anyway, Isabella and Callam have become engaged because of a true bond, same as Cat and Akin. However, when Isabella at long last is recalled to her home, she finds much trouble brewing. Will she be a factor in the instability, or will she back her brother? And what will Callam think of it all?

As for Akin, what will he do when the faction in his family tries to interrupt his plans to marry Cat? Will he stick with the family? Will he run? Will he back his sister in her schemes (if she indeed has any)? And what will he think of Callam?

All of this, plus a whole lot more, is in store for you as you read THE FAMILY NAME.

I’m proud to have worked on both of these books, and urge you to read them without delay if you love young adult fantasy (mixed with romance more so in THE FAMILY NAME). They’re fun reads, both of ’em, yet they have a lot of questions for you to ponder once they’re done. And as both series have progressed, Chris gets better and better at telling a full story, yet always leaving people to want much more. (Further editor sayeth not.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 5, 2021 at 4:44 am

Monday Reading — Time for a New Book (or Four)

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Folks, I have been remiss about letting you know about a few books that are out that I’ve either had something to do with, or that I have reviewed. I even managed to find cover photos this time. (Yay, me!)

So, without further ado:

citadels front cover blog size THE CITADELS OF DARKOVER is out in e-book and trade paperback. I have a short story in this called “Citadel of Fear,” and I hope you’ll enjoy it. I also was interviewed by the editor, Deborah J. Ross, at her blog; I did the interview in February (I think), and it went up in April. But I missed it at the time and only saw a link to it on Twitter a few days ago.

 

Cursed_med_smallI was one of two editors on Chris Nuttall’s newest novel, CURSED, which is out in e-book form now. CURSED is the seventeenth book in Chris’s long-running Schooled in Magic series, and I’ve been fortunate enough to edit all but two of those books. His heroine, Emily, is a young woman originally from Kansas who’s been transported to another world entirely (Chris calls it the Nameless World). But during a recent battle against a crazed monarch, Emily nearly died…and woke up without access to her hard-won magical powers. Now she must get them back, and has to cope with a host of unexpected challenges. (Further editor sayeth not.)

 

Bro coverKayelle Allen has a new entry in her long-running Sempervians saga called BRO. It’s a fun story about two brothers who meet at an odd time; one (Senth) had no idea he had a brother, while the other (Khyff) has had the wrong idea about his long-missing brother for quite a few years. Neither is in an ideal situation, though both are making the best of things…will they manage to find common ground before it’s too late?

I was fortunate to edit Kayelle’s story, and know it’s excellent. It is also available via Kindle Unlimited, so if you have that, you should give it a try forthwith.

 

sons-of-the-lionFinally, I reviewed Jason Cordova’s newest novel, SONS OF THE LION, and as usual Amazon is playing silly buggers with the review. In case Amazon kicks it out (or just eats it), here it is:

SONS OF THE LION is a very well-written book filled with characters I adored and cheered for. The action works. The military ethos and care is profound. The distaste for child slavery and the uplifting of one exceptional child saved from the slavers into the merc company was perhaps my favorite thing overall.

So, you may be asking me, why didn’t I give it five stars if I liked it so much?

It’s the ending. I didn’t like that at all. And as I don’t want to spoil things, I will just say this: as an editor myself, I would’ve chosen a different route. I am unsure if the writer was boxed in by other issues in the Four Horseman Universe (I’ve read all the books to date, but the writer may be aware of things coming that I am not; surely the publisher, Chris Kennedy is). But I was very pleased with everything up to three chapters from the end.

Even with that — something that threw me out of the reader’s trance with great force — I thought this an exceptionally well-written book that did everything and then some that it was supposed to do. Military SF fans will love it. Four Horseman Universe fans will, too — that should go without saying — but anyone who loves military adventure (even if they don’t usually read SF) should appreciate it as well.

Four very solid stars. Recommended (despite its jarring and frustrating ending).

Barb Caffrey

I was happy to review SONS OF THE LION, though I had to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about how I felt about that ending without revealing spoilers. That proved to be difficult.

But do I think you should read it anyway if you enjoy military adventure, military SF, or have read any of the other novels or anthologies in Chris Kennedy’s wildly popular Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse universe? Yes, I do.

Why? The writing is stellar. The characterization is great. And while I hated the ending — let’s get real here — everything until three chapters from the end was exactly what I wanted. (Am I going to make up alternate endings like some of the folks signing petitions asking for a different ending to Game of Thrones on TV? No. But would I like to if I had enough energy? Hmmm…have to ponder.)

So, there you have it. Some books to whet your interest that you may not have known about, and I hope at least one of them will be to your liking. Have at!

Catching Up

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Folks, I know I’ve not blogged very much in the past week or two. I’ve been working on a big project, and now that it’s out I can talk about it.

That project is Chris Nuttall’s newest novel in his Schooled in Magic series, INFINITE REGRESS. In it, his heroine, Emily, must deal with a new headmaster, romantic complications with her long-term boyfriend Caleb, her own, burgeoning magic, and some hints of a long dormant, malevolent power underneath her school, Whitehall.

Now, if you’re unaware of this series, you’re in for a treat. Emily, you see, is an American girl who was brought to a magical realm by a necromancer. She won free of the necromancer, made an alliance with an enigmatic sorcerer, Void, and ever since has run into a variety of circumstances that have tested her, her power, and her other abilities at every turn. Because of her practical knowledge, garnered from our Earth, she’s become a wealthy woman; she’s even been named a Baroness by another kingdom, Zangaria, though for the moment she’s set that duty down. (She never plans to go back there, in fact, but that’s for another book.) Emily is smart, resourceful, and would seem to have all the advantages…if you didn’t know she’s also autistic, and must deal with things in a slightly different way than others.

I edited INFINITE REGRESS, and am happy to recommend it to all lovers of fantasy.

Aside from that, I’ve done a little bit of writing and a whole lot of thinking about CHANGING FACES, which is still — still! — in progress. (Here I finally have people talking about my books, and waiting for one, and I am still fighting it out with same. Par for the course, I suppose.)

As far as everything else — the living situation is exactly the same as last reported. (No improvement, but no worse, either.) I don’t know what will happen there, and that unsettled feeling doesn’t help much when it comes to writing. (I can put it aside more easily as an editor, for whatever reason.) Much of this story isn’t mine to tell, so all I can say is this…I’m still trying, I still hope for better, and I haven’t given up.

But yes, it’s frustrating, not knowing where I’m going to be from day to day.

Anyway, that’s about all I can say right now. Do look for a new blog over the weekend, where I’ll be talking about Christine Amsden’s newest, KAITLIN’S TALE (yes, I edited that, too — why did you ask?), and will have a bit from the author herself about why she wrote it.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 25, 2016 at 3:34 pm