This is a bit lengthy, but it is a review from the #55 reviewer on Amazon. Boom and Wow.
North Carolina author Christian W. Freed, born in Buffalo, NY, has recently retired from a twenty-year career in the U.S. Army, a factor that makes his use of technical language especially in the realm of science fiction more credible – or at least more logical to the untrained sci-fi reader. The fact that he is a combat veteran from his service in three tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq adds to his ability to recreate frightening situation, even if the combatants here are dragons and such. His educational experience – a degree in history from Campbell University his pursuing a Masters of Arts degree in Military History from Norwich University – adds to his ability to transport the reader into past times with alacrity. He has sixteen novels of various themes to his credit as well as being included in anthologies – a distinction in itself. He recently won an award in the L Ron Hubbard Writer’s of the Future Contest!
THE DRAGON HUNTERS is Book 2 in the A HISTORY OF MALWEIR series. Christian is an experienced fantasy creator and understands the importance of creating names for his characters that seem frustratingly foreign at first, but as the chapters progress he manages to pull us into the cast. Not having read Book 1 of this series, it is important to review the synopsis of the beginnings of the series: `Malweir was once governed by the order of Mages, bringers of peace and light. Centuries past and the lands prospered. But all was not well. Unknown to most, one mage desired power above all else. He turned his will to the banished Dark Gods and brought war to the free lands. Only a handful of mages survived the betrayal and the Silver Mage was left free to twist the darker races to his bidding. The only thing he needs to complete his plan and rule the world forever are the four shards of the crystal of Tol Shere. Having spent most of their lives dreaming about leaving their sleepy village and travelling the world, Delin Kerny and Fennic Attleford never thought that one day they would be forced to flee their town in order to save their lives. Everything changes when they discover the fabled Star Silver sword and learn that there are some who want the weapon for themselves. Hunted by a ruthless mercenary, the boys run from Fel Darrins and are forced into the adventure they only dreamed about. Ever ashamed of the horrors his kind let loose on the world the last mage, Dakeb, lives his life in shadows. The only thing keeping him alive is his quest to stop the Silver Mage from reassembling the crystal. His chance finally comes through the hearts and wills of Delin and Fennic. Dakeb bestows upon them the crystal shard, entrusting them with the one thing capable of restoring peace to Malweir.’
Now it is comfortable to follow the story of Book 2: `The Mage Wars are a fading memory. The kingdoms of Malweir focus on rebuilding what was lost and moving beyond the vast amounts of death and devastation. For some it is easy, others far worse. Some men are made in battle. Grelic of Thrae is one. A seasoned veteran of numerous campaigns and raids, Grelic is a warrior without a war. He languishes under mugs of ale and poor choices that eventually find him locked in the dungeons of King Rentor. His only chance at redemption is an offer tantamount to suicide: travel north with a misfit band of adventurers and learn the truth of what happened in the village of Gend. Grelic, suddenly tired of his life, reluctantly agrees and meets the only survivor of the horrible massacre: Fitch Iane. Broken, mentally and physically, Fitch babbles about demons stalking through the mists and a terrible monster prowling the skies, breathing fire and death. What begins as a simple reconnaissance mission quickly turns into a quest to stop Sidian, the Silver Mage from accomplishing his goals in the Deadlands. The last of the dark mages seeks to recover the four shards of the crystal of Tol Shere and open the gateway to release the dark gods from their eternal prison. Grelic and his team are sorely outnumbered and ill prepared to deal with the combined threats of a dark mage and one of the great dragons from the west. Not even the might of the Aeldruin, high elf mercenaries, and Dakeb, the last of the mages, promises to be enough to stop evil and restore peace to Thrae.’
So here we have make believe well woven with military tactics – a combination that explains why Christian’s books are growing so popular. If there is a need to condense and clarify interactions, then that will come. He has the ability to get inside our heads with his stories and that, after all, is the purpose of reading! Grady Harp, January 15
This marks my third voyage back to the world of Malweir in order to explain the rich history of the world that has become an almost household name in the Northern Crusade series. Enjoy and tell me what you think:
Kavan knelt beside the body and felt for a pulse. The trail of crimson on the pure white snow suggested the answer, but he still had to check. His perceptive eyes were immediately drawn to the growing blood stain in the middle of the boy’s back. His muscles tensed under his loose-fitting jerkin. Kavan felt rage. Sickness swelled within him. A closer inspection of the corpse showed him what he both knew and dreaded: teeth and claw marks.
It had been the same for the previous four victims. Kavan instinctively glanced about. The gesture was futile; if the beast was still here, Kavan held little doubt it would already have attacked. Still, Kavan let a hand drop to the hilt of his short sword. Even the fabled Gaimosian Knights could be caught unawares and killed. Kavan had no desire to fall into that category.
A cold wind blew across the open field. The tree line was a hundred meters in any direction. The beast had no fear; that much was obvious from the spot of the kill. Loose snow danced across the field, tickling Kavan’s neck and face. Kavan removed a glove and gingerly placed his fingertips in the wound. The blood hadn’t begun to dry yet. He smiled, cruel and wicked. The beast was close.
“I’ve got you,” he whispered to the gathering dusk.
The Gaimosian looked around again, this time for a trail. Snow had been falling for the past few hours, but it was still loose enough for him to just make out a set of prints moving east. Kavan looked up towards the forest edge. He could barely distinguish a thin plume of blue smoke rising into the grey skies. With night falling, he knew his task had just gotten more treacherous. The beast was dangerous enough in daylight. Night made it particularly lethal. Kavan drew his sword and left the body behind. The hunt was on.
He moved swiftly and with purpose. Everything he owned was on his back. He was a man without home or family. Revenge drove him and kept him warm at night when the harsh reality of the world threatened to claim him. He was a man lost, damned for the crimes of a kingdom that no longer existed. Hatred tainted his heart. He, and those few others remaining, roamed the lands eternally in the quest for vengeance. These were the Gaimosian Knights, travelling under the shroud of steel and mysticism. The world knew them as Vengeance Knights: the fallen sons and daughters of once proud Gaimos.
Now Kavan worked for money and the thrill of the hunt. A belief system instilled from birth bade him act in the sake of honor and righteousness. As such, he’d been hunting this beast for nearly a month. Every time he drew close, some form of devilry allowed the beast to escape. Kavan was determined not to let that happen again. He picked up the pace. What was left of the sun now dazzled a demonic red across the horizon.
Kavan viewed it as a good omen. Killing was always easier at night. The blood red sky felt right for the moment. He continued watching for signs of the beast as he got closer to the trees. His boots crunched softly on the under-layer of hardened snow. Stealth had never been his strong suit. He’d ever been one in favor of kicking in the front door and seeing how matters played out. Others of his kind had taken to the shadows and the lives of assassins since the fall of Gaimos. Kavan was better than that.
A howl rose from the mountains. Local wolf packs were on the hunt. Kavan smiled and entered the forest. It was a good night to kill. He paused beside an ancient oak tree and let his eyes adjust to the gloom. The heavy branches stretched far and covered large areas with darkness. He smelled the smoke now and knew he was close to the house, close to the beast and the end of the hunt. The twenty gold pieces promised by the villagers wasn’t exactly a king’s ransom, but they would more than satisfy his meager needs until something better came along. Anyway, after chasing this beast for close to a month, Kavan was ready to kill it for free.
The sounds of the forest echoed hauntingly. Winds rustled rotted branches and dead leaves not yet covered by the quickly accumulating snow. Kavan wanted the beast to know he was coming. He wanted it to know death approached. After so long, Kavan needed a fight. Low branches reached out to lash at his exposed face and arms as he stalked towards the house.
The smells of roasting meat and burning wood grew stronger. He was close. Kavan felt the shadows creep in around him the deeper he went into the woods. He tilted back his head and sniffed the wind. Death had already beaten him here. The thatch-roofed home came into view. Kavan spied the broken-in front door and lamented for the family. What remained of the door left a gaping wound marred by the invitation of a subtle fire in the hearth. A blood-streaked hand curled up in the doorway. The fingers were broken and gripped a thick tuft of fur.
Kavan instantly decided against going through the front. The beast knew he was coming and would be lying in wait for him to make the fatal error of charging in blindly. A woodpile lay just off to the left of the house. Snow powder covered the top rows. A crude bronze-edged axe rested deep in a large piece of oak nearby. Fresh snow partly covered dozens of tracks. Some were human; most weren’t. Dog tracks intermingled with the rest.
It didn’t take Kavan long to discover the fate of the rest of the family. A pair of corpses was stacked by the back door, both bodies savagely torn apart and callously dropped beside the carcasses of the dogs. They’d had their spines broken and throats torn out. Kavan swore under his breath. The dogs would have provided warning to the family, but it hadn’t been enough. Only death and evil remained inside the meager cottage. Kavan crept to the back door and stopped to listen.
He knew from experience what was going to happen next. Kavan ducked under the windowsill and crept right. Using the shadows for cover, the Vengeance Knight rose up slowly and peered inside. Only his right eye broke the silhouette of the stained window. He scanned the home for signs of his prey. The fire had burned low, offering just enough light for him to make out two more bodies. What he assumed was the father lay in the door while a child of five or six had been butchered beneath the table.
Enraged, Kavan resisted the urge to charge inside. He still didn’t know where the beast was. The murder scene was one he’d witnessed a hundred times. Their ordeal was ended. Nothing could be done to assuage their suffering now. Kavan needed patience. He thoroughly searched the rest of the ruined home before his eyes settled on a partially hidden corner by the front door. A shadow stretched just enough past the edge of the light and moved with the gentle rhythm of slow breathing. Kavan narrowed his eyes.
“At last,” he whispered.
As I sit here and reflect on my life I realize that I’ve accomplished all of the goals I once had. I wanted to join the Army- Check. I wanted to go to war- Check (don’t ask why, I dunno either), I wanted to publish a book- check. Now, with ten books in print, I understand that I cannot be successful without you all. The more you share my work, the more you comment, the more you take the time to enjoy the words I’ve strung together the stronger I get. The better I become. I would like, very humbly and respectfully, to ask each of you to help me on my journey. To give my words life and, should the urge arise (and I really hope it will- no, really) leave a few kind words on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Every little bit helps and, to be honest, I would be nothing as a writer without all of you.
Well, since we didn’t actually finish the war in Iraq (for political reasons that are largely irrelevant to this post. I don’t care that people disagree whether we should have gone or not. We did, and we left without finishing the job properly. Now our butts are on the hot seat once again.) the troops are spinning up to head back over. There is no way that this problem can be solved with jets and rockets. It is going to take combat troops to put down some lead. The same will happen in Afghanistan next year- mark my words.
Having served multiple tours in both countries at a soldier’s level I have seen the best and worst Man has to offer. War is not supposed to be fun or glamorous. John Wayne wasn’t smoking a cigarette saying good job when we took Baghdad. Slightly disappointing, that. I’ve seen things that few others can say they have. Abraham’s gardens, the ziggurat of Ur, crossed the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, stood watch against communist North Korean soldiers on the 38th parallel for a few winters. Through all of these experiences there is nothing that can replace the bond felt by soldiers. We live in a small section of the world where there is no racism, or very little, where the color of your skin doesn’t matter. All we care is if you can do your job or not. Perhaps the civilian world would be a better place if it had similar exposure?
At any rate, with 9/11 behind us and Veteran’s Day approaching, I won a publishing contract through a contest on Facebook. Pretty cool, right? I have had the fortune of having 12 fantasy/ science fiction novels in print since I retired from the Army in 2011 but now I finally had a vehicle to deliver the stories of men who actually fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not some general who didn’t actually do anything but make decisions. These stories, mostly my own, range from telling a complete stranger his son was dead, to a communications sergeant fighting for his life during the infamous Thunder Run, to a rescue mission for two downed helicopter pilots in a Baghdad suburb. They are real, emotional, and without the Hollywood mock up. Let’s face it, Lone Survivor was a great tale, but the overwhelming majority are normal, everyday Joes like you and me. If you’re interested, swing over to Amazon and check it out. Tell a friend. Any support would be greatly appreciated. http://www.amazon.com/Long-Home-Christian-Warren-Freed/dp/1631030086/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=undefined&sr=1-2&keywords=a+long+way+from+home+christian
There are some things in life that are unexplainable. I spent twenty years wearing an Army uniform, well- several really, and bouncing around to the mostly bad parts of the world. Eh, perks of the job. I didn’t mind. Since I was given the ultimatum of either retire or we don’t get married (A choice I wisely made) I finally started putting a lot of effort into my books. Less than a year later I received my first contract. Life was getting pretty good. I won an award from the L Ron Hubbard contest- Whoa!, and now, two years later I have the good fortune of having twelve books under contract, participated in five short story anthologies, and people are actually asking my advice on how to do this or that. Where did that come from? I don’t know but I am extremely thankful and couldn’t have gotten to where I am at without the support of all of you. My latest accomplishment is winning a publishing contract from a small press. I lost the vote count by nearly 80 but the judges liked my message better than a gnarly old werewolf. Seriously, who does werewolves anymore?
I guess what I’m trying to say is sit back, enjoy, and strap in. We’re all in for one hell of a ride!
Here’s an opening much darker than anything I’ve attempted. The story is entitled the Lazarus Men and will be a cross between sci fi and film noir of the 40s and 50s. Enjoy.
“Once you agree to this you can never go back. Your life will change forever,” Mr. Shine stood with his thin hands clasped behind his back.
Carter Gaetis paused to glance to the odd man standing at his right shoulder. Grave doubts plagued him. It had been months and he still didn’t wholly trust Mr. Shine. Several qualities making him human were missing in Carter’s opinion. Shine was tall, lightly built and possessed a permanent sneer. His pale complexion and dark hair lent a cadaverous appeal Carter found acutely disturbing. The perpetual rasp in his voice was due to an injury sustained in the line of fire long before Carter was born.
Mr. Shine continued, “Are you prepared to commit yourself, your life and your dedication, to our cause, Mr. Gaetis?”
Carter tensed. He was torn. Born to believe there was no escaping the past, Carter spent years languishing under the effects of being convicted of murder in a court of law. Penniless. Branded a villain by the rigid constrictors of society, he contemplated suicide. Darkness crept into all corners of his life but: his wife and daughter.
“Once you say the word all of your pain will be erased. Your debts to society will be paid in full and you will be free.”
For a price. Nothing comes without a price. The real question is am I willing to pay it so blindly? There must be another way.
But there wasn’t. All of his options were exhausted. Mr. Shine offered him an escape but the cost, the cost threatened the security of his very soul. Carter wasn’t a violent man. He’d tried to live a good life, to matter in the eyes of god and his peers. A drunken moment of indecision stripped it all away and brought him to this point. He clenched his jaw, teeth grinding.
Mr. Shine, for his part, had done this a hundred times before. Each was unique but the candidates all acted similarly. He’d come to the quaint apartment hab expecting Carter’s indecisiveness. After all, it was no easy thing to accept the forceful removal of one’s past life without grave concerns. He rolled the stiffness from his right shoulder and viewed the street. The sleepy village along the Hudson River would have gone unnoticed if not for human expansionism. Linking Canada to old New York City via the major train hubs, the Hudson River resumed the prominence it once held during the colonization of the New World some six hundred years earlier.
Shine inhaled the early autumn smells of changing foliage and the dampness of the river. He briefly considered retiring to this part of the world before chastising himself. There was no way a man like Shine could ever retire in any fashion save one: an assassin’s kiss. He exhaled mild disappointment. This forgotten stretch of the world was one of the few peaceful places he’d ever been.
Carter finally asked, “Will they suffer?”
Mr. Shine smiled in the dark. “No. Their part in this sad tale will finally be over. They will be free, Mr. Gaetis, much as you will be.”
Carter sighed. He wished there was another way. Anything but this. Sadly there wasn’t. He was as much a victim of circumstance as his family. With grave reluctance, Carter nodded curtly. There was no other option.
“Please Mr. Gaetis, I need to hear you say it,” Shine insisted. His eyes seemed to glow wickedly in the dark.
“Yes, Mr. Shine. I accept your offer.”
His words lacked the conviction with which they were meant. Carter was a strong man but even the severity of the moment left him weak in more ways than he was willing to admit to any man, especially Shine. He didn’t like the thinner man at all. Carter imagined there’d come a time for reckoning before the end. He had to wait until that day.
Shine nodded back and clapped his hands in front of his waist twice. “Good! I knew you’d make the logical decision. Very smart of you, Mr. Gaetis. Now, if you’d please follow me inside we can conclude tonight’s business and be about our business.”
“You can’t be serious!” Carter all but exploded. Making the decision was one matter, having to participate entirely another. He was prepared to endure the endless stream of nightmares from what came next. No man should.
Mr. Shine fixed him with a withering glare. “Oh but I am. This is not a game, Carter. The only way I can be assured of your commitment is by having you participate. Anything less is inexcusable. Our employers demand unconditional obedience.” He paused, letting Carter stew. “Perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps you are not the proper candidate for this position. Good night, Mr. Gaetis. I wish you the best of fortune in the future.”
He’d never know what spurred the following words, but Carter grasped at the tiny rope Mr. Shine dangled before him without pause. “No, wait. I’ll do it. It’s just going to be…”
“Hard? I understand. We have all gone through similar.” Shine pat him gently on the back. “Consider it being part of a brotherhood.”
Pulling the lapels of his black, trench coat tighter around his neck to keep the harsh wind coming off of the river from creeping down his back, Shine started across the street.
Mr. Shine peeled the stained, leather gloves off and tossed them down on the flower pattern comforter. He wasn’t smiling, but lacked the seriousness Carter expected after murdering two people in their sleep. Instead he wore a look of grim satisfaction that only a man trapped in such a profession could produce. And professional he was. Only a single speck of blood escaped the bed, landing squarely on his right cheek. He looked down to where Carter had collapsed in a pile of vomit and tears.
“It’s done, Mr. Gaetis,” he announced quietly. “As far as anyone knows you and your family died here tonight in a regrettable gas fire. Welcome to the Lazarus Men.”
The apartment hab exploded in flames as Mr. Shine and Carter strolled back across the street to the waiting hover car.
I can’t lie. All of this current political banter is highly depressing. Maybe we’d be better of with a king since people can’t seem to play nice or handle having choices. Anyway, the real post begins now:
November was a momentous event for me. I spent 6 hours at a book festival meeting and greeting and selling a few books. I’ve always said that I don’t care about the money when it comes to writing. It is my calling. I’ve been doing it since I was a little child. Even won an award for writing a novel in high school. A very poor novel I tried to throw away a few years ago but my mom took it and hid it so I couldn’t. I’m 41 now, can’t we let that rest in peace?
My validation came in the form of two middle teenage girls who couldn’t stop smiling when they came up to my table. Now let me set that by saying I’m certainly not famous, not a big time player- yet. I have a small following that I steadily growing and hope to get bigger in the coming days. These two girls were absolutely giddy as I signed their book and made light talk with them. They walked away with pure bliss on their face, even thanking me for signing their book, saying it was the coolest thing ever. Can you say humbled??
Shortly after that another older teen came back to my table with her bank (the mother) and couldn’t wait for me to sign and hand a copy over. She said it was the best book ever and her mother said it would be a chore to keep her from reading the whole thing before they got home. Wow!
I’ve been compared to Tolkien (what fantasy author hasn’t?) and CS Lewis but heard a lot of Game of Thrones comments for the first time. To have random people get excited over what I wrote is simply amazing. It is the very reason I’ve worked so hard to get published and produce quality works. The money is nice too but there is nothing comparable to seeing the look of excitement in a stranger’s eyes when they walk away with one of my books.
Am I crazy, take a look and you tell me. http://christianfreed.wix.com/christianwarrenfreed#