The Witches of Crannock Dale
Mara of the League Book 1
by Thomas M. Kane
When an enemy army threatens eleven-year old Mara’s home, she makes up her mind to save her family, one way or another. But when the knights protecting her village arrest her favorite aunt for witchcraft, she discovers that the difference between friend and foe may not be as obvious as she once thought.
This is a story of war and espionage, set in a low fantasy world. It is also about a child getting to know her mother and father in a new way.
I planted my feet on the worn cobblestones. “Let me go!”
“Shut up.” Mr. Vance dragged me forward.
“Help!” I turned my head to look at the dyer’s apprentice. His ginger hair was cropped almost to fuzz and sweat had soaked through his shirt.
Mr. Vance smiled at the dyer’s apprentice, or maybe it was a snarl. “Hallo, Gus.”
“I said shut up.” Mr. Vance’s grip tightened on my shoulder until I gasped. His thumb was inside my collar, and I could feel the sandpaper roughness of his skin. “She’s a bit excited. Lucky I found her, or Bel knows what she might have got into. Dangerous for a kid to be about on her own, am I right?”
“Righty-ho.” Mr. Vance grinned again. “Oh, and tell your master I said hallo. Tell‘m I owe him a pint.”
Gus hefted the handles on his cart and continued down the street. He looked paler than he had looked before, and he kept his eyes fixed on the cobblestones ahead of him. The cartwheels clattered as he passed us by.
Mr. Vance grabbed my other shoulder and shook me. Then he hustled me forward, continuing down the street. He leaned to talk in my ear, and I could feel the heat of his breath. “Who put you up to it? You know I can make you tell me.”
I stamped on Mr. Vance’s foot as hard as I could.
The Rebels of Caer City
Mara of the League Book 2
Throughout five years at a strict boarding school, Mara has turned to her friend Annie-Rose for comfort. Now Annie has disappeared. Mara teams up with two other students – bold Gretchen and soft-spoken Ginny -- to find her missing friend. Together, Mara, Gretchen and Ginny take on a conspiracy involving some of the most dangerous people in their world.
“These malcontents are eager for a fight.” The High Bailiff snorted. “The ringleaders are plying their followers with cheap ale. They mean to set a drunken mob loose upon the streets.”
“They do? Oh. Well, that’s what we wanted. Isn’t it?” Callum spoke quickly. “It gives us a pretext—we can chase them off with cavalry.”
“Cavalry will no longer serve.” High Bailiff Stahl allowed his words to hang in the air. “This rabble appears to have anticipated our plan. They have changed their route. Instead of assembling in the open, where horsemen could have dispersed them with whips, they are converging in the steep streets around Twining Pier. Cavalry will be next to useless there.”
Callum’s eyes widened. Things were, he thought, slipping out of control. He drew closer to his stout advisor. Stahl, he felt—the man he hated—was also the one man who could protect him. “Well . . . well, alright then. How do we solve this?”
High Bailiff Stahl drew a document from his valise. “Your Highness, since it will be impossible to suppress this mob in the ordinary way, you must authorize supplemental measures.”
The Hideous Garden
Mara of the League Book 3
surviving a fiery assassination attempt, the League’s honorable new
ruler resolves to end a twenty-five-year war. Mara, now director of
the League’s spy service, warns that he is walking into a trap. As
Mara argues for increasingly ruthless policies, she must ask herself
whether she likes the person she has become.
This is a story of intrigue and military strategy, set in a low fantasy world. It is also a story of a political marriage which could be more.
The door felt warm to my knuckles. My heart beat faster. I assumed it led to the steam grotto. Since a woman’s clothing cut in the Waanling fashion hung on the rail, I guessed Annie was inside. Either that, I reflected, or someone means for me to think so.
I put out my candle since I no longer needed it in the lamplight. Then I stripped, hanging Mrs. Portius’ linens next to the fuchsia silks. I thought through how I might react if attackers burst in upon me while I was naked. There was a long-necked bottle of heavy green glass by the tubs which I thought I might use as a weapon.
I did not actually expect to be attacked. I trusted the spa staff, to the degree that I found it wise to trust anyone. I am anxious, I confessed to myself, because I am about to see Annie. It had been one thing to exchange letters with her once or twice a year from thousands of miles away. It would be another to look into her eyes.
Nevertheless, I laid my undergarments on the bench and opened the warm door. Vapor rolled out. I entered the room and shut the door behind me, reeling in the heat. Another lantern hung from the ceiling, allowing me to make out pine benches stacked like bunk beds against the rust-colored limestone walls of a compact chamber. Annie reclined on a pallet the height of my shoulders, her body glistening.
The Rending of the World
Mara of the League Book 4
me the summer and I will give you the continent.”
--Un-Jargal Boyan, Supreme Commander of the Waanling Host
Chief spy Mara Bennet's worst fears come true when the Commonwealth of Waan invades her homeland. To complicate matters, Mara and her country's ruler are stranded in a remote northern realm. The two of them must outrun enemy warships on a perilous sea voyage home. Meanwhile fourteen-year-old Princess Deborah finds herself unexpectedly on the throne.
Can Deborah learn to rule in the midst of treachery? Can Mara use her strategic skills to turn back the Waanling onslaught? Will pillaging armies reduce the land to famine? Find out in The Rending of the World.
Rending features seven maps detailing battle plans and troop movements. Its author has eighteen years experience teaching strategic studies at university level. He has published eight non-fiction books on international relations and war.
“What on earth is doing it?” Alice folded her fan and used it to point at the noise.
Princess Deborah did not think her friend’s voice sounded sympathetic. It sounded appraising, perhaps even critical. Thus goaded, Deborah responded in an irritable tone. “It’s just a little Rennish boy, alright? One of the refugees.”
“A little boy is doing all that?”
“Uh-huh. He sits in an armchair and leans back until he starts to tip over. Then he rocks forward so the front legs of the chair bang down on the floor.”
“Doesn’t it bother you?” Alice straightened herself upon the divan. “I do say, if it were me, and that little snot was in my house, I would have a word. Especially if Mama and Papa had gone and left me in charge. My mama would be expecting me to have a word.”
“You don’t think I’ve tried?” Deborah heard frustration slip into her voice. “Here’s what happens. I have a servant tell his dad to do something. His dad tells him to stop rocking, and right away he does it again. It’s like, I don’t know, he wants to see what his dad will do next. His dad shouts, and he keeps doing it, and it goes on until his dad gives up. Meanwhile, he has five brothers and sisters, and when his dad is busy with him, the rest start in. I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather listen to the chair than listen to the whole lot of them.”
“Six is far too many.” Alice sniffed. “I’m going to have two children, and they are going to have manners. It’s so much nicer when children have manners, don’t you think?”
The princess swallowed. If Daddy doesn’t come back, she thought, and if I stay pontifex, I’m going to need heirs. I could have a baby inside of me, not just someday, but soon. I turn fifteen in Buckmoon, and I’ll be sixteen next year. That’s not really too young—a hundred years ago, lots of highborn people had babies at sixteen. Sweet Belthor! Just one more winter and I’ll be sixteen.
“Still, that’s what Rennish folk are like.” Alice drew a breath. “It’s tedious, you know, talking to someone who doesn’t listen.”
“I’m listening! I just . . . you’re wrong. It’s not that they’re Rennish.”
“No.” Alice’s voice was thoughtful. “It’s that they’re common.”
Thomas M. Kane is a fantasy author living high on a wooded hilltop. He taught international relations at a British university for close to twenty years and brings his insights concerning real-life war and politics into his fiction. He takes a character-based approach to writing, paying attention to his protagonists' personal relationships and inner lives.
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