On the launch day for A Cup of Blood, the start of his latest dark fantasy trilogy, author Troy A. Hill lifts the lid on his thrilling tale of Celtic myths, shape-shifters and a heroine who just happens to be a vampire!
Arthur is dead…
Well, any Brit could tell you that. Heck. Even I, a Yank from Middle America, who got most of his British history from Monty Python reruns, could tell you that.
Yet, that simple statement is both the cornerstone of my new Dark Fantasy trilogy, and the beginnings of my long and sordid (well, only two years long) love affair with a place and it’s people. Wales.
When I had the idea for my stories, I thought: England, Camelot, Knights in Shiny Armour.
Boy, was I wrong. So wrong, I could hear the needle screech across the record… or the gasp of the bard as he stopped strumming the harp. I even thought Arthur was English. (Remember that record screech? Play it again. He’s Welsh. Or, rather, the myths of him are Welsh in origin.)
Let’s be clear off the bat: No, my stories are not about Arthur.
My original idea was What if a vampire went to visit Arthur…? Of course, I’m also a fan of Mark Twain. Why would I mix the two? Twain and Arthur, with my love of all things undead and blood-sucky?
But, the more I learned about Arthur, the less I wanted to write yet another story about the mysterious protector of Britain. His story has been told and retold, and then there were the retellings of the retellings of the retellings.
Enter Mabon. Or, rather, Lady Charlotte Guest, notably blamed for coining the name Mabinogion. Anyone intimate with British history has probably been exposed to the various tales of Mabon and the subsequent heroic tales of Geraint, Pwyll, Math, Bran, and, yes, Arthur.
What I did find in my quest for knowledge beyond the romances surrounding Arthur, was the Mabinogion. In particular, I found King Arthur and The Goddess of the Land by Caitlín Matthews. This was my siren song. The work that led me to dive into the myths of Arthur, and learn what his role had been, and how it had grown out of the Cymric ideals of protecting the homeland. Just like Mabon, Math, and Bran before him, Matthews shows how Arthur was an embodiment in the Mabinogi of the masculine role of protector of Britain.
That, of course, led me to learn of Modron, The Celtic Goddess of Britain. Mother of Mabon. Embodied by the mythical Lady of the Lake. The Lady. Later adopted by Christianized Britain as the Holy Lady, Mother of the Saviour.
I now had my theme for the story. Arthur is dead.
My story would detail the goddess and her choice of a successor to Arthur. One who will protect Britain in her greatest challenge. But who would The Lady choose as her new champion?
That is the situation I explore in the prequel novellas, Penllyn, Penteulu, and Cursed. These have been collected into one volume The Penllyn Chronicles. In that series, Arthur has been dead for more than a century. The goddess discovers an unseen enemy has been working against her champions. When the enemy reveals itself, the goddess is forced into a game for the sovereign power she alone grants to Britain’s champions.
The stories of The Penllyn Chronicles don’t focus on the final champion the goddess chooses, but instead, show the men and women of Cymru that will support the new protector in the battles to come.
In the early dark ages, Mercia is ascendant, Powys is in turmoil, and Gwynedd is targeted by the sons of Ida. In central Powys, one cantref sits as an island of sanity amidst the strife. Lord Penllyn and his heirs do not realize they stand at what will be the centre of the storm that will unfold in my newest trilogy: The Cup of Blood series.
One name stands out in these stories. Lady Gwen. Gwenhwyfar. The chosen disciple of The Holy Lady. The last keeper of the old Celtic ways. Her husband long dead, she acts as The Lady’s messenger. Calling those the goddess needs to serve.
Both the Penllyn Chronicles, and the Cup of Blood series will show the underlying character of the people of Cymru, of Britain, when their lives, their families, and all they hold dear are threatened. Bleddyn ap Macsen, his adopted brother Neirin ap Emlyn, along with Ruadh, from the highland Picts, as well as a cast of Britons of stout character, form the core of the forces the goddess calls in her game against darkness.
A young lord Bleddyn must marry, and the choice he faces for the next Lady Penllyn is bleak. Until the firebrand daughter of the Lord of Rhos enters his life.
Bleddyn’s brother Neirin watched Saxon raiders slaughter his first family. Lord Penllyn arrived too late for them, but took the tyke into his own family. Neirin learned weapons from an early age, his only desire: to protect his new family. But, when old rivalries flare, Neirin’s worst nightmares come back. He and Penllyn are forever changed.
Ruadh, the highlander, shares a curse with his father and brothers. But, he doesn’t share his brother’s ambitions. When his father, the Clan Chief, is murdered by one of his shapeshifting brothers, Ruadh knows his life is already marked. He must flee their treacherous claws, but where can he flee to find safety?
These are the people the Goddess calls to protect Cymru in what will be the darkest hour. But the champion? Can the goddess choose a mortal to protect Britain against the forces of death and destruction?
Maria has been dead for six centuries. She and her undead brothers live because they drink the blood of others. Maria shares the love of dance with Aemilianus. The dance of the blades. The dance of steel. The dance of swords.
The same dance that a young Neirin learned from Emilius. Aemilianus.
Who better to fight against the dark and destructive powers of Modron’s enemy, than death?
Arthur is dead. But Maria is undead.
A Cup of Blood:
– click HERE to buy on Amazon.com
– click HERE to buy on Amazon.co.uk
Normally I wouldn’t mention a “shout-out” – that’s where a book blogger doesn’t have the time to read a book and leave a review, so simply gives it a showcase instead. But yesterday, as part of the Crimson Siege tour, the Beardy Book Blogger did such a marvellous spotlight – filled with cartoons, vampire jokes, bloodsucker photos and film references – that it had me in stitches. And I really recommend you check it out. You’ll love it.
Simply click on the cartoon banner.
He did say he didn’t like the novel’s cover, which I found a tad surprising as no-one else has expressed anything but delight with it. But it’s interesting to get the feedback, and is something to mull over.
On the review front, Sean at Seansbookreviews wrote: “Having been a huge fan of vampire books I can say that I was getting tired of the same old style and that they just weren’t cutting it for me. This book was anything but the boring old routine of vampires. It’s set in Transylvania, which for a book with vampires is a bit cliche, but it worked.”
He adds: “This won’t be for everyone, especially if you are used to sparkly vampires who charm everyone they meet and are vegetarian. Sorry this isn’t that type of book and shows vampires for what they truly are. Soulless, merciless and completely devoid of the compassion towards anyone other than those they sired.”
To read Sean’s review in full click HERE.