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Beloved Enemy joined Starquest and Children of the Mist to continue the Destiny Trilogy and I'm thrilled to announce was shortlisted for the prestigious R.N.A. RoNA Awards 2017

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Review, Guest post and spotlight for 'Written In the Ashes'

Written In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt

Readers may be surprised to learn that, despite writing Science Fiction Romance, I have always had an interest in Ancient Egypt so I was delighted to have the chance to read and review 'Written in  the Ashes' by K Hollan Van Zandt and am delighted to welcome her to my blog today.


Written In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt
Publisher: Harper Collins (Sept. 27, 2016 Category: Historical Fiction, Tour Dates: October/November, 2016 ASIN:  B01CY3A8X4
Available in: ebook,  554Pages "

Written in the Ashes is one of those rare novels that sets 'history' afire, to bathe readers in the glow of a greater, hotter truth. Fans of The Mists of Avalon will find this romantic/alchemical/feminist/spiritual epic equally captivating."—Tom Robbins, bestselling author of Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. and Villa Incognito

Written In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van ZandtIn the bloody clash between Christians and pagans in fifth-century Alexandria, a servant girl becomes the last hope for preserving peace in this evocative and thrilling tale—a blend of history, adventure, religion, romance, and mysticism reminiscent of The Mists of Avalon. 

 After she is abducted from her home in the mountains of Sinai, Hannah is enslaved and taken to Alexandria, where she becomes the property of Alizar, an alchemist and pagan secretly working to preserve his culture. 

Revered for her beautiful singing voice, the young slave is invited to perform at the city's Great Library, where she becomes friends with the revered mathematician and philosopher, Hypatia, as well as other pagans who curate its magnificent collections. 

Determined to help them uphold pagan culture and traditions, Hannah embarks on a dangerous quest to unite the fractured pieces of the Emerald Tablet—the last hope to save the pagans and create peace. On this odyssey that leads her to the lost oracles of Delfi and Amun-Ra and to rediscovered ancient cities and rituals, Hannah will experience forbidden loves, painful betrayals, and poignant reunions. But her efforts may be in vain. Returning to Alexandria, Hannah finds a city engulfed in violence, even as her own romantic entanglements come to a head. Now, it's not only her future, but the fate of all Alexandria that is at stake.




MY REVIEW:
I found this an amazing book to read - not only for the story, which drew me in and kept me turning the pages, but for the wealth of description and history that was portrayed. I learnt far more about Ancient Egypt, with which I have always had a fascination, than I ever did from text books. Yes, some of the events in the book are romanticised, but the author does not balk at showing us the bloody and vicious side of the history of this period as well. I felt as if I had journeyed back in time. I liked the heroine, Hannah, the slave girl viciously snatched away from her home and father by the slave traders,  and the way she grew and developed as the story progressed. Not only was she beautiful and quick witted, with a lovely singing voice, but she became a strong and determined woman, like the fabled philosopher,  Hipatia, who, in this book, the author restores to her rightful place in history. Hipatia's conclusions from her research of Mary, the mother of Christ, was fascinating, and the tragic, wanton burning of the great library at Alexandria was vividly portrayed

The beautiful descriptions made me envisage the buildings and landscapes as if I were watching them in a film, and the romance is lightly and sensitively handled. I am full of admiration for the amount of research the author must have put in to make this historical account come alive. I can highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a novel about ancient civilisations, which is told through a story that has realistic, easy to relate to characters, and plenty of action as well as a light smattering of romance.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.


Five Stars

EXCERPT



WRITTEN IN THE ASHES
K. HOLLAN VAN ZANDT

This excerpt is continued from StoreyBook Reviews on Oct 28th.
When Alizar finally stepped back, there was an uproar of chatter, and then preparations for the ceremony began. The complex rituals alone lasted well into the night, for there were offerings to be made, goats to be slaughtered, joss sticks to be burned, precise rules to be followed.

Everyone was tired of sitting by the time the actual ceremony began. Their knees and low backs ached. Their bellies growled. Only Alizar and Gideon seemed unaffected by the demands of their bodies; the Nuapar were known for their ability to wait, poised like cats in alert stillness until the moment of attack.
Deep into the night, a long line of two dozen bare-chested men strode out from behind the walls in long white skirts and stood beside the golden barge, which had been hung with votive cups of silver and oasis fruits.
Then there was a commotion.

A regal woman of Egyptian descent appeared dressed in long striped robes of white and gold, her bare arms covered in bangles, her striking eyes belonging more to a falcon than a woman. Hannah gasped at her beauty and evident power, completely overcome with awe.

Alizar bowed, and the others followed.

“I am Queen Khamissa of Siwa,” said the woman. “Who addresses us?” Her eyes scanned the men before her. Alizar nodded to Hannah, who stepped forward.
Hannah knelt and bowed before the queen. “We have been sent by the Pythia at the Oracle of Delfi, and from Kolossofia Master Junkar on the island of Pharos in Alexandria, to collect the Emerald Tablet. We already possess the one broken half. Without the other, our city is falling into ruin.”

The queen nodded. “We remember the gift given long ago by the oracle of Amun-Ra to Alexander, son of Zeus. But you say it is broken? How?”

Hannah lifted her head. “We do not know, we were only told to seek the other half of the tablet here.”

The queen grew very still. “I have no knowledge of it.” She turned to Alizar. “Is this your question for the Oracle of Amun-Ra?”

“Let the girl pose it,” he said.

The Queen nodded.

Hannah cleared her throat, pleased she had been given permission to fulfill her quest. “In humility, I address the Oracle of Amun-Ra to hear my words. Our people and traditions are threatened by the growing power of the Christians. We have come in desperate times to beseech the oracle of the ancient god Amun-Ra to give us the location of the lost half of the Emerald Tablet.”

In the light of several hundred flickering candles, the queen and the hierophant, Omar-the-Goat, nodded. Then she stepped aside and he lifted his arms. The men behind him removed his long robes, revealing a white kilt beneath; his arms, chest and ankles were bare except for several large ornamental gold cuffs. Around his neck hung the perennial ankh strung on a dozen strands of rare turquoise beads.

Omar-the-Goat stared straight ahead, his empty white gaze never faltering as the devotees hoisted him up onto their shoulders and passed him into the barge. Then they took their places beside the gleaming golden boat and lifted it onto their shoulders. They spun to face the center of the temple, and then the hierophant began to recite a long list of prayers and invocations as the men who held the barge remained stiff in their places.

Then slowly, the hierophant rose to his feet, the golden ram horn headdress casting massive twin spiral shadows on the wall behind the barge. There was a gasp in the crowd as the people hid their eyes.

Each member of Alizar’s caravan knew the story: Alexander the Great had visited the Oracle of Amun-Ra, and the god had told him that he was the son of Zeus. When he returned from Siwa, he had coins minted with an image of his profile crowned in laurel leaves. He went on to conquer more territory than any general that came before, all in his early twenties. Some said that the oracle also predicted his death, which came shortly thereafter. The oracle had led Alexander to believe he was a god, and soon after the decree, he left the earth, immortalized as the most powerful youth ever to rule the empire. What had he seen in the temple of Amun-Ra? What had possessed him so powerfully after the ceremony that turned him from mortal man to immortal god?

Alizar stood patiently, his hands clasped before him as the golden barge began to sway. Omar-the-Goat, the last ceremonial hierophant of two thousand years, began to shudder and shake until his eyes closed, rolling back in his head. When his eyes opened again he was visibly, if only energetically, transformed. The old man was gone, his body occupied by the presence of the god, Amun-Ra. Whether he was acting, or the transformation was truly complete, the power that now emanated from his eyes was terrifying. The man-turned-god gestured demurely to the men, and slowly the barge began its journey.

Hannah watched the unfolding scene in awe.
Accompanied by twelve singing girls wielding incense trays, Amun-Ra, perched proudly in the golden barge, ordered it onward as though they were crossing a mighty ocean, but then the god would capriciously lift an arm, bark several commands, and the entire entourage would change direction as though caught in the current of some invisible stream.
This excerpt continues at  Our-Wolves-Den on Nov. 21st.


Guest Post:

The New Women of Romance


Thanks so much for inviting me here, Hywela. I feel like my own journey of discovering my deep passion for romantic stories began with my love affair with your country, in the UK, with Jane Austen. I adored her powerful, high-strung, brilliant women who seemed to always find love in the end.

When I began writing my novel Written in the Ashes, I felt very strongly that I wanted to author a book of strong female characters. I love strong women, and have a legacy of strong women in my family.

The protagonist of my novel, Hannah, evolved quite a lot through the drafts of the book, as did her friendships with the other powerful women of the story, like Hypatia of Alexandria, who was the first female mathematician/scientist in history. As the writing progressed I gave her both more challenges and more gifts. In the final draft of the novel, she has significant fight scene that lets her find vindication and healing from a terrible injustice that happens to her in the first few pages of the book.

I wanted to create a narrative where powerful women of action discuss ideas, politics, culture and collaborate on the causes they believe in, like justice, and preserving the world’s knowledge for generations to come from the Great Library.

Hannah, while her heart is passionately entangled deciding between Julian, the spiritual master; or Gideon, the handsome but brash ship captain, must refocus herself on the importance of her quest: finding the Emerald Tablet to save the pagan (non-Christian) people of Alexandria, and the Great Library. This leads her on a wild adventure to consult the Oracles of Delfi in Greece, and Amun Ra in Egypt.

Hannah is an unusual kind of romantic female lead, one whose voice is her power, and her heart is her guide. During her story she goes from being a silenced slave, to finding her voice, strength and freedom.

To clarify what I mean, let me describe the 3 most common types feminine heroines in our books and movies as I see them:

THE COQUETTE- Often a weak second player to a male hero, or a seductress (think Bond girls), the coquette is a sex symbol who ultimately still needs to be rescued, even if she’s capable of kicking ass.

THE BADASS- This new breed of female heroines and superheroes are often in a war of some kind, fighting as men would fight. (Think Tomb Raider or The Hunger Games.) You could literally replace one of these women with a man and none of their dialogue or decisions would change. They are stand-in men. But this is still a step up from the victimized coquette, where women now have more power and equality.

THE MYSTIC- This is the fully realized female character who maintains a complete range of feminine and masculine qualities. She is wise, yet she learns lessons. She has strongly defined interests other than love and romance, yet she loves deeply and enjoys romance. She has serious respectable skills. She may be sexy but not at the expense of having a brain or true vulnerability. She may rescue other characters in the story, or not, but her presence is a force for healing, for awakening. She is a role model, and a winning friend.

I think one of the most powerful Mystic characters we have ever seen on screen is Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. How does she save everyone in the story? Not with guns or by dropping bombs or even with magic spells. No, she succeeds by making friends, forging new relationships, forgiveness, and finding renewed faith in herself and her path. (And she even kicks a little ass while she’s at it.)

So keep an eye out for these new women of romance, the Mystics.

And if you’re not sure if a movie or book has a Mystic woman in it, you can use the Bechdel Test. It’s just 3 questions:

     *Are there at least 2 women in this story?
          *Do they talk to each other?
3        *About something other than a love interest?

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Written in the Ashes, meet Hannah and join her quest, and make some new friends along the way!


Thank you for having me here as your guest.

Thank you, Kaia, that was fascinating! I think most of us aspire to creating the 'mystic' heroine, whether we realise it or not! Speaking personally I love creating (and reading about) a heroine who is strong enough to look after herself, but still feminine and sensitive. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us, and wishing you even more success in the future.




Praise for Written In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt

“In her captivating debut novel, Written in the Ashes, K. Hollan Van Zandt brings to life a fascinating and forgotten woman of history: Hypatia of Alexandria, who may have been one of the greatest female minds of all time. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to walk the streets of long ago Egypt, then look no further. You will be enthralled!”– Michelle Moran, international bestselling author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra’s Daughter 

 “Van Zandt’s vivid description of the Great Library instantly transported me to a lush fifth century Alexandria. Her lyrical writing style and breakneck storytelling kept me riveted to the very last page.”– Robin Maxwell bestselling author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn and Signora da Vinci. 

 "Going back so far in time leaves an author with little written record to rely on for fact. The burning of the Great Library at Alexandria was a monumental loss to humanity. The facts of the matter aside, this novel was truly arresting and I had a hard time putting it down to get anything done. Ancient history fascinates me. Religion fascinates me. This book manages to tie both together in a story that resonates through time. The book was fascinating. The characters were well developed and I really didn't want to leave this world of ancient Alexandria. The imaginary, magical priests and the beautiful goddesses created by Ms. Van Zandt lent themselves to a mystical world that was quite believable within its context. As the story unfolded I was rooting for Hannah to fulfill her destiny and find peace with her past. I am looking forward to the next chapters in these characters lives."-Patty Woodland, Broken Teepee


Written In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt About K. Hollan Van Zandt

Kaia Van Zandt is a celebrated author and teacher whose novel, Written in the Ashes, chronicles the events that led up to the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt. Kaia’s spiritual journey began at age 14 when she founded the youth division of the Humane Society of the United States. Then as a junior in high school, she traveled to the Earth Summit in Brazil, where she taught meditation, and was given the opportunity to work with world leaders on the challenges facing humanity and the planet today, an experience that profoundly influenced her work. She’s a graduate of Antioch University, where she focused on the intersection between the ancient Goddess traditions and modern culture. Her fascination with healing-both personally and collectively – led her to yoga. During her career she’s worked with thought leaders like Marci Shimoff and Deepak Chopra, actors like Ashley Judd, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Garry Shandling, as well as Sony ImageWorks, UCLA Medical, and the San Francisco 49ers. Her beloved writing mentor is bestselling novelist/humorist, Tom Robbins.

Website: www.kaiavanzandt.com

Facebook: https://business.facebook.com/Kaia-H-Van-Zandt-62326196268/?business_id=1527166044253916 Twitter: https://twitter.com/KaiaVanZandt Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kaiavanzandt/?hl=en YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbpNRBX9k7z1bJndQ2a4Rgg

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2 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed 'Written In the Ashes'! It is among my top five novels of all time! Thanks for hosting Kaia!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're so welcome, Teddy, it's a great story and very informative.

    ReplyDelete

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