About my books
Bloodline will take you back to the distant past of the British Isles – a bloody tangle of warring kingdoms and tribes, where trees, animal and people live in closer harmony, and loyalty is everything. War threatens, and Essa is thrown headlong into a mess that threatens the lives of everyone he loves. He is just a halfbreed, son of a wandering Briton song-man in a land where the power of the Anglish settlers is rising – can he really do anything to stop the bloodshed? Swearing loyalty to both sides is a dangerous way to try…
Bloodline Rising is set in the ancient city of Constantinople – decadent, beautiful and filthy, it’s the perfect territory for a cunning thief and gang-leader like the Ghost… Skilled at lying and deceit, able to move more silently than a shadow – how will the Ghost use his powers? Is he a hero or a villain, or both?
Spirit Hunter is the story of a powerful love forged between two sworn enemies. On the dangerous Silk Road – the age-old trade route that runs all the way from Europe to China – a young woman, Asena, is captured by a Shaolin devotee, Swiftarrow. Asena is taken to the ancient city of Chang’an, where she is forced to begin her life anew and learn the ways of the Shaolin. But just as love blossoms between Asena and her captor, a deadly political game threatens to ruin not only their feelings for each other, but also their lives.
Dangerous to Know
Dangerous to Know is a modern-day love story for the festival-going generation. Jack and Bethany are teenagers in love. There’s only one problem: Jack’s family has a dark past, and whilst he and Bethany are desperate to be together, Bethany’s family is desperate to keep them apart. When Jack and Bethany defy their parents and head for the summer festivals, no one is prepared for the emotional upheaval involved.
Meet a few of the characters from Bloodline…
I am fourteen winters old, and I have no tribe. I have a hound of my own, Fenrir. I can see what she is thinking. My foster mother Hild tells me I am drawn to trouble like a bee to honey. She is right.
My jobs: Where do I even begin? Weeding the fields, herding goats, cleaning cattle muck from the byre, trapping fish – it never ends. Best is when I work the horse-folk, because then I can talk to them. They speak more sense than men.
My secret: My father shall come back for me one day – he always claims what’s his. Will I be pleased to see him? I don’t know.
My name is Lark and I have never left this village except to shoot ducks in the meadow – I am the best archer, even better than the men. Ma says we have to be careful living so close to the Border – a Mercian might kill me like they killed my father.
My jobs: I spend most days spinning sheeps’ wool into yarn. I also help Ma and the other women with the weaving. It’s very boring but if us girls didn’t make cloth, the whole village would have to go naked – a sight I’d rather not see. My other jobs are more than I can count on two hands – I look after the little bairns, weed the barley field, feed our pigs – it goes on and on. Sometimes I milk the goats, too.
My secret: If I told you, it would be no secret.
I am Wulfhere the Atheling, and I have fifteen summers. My father is King of Mercia and one day soon he will be High King of all Britain, once that Christian wretch is out of the way. I like hawking and hunting.
My jobs: I serve my father. Sometimes this is good and I must hunt the wild boar with his men. At other times it is bad to serve my father: I do not like killing his prisoners.
My secret: Some nights, the first man I killed comes to me in my dreams. I do not like to see his face. I was twelve summers old when I did it.
I am the daughter of a king, Eliudd Powys. Once, my people ruled the island of Britain from shore to shore. But now the Anglish have come from the east and we rule alone no longer. They are not even Christians but worship devils, or so says my aunt, and she has all the sense of a goose – I don’t listen to her. If I had my way I would do nothing but hunt with our goshawks.
My jobs: I do not spin and weave like the other girls, but sew birds and beasts on bright cloth with my aunt. When my father and brothers fill the hall with their beer-drinking guests, I walk among them, filling their cups. My brothers tell me to look nice and say nothing.
My secret: One day I shall run away from this place, and no one will stop me.
The history bit
So what – or when – were the Dark Ages? Basically, it’s a time we know hardly anything about, which used to be called “dark” because historians couldn’t clearly “see” what life was like. All this lasted several hundred years after the last Roman legions sailed away in AD 410 – taking with them the knowledge and inclination needed to build cosy villas with heated floors, and write about their lives in Latin. But why do we know so little about what happened in Britain after the Romans had gone? The Romans wrote a lot – plays, poems, histories, boring legal documents, even curses carved on stone tablets – it’s easy to get an idea of how they saw the world. But during what became known as the Dark Ages, hardly anyone in Britain could read or write, so it’s difficult to piece together what really happened.
From the scraps of surviving evidence, historians have discovered that, at this time, Britain was split up into a motley collection of warring tribes or kingdoms – East Anglia, Northumbria, Mercia to name but a few – and that for a long time, many people stopped being Christian. Britain must have had its attractions, though, because immigrant tribes came in waves from mainland Europe – the Angles, the Saxons, the Jutes and many more. So this period of history is often referred to as “Anglo-Saxon” – but what about the people who already lived here? And were the Anglo-Saxons really “invaders” or just settlers? We will never really know. The few people who could write were Christian monks – it’s unlikely they spoke fairly about the pagan Anglo-Saxons.
We might have very little written evidence about these so-called Dark Ages, but archaeology has started to show us that life in the British Isles was not quite so miserable as people used to think. In fact, it’s now a bit outdated to even call this time the Dark Ages – modern historians often say the “early medieval period” instead. In the 1930s, archaeologists made a wonderful discovery at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. Around AD 625 an entire ship had been buried beneath the ground, filled with treasure. One of the finds was a large silver bowl that had come all the way from the Byzantine Empire, which stretched all way from Western Europe to the Black Sea in modern Turkey. And by looking at skeletons in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, archaeologists have discovered that many of the people were tall and well built with extremely good teeth (there was no such thing as sugar!). Judging by their skeletons, Anglo-Saxons were actually bigger and healthier than the Victorians. Nearly everyone lived in the unspoilt countryside, and although life must have often been hard, their world was harsh but beautiful. Bloodline and Bloodline Rising will take you on a journey into the past to explore these strange and distant times.
You can also check out the BBC History page – it’s stuffed full of interesting facts.
Life could be short and scary – you had to be extra tough to be a hero in the Dark Ages. A few really cracking stories have survived from this period – they were told for generations around fireplaces until finally being written down many hundreds of years later…
Already a hero back home in Sweden, Beowulf heads to Denmark where King Hrothgar and his men are being terrorized by Grendel, a swamp-monster and overall nasty bad guy. Wasting no time, Beowulf fights Grendel and kills him by tearing off his arm, which the king’s men hang up in the hall to mark the amazing victory. Nice! Happy ending? Not yet: Beowulf has made a big mistake. Grendel was scary but not as scary as his mum. Grendel’s mother comes crawling out of the swamp to avenge the death of her son. Time for another big fight. Who wins? Beowulf, of course: he’s the good guy. So, now is there a happy ending? Er, not quite… Years go by and we meet Beowulf again – now an old and grey-haired king. There is a dragon hiding deep beneath the ground, guarding priceless treasure. Does Beowulf do the sensible thing and just leave the treasure (and the dragon) alone? No, of course he doesn’t. He fights the dragon and, well, dies! But at least he gets a heroes’ burial, and will be famous for all time. So that’s all right then.
Ultimate Dark Age hero and man of mystery, King Arthur has starred as the lead role in hundreds of stories. But who was he – a real person or just a really good idea? Was King Arthur a brave king leading the Knights of the Round Table on more noble quests than you can shake a stick at? Or simply a warlord in a time of almost non-stop battle and bloodshed? Some say Arthur was a British king defending the island from bloodthirsty pagan Saxon invaders. Other old stories whisper that the great king is not dead but only sleeping beneath a green hillside with all his warriors, ready to wake and defend us again in our hour of greatest need. Written by an imprisoned knight, Sir Thomas Malory, one of the most wonderful (and unfortunately also the longest) tales of King Arthur draws to an end at Arthur’s grave with these spine-tingling words:
Here Lies Arthur – Once and Future King
But what would happen if King Arthur really did return? A smelly, hairy, barbarian warrior turning up at Buckingham Palace demanding the top job … now there’s a scary thought…
Bounty Hunters and Treasure Seekers
OK, so modern archaeologists don’t run around breaking into the tombs of long-dead kings and stealing treasure (sounds like fun, though…) but digging up the past can still be an exciting job.
Studying Anglo-Saxon archaeology taught me most of what I know about the background for Bloodline, bringing life and colour to Essa’s world – archaeology can tell us what people ate, where they lived and even where they went to the toilet…
I swapped my trowel for a pen years ago – and I have to confess that the only time I went on a dig we found absolutely nothing, although I did improve my darts skills quite a lot. So for the low-down on digging into the past, I’ll be posting news from Dr Anna Collar, deep in Central Asia…