#FANTASTICALFEB with Josh Martin (author of Ariadnis)

Hi Everyone, As you may all know I'm having a fantasy month on the blog, so as well as reading fantasy books, I'm also featuring some of my favourites as well as discovering some new authors too. So my very last but no means least, guest author on my blog is Josh Martin, author of the Erthe series, Ariadnis the first in the series..

As part of this month, the publishers very kindly sent me a copy of each of his books including his latest Anassa, which was released 8th February. So before I hand over to Josh talking about why science fiction and fantasy can save the world. It's an amazing guest post, one I found so interesting. Here is a little bit more about her book.

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Back then I thought that if it weren't for that cliff, our cities would be one and there would be no need for all this fierceness toward each other. But then I learned about pride and tradition and prophecy, and those things are harder than rock.

Joomia and Aula are Chosen. They will never be normal. They can never be free.

On the last island on Erthe, Chosen Ones are destined to enter Ariadnis on the day they turn eighteen. There, they must undertake a mysterious and deadly challenge. For Joomia and Aula, this means competing against each other, to end the war that has seethed between their cities for nine generations.
As the day draws nearer, all thoughts are on the trial ahead. There's no space for friendship. No time for love. However much the girls might crave them.

But how you prepare for a task you know nothing certain about? Nothing, except that you must win, at whatever cost, or lose everything.

You Should Read Robin McKinley, and here’s why.

Her books grow in strange, prickly and unexpected shapes out of the ancient soil of fairy-tales and mythology. You know that her stories are fantasy, yet they carry a world-weariness that grounds them in reality. There are no easy shortcuts or tidy endings in a McKinley book. Her heroes slog for their magic, fight for their solutions.

They fight dragons, yes. Some of them carry the spirit of the moon inside them, or the gift of beast-speech - but before they save that child, that litter of puppies or break in that horse there are chores to do:
If Princess Aerin wants to do battle with dragons, then she must make her own burn ointment - and trial it herself. Rae Seddon isn’t a renowned baker in her vampire-infested town because she stays in bed every morning. Before Jake ever meets a real dragon, he must clean out the cages of some lesser species. If Lissar is to survive the winter in her shepherd’s hut, she must first make sure she has the means to keep warm, to eat, drink and clean. There’s a work ethic among the characters of these stories, and nothing comes unearned.

There is darkness in McKinley’s books too - Beauregard the vampire and Maur the dragon and Fthoom the sorcerer, for instance, are festering vessels of evil. And yet though you’ll see a one-on-one battle between hero and nemesis, the damage of these villains is often far greater in the aftermath than in the moment they’re face-to-face. More often than that, as with all great stories, her heroes are usually facing something bigger inside themselves than any enemy without.

Is there romance? From a cursory glance at her titles - two of which are retellings of Beauty and the Beast you’d assume so. Well yeah, kind of. But with McKinley’s characters, it always seems to be less about staring deeply into the well of each other’s eyes and more about two shy creatures learning to recognise the other as a kindred spirit.

The world of a McKinley novel is always beautifully realised too - you can feel the cold bite of a mountain stream, you can smell the dusty interiors of palace walls, you can taste “cinnamon rolls the size of your head”. McKinley has a gift in making you feel the world stretching out as far as the eye can see, while only showing you a sliver of that world - a real boon in any fantasy writer (and the reason, I’d argue, that people are often confused by her lack of sequels). She’s also refreshingly precise about practical, realistic details. Escaping from a Vampire Lair? The heroine still needs to pee! Exploring the wilderness of a mountainside? You still need to take a rest as your period hits. Burned by a fire-spirit? You’re going to need to find more than just a bandage!

The other thing I should mention is the sheer amount of animals - fantastical and not - that McKinley manages to weave into almost every narrative she picks up. Unlike many fantasy writers, McKinley (mostly) avoids talking animals, but will always make them sentient, watchful, and often much more intuitive than their human counterparts. Excellent examples of this are the bees in Chalice or the fleethounds in Deerskin. They never act like humans: and exist according to unwritten rules of their species - yet the magic of them is that they feel as real and important as the humans of the story - never merely an extension of our heroines. I haven’t even mentioned her magical creatures yet, but maybe I’ll leave it here, I hope I’ve convinced you to give her a try if you haven’t already.

If it ends up being my life’s purpose to press Robin McKinley books into people’s hands, so be it!

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 About Josh
Josh Martin writes and draws his way through life and is currently residing in London. He has aspired to novel writing since he was a tadpole and has since graduated from Exeter University before completing Bath Spa's Writing For Young People MA.

His particular interest in heroines, fantasy, environment, gender studies and wisdom led him to write his first book Ariadnis.

Thank you to Josh and Team Bkmrk for being part of #FantasticalFeb. 

Also I want to say a massive thank you to everyone, authors and publishers that have taken part this month - it's been truly amazing! 

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