There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Darth Vader & The Knights of Rilch by Rachel O’Laughlin January 18, 2014

Filed under: Reading — thereanddraftagain @ 6:00 am
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Have you ever noticed how over the course of the three original Star Wars movies, Darth Vader gets a bit more impressive with each one? His shoulders get a bit broader. His voice gets deeper. He just appears more menacing. At least it always seemed that way to me.

Where writing is concerned, that’s what I expect of a series. The first book may be good in its own right, but the second is usually a bit better, as the author starts to find their stride. Characters are becoming more filled out. The good become better. The evil more evil. The ambiguous become even more blurred. The seeds of plot scattered across the ground in the first have taken root, and are starting to grow. If this doesn’t happen, if that second book is weak, or just a rehashing of the first, or if it feels as though we’re not reaching a crescendo, I won’t go on. Likewise, if it feels totally disjointed from the first, I’m done.

When I read Coldness of Marek last year, the first book in Rachel O’Laughlin’s Serengard Series I was blown away. I devoured it. I loved the characters, the world, the plot–pretty much everything about it. I hated the ending. Not because it wasn’t good, but simply because it…well…ended. I waited with anticipation for the second book, Knights of Rilch. Well,waited with my usual blend of impatience, anticipation, and skepticism. I’ve read too many series where the second book falls flat. I didn’t think that would be the case here, and I was right.

Knights of Rilch is Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. Broader, more intense, and I found myself unable to put it down. Questions that had haunted me since Coldness of Marek were answered. New questions were raised. Characters surprised me. There were a few chuckles and, yes, some tears. I’m not a softy, so when an author can make me care that deeply about a character, they’ve done their job and then some. And even though the story jumps from present to past and back again, I never felt lost or confused. That takes a deft hand to pull off. Rachel O’Laughlin makes it look easy.

With a plot involving political intrigue, rebellion, war, scheming, and characters holding themselves out to be something other than they are, Knights of Rilch could have become a clunky monster struggling under its own weight. Could have, in less skilled hands. In Rachel O’Laughlin’s hands it is a sweeping tale of loss, pride, and the challenge of holding onto your beliefs when it seems it would be wiser to just let go. She gives us characters with all their faults, all the subtle shades of grey that make them seem so real. Her world-building is incredible. Her storytelling exquisite. The ending…

Once again I’m left flipping my Kindle over, as though there may be more on the backside of it, and screaming, “Noooooooooooooo!!!!”

Final_WebVersionBlurb:

Nearly a decade ago…
When Serengard rebelled and the Orion monarchy fell, former crown princess Kierstaz Orion’s love for her people became a burning desire to set things right. With a price on their heads, Kierstaz and her brother Mikel led a handful of Border Guard against the new army along the border of Dreibourge. But months of heavy bloodshed forced her small band of knights to abandon the border — and all of Serengard — to the rebels.
Nine years and a thousand betrayals later…
Kierstaz and Mikel again find themselves on the run, only this time, they’ve a boy in tow: Malcom, the son of two of the Seren rebellion’s strongest leaders. The new regime wants him dead, Mikel wants him alive, and it’s all Kierstaz can do to keep their tracks covered. Desperate to preserve the innocent life she’s sworn to protect, and afraid Mikel’s may be forfeit, Kierstaz must gamble the last thing in the world she owns — her identity. Secrets are a staple of the Orion family, and those Kierstaz keeps are as dangerous as the ones kept from her.
Author Bio:
Rachel O’Laughlin grew up writing adventure stories in which heroines tend to get their hands dirty, bad guys sometimes win, and someone always gets kidnapped. Her passion for all things history morphed into a love for fantasy in her late teens. Lattes and The Fray are daily dwellers in her home in New England, where she lives with her husband and children.
~ Kathi
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Cover Reveal: The Coldness of Marek (Serengard, #1) June 19, 2013

Filed under: Reading — thereanddraftagain @ 7:55 pm
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Today is a very special day here at There & Draft Again. Today we are happy to reveal the cover of The Coldness of Marek, book one in the Serengard series by our very own Rachel O’Laughlin. And because she is one of our own, we have a very special treat for you! Stay tuned after the reveal for an excerpt from the book. And by stay tuned, I mean keep reading on.

The book is set to be released August 6th and we couldn’t be more excited to share it with you! (Really, we couldn’t. We’re even posting about it on our personal blogs!) The Coldness of Marek is available for preorder now. Be sure to follow her on Twitter or Facebook for more information on the release!

Image

Serengard has been under Orion rule for centuries. Centuries of insufferable adherence to laws and traditions that none of its people ever asked for or agreed to. Raised by her scholarly grandfather in the fiery southern city of Neroi, Trzl is out to turn the monarchy into a free society where knowledge is king and no one has to be subject to the whims of an Orion.

As the rebellion escalates, her choices have an eerie impact on the revolution at large, elevating her to a position of influence she has only dreamed of attaining. But there are downsides to her power: appearances and alliances that must be upheld. One of them is Hodran, a rich rebel who wants to aid her cause, and another is Mikel, a loyalist farmer who wants to destroy it… and who just might be winning her heart at the same time.

By the time Trzl realizes she is in too deep, she has an infant son and a dark mess of betrayal and lies. She runs, to the farthest corner of the kingdom, in hopes she will be left alone with her child. But she has a few too many demons. Someone she once trusted takes her captive among the chilling Cliffs of Marek. She is thrown back into the political mess she helped create… at the mercy of a man she never wanted for an enemy.

Excerpt:

He broke away from her gaze and sat down on the cool earth. They were on a hill, with a little patch of hardwood behind them. The valley below was swathed in tall grasses with tiny blue flowers on the tips. Trzl didn’t know what crop they were. She settled herself next to him, not too close.

“Do you sell your crops for a profit?”

“Yes. A considerable one.”

She giggled at him. “Your face is covered with enough clay for you to be a cart horse yourself.”

“Your own face is etched with dust.”

“It is? Get it off. Please!”

Mikel reached for her face with his bare hand. She stiffened, surprised at the roughness of the fingers she felt against her skin. “I did not think you would…use your hand.”

“I did not think you would let me.” He lingered on her chin, cupping it. The hold was possessive, yet it did not disquiet her.

“Your hands are rough. I would think a man as rich as you should have soft hands.”

He gave a snort of disbelief. “What kind of farmers have you been consorting with?”

Trzl just shrugged, a tiny smile tugging at her mouth. She was annoyed by the way he talked, all sophisticated, but his voice was deep and vibrant. She wanted to hear it all day. Wanted his hand to stay on her chin all day.

“You believe in the monarchy. In the books of Derev, the rules of the land.”

“I believe in them, yes. As everyone once did.”

She laid back and rested her head in the grass, wrapped his sooty and bedraggled cloak about her and tried not to shiver. The sky above her was a clean blue, the kind of clear one never saw in Neroi.

“You believe your fellow men should be forced into a way of living for the sake of your own class?”

“No one has ever forced them. It is tradition. Keeping the ways of the books is for all of our sakes. If the land is not cultivated and the law of the books kept, ruin will come.”

“The Orions invented the lie to ensure they always get their tributes.”

“You say that, but the land has always reflected the care with which it has been treated. My parents and their parents before them can attest.”

“You know your parents?”

“Yes. Did you know yours?”

“No.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Did they give you your money?”

“I earned it.”

“So you claim.” She felt an inexplicable anger toward him. Why did he have to be deathly committed to something that was wrong? She knew she could never put up with his beliefs. Not for more than an hour or two. And she wanted desperately to put up with him.

Excerpt from COLDNESS OF MAREK © Copyright 2013 by Rachel O’Laughlin. Used with permission.