Leythe Blade by Jaye McKenna
Book Release Date: October 26, 2015
Cover artist: Chinchbug
A Guardians of the Leythe Universe story
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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to welcome author Jaye McKenna here today to share some insight into her latest novel in her Guardians of the Leythe series, Leythe Blade. Welcome, Jaye. Our reviewer BJ has quite a few questions for you this morning.
BJ: How does Leythe Blade tie into your other series?
JM: Chronologically, Leythe Blade takes place maybe a thousand years after Burn the Sky, and some six hundred years before the Guardians of the Pattern stories. It takes place about seven years before Kingmakers, another fantasy project I have in the works, in which you’ll see Sasha, Jace, and Eredwyn again.
BJ: Is there a message in this novel that you wanted to express? Or something particular that motivated you to write this particular story?
JM: Sasha showed up when I was drafting Kingmakers. He was a healer and a foreigner, a gentle soul who hated war, but worked for a mercenary company, and carried an intelligent, magical sword called Ryka that gave him the skills of a master swordsman. His part in Kingmakers was quite small, but the idea of a healer with a sword intrigued me. I wanted to know how he and Ryka met, and I wanted to know how Sasha made peace with the idea of suddenly becoming an instrument of death. Leythe Blade was my exploration of that character and those questions.
BJ: Who is your personal favorite of the characters? Why?
JM: They’re all my favorites while I’m writing about them, but some of them are more fun to write than others, and in this story, Eredwyn, who is both Jace’s charge and his mentor, was probably my favorite. He inhabits a world that most people can’t even see, and he makes these intuitive leaps that the people around him can’t possibly follow. He’s a bit quirky, and frustrates the heck out of the people around him by making these vague, dire prophecies that have a habit of coming true, although never quite the way Eredwyn expects they will. In fact, I like him so much, I’ll probably have to write his story, too, at some point.
BJ: What’s next? What are you working on now?
JM: Next to be released is Wildfire Psi, book 4 in the Guardians of the Pattern series. That will be out in early 2016. My current project is the Burn the Sky sequel. It’s tentatively titled Blackfrost. Right now I’m working on character sketches and outlining, and I’ll be working on it during November for National Novel Writing Month. It will feature Kian, who was a secondary character in Burn the Sky.
BJ: Your covers are unique and beautiful. Who designs them?
JM: My cover art is all done by my best friend, who goes by Chinchbug in his art circles. I met him in high school, and his two passions, even back then, were art and computers. Digital art is the perfect fusion of those passions. When I need a new cover, we talk about the story and the characters, and I give him a written synopsis and character descriptions, and he goes to work. I get a lot of input at all stages of cover creation, and he does an awesome job of getting what’s in my head onto the cover.
BJ: Do you have a favorite of your own books? If so, why?
JM: I don’t know if I have a favorite, but the one that’s the most special is Human Frailties, Human Strengths, because that was the start of it all. That book introduced Ash, who weaves his way through many of the stories that take place in this world (he’s there in Human Choices and Ghost in the Mythe, and he’s mentioned in Leythe Blade).
The big tapestry that all of these stories make up is really Ash’s story. Ash taught the descendants of the first humans on Aion how to touch the leythe, and the whole chaotic, beautiful, brutal history of Aion follows from that one reckless act. Much of Ash’s involvement is part of his attempt to bring the leythe back into balance. He’s the thread that ties it all together, and I love his wry sense of humor, his arrogant streak, and his gentle ruthlessness. And… well… he is kinda hot, too, so there’s that.
BJ: What writers inspire or influence you?
JM: Oh, gosh, there are so many. My earliest influences were Anne McCaffrey, Ray Bradbury, Sylvia Engdahl, and Robert Silverberg. Then later, C.J. Cherryh, Octavia Butler, Tanith Lee, and Storm Constantine. Those were the writers whose stories I devoured, who fired up my imagination and made me want to write my own stories.
Thanks, BJ, for the great questions and to Jaye McKenna for the wonderful answers. Now more about Leythe Blade.
Sasha is a healer forced to take on the role of a warrior when his clan is attacked. Trapped in his caravan, the only weapon he can lay hands on is Ryka, the sword that was once wielded by his great, great grandmother. To Sasha’s horror, the blade takes control of his body and turns him into a ruthless killer. Worse, Ryka sets in motion an irreversible process that will bind them together for life — if he can survive the bonding.
Jace is a mercenary soldier, charged with protecting his commander’s brother, Eredwyn, on a journey through the Middle Kingdoms. When Eredwyn’s sometimes-prophetic visions lead them to the dying Sasha, Eredwyn insists that they must save him.
As Sasha struggles to come to terms with Ryka and his need to avenge his clan, Jace finds himself torn between his orders to protect Eredwyn and his growing feelings for Sasha. Can Jace walk the fine line between duty and desire, or will Sasha’s plans for vengeance lead all three men to their deaths?
Jace’s cheeks burned until he was nearly halfway to the lake, and the words he’d said to Sasha wouldn’t stop bouncing around in his head.
I’d like to see you dance, Sasha.
Where the hell had that come from?
No, he knew where it had come from. Right from his heart, without passing anywhere near his brain. He would like to see Sasha dance, but he’d never meant to say so, and certainly not within Sasha’s hearing. The young man had quite enough to deal with as it was.
Still, it pleased Jace to see him beginning to take an interest in things. The air of grief was still there, but since the day they’d taken Sasha to the massacre site, there had been a subtle change in him. He’d started to help with some of the chores, and even joined in when Jace and Eredwyn talked, offering the occasional quiet comment.
Sasha still whimpered in his sleep, though, and Jace wished he could wipe the sadness from those mesmerizing violet eyes, and put a real smile on Sasha’s face.
No, he couldn’t deny — not to himself, at least — that he would very much like to see Sasha dance. And laugh. And he’d most definitely like to see the man smile…
Shaking his head, Jace continued on down the path until he heard something large moving near the shore. He stopped, crouched down, and peered through the underbrush. In the spaces between the leaves, he could just make out a light-colored shape by the water’s edge.
He crept forward and breathed a quiet sigh of relief when the shape resolved itself into a horse, not a soldier or a predator. The white mare stood with her head lowered to drink. Her mane and tail were rough and tangled, but there were a few scattered braids and beads left in both. An Ajhani horse, then, which meant she belonged to Sasha.
“Easy, lady, Easy.” Jace used the same soothing tone he used when speaking to Rakki as he approached her. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
The mare turned her head and gave him a look that Jace chose to interpret as sorrowful.
“Been out here on your own for too long? Would you like to come back with me, pretty one? I can get you fed and get all these dried weeds brushed out of your hair. Come on.”
She snuffled at Jace and allowed him to guide her down the trail toward the shelter. In the stable, he settled her in the empty stall next to Rakki and prepared some feed for her. After she’d eaten, he brushed her down and groomed the tangles and remnants of beaded braids from her mane and tail.
“That’s better,” he said as he stood back to look over his handiwork. “You look like a proper lady now.”
When Jace entered the shelter, Eredwyn looked up from his seat on the floor, where he was sorting bundles of herbs. “That was quick. Did you find us some dinner already?”
“No, something better than dinner. Come, Sasha, come see.”
Sasha gave him a questioning look, but got slowly to his feet. “What did you find?”
“I’ll show you.” Jace led him around the back of the shelter to the stable.
Sasha’s face lit up when he saw the mare. “Dena!”
A long string of soft, lilting words followed. Jace understood none of it, but the mare apparently did. She nickered softly, and when Sasha drew close, she hung her head over his shoulder. Sasha put his arms around her neck and reached up to scratch her, fingers tangling in her blond mane.
“I found her having a drink on the shore,” Jace said. “I wondered if you two might know each other.”
Sasha turned his head toward Jace, still smiling. “She was my Da’s favorite. He’d ride her up and down the caravan line, making sure everyone was all right. She’s the sweetest of all of them.” He frowned then, fingers still working the mare’s mane. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen any more of them?”
“No, I’m afraid not.”
“She would have been tied separately. Da—” Sasha stopped for a moment, and Jace saw his throat working. “He… he kept her by the wagon when we were camped, in case he needed her in a hurry.” He turned back to the mare and murmured softly to her in Djhara.
Jace hung back, taking the opportunity to observe the man. Sasha was slender, and not particularly tall, although he was perhaps a finger’s width taller than Jace. It was his coloring that fascinated Jace, though. The golden skin, violet eyes, and pale, silver-blond hair were an unusual enough combination to make him worth a second — and perhaps a third — look.
Unaware of Jace’s scrutiny, Sasha continued crooning softly to the mare. Jace could have listened to the sound of that deep, husky voice wrapping around those lyrical sounds for the rest of the day.
He didn’t get nearly that long. All too soon, Sasha pulled away from the horse and approached Jace. “Thank you, Jace,” he said softly. “This… it means so much to me. Thank you for bringing her to me.”
Mesmerized by those beautiful eyes, Jace could only stare. When he realized he was staring, he looked away quickly, face flushing. “I… what else would I do?” He swallowed hard, then added quietly, “It’s good to see you smile.”
Sasha didn’t say anything, and when Jace looked up again, his attention was on the mare.
“With her along, we won’t need to limit our baggage quite so much,” Jace said, more to fill the silence than anything. “Maybe… maybe you can pack some of those pretty clothes you set aside this morning.”
When Sasha turned his head and gave him an unreadable look, Jace muttered a curse under his breath and fled.
He should have just kept his mouth shut, and wished he had.
About the Author
Jaye McKenna was born a Brit and was dragged, kicking and screaming, across the Pond at an age when such vehement protest was doomed to be misinterpreted as a “paddy”. She grew up near a sumac forest in Minnesota and spent most of her teen years torturing her parents with her electric guitar and her dark poetry. She was punk before it was cool and a grown-up long before she was ready. Jaye writes fantasy and science fiction stories about hot guys who have the hots for each other. She enjoys making them work darn hard for their happy endings, which might explain why she never gets invited to their parties.
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