A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Priddy’s Tale by Harper Fox


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Priddy's Tale by Harper FoxWhat doesn’t kill you sometimes makes you wish it had…

Priddy’s a lost soul in a part of Cornwall the tourists don’t get to see. He’s young, sweet-natured and gorgeous, but that’s not enough to achieve escape velocity from his deadbeat village and rotten family life.

He’s a drifter and a dreamer, and self-preservation isn’t his strong suit. An accidental overdose of a nightclub high leaves him fractured, hallucinating, too many vital circuits fried to function in a tough world. When a friend offers him winter work in a lighthouse – nothing to do but press the occasional button and keep the windows clean – he gratefully accepts.

His plans to live quietly and stay out of trouble don’t last very long. A ferocious Atlantic storm washes a stranger to Priddy’s lonely shore. For a shipwrecked sailor, the new arrival seems very composed. He’s also handsome as hell, debonair, and completely unconcerned by Priddy’s dreadful past.

Priddy has almost given up on the prospect of any kind of friendship, and a new boyfriend – let alone a six-foot beauty with eerily good swimming skills – out of the question entirely. But Merou seems to see undreamed-of promise in Priddy, and when they hit the water together, Priddy has to adapt to Merou’s potentials too, and fast. His lover from the sea might be a mere mortal from the waist up, but south of that line…

Far-flung west Cornwall has a hundred mermaid tales. Priddy’s loved the stories all his life. Now he has to face up to a wildly impossible truth. Merou’s life depends upon his courage and strength, and if Priddy can only find his way in the extraordinary world opening up all around him, all the ocean and a human lifetime needn’t be enough to contain the love between merman and mortal.

Harper Fox is by far the best weaver of tales I’ve had the pleasure of reading. I have one other favorite who is an excellent storyteller, but Harper’s tales are just that: the sort of tales I would imagine would survive history in the telling from one generation to the next. There’s a certain atmosphere present throughout the story, making me almost feel as if I’m an observer in a pub on the Cornish Coast as I listen to a wise old sailor tell us about Priddy and his merman, Merou. 

Priddy suffered brain damage from overusing certain drugs when he was already drunk and not mindful of his decisions. His best friend, Kit, holds himself to blame, so when he leaves for college, he arranges a job for Priddy, manning his grandfather’s lighthouse. The job suits Priddy well as he takes his meds and slowly goes about his tasks. He’s even starting to feel a bit stronger and more content, when one night he spots a boat in trouble, and by the time he gets to shore, he only sees one head bobbing in the water. 

He rushes in to help the drowning man, nearly drowning himself, and is shocked when the man seems to be stronger than he is and ends up rescuing him. Unfortunately, he’s touched the man—a man who he later finds out is a merman—and because he touched him, the man takes on human form (complete with External John Thomas!) and is able to stay “topside” for a while.  When the man named Merou suddenly begins to change back and is in danger of dying from being on land, Priddy manages to find the strength to get him back in the water, thereby saving his life. 

Through a series of on-land and in-sea adventures, the two become close and Priddy is granted a wish for saving Merou’s life, a wish that restores his mental abilities. But the side effect is his development of gills and an eventual change takes place that neither of them had asked for.  In the meantime, Kit has fallen in love with one of his professors, one who has a keen interest in mermaids, and the two show up at the lighthouse, bringing with them more havoc than help when the professor reveals his true nature. 

I’m trying hard not to give anything away, while at the same time, I’m trying to give a brief overview of the grand scope of this story. All his life he’s heard legends of mermaids in that area of the coast so imagine Priddy’s surprise when he realizes they aren’t just a figment of old men’s imaginations.  This story comes complete with mystery and suspense, romance and danger, and a future for both Priddy and Kit that neither man could have envisioned.

I loved the world-building in this story, the three-dimensional characters, and the plausible explanations for things previously thought to be the product of a fertile imagination.  And I loved the love—the love between two men that will survive to infinity and the love of one friend for another—a love that will survive time as a new tale is woven that will be told for future generations to come. 

Honestly? There was nothing about this story I didn’t like, except perhaps for the professor, and he was the perfect villain so no problems there.  I recommend this to all lovers of fantasy, and for those who have had a fascination with mermaids, mermen, and other mythical sea creatures.  Of course, if you love a good tale to be heard around a fire during a cold winter night, this story is just the one to meet your expectations. 

The cover depicts Merou in his human form, wrapped in one of Priddy’s towels, and is very nicely done.

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Book Details:

ebook, 159 pages
Published June 20th 2016 by FoxTales Publications
Edition LanguageEnglish

Review: Into the Wind (Mermen of Ea #2) by Shira Anthony


Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

IntoWindTaren and Ian Dunaidh have landed on the mainland  Ea settlement near Raice Harbor after the tumultuous events of Stealing the Wind.  Taren knows he is one of the Ea but nothing else of his heritage and he is searching for answers.  Vurin, leader of the mainland Ea and governor of Callaecia, the Ea village, seems to hold the clues to Taren’s past and perhaps his future.  Vurin is a powerful mage and he believes it is Taren’s fate to be the wielder of the fabled rune stone—a weapon of great power.  The stone holds great significance for Taren and his past.  It is also a weapon that can keep the Ea safe.  But no one really knows where it is.  Only that  Odhrán the pirate is rumored to possess it.

Again the Goddess has some incredible twists and turns in store for Taren.  On the voyage to the island where Odhran is said to reside, Ian’s ship, the Phantom, comes under attack by an old enemy and Taren is swept overboard during battle.  Taren awakes on one of the Gateway Islands unsure of how he came to be there.  At his side, a young boy, Brynn, who says he can lead him to Odhrán and the mysterious stone.

Taren knows he must get that stone no matter the cost.  But who is he to trust?  The pirate is said to make slaves of the Ea, humans like the boy consider him an enemy, and he is separated from Ian on an unknown island, unsure of Ian’s and the Phantom’s fate. Everything looks bleak and impossible.  Taren’s past is the key to his present safety and the future of the Ea.  And only the Goddess knows if he will prevail in his quest for the stone and a happy future with Ian.

Shira Anthony sails back into her Mermen of Ea universe with Into the Wind, the second book in the series.  The first book, Stealing the Wind,  revolved around Taren’s discovery of his true nature and his meeting/new relationship with Ian Dunaidh, Captain of the Phantom and a merman himself. This story ventures further into Taren’s past and his reincarnation of the Ea priest Treande.   Taren is the key and locus for the tumultuous events occurring around him.  The Ea people are under attack, not just from humans but from other Ea who retreated to an island and rule by a increasingly rigid Council.  Taren who only recently found out that he was an Ea as well is under assault himself.  Plagued by dreams and nightmares of his previous life, hunted by a dark mage of the Ea Council, and still under a pledge of one more year’s service to the pirate Rider of the Sea Witch, nothing about Taren’s life is simple or sane.  Anthony lays down more and more threads to an increasingly complex plot and the complexities here are one of the real joys of this story.

Once more Shira Anthony weaves her magic with her sensual underwater imagery and complex Ea culture and physiology.  The story starts off with the Phantom engaged in battle with a mysterious ship.  The Phantom is under heavy fire, and both Taren and Ian are in the midst of the battle.  Cannons are fired,and  masts splintered as the battle is brought home for the Phantom crew and the readers. What a great fight scene!

The aftermath of the sea battle is traumatic for all characters involved and dissolves into a mystery.  Then the narrative retreats in time to two week earlier in the Ea settlement of Callaecia.  And once more we have a Taran whose reality is shifting between his memories of Treande who lived there centuries ago with his mate Owyn and the present, a life where Taran is visiting this place for the first time.  Each step around Callaecia is overlaid with visions from an earlier time when the place was new and the temples stood instead of ruins.  This could be a tricky element to pull of but Anthony does it extremely well.   What happened here?  Is it just time responsible for the changes or something more? Where Taren sees ruins, his memories show him houses and temples as if they had been just recently constructed.  Taran is constantly pulled between the past and the present, with nightmarish results. Even his new relationship with Ian echos with layers from the past and Treande’s love for and relationship with Owyn (who has been reincarnated in Ian).  Anthony shows Taren buffeted by so many winds that at times he threatens to loose any semblance of  mental and emotional balance.

Vurin, a minor character in the first novel, returns to guide Taran and show him parts of his past that still remain hidden.  Old temples and the rune stone that Owyn gave his life to keep safe figures in greatly here.  Ea religion and history come to the fore to play major roles in Taran’s fate when a ghostly figure/priestess reappears with portents of the future.  It is here the Vurin first mentions the pirate Odhrán who might possess the stone and the Gateway Islands.  Shira Anthony has a large scale plan in store for this series, obviously.  And all the clues and plot threads are being laid down for the stories yet to come so there are numerous ideas and elements being juggled here, sometimes simultaneously.  This makes for a wonderfully rich tapestry of storytelling magic. Into the Wind glows with a richness of detail that it can lay claim to the vitality and depth of the sea itself.  And at the heart of the wealth of riches is the character of Taran.

I love the duality aspect to Taran.  He is two people and we are often treated to two perspectives on any given situation, whether it is the appearances of the settlement or of his relationships with others like Vurin when he was Treande.  And the memories are often awful ones, as the loss of Owyn is something Treande never recovered from.  Now Taran with his new relationship to Ian, has to fight with his anxiety over loosing Ian just as Treande lost Owyn so not even his present love exists without a veneer of sadness and fatality.  We are privy to both his love for Ian and his love and memories of Owyn, whose sacrifice and death haunts both the story and Taran. Again, this is where Ian suffers in comparison as a character. Owyn is the more compelling persona. Ian is just not as complex a person or we don’t get to see that aspect of his character.  He is supposed to be the reincarnation of Owyn, a powerful mage.  But none of that is apparent as yet, and his character suffers for that deficiency.  This is my only quibble here with the story.

A new fantastic character is added to the series here with the appearance of Odhrán, the pirate of unknown origins.  A person of mystery, rumors and legends swirl about the man including his possession of the stone that will save the people of Ea. But nothing is as great as the truth of Odhrán himself.  With his interaction with Taran and a look into his angst filled past, Odhrán will quickly become a favorite character of this series.

The story divided towards the middle into almost two separate stories.  One concerned with Taran and his search forOdhrán.  The other with Ian and the crew of the Phantom.  Both locations and plots are hugely effective but as our concentration and empathies are with Taran, again this section with Ian seems a little diluted in emotion and conciseness.  Plus Taran has Odhrán, and he is such a charismatic character that he just outshines everyone else when he is in the scene.

I loved Odhrán and the mystery that surrounds him will likely carry into the others stories as it looks like he has a huge part to play in the events to come.  Other major characters from Stealing the Wind return towards the end of Into the Wind with shocking results.  And no, I didn’t see that coming either.

That ending!  What a bombshell the author has in store for everyone here!  I will say this only once.  Do not read the ending first.  You know who you are!   Don’t, just let that impulse pass. The stunning ending is one that needs to be savored and that will happen only if you read everything that leads up to it.  I didn’t see it coming and neither will you.  And that made me want to have the next book to reach for…to see what happens next.

We won’t get that story until next year. But it will probably send you back to the beginning of this story to see if there were any indications of the revelations to come. Still that astonishing ending as well as the great new characters made this my favorite story of the series to date.  I loved the plot, with all the intervening flashbacks/nightmares for Taran and juggling of almost two competing sets of characters and locations.  Plus there are mermen.  Sexy, smexy mermen. It just doesn’t get better than that.  Or does it?  Hmmmm, only the next story in the series will tell us whether it is so.

If you love the idea of mermen or love found under the sea, if you love high adventures and pirates, or even a forever love that is found once more, this is the story for you.  In fact this is the series for you.  It sings with all the love and emotion this author clearly has for her subject matter and the waters the swirl around them and their fates.  Start your journey with Stealing the Wind and then continue the voyage here with Into the Wind.  Both are highly recommended reads from ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords.

Cover art by Anne Cain.  I thought that first cover was incredible (it was).  But now, take a look at how this one almost glows with a luminosity and fluidity that mimics the movement of the sea.  Love, love this cover.  The name of the character on the cover is something that Shira Anthony kept hidden for a while.  And no, it’s not Taran or Ian.

Books in the series planned to date are in the order they were written and should be read:

Stealing the Wind (Mermen of Ea #1)
Into the Wind (Mermen of Ea #2) released May 5, 2014
Running with the Wind (Mermen of Ea #3) coming 2015

Book Details:

Expected publication: May 5th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published May 5th 2013)
edition languageEnglish
seriesMermen of Ea #2

Buy links   Dreamspinner Press   Amazon  ARe