Aerenden Series (The Child Returns, The Gildonae Alliance and The Zeiihbu Master)
by Kristen Taber
Seventeen-year-old Meaghan has no idea her perfect life has been a lie — until she witnesses her parents’ brutal murders at the hands of red-eyed creatures.
After nearly sharing their fate, she escapes with her best friend, Nick, who tells her the creatures are called Mardróch. They come from another world, and so does she. Now that the Mardróch have found her, she must return to her homeland of Ærenden or face death.
Left with little choice, she follows Nick into a strange world both similar to Earth and drastically different. Vines have the ability to attack. Monkeys freeze their victims with a glare. Men create bombs from thin air. Even Meaghan’s newly discovered empath power turns into a danger she cannot control.
But control becomes the least of her worries once the Mardróch begin targeting her. When Nick confesses he knows the reason they want her, she learns the truth behind the kingdom's fifteen-year civil war — a long-buried secret that could cost Meaghan her life.
Book Two: The Gildonae Alliance
Several months after Meaghan’s return to Ærenden, the kingdom’s war has taken a turn for the worse. The Mardróch army hunts the new King and Queen, destroying villages in its wake. And Meaghan and Nick, training for battle in their remote section of wilderness, are far from safe. Danger hides in shadows and behind innocent faces. Allies become foes. Each day is a fight to survive. But in the end, only one threat matters. And it’s a threat they never see coming.
Book Three: The Zeiihbu Master
Separated and on opposite sides of the kingdom, Nick and Meaghan face different pursuits which could change the balance of power in Ærenden forever.
While Nick trains the villagers to be soldiers, Meaghan and a small rescue party venture into Zeiihbu to find Faillen's young son, before Garon can use the boy's power to destroy those still fighting against his rule.
Everyone knows Meaghan could be on a suicide mission, but when Nick stumbles upon a secret concealed in one of the southern villages, he realizes that Garon might not be Meaghan's greatest foe. The enemy most likely to kill her is someone who has also promised to keep her safe.
Here's an excerpt from Book 1, The Child Returns!
Meg,” her father spoke again and her eyes filled with tears. His voice was no more than a whisper. “Trust Nick. He’ll keep you safe.”
She nodded, and then shook as her father gathered his last breath. The footsteps reached the top of the stairs. Her father shuddered into stillness, but she had no time to mourn before Nick grabbed her hand and yanked her out the front door.
Cold air bit her face. Black clouds gathered overhead, shadowing the day in darkness. A gust of wind whipped leaves across the yard, building small funnel clouds, but she ignored them. She focused on the back of Nick’s head, then on her car when she realized they would need it to escape. They had nearly reached the driveway before she remembered she did not have her keys. She skidded to a stop. Turning back toward the house, she caught her breath when she saw their pursuers exiting the front door.
There were three of them, each taller than the last. Dark brown cloaks covered them from head to foot and they all carried heavy wood clubs stained with blood. They moved with an unnatural speed and disjointed grace, as if they floated instead of touching the ground. A putrid, rotting scent emanated from them in waves. It rolled Meaghan’s stomach, pitching her breakfast mid-way up her throat before she controlled the reaction. Nick grabbed her arm and pulled her toward her parents’ SUV.
1. How did you come up with the title? It actually took me a while to figure out what I wanted to call the first book in the series. I simply called it Æerenden at first, but realized soon that it would be difficult to type into a search engine. Then I called it The Aurean Prophecy after a prophecy that threads through the series. It didn’t take me long to realize that would be too confusing, so I settled on The Child Returns. The child referenced is Meaghan, of course. The names for the second and third books sort of popped into my head, but the fourth book is being a little difficult. Hopefully I’ll have a name by the time I finish writing it.
2. How much of the book is realistic?
The Ærenden series is set in an alternate world, but I believe it’s important to create lands that are both believable and realistic. Ærenden has many aspects that are similar to Earth, so I wanted to allow for similarities that cross over, particularly since the world’s histories overlap. In addition, the issues that the people of Ærenden and Zeiihbu face (racism, power-struggles, hidden truths, loss) are real to most people’s experiences.
3. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
It’s a tie between Stephen King and J.R.R. Tolkien. In my humble opinion, Mr. King is one of the most gifted writers of all time. I’ve loved his books since 4th grade. He’s also been my writer-hero since around that time. J.R.R. Tolkien is equally as brilliant, but in a different way. His imagination is one of the most creative I’ve ever read. He’s the reason I fell in love with fantasy and why I write epic fantasy today.
4. What book are you reading now?
I have several books on my reading list currently. My book club read for this month is Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. I’m also reading Joy Land by Stephen King and The Wolf’s Cry by Natalie Crown (a friend of mine). I always like having different types of books on my list, so that I can pick one up that matches my current mood.
5. Can you share a little of your current work with us? I’m currently about fifty pages into writing the fourth book in the Ærenden series. The scene below is from Chapter six. Nick, Max, and Caide are on an important mission within the kingdom.
“He’s a boy. Why are we bringing him along?” Nick glanced at Caide, a few paces behind them and shook his head. He had no desire to entertain this conversation, especially not with Caide listening. “He’s going to get hurt,” Max continued. Nick sighed. “Knock it off, Max.” “Knock what off? I’m serious.” “He’s stronger than both of us combined. You know that.” Max turned around, keeping pace as he walked backward. “Are you?” he asked Caide. “I know a Spellmaster is strong, but I’ve never been told how strong.” Caide shrugged. “My power’s stronger than Nick’s, but I don’t know about yours. What is it?” Max grinned. “I weaken powers.” “So if you wanted, you could make mine weaker than yours.” “Maybe. I’ve never tried, but I imagine it wouldn’t be an issue. You’re no more than a child, really. What are you? Twelve?”
This time, a smile tugged at the corners of Max’s mouth and Nick realized his friend was trying to rile Caide. Most likely because he had grown bored. A year ago, Nick would have enjoyed Max’s joking, but today it irritated him. “Fifteen,” Caide said, his voice stiff. “But age doesn’t define maturity.” “Sure it does. I bet you haven’t even kissed a girl yet.” Caide’s cheeks flared red. Nick punched Max in the arm. “I said cut it out.” “Ow,” Max protested, and rubbed his bicep. “That actually hurt.” “It was supposed to. Caide is more than suited for the job and I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t second guess my judgment.” “Fine.” Max turned back around, then glared at Nick. “Who put stinging nettles in your cloak this morning?” Nick stared ahead. “I’m not wearing a cloak.” “I’m not wearing a cloak,” Max mimicked. “Geez, Nick, it’s an expression. You weren’t on Earth long enough to forget that.” Nick had not forgotten. He had intended for the remark to irritate Max. When his friend pushed his shoulders forward and shoved his hands into his pockets, he knew it had worked. Other than a short growl of annoyance, Max remained quiet as they continued their trudge onward. Nick preferred it that way. This part of the kingdom, though still forested in spots, gave way too frequently to fields. Nick did not want their conversation traveling in front of them in case Mardróch searched the area for victims. Fields gave way to even rows of trees. Each green and brown giant filed in line, an army waiting to step from the earth and march after their commander. No one would be coming for them. This area had once been filled with similar forests, tree farms replenished by the strongest gardener powers and maintained by seven close-knit villages. Those same villages had fallen early to Garon’s war.
6. Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I don’t travel specifically to research my books, but I’ve found that my travels do influence my writing. A kayak trip brought about a scene within The Zeiihbu Master. Travels throughout Europe influenced the Celtic tones and some of the historical elements. Trips to the Pacific Northwest became forest scenes within all three books. I find that traveling is a wonderful muse for new and exciting scenes.
7. Who designed the covers?
The front cover on The Child Returns was designed by Katerina Vamvasaki, a lovely artist out of the U.K. She’s responsible for our delightfully creepy first look at the Mardróch. The paperback cover (spine and back) for that book were designed by Lance Ganey (www.freelanceganey.com). Lance also designed the complete covers for The Gildonae Alliance and The Zeiihbu Master.
8. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Letting it go. I tend to get attached to my stories and characters and want to make them 100% perfect. I’d edit forever if I gave into that tendency, but at some point I have to publish them or my readers would probably come hunt me down. I also would never get to my next book J.
9. Do you ever experience writer's block?
Oh, most definitely! I’ve actually been suffering a pretty bad one recently. My life has changed a lot with the introduction of my baby, so I’m having trouble finding time to write and when I do, I’m overtired so it takes me a while to get into the “zone”. It will pass, I’m certain J. Writer’s block always does. Sometimes blocks are about burn-out and taking a break from the story fixes them. Other times it’s about self-doubt or overanalyzing what I’m writing. Finding a way to overcome the emotions usually fixes the issue. I don’t know if it’s a rite (or “write”? lol) of passage or just part of my process, but it happens with every book. I’ve come to expect it.
10. Have you ever hated something you wrote?
Oh goodness, that’s a loaded question. I have a file of the oldest short stories I’ve written, from middle school and high school. I read those every now and again and cringe, but I try to remember that growth is the most important aspect of life. Practice means improvement and improvement means next year’s work should be better than the current year. I also find that when I’m done writing a book, I can’t stand to look at it anymore. It’s a side effect of working with it every week for a solid year (and dreaming about it at night). At the end, I really don’t hate it; I just need a vacation from it. Once I come back to it and hit “submit” for publication, I love it again.
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