What some reviewers have said:
The writing is excellent, and author Dionne Lister deserves much more than five stars for her ability with lyrical description, which makes the reading flow so well.—Mallory Haws
I started reading and then could not put the book down until I had finished.—Helen White
I can’t wait for the next installment. I am hooked. There is a great voice throughout, and sense of humor too, the same kind of droll and dry humor that I relish.—Justin Bogdanovitch
Combined with the interweaving stories, the action grows steadily and comes to a satisfying end that leaves you wanting more. Shadows Of The Realm is a highly enjoyable read that I gladly recommend.—Anna K
Shadows of the Realm is the first in The Circle of Talia series (with the second book due out in March 2013). Would I say it’s the best fantasy book with dragons you’ll read this year? Possibly. If you love action, suspense and dragons, you will probably enjoy this. It’s had many awesome reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. So, if you’re looking for a new fantasy book or fantasy series to invest in, try this (the dragons implore you).
What is Shadows of the Realm About?
With their world under threat of invasion, Bronwyn and Blayke, two young realmists, are forced to leave all they’ve known to undertake a dangerous journey to learn the magic of the realms before everything they love is destroyed.
The young Realmists’ journey pushes them away from all they’ve known, to walk in the shadows toward Vellonia, city of the dragons, where an even darker shadow awaits.
Download a few sample chapters from Smashwords for a taste, and if you would like to purchase Shadows of the Realm it’s available as an e-book on Smashwords, Amazon US or Amazon UK. If you’d love a real, paper version visit Amazon US or Creatspace for those in the UK.
Keep reading for the prologue and first chapter .
In a lonely brick farmhouse a child named Blayke slept under cosy blankets. He dreamt of splashing in warm summer puddles. His nostrils filled with the scents of grass and earth.
He reached dirty fingers into a puddle at his feet and tried to grab a slimy frog. The touch of his fingers on the water sent the frog dashing away, chased by the black clouds racing across the surface of the water, mirroring the sky.
Thunder boomed again and again. Thick clouds marched to its beat, effortlessly smothering the sun. Blayke’s fingers sank further into the darkening puddle, until his fingers touched something rough and icy – too large to close his hand around. Blayke tried to let go of the object, but his hand was stuck. Adrenalin flooded his body. He tried to shake the object loose, but to no avail.
Fat pellets of water erupted from the sky, soaking him in seconds. He looked up, squinting his eyes against the pouring rain. He bit his lip against the urge to cry. Every instinct told him to run. Thunder closed around him; lightning struck meters from the quickly expanding puddle. Blayke leaned back, twisting his whole body in a vain attempt to break free. Sweat from his exertion mixed with the rain on his face.
His palm peeled away from its anchor, leaving layers of skin behind. Blayke fell back, landing with a splash on the sodden earth. He stared at his bleeding hand, what had happened?
The ground vibrated beneath him, the tremors matching the slow and powerful rhythm of the thunder. The puddle boiled, bubbles of mud bursting to the surface, contaminating the balmy air with stagnant wafts. Blayke scurried away from the deepening water on hands and knees. He scrambled to rise but the jerking earth toppled him.
He was now at the edge of the seething pool. He watched the water drain away into the ever-growing cracks forming around its edges – the unseen depths hungrily sucked the liquid, draining it as quickly as the sky could dump it there.
The earth gave a final, violent tremor. An ebony creature surged forth amid the cacophony of trembling earth and breaking sky. It towered menacingly over small boy and tall trees alike.
The giant creature’s bellowing screams assaulted Blayke. He huddled on the ground, gasping for breath. His bleeding hand throbbed, and the beating rain stung the back of his neck. Blayke scrunched his eyes tight, and prayed to every god he had ever heard of to make everything disappear; the rain, the thunder, and the monster. Fear of impending death made him cry.
Rain battered him, but the earth ceased shaking. The creature’s commanding voice replaced the primal screams that made the downpour seem a whisper. “I have come to take you. Look at me and behold your destiny.”
Blayke lifted his head against all will and instinct, compelled by immense power within the voice. A colossal black dragon stood close, too close, dwarfing the small human as an ancient oak does an ant. The creature stared at Blayke with penetrating silver orbs.
The boy’s eyes, once fixed on the nightmare, could not move. So this was it, his death was here, so soon. How could that be? Tears flowed again as he realized his short life had existed just to fill the belly of this dragon, a special dragon no doubt, but still a dragon. Blayke took comfort in the warmth of tears that mixed with the rain on his face, as the giant creature reached toward him with massive claws.
It snatched Blayke, with one swift and powerful gesture, and thrust him into a mouth full of sword sharp teeth.
Blayke woke screaming, feeling as if he were choking on his own blood. Arcon ran to Blayke’s room, arms raised, ready to fell any intruder who would dare harm his boy. Relief at the absence of an attacker was short-lived as he tried to sooth his terrified nephew. Blayke sobbed in his arms, as he described the nightmare in vivid detail. Arcon knew this was a prophetic dream, marked by the Dragon God no less.
The dangerous and terrifying times foretold by the First Circle were nearing, and his nephew’s nightmare confirmed the worst. Arcon, one of the most powerful Realmists ever to have lived, and member of The Circle, prayed they would be given more time to prepare; their lives, and all life on Talia, depended on it.
Blayke eventually fell asleep and his uncle retired quietly to his study, where a hot cup of tea and mesmerizing flames in the hearth could not dilute his fears; the evil they had banished over a thousand years ago would return: it was already on its way.
Bronwyn stared over the precipice, grey eyes fixed on the black stone she had nudged over the edge with her foot. A cool breeze caressed her face, the scent of early spring tingling her nose. It was a long, long way down and the stone she had sacrificed bounced off many larger rocks falling into nothingness, out of sight. She had thought it would be so easy to follow the stone off into oblivion, but now standing here, tensed to do just that, found it was not.
As hard as she tried, she could not force her foot to take that one, final step into peace; all she could do was look down and wonder what it would be like to fall, fall, fall. She dragged all the recent anguish she had suffered to the forefront of her mind in an effort to strengthen her resolve, and leaned further forward.
Would she die on the way down, wind pushing against her face, speeding through the air while buffeted by the fear of knowing her immediate fate, or would she die at the bottom as she smashed headfirst into the rocks? Would there be time to feel the pain?
This morning began the same as any other for the olive-skinned, young woman until her Aunt Avruellen had changed everything. “Bronwyn, how would feel about seeing the world? I’ve decided we’re leaving tonight for a long journey.”
“Leaving? What? Why do we have to go, and how long is long, exactly?”
“I have a meeting of The Circle to attend, then we have somewhere else we have to go.”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, when are we coming back?”
“I’m not sure.”
Bronwyn felt tears forming. The first thing she thought of was her best friend. “I’m going to say goodbye to Corrille.”
“I’m afraid not. You can’t say goodbye to anyone. No one must know we’re leaving. Now, no more questions, I’ve got work to do.” Avruellen had turned her back on Bronwyn and left the room. Bronwyn had understood that to mean they were never coming back, and as for her aunt not knowing where they were going, that was unlikely – Avruellen had a purpose for everything she did; she wasn’t one of The Circle for nothing. Bronwyn had slammed the door on her way out.
Now Bronwyn perched on the edge of safety, hating herself for not having the courage to jump off, hating her aunt for forcing her away from her friends and the only home she had ever known. The young woman sat for a while, arms folded across her chest, scowl wrinkling her forehead, until she acknowledged her aunt wouldn’t leave her behind. Since she was not going to kill herself today, Bronwyn knew she must yield to the fact that she was going to do what her aunt demanded. She stood, and accepting the depressing reality, commenced the walk home, albeit with slow steps.
Bronwyn reached home and went straight to the kitchen, as she always did, to see what goodies awaited her. Avruellen and her fox Flux sat at the kitchen table, a sight that had always made her smile; until today. Her aunt pointed toward a fragrant cup of tea and freshly baked biscuits. Bronwyn took her place at the table and stroked Flux’s soft, furry head.
She lingered among the familiar aromas, committing all to memory. Flux nuzzled her hand as Bronwyn sipped her tea. “Do we really have to go tonight? Why not another night, maybe another week?” Her eyes pleaded with her aunt.
Avruellen spoke with a firm voice. “You know better than to ask silly questions dear. A lot of things in life would be different if I could change them, but I can’t. Now, I’ve told you as much as I’m going to and it’s not open for discussion. Make sure your bag is packed by sundown; we’re leaving immediately after dinner.” She rose, her own sorrow momentarily shadowing her face. “I’ve a lot to do before we leave so I’d best get started.” Brisk footsteps emphasizing her point, she left the room.
The ginger biscuits tasted so good, their crunchiness so satisfying that Bronwyn, despite her inner turmoil, couldn’t help but enjoy the second-to-last meal she would ever eat at this table. Bronwyn stood as she swallowed the last morsel, “Well Flux, I suppose it’s time to pack up my whole life. Do you think it’s too late to change her mind?” Flux didn’t answer, just led the way to the door.
Bronwyn regretted the desire to kill herself and knew she was being an ungrateful child. All the lessons her aunt had given her, in the art of Realmistry, the skills she had acquired over many years, were for what lay in the immediate future and not to be thrown away in an immature bout of self-pity. She anticipated her future with fear, feeling dismally unprepared. Bronwyn pushed her anxiety aside and, adopting her aunt’s brisk manner, quickly bundled necessities into a woven leather bag. Contemplating what lay ahead, Bronwyn felt she could confidently say today had been the worst day of her life; if the prophecies were right, it wasn’t going to improve any time soon.