In an Ireland that mixes high kings, faeries, and modern warriors who drive fast cars, Ciran, a descendant from the famous warrior Fionn Mac Cool, bands together with a company of young warriors from the legendary order of Na Fianna to go on a quest to recover their missing family members who were captured by the Goblins in a shaky peace between the two kingdoms. Ciran and his companions must figure out not only how they are going to rescue the prisoners, but how they are going to complete their mission without killing each other. Through trial and error, running battles, unexpected friendships, and daring escapes, Ciran and his company come face to face with the Goblin King himself in a final battle that will decide the fate of all involved and of Ireland itself.
The first book in a new series, Blood Ties takes the traditional Irish legends and puts a modern spin on them with a heavy helping of friendship and the love of family.
Ok, first of all. I love how Irish this book is. I mean, it’s set in Ireland and based of old Irish folklore so it kind of has to be, but still. For me, that was just kind of refreshing. It’s not just beating the same old legends and folklore to death. I knew nothing about any of this stuff before starting this book so it was really being introduced to a new world and that’s always a good thing. I love reading books set in countries that I’ve visited and loved because it reminds me of my time there, even though, in this particular instance, I had no experience with goblins while I was in Ireland. Probably a good thing, all things considered. Anyway, the story had some elements that you can find in other modern fantasy, but overall it was fun and fast-paced with a wealth of interesting characters that were fun to get to know. If you want to step away from the fantasy norms and get into something you’re probably not super familiar with, this is your book.
Oh, and as kind of an awesome bonus, there’s a lot of extras at the end like a look into the folklore the story is based on, a pronunciation guide (you’re going to need this one unless you know Gaelic), and an Irish dictionary. There’s even a couple of recipes back there that tie into the book and they sound down right tasty.
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There was a moment when I couldn’t quite believe the fact I was grappling on the brink of a waterfall just like in an overblown action movie, but yet there I was and Keevan wasn’t far behind, still facing off with the same Goblin he had been before, who was pressing him hard. I couldn’t see where Tierney and Caitlin were because I was a bit too busy for that at the moment, but hoped they were not in as precarious a position as I was or worse.
There was a sudden yell and, forgoing all training I had ever had, I looked over with concern to see Keevan slipping off his rock and falling down with the rushing water, the Goblin he had been fighting going with him.
I would have screamed for him, even knowing it wouldn’t have done anything, but I was suddenly slammed in the face by the hilt of my opponent’s sword. I teetered back on the precipice but gained my balance just before I received another strike that knocked the sword out of my wet hand. I kicked out at the Goblin, but he caught my leg and I knew then, with horror, that this was it. He grinned, knowing as well, and I flailed my arms as he pressed me back. The only thing I could do now was take him with me, but I didn’t even get that chance.
“Have a nice swim, Finar,” the Goblin said with a jeer, before he let me go and I fell backwards.It wouldn’t have been terrible, but for the fact that halfway down I slammed into the side of the cliff, smashing up my side, and by the time I hit the freezing water, well, I hardly remembered the impact enough to tell about it.
Now let’s meet Hazel!
Hazel West lives in Purgatory, er, Florida, with her books and her hedgehog Horatio. When she’s not writing, she’s reading other people’s books, studying folklore, or binge-watching something on Netflix—drinking coffee is also a given. You can find her on her blog, Twitter, Goodreads, YouTube, and Pinterest. You can also check out some of her other writing here!
What inspired you to write Blood Ties?
Well, for a while I’d had the idea of writing a story about modern warriors who fought with sword and drove sports cars, because I thought that would be cool, but later I decided that making it a sort of alternate history/urban fantasy set in Ireland and dealing with the legends of Na Fianna would make it even cooler, so that’s kind of where the initial inspiration came from.
What made you decide to delve into the world of lesser known folklore for this book?
I love folklore and mythology, I always have, it’s just something that fascinates me (maybe it’s my Celtic and German heritage). But I think I loved reading the stories of Na Fianna because they are lesser known. I mean, everyone knows about the Arthurian legends and while I love that, it’s been a bit overdone, and I wanted to do something different. I love finding obscure folklore and urban legends and kind of mashing up Irish folklore and history was really fun to do. Because in reality, a lot of the ancient history of Ireland has a good dose of folklore in it already, it was just a matter of bringing that feel to the modern era.
How much research did you put in for Blood Ties? Did you find anything especially interesting that maybe didn’t make it into the book?
I did quite a bit of research on a lot of things, starting off on simply reading various retellings of the Na Fianna Cycle and then a bit of the old history about the time period of the High Kings of Ireland and typical Fae folklore and other things. And then you have all the side things like topography and setting, and the Irish language and even the cars they used which were carefully selected. After that it was just a matter of using the information and creating pretty much a new version of the world with it.
Most of the major stuff that Blood Ties didn’t have room for ended up in Book Two, but there’s always lots of things that I could have gone into that I didn’t otherwise the book would have been twice as long as it is. Mainly stuff like more information on the world itself and surrounding countries and little technical things about Na Fianna and how I wrote them in the story as having Fae blood which wasn’t in the legends but seemed apt because they were such amazing warriors that it seemed something else was going on with that—and because of that, little things like does iron also effect them? And such . But things like that, while I have all the info written down, are just too technical in my opinion to put into a book unless it has direct bearing on the storyline. Probably the most interesting thing I left out for times’ sake was the training Na Fianna go through, but you can look that up and read about it in the original stories.
Who was your favorite side character to write?
I really loved writing Eamon, in fact, he’s one of my favorite characters in the series. I’m looking forward to the release of Book Two because there’s more of Eamon from his perspective so you’ll all get to see where he’s coming from. But his conversations with Killian are always immensely fun to write. I also really liked Daegal though, he is a very interesting character, and I can’t wait to reveal more of him throughout the series.
If you could go grab a pint with any two characters from your book, who would it be and why?
Hmm, that would be hard. One choice, I can’t tell you because that would be a spoiler for the second book, but I think it would be Eamon and Ciran. They’re two characters I think I would like to sit down and just have a conversation with.
What do you think your main character(s) would think of you?
I think they would probably think I am a horrible person to put them through what I do, haha!
If you lived in your book world for a day what would you do?
I would get Ciran to drive me around in his Vanquish, or maybe I would just steal it and take a drive through the countryside myself. And then I would visit the Goblin palace because I think it would be a really cool place to see.
What was your favorite book as a kid?
Well, when I was really little anything Winnie The Pooh but once I started reading for myself I really loved Junie B. Jones and Laura Ingalls and the Dinotopia books.
What’s next for Hazel West?
Next up is Book Two of the Modern Tales of Na Fianna An Earthly King (which is already written). This one is a continuation of where Blood Ties leaves off but also is more of Eamon’s story. He has to find a wife among the ladies of the realm while the Faery Courts are stirring up trouble in the north and the others (spoiler alert) are still dealing with the aftermath of Lorcan’s defeat. It also has elements of the Ballad of Tam Lin. (By the way, if you buy the paperback copy, you will get an exclusive sneak peak of the first chapter ;)