Monday, August 20, 2012

Cephrael's Hand by Melissa McPhail - Review and Author Interview

Title: Cephrael's Hand
Author: Melissa McPhail
Series: A Pattern of Shadow & Light Book One
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
Publish Date: September 22, 2010

Synopsis: "All things are composed of patterns..." And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross:
In Alorin...three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor's brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D'Lacourte's mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he'll have to find him...

In the kingdom of Dannym...the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man
responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord...

In the Nadori desert...tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them.
My Thoughts: I enjoy reading so many kinds of books. Epic Fantasies usually only make up a small part of my reading. I don't venture into that genre often. Still I was very interested to read Cephrael's Hand when I was asked. I like to branch out, and the synopsis of this book is intriguing. I was not disappointed at all.

Melissa McPhail has a gorgeous writing style that flows easily. She easily told this story from many points of view without it becoming confusing to the reader. She did an amazing job of tying all the characters' stories together. I found myself loving every moment. When one characters point of view would end I would be dying to know what would happen to them next.

The world of Alorin was beautifully written. McPhail's descriptions of all the different magical beings was amazing. I was so engrossed in what was going on. I could imagine this gorgeous world full of sun dragons and whisper lords. I had no troubles picturing what they must all look like. All the places that they were traveling were described so perfect. McPhail has a wonderful imagination and she knew exactly how to let her readers into it.

I would suggest this book to everyone. I am completely in love with it and all the characters. I am waiting, not so patiently, for the next book to be released. I'm also waiting to hear that it will be made into a movie. Put the right director with McPhail and Cephrael's Hand and it could be an absolute success. It makes me wish I had a six star rating.


I was really excited to get an interview with Melissa McPhail. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I'm a mother to nine-year-old twins and two very large cats, as well as a host of teenagers who live at the boarding school where I work.  I'm also a yoga instructor, a musician-composer and a closet nerd (along with my husband).  Our house is filled with LOTR memorabilia commingling with Warhammer 40K figurines, collector's editions of Talisman and Space Hulk board games, musical instruments and yoga mats, and books, books, books.    
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book? 

I started writing as a child, but the bug really hit me in high school.  I could often be found on my computer at strange hours of the day and night - or all day and long into the night - when my friends were involved in other activities.  I feel very blessed to have found a cathartic outlet for the angst most of us endure during those teenage years.  Like composing music and reading, writing became a critical means of escape what felt to me as an often sharply indifferent reality. 
How did you choose the genre you write in? 

Fantasy has always spoken to me.  Ever since reading The Chronicles of Narnia with my grandmother as a child, I've been drawn to seek the magical and extraordinary.  As an adult, I'm drawn to fantasy for the unlimited opportunities it provides to writers--opportunities to explore viewpoints, philosophical ideals, religion, nobility and honor, shades of good and evil, and a host of other themes, all within the context of fantastical settings, sword fights and epic battles.  The fantasy genre is an endless canvas upon which to play.  

Do you work with an outline, or just write? 

I tend to write toward scenes that I've envisioned and let the story unfold organically toward that end, but my series is an epic fantasy, so it is outlined with broad strokes across the canvas I mentioned before. I know in general terms what needs to occur in each book, and I plan the story arcs of each character in that same broad sense, plotting major scenes before I head into writing their story line.  I recently wrote a scene that I initially envisioned over two years ago.  That was fun.  
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your book or getting it published that you would change? 

I finished my novel in the age of self-publishing, and I never made much effort in the 'traditional' direction - but I am generally non-traditional about a lot of things.  I think it's the influence of Aquarius in my sign. ;)

I decided to self-publish for two reasons.  First and foremost, I wanted to share this story with the world, and after spending over a decade in constructing it, I felt the sharing part was overdue.  Secondly, it was important to me to maintain creative control over my story.  Can you imagine a painter pouring every ounce of creative energy and emotion into a painting he adored as a reflection of his soul and then turning it in to someone else to alter as they deemed fit?  I didn't want to cut huge pieces out of this tale because of an arbitrary word-count limit based on the cost of paper, and I wasn't keen on ingratiating myself to people I'd never met in order to convince them my life's work was worth their time.  

Ultimately, I wanted to be able to share this story with others in a way that maintains its integrity and my own.  My novel has won three awards, it's selling consistently, and fantasy fans are giving me amazing feedback on it. I believe I've accomplished those goals, and I'm very happy with the path I've taken to get there.  

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write in your book and why? 

My favorite parts of the story are with the pirate Carian vran Lea, who is irreverent, brazen and utterly irrepressible.  He provides much-needed levity to the story as he consistently finds his way into ridiculously dangerous situations.  

I am also very fond of the drachwyr.  Their immortal take on the world, mankind and existence in general is compelling and at times infuriating, and I really enjoyed exploring their viewpoints and interactions with my character Trell. 
How did you come up with the title? 

Cephrael's Hand is the name of a constellation seen throughout the story.  It is named after the Maker's blessed son, Cephrael, who is said to act as the hand of Fate in wielding the Maker's justice upon mankind.  Superstition about the constellation abounds, and many are said to die beneath its seven stars.
What project are you working on now? 

I just completed book two in the series.  The Dagger of Adendigaeth is due out in October, and I'm working with a cover artist, a cartographer (who is designing new maps for me), and of course my editors to ready the manuscript for publication.   

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers? 

The best advice I ever received about writing is simply: "A writer writes."  I spent over ten years perfecting the manuscript for Cephrael's Hand.  Each time I completed it, I would head back out into the world and read more books and realize it could be better - it had to be better.  I scrapped the entire 300,000 word manuscript numerous times and started over.  I've written  close to 2 million words in pursuit of a story worthy of a fantasy fan's discerning attention. 

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult? 

I was profoundly influenced as a child by The Chronicles of Narnia and The Dark is Rising series, by Susan Cooper.  These two series awakened an enduring love of fantasy and a belief in the real magic to be found in our everyday lives: the magic inherent in creativity, in love, in belief.  In my teens, I was greatly influenced by Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, and I set out with my own series to craft characters who I hoped could be as compelling, as winsome and as vital as hers.

Author Bio:

Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. With a background in philosophy and comparative religion, she is passionate about the Fantasy genre because of its inherent philosophical explorations.

Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. Cephrael's Hand is the first novel in her series A Pattern of Shadow and Light.  Book Two, The Dagger of Adendigaeth, is scheduled for release in October 2012.

Purchase Links:
Barnes and Noble

I received this e-book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

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