Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Ghosts & Exiles by Sandra Unerman

Spellhaven is no more, but its spirits remain.


About the Book:

Tilda Gray hates Spellhaven, the city where her husband was born, even though she has never set foot in the place, and she does not believe in the magic it’s supposed to have held. Now her husband is dead, she would rather avoid any mention of the city. But her sons, Nicholas and James, have befriended Hugo, a young boy threatened by forces none of them understand. When Hugo's uncle and guardian, Stephen Cole, visits the Gray family to ask for help, Tilda agrees against her better judgement. Between them, as they search for ways to banish or at least help Hugo cope with the ghosts that are driving him mad, they seek out the dubious aid of the exiles from Spellhaven. In doing so they must face new dangers and unknown magic, unlike anything Tilda could have believed possible.

Book Details:

Print Length: 300 pages
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
ASIN: B07B24HY9Z
Genre(s): Magical Realism, Historical Fantasy

Exclusive Excerpt:
After she had taken the boys back to school that evening, Tilda Gray went upstairs to talk to her sister-in-law, Rowan. She found her busy in her painting studio, a north facing room, which had once been the spare bedroom.
When she opened the door, Tilda, who was not a smoker, recoiled from the fug of tobacco mixed with paint and turps. Rowan looked round. ‘Good lord, I didn’t notice how sordid it is in here. I’ll open a window.’
‘I’ll do it.’ Tilda let in the cold night air. She leaned against the windowsill and watched Rowan for a while, a wiry, dark-haired figure, who looked younger than her twenty six years. Rowan was dressed in her usual painting clothes: boy’s trousers and an open-necked shirt. She must have been working furiously this evening, to judge from the lipstick stained cigarette stubs in her glass and onyx ashtray. When she was dawdling, Rowan put her cigarettes into a holder.
‘We had a visit from a stranger this morning,’ Tilda said.
‘When? Why didn’t you wake me?’
‘He was much too early for you, and I doubt he’d have welcomed an audience.’
Rowan had come to share the house three years ago, after her brother Alick, Tilda’s husband, had been killed in a motoring accident. The arrangement suited both women but they lived separate lives. Now that the boys needed her less, Tilda kept busy with a mixture of good causes, from support for the League of Nations to the relief of poverty in the East End. Rowan, by contrast, was determined to build a career as a professional artist, though so far she had experimented with one style after another without settling on any. She spent most of her evenings with a crowd of students and struggling artists, so she preferred to sleep late in the mornings, but she took a kindly interest in Tilda’s more sedate life. Now she put down her brush and came to perch on the end of the couch facing Tilda.
‘Which one of your committees was he from?’
‘None. He was a complete stranger.’
‘Go on.’
‘His nephew is in the same form as Nicholas at school.’
‘His nephew?’ Rowan raised an eyebrow. ‘Is he married? How old is he?’
‘My dear Rowan, how could I tell?’
‘What did he look like?’
‘Worried,’ Tilda answered and smiled at Rowan’s grimace. ‘A big man, with a creased face. Well turned out, but a bit old fashioned. Dark hair.’
‘Going grey?’
‘Not quite yet.’
‘Hmm?’ Rowan reached for a sketch pad and pencil. ‘Don’t move for a minute. I like the wavy reflections in the glass. ‘What did he want?’
When she heard the story, Rowan said, ‘I wonder what the Exiles’ Club would make of this Howler. Maybe I should take him there one Saturday.’
‘I don’t think so.’
Rowan kept her eyes on her sketch. ‘They’d like to hear about him.’
Tilda’s neck was cold. Shreds of mist were coming in and thickening the air instead of clearing it. She pulled the window shut and said, ‘They wouldn’t do him any good.’



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Read an Excerpt:
Stephen Cole would never have asked for help on his own account, not from strangers and especially not from a woman and a couple of young boys. Since his slow recovery from his experiences in the trenches during the First World War, he had devoted himself to his work at the Bar and had spent little time in the company of women or children. But the help was for his nephew, Hugo, and by the time Stephen arrived at the Grays’ house in Highgate one Sunday morning in November 1933, he did not know where else to turn.

When he was shown into the drawing room, Stephen looked round to try and gain an impression of the family. He decided that the room had been decorated about ten years ago and hardly changed since then. The yellow and grey curtains had lost their bloom and the wooden feet on the armchairs were scuffed, but the parquet floor round the carpet was thoroughly polished, as were the tiles inset into the fireplace. Mrs. Gray must have had skilled and hardworking servants, not as easy to find as they would once have been. Botanical illustrations hung on the panelled walls. Stephen had no time to notice more before Mrs. Gray entered the room. 

Her appearance took Stephen aback. When he had been told she was a widow, somehow he had pictured a middle-aged woman, dumpy and depressed. Maybe he had been thinking of Queen Victoria, even though he had seen enough war widows in the early days of his practice to know they came in all shapes and styles. Matilda Gray was tall for a woman, with light eyes and a pointed chin. Her pale brown hair was bobbed and smooth. She wore a fawn twin-set and a brown skirt, not new or fashionable but shapely and trim.

‘Thank you for seeing me on a Sunday, Mrs. Gray,’ Stephen said. ‘It’s your son, Nicholas, I’d really like to talk to. He is home for the weekend, isn’t he?’

Hugo lived at school all term, and often in the holidays as well, but Stephen had been told that the Grays were weekly boarders.

‘The boys are at breakfast, Mr. Cole.’ Mrs. Gray looked as wary of him as he was of her.

‘I hope your maid gave you my apologies for disturbing you.’

‘It doesn’t matter, but you will have to explain what this is about before I decide whether Nicholas should be involved.’

‘Very well, although he is already involved in a way.’

She frowned and raised her chin at that but she said, ‘Please sit down.’

Stephen folded himself into the nearest chair as his hostess settled down opposite.

‘I’m here on behalf of my nephew, Hugo. He’s at school with Nicholas and he’s in trouble. The school is threatening to send him down.’

‘And you believe that Nicholas has something to do with this?’

The words were chipped out of ice. Stephen took a breath and sat back. ‘I’m not suggesting your boy is to blame, Mrs. Gray. I’m just trying to understand what happened.’

‘Did the school send you here?’ She sounded politely incredulous and he did not blame her.

‘I asked if I could speak to some of Hugo’s friends and the school refused. But they did say he only appeared to have one friend and that was Gray Major. They wouldn’t give me the address but Hugo did. It was about the one thing he was willing to tell me. He hardly knows me so I’m not surprised he doesn’t trust me.’

‘I take it his parents are away?’

‘In China. They haven’t been home for six or seven years, since they brought Hugo over to start him at school. I haven’t been in touch. I was – preoccupied after the war and I’ve never had much to do with children. My mother used to deal with Hugo, but she is not at all well now, so there’s nobody else.’

‘That is difficult for you but I still don’t understand how we can help you.’

‘I’m hoping Hugo might have confided in your son. But even if he doesn’t know what happened last week, if he can just talk to me about Hugo and what might have got him into this state, I’d be grateful.’

Mrs. Gray looked down at her hands for a long moment. Then she nodded. ‘Please wait here for a moment.’


Praise:

‘...Spellhaven is an intriguing novel with no easy answers or way out, which means you can keep rereading it and drawing different conclusions every time. Jane is never going to be entirely happy and settled in life – but would she ever have been, even without her magical summons? 
Refreshingly, it does not appear to be part of a series: that ending ambiguity is all you’re getting and it will keep buzzing at the back of your mind for days.’ ~ Ben Jeapes, author of Phoenicia’s Worlds and other SF novels, from the BSFA review

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Meet the Author:


Sandra Unerman lives in London in the UK. When she retired from a career as a Government lawyer, she undertook an MA in Creative Writing at Middlesex University, specialising in science fiction and fantasy, and graduated in 2013. Since then, she has had a number of short stories published. Her latest stories are in Sword and Sorcery magazine, June 2017, and Fall into Fantasy, an anthology from Cloaked Press. She writes reviews and articles for the British Science Fiction Association and the British Fantasy Society. She is a member of London Clockhouse writers and other writing groups. Her interests include history, folklore and medieval literature.

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