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March 15, 2022

Pennyblade by J. L. Worrad ~ a Review & Excerpt

by MK French

Kyra Cal’Adra lives in exile as a mercenary among humans, who don't care about her noble past or her origins. While superstitions are common, Kyra is haunted by the ghost of her lowborn lover Shen, who she had to leave behind. When she's betrayed by her fellow pennyblades, Kyra must track the demon preying on the souls of the commoners. It's up to Kyra to keep the world from collapsing into chaos with the growing war between Main and Isle people.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of fantasy novel Pennyblade by JL Worrad
March 2022; Titan Books; 978-1789097610
audio, ebook, print (416 pages); fantasy

Our opening salvo feels like a D&D mission gone wrong. Kyra, drunk and trying to seduce the innkeeper's wife, is pretending to be a girl ready to be given over as a trap. It goes all downhill from there but gives us a very good picture of who she is at the start. Being a pennyblade is all about the job, scrounging for each coin possible. Her betrayal means the Church coopts her for their own needs, and it gets more convoluted as the novel progresses. We also get the past, before she left the Isle, with its culture and machinations that she left behind. It's fascinating, and a different side of her that informs who she turns out to be in the Mainland.

The commrach society is fascinating, as is the elven biology as it informs the choices that their society made. The human world on the Main is more like a European medieval world, with a Church that limits the roles that people can have or even the acceptable sexualities and genders. It's a thrilling ride, one that kept me up later than I should have!

Buy Pennyblade at Amazon

Read an excerpt of Pennyblade

THE MAIN, West Hosshire, March 881

I stumbled along the dirt path with a bag over my head. I thought of you, Shen; strange that I should think of you.
     ‘Easy, girl,’ the innkeep said, hands tight on my shoulders.
     April-sharp air in my nostrils. Boots sinking, slipping in the mud.
     I thought I’d see more through the hessian blindfold, but the light that bled through only dazzled my eyes. The long dress they’d made me wear hindered my stride.
     ‘Easy now…’
     ‘Shut up,’ I hissed.
     ‘I said put a cock in it.’
     The innkeep shut up. Peasant.
     Clearly, I was drunker than I thought. Not drunk drunk, but subject to that weathering of sobriety that only three whole days spent in an inn can procure. By the second night none of us thought this Rossley arse would ever show up.
     Awful plan. Awful.
     I smelled rain-soaked wood. Fresh-cut. We’d entered the timber yard.
     ‘What’s that?’ a man ahead of us shouted. Rossley, I assumed.
     ‘I can explain!’ the innkeep shouted next to me.
      I tensed, half expecting an arrow in the belly. None came.
     ‘That’s not the girl.’ The voice was more refined than I’d
     An ox lowed nearby.
     ‘Girl ran,’ the innkeep said. I knew we were close now.
     ‘Bloody find her then,’ the voice said.
     We halted.
     ‘She ran, sir,’ the innkeep replied. ‘Swear.’
    ‘Then I’ll have my money, eh?’
     Rossley was right before me. I smelled perfume, lavender and spikenard, heard the fabric of his clothes as he made some gesture.
      The innkeep sniffed. His fingers tightened on my shoulders.
     ‘Thought this might do.’
      The bag came off. Noon blinded me. A man’s silhouette loomed, its head shaped like a mushroom. Presumably a bad haircut. My eyes watered and I pretended to sob.
     ‘Pilgrim’s mercy,’ the man muttered. ‘This is…’
      ‘Real beauty, in’t she?’ the innkeep said.
     ‘But see the comely olive skin, sir. Her hair like raven’s wi—’
     ‘End the sonnet, you arse. She’s a fucking sprite!’
     Awful plan. Awful.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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