Not quite the world you know... Raven Song by I.A. Ashcroft (Blog Tour Guest Post & Excerpt)

Raven Song (Inoki's Game, #1)Raven Song
(Inoki's Game #1)
by I.A. Ashcroft
Adult Dystopian, Urban Fantasy
Paperback, Audiobook & ebook, 290 Pages
March 14th 2016 by Lucid Dreams Publishing

Summary

A century ago, the world burned. Even now, though rebuilt and defiant, civilization is still choking on the ashes. 

Jackson, a smuggler, lives in the shadows, once a boy with no memory, no name, and no future. Ravens followed him, long-extinct birds only he could see, and nightmares flew in their wake. Once, Jackson thought himself to be one of the lucky few touched by magic, a candidate for the Order of Mages. He is a man now, and that dream has died. But, the ravens still follow. The nightmares still whisper in his ear. 

Anna’s life was under the sun, her future bright, her scientific work promising. She knew nothing of The Bombings, the poisoned world, or the occult. One day, she went to work, and the next, she awoke in a box over a hundred years in the future, screaming, fighting to breathe, and looking up into the eyes of a smuggler. Anna fears she’s gone crazy, unable to fill the massive hole in her memories, and terrified of the strange abilities she now possesses. 

The Coalition government has turned its watchful eyes towards them. The secret factions of the city move to collect them first. And, old gods stir in the darkness, shifting their pawns on the playing field. 

If Anna and Jackson wish to stay free, they must learn what they are and why they exist. 

Unfortunately, even if they do, it may be too late.

Raven Song is the first of a four book adult-oriented dystopian fantasy series, a story of intrigue, love, violence, and the old spirits in the shadows who wait for us to notice them again. Readers of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, and Charlie Human will enjoy this dark magic-laced tale rooted on the bones of what our world could become.

 
  
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Praise for the Book

‘Aware that this is just the first book in the series and I am hooked and will read on, however as a standalone book it would still make a fantastic read.’ ~ Mark on Goodreads

‘A good urban fantasy with well-developed characters and a grim and complex setting. I would recommend.’ ~ Dannica Zulestin on Goodreads

‘Ashcroft has a brilliant imagination coupled with an eloquent writing style that draws the reader in, makes us feel a wide array of emotions, and holds us captivated to the very end. I anxiously await the next volume in this series.’ ~ K. McCaslin on Amazon

‘I usually think endings are the worst part of most books, hard to wrap up into a logical and solid ending, this book did well at it I was satisfied but very much looking forward to the next book.’ ~ taruofatlantis on Amazon

‘The narration by Mikael Naramore was good. He was able to capture the voices of the characters well, especially the manic Tony. In general the characters were distinguishable and the voicing gave life to each of them. The production quality was good as well.’ ~ Poonam on AudioBook Reviewer.

Guest Post
Bombings and Magic: The World of Raven Song
By I.A. Ashcroft

Around the year 2022, the world ended in nuclear hellfire, and the tragedy is, no one really knows why: no wars were declared, no warnings given. In the aftermath, most survivors couldn’t be bothered with trying to understand why it happened, too busy trying to pull themselves from the famines, disease outbreaks, and coups for power, most communications severed in the wake of EMPs. This tragedy compounded itself among those that practiced magic. Suddenly the life-saving abilities of the Gifted were mangled, their connection to the world disrupted almost beyond repair in the wake of so much destruction.

It took civilization decades to reach any semblance of stability again, and the primary reason was this: ten major cities had miraculously been spared the worst of the Bombings. They concealed unknown defense systems at their cores, barriers that kept the radioactive wind and water at bay. It’s oft been questioned how these barriers came about and why these cities should suddenly have them when so many were annihilated.

But no one came forward to answer these questions, and when these cities became some of the last with stability and power, they became beacons of hope to the world at large. They were in a position to negotiate, to establish communications and trade where national governments failed. They banded to form a worldwide Coalition, one that offered friendship and aid to all others that joined their ranks. Safe zones were established. Law and order began to be enforced. Friendly treaties were announced with other cities, new barriers erected, the Coalition growing.

Yet, this peace was not free. The core of the Coalition believed that humanity just wouldn’t survive any more infighting in its weakened state, and to go against the will of the Coalition became viewed as going against humanity’s best chance for a better life. Those who did refuse membership… well. All cities on the map are now Coalition cities. The others have been buried.

Raven Song takes place many years after this uneasy alliance took root, though the larger peace has mostly held. New York City is the heart of its story, though unfortunately, it is not the same thriving metropolis it once was. NYC was fortunate enough to weather the initial Bombings, and also fortunate enough to be one of the lucky few with a barrier from the start. But being cut off from the world for the subsequent winter… it took its toll. The barrier couldn’t encompass the full spread of the boroughs, and so many were forced to evacuate or were cast out beyond the walls. Many had to survive without proper electric, heating, or medical treatment for years. The population was ravaged. And though the city has now recovered, it has yet to hit the strides of its glory days when the United States of America was still alive and well. Most of New York’s residents, rich or poor, subsist on tightly controlled ration boxes for their food and fresh water. Reclaimed, non-radioactive farmland is at a premium. The average person’s protein is most often derived from insect farms, many of which are housed in basements and the dark disrepair of the metro tunnels.

Which brings our tale to Jackson, a New York City boy orphaned and adrift during these years. Jackson was adopted into the Dovetail family, eventually becoming sole heir to one of NYC’s larger shipping operations. And by “shipping”, it is of course meant smuggling: in these times of scarcity, food, water, medicine, and drugs have many, many buyers both within the barriers and without, whether or not the Coalition strictly approves.

Jackson, of course, has no interest in attracting the attention of the Coalition’s agents… though one day, they will offer him a deal he can’t help but consider, something he’ll desperately need despite the danger of them examining him too closely. But, that is a story for Raven Song to tell you.

Of course, Jackson has secrets beyond just smuggling, things that would make normal citizens fear him, possibly cast him out. You see, there have been secret societies bubbling under the surface beyond the Coalition, positioning themselves into power in this new world. Perhaps the most secretive, as they have always been, are the Mage Orders, sanctums of the few Gifted who are attuned to magic’s power. Jackson thought he was one of these Gifted once. He had visions of ravens, creatures with deep mythological significance. Ravens had long since been declared extinct, one more casualty of the Bombings lacerating the ecosystem. So, the Order evaluated Jackson. They found he most definitely had some sort of potential, but he couldn’t control it, and he was labeled defective, denied for further training. It happened often in the decades following the Bombings… magic went wrong in so many hands. And so, Jackson was left to manage the destructive manifestations of his magic on his own.

However, the NYC Mage Order didn’t uniformly agree with Jackson being turned away. They see that fewer Gifted arrive for training each year. They see that the fundamental connection they have with the magic of the world is recovering far too slowly. Some say they should try to train whoever they can get, lest the millennia-old art be lost.

The Order leader, the Archmage, has been installed for two hundred years, and he makes no move to answer this dissent. He is feared enough that none dare ask their questions aloud. Some speculate he knows what’s wrong with Jackson, and perhaps that he even knows why the Bombings happened, why the barriers exist, what it all meant. After all, he bore witness to this dark history. He’s likely forgotten much more than those around him will ever learn.

But he keeps his silence, cold eyes watching the world’s events unfold, pursuing his own agenda.

The last time he left his study in recent memory, the last time that frigid stare fell on his underlings, happens to coincide with Jackson leaving for a smuggling sojourn into the wasteland at the Coalition’s behest. Jackson found something out there. Something that might change the world. The Archmage was said to stride into the sunlight, glare up at the sky, and utter one phrase: “So… she’s here at last. A new game begins. A new age.”

One witness says he saw a raven-black feather fall from the Archmage’s hand as he stormed away, but when the student went to investigate, nothing was there after all.

Thank you for spending this time with me in this dark and complicated world of 2147. If you’re ready to hear more about the Archmage’s machinations, the perils coming to face Jackson, and the secret he found in the wasteland, check out my debut book Raven Song, which will start you on the journey! I’ve also written several free short stories, days in the lives of survivors of the Bombings and their descendants, which you can find at ia-ashcroft.com. Most recent in the collection is the diary of Marie, age 16, trying to defend herself and her own in militia-run NYC before the Coalition was formed. I hope to see you there!

Excerpt

PROLOGUE

A boy lay on the broken sidewalk, eyes closed. He was pale and thin, looking not a day over ten years old. His half-clothed body shuddered against the chilly night air. His bony frame scraped against the grime of the street as he curled into himself, trying to keep back the cold. Overhead, the stars hung bright and lonely.

In the alley, almost invisible against the midnight darkness, a man stood tall over the boy. His well-pressed suit was as black as the shadows, as his skin, and as the raven on his shoulder. The way he hovered over the child, he seemed a strange guardian. But his eyes were turned upwards to the sky, away from the boy’s plight, as if it was no real matter. In those black eyes the stars were mirrored, impossible and brilliant. Those eyes stared back into the past, when the celestial lights were loved and revered, when each constellation had a story.

Once upon a time… this was when the world had sung to him, the dream-walker, the song-weaver, the star-stringer.

Once, before humans had forgotten his name.

Now, the starry sky was almost hidden by the glowing blue haze of the Barrier, a shield cast over what was left of the city: proud New York, ruined, rebuilt, defiant.

The stranger kept staring upwards into oblivion, even as the boy let out an unhappy whimper, chills wracking his weak frame. The raven flew from the stranger’s shoulder then, alighting onto the sidewalk, picking past the weeds and rubble. It rejoined its fellows who had settled amicably around the child, oblivious to the fact that ravens were all supposed to be dead. One hundred years ago, poison had leeched into the earth, into the grass, into the grazers, and into the corpses left behind. The blight spared little, its kind no exception. Regardless, this impossible creature affectionately brushed at the boy’s dark hair with its beak.

At the touch, the boy awoke with a start. His wide, uncomprehending eyes took in the world as he struggled to sit up, his head swinging around wildly; past awnings and high rises he had never seen, past scrawled words and graffiti he could not understand. He teetered to his feet, then fell back down again as his knees gave out, sending the birds around him into flight.

He saw no starry eyes in the darkness, no stranger standing nearby. He was halfnaked, shivering, hungry, and alone, his head aching down to his teeth. The nameless boy shook off the dreams he couldn’t remember and wondered where he was.

If there had been any passersby on that cold autumn night, they would have sworn that this boy hadn’t been there a minute ago, and no stranger or ravens had been there at all.

About the Author

I. A. Ashcroft has been writing fiction in many forms for almost twenty years. The author's first book, written at age seven, featured the family cat hunting an evil sorceress alongside dragons and eagles. This preoccupation with the fantastical has not changed in the slightest.

Now, the author dwells in Phoenix, AZ alongside a wonderful tale-spinner and two increasingly deranged cats. Ashcroft writes almost exclusively in the realm of darker fantasy these days, loving to entertain adults with stories of magic, wonder, despair, violence, and hope, bringing a deep love of mythology into every tale penned. The author also loves diverse and intriguing casts of characters.

When not buried in a book, one might find Ashcroft learning languages, charting road trips, and playing tabletop RPGs with clever and fun people.



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