I still haven't caught up on all the sleep today's book cost me. I even had to sent the author an email to both compliment and yell at her at midnight once I'd finished.
(It was mostly compliments. But also lots of yelling.)
Today, we're talking about Oath of the Outcast, a new fantasy book from C.M. Banschbach and the first in the Dragon Keep Chronicles series. So long as you understand in advance that it may be hazardous to your sleep, let's proceed to the synopsis and my thoughts on the story.
Oath of the Outcast (The Dragon Keep Chronicles, Book 1)
Years ago, Rhys MacDuffy was brutally cut off from his clan, stripped of his name and inheritance, and banished to the remote Dragon Keep. Perched high above the Shang Pass in the land of Alsaya, he assumed the mantle of the Mountain Baron, serving out his sentence as the overseer of the worst outlaws and outcasts.
But one day he receives a desperate message from the clan who disowned him: MacDuffy’s Seer—his beloved brother—has been taken by their enemies.
With his band of Mountain Brigands and an unwelcome sidekick, Rhys leaves his mountain stronghold to find and rescue his brother. The tide of war is rising amongst the Clans of Alsaya, fueled by the magic-wielding sect of Druids who seek to unleash a dark force the world has long forgotten.
Can the bond of blood run deeper than banishment?
I've loved every book I've read from C.M. Banschbach…which means that when I tell you this is my favorite of her works so far, I'm saying this book is something very special indeed. Up until now, her stories have ranged from more magic-heavy fantasy to stories which emphasize medieval action/adventure over supernatural elements. This book lies squarely in the middle of that spectrum. Supernatural overtones combine with swordplay to form a story that features the best of both subgenres. The world-building here is superb…which should be no surprise to those familiar with Ms. Banschbach's work.
The best thing about this book, however, is the characters. Characterization is another of the author's strong points, but she surpasses herself here. Speaking as a male reader, I must say that it's very refreshing to read a story which revolves around strong, admirable male heroes who are challenged but not completely torn down or deconstructed. The guys in this book have scars, faults, fears, and failures, but these serve to make them relatable rather than unlikable. Plus, the banter between the leads is terrific–stellar dialogue throughout the whole story.
The ending is perfect for a first-in-series book, in that provides a reasonable degree of closure but simultaneously leaves you really, really wanting the sequel as quickly as possible. I don't tend to call an ending a “cliffhanger” so long as the main conflict of the book is resolved, so I won't use that word here, but…MAN, I need book two. Because this series is already awesome.
About the Author
C.M. Banschbach is a native Texan and would make an excellent Hobbit if she weren’t so tall. She’s a pizza addict, a multi-faceted fangirl, and a firm believer in being authentic—even if it means acting like a dork sometimes! When not writing fantasy stories packed full of adventure and snark, she works as a pediatric physical therapist where she happily embraces the fact that she never actually has to grow up.
She also writesYA/MG fantasy-adventure as Claire M. Banschbach.
Author Interview with C.M. Banschbach
What initially inspired Oath of the Outcast? Did the story go through multiple iterations, or did it stay pretty much the same from the initial inception until now?
The initial inspiration came while I was driving to my internship my senior year in college. It was a really foggy morning, and I started thinking about what it would be like to walk through the fog, as you do. Then that translated to an image of a rider descending a foggy mountain and the opening scene was born. Then because my brain never shuts off, I spend the rest of the day figuring out who the guy was, why he was so mad, and where the heck he was going. The original plan for the last half of the book changed dramatically. At least 3 separate plot arcs got scrapped during the drafting process before I finally was really happy with where it ended up.
Tell us about the world of the story. What are its distinctive qualities? Are elements of it drawn from any particular culture or mythology in our world?
It’s got a bit of Welsh/Scottish flavor as far as names and Clan based societies (because I’m a little obsessed!) But if you were to travel around Alsaya, you’d find mountains, highlands, some grass plains, pine forests and sandstone formations, and the ocean. Just be careful if you go up into the Cardic Mountains. Magic still lingers in the nooks and crannies of the mountains and the predators are all a little bit bigger and more ferocious up there. Plus, I hear there’s a notorious Mountain Baron that rules there…
Which was your favorite character in the book to write, and why?
*Checks to make sure no one is listening* Rhys/The Baron was for sure the easiest to write, which given that he’s angry and snarky 95% of time time, not sure what that says about me. But I always knew what he was going to do and what he was going to say (sometimes unfortunately…). But Alan MacDuffy is definitely tied as favorite. He’s so loyal, and a little broken, and will absolutely troll Rhys/the Baron any chance he gets.
How many more books do you have planned for the Dragon Keep Chronicles? Do you prefer to plan a series out from beginning to end at the outset, or to take it one book at a time?
Just one more right now! Book 2 will release next summer. I originally submitted this story as one, long, gigantic book. Then Crosshair Press and I decided to split it into two books to be able to do better justice to this story. But I have rough outlines for some prequel short stories focusing on a few of the Baron’s most loyal men and some backstory hinted at in the books!
What themes in particular do you hope readers will take away from this story?
Family is more than blood. No one is too far past a chance for redemption.
Many thanks to C.M. Banschbach for coming on the blog today! Readers, don't forget to grab your copy of Oath of the Outcast, and to find out more about C.M. Banschbach and her books via the following links: