Book Review and Author Interview: Song (The Manhunters Book 1) by Jesse Teller (published by Jesse Teller)
The author Jesse Teller kindly agreed to answer some of my questions! So below is my review and after is the interview.
Song is a dark fantasy that follows the story of a thousands-of-years-old wizard called Rayph Ivoryfist in a world called Perilisc. Rayph is a powerful guy and, before the novel starts created a magical prison that could hold some of Perilisc’s most vile villains. He rounded up said villains and put them in prison. So confident is Rayph in his prison that he leaves it to travel, only to find out that there’s been a prison break. This is where the book opens, as Rayph discovers that the dangerous inmates are on the loose once again and a couple are out to get their revenge on the wizard, as well as take control by doing away with the King.
After working out just how the inmates broke out and who helped them, Rayph rounds up a team of warriors and fellow wizards to help him track down the escapees, as well as protect the King. This group he calls the Manhunters. Rayph doesn’t particularly like the King, or the King’s new wizard, as Rayph used to have that job (it’s complicated). Plus, the King’s a drunk, but his heir is a good kid and Rayph feels obliged to help.
However, Rayph is framed for the death of an important personage and the hunter becomes the hunted as the King puts a bounty on Rayph’s head. So now he’s being hunted by two revengeful villains, one who has a horrific creature for a wife, and also by all the bounty hunters, mercenaries and criminals in the land.
There is a second POV character in addition to Rayph, called Konnon, who happens to be one of these bounty hunters. But Konnon has a heart, and a sick daughter, whose expensive medicine is what keeps him bounty hunting. Rayph and Konnon’s stories come together with a great twist.
It took me a couple of chapters to get into this book, but once I did, I found this to be a fast-paced read with effortless prose, great action scenes and a perfect balance of gore / violence and touches of light humour. There’s a whole host of characters including humans, wizards and magical people, gods/goddesses, demons and demonesses straight out of hell, ethereal beings and Rayph even speaks with ‘immortals’.
I didn’t particularly bond with Rayph. He’s thousands of years old but to me he didn’t seem very wise or sure of himself. He walks into traps set by his enemies on a couple of occasions without telling his fellow Manhunters what he’s up to and then has to call them for backup. He also doubts his companions have got his back and then chides himself for doubting. I kept thinking: if he’s that old, he would have experienced all these situations in one way or another before and so would handle them a bit better…
I did, however, like the Manhunter called Dissonance. She was kick-ass. And the gruesome Slinter Kriss, wife of one of the escaped convicts, is truly a horrific villain that gave me proper shivers.
This is a great read for those who like their fantasy on the darker side and I really enjoyed the concept of a prison break as the opening of a fantasy novel – I don’t think I’ve ever come across that before.
My rating: 4/5
Goodreads | Author website
Q. Please tell us a little about yourself?
I was a ridiculous boy. Made my first sword out of a slat that I stole from my grandmother's garden at the age of six. It was a much-needed piece of warfare to defend my house from dragons, marauders, and demon attacks.
I started mastering storytelling at a young age, studying under the brilliant storytellers of my family. We were poor. There wasn't much to inherit, but our heirlooms were the stories of our history, our keepsakes the tales of the generation before.
As a teenager, I was obsessed with romance and the romantics. Poetry at nineteen, literature in college. There was a long road of darkness in my twenties that taught me the face of evil and the pang of tragedy. I was an adventurer born, and a novelist built.
Q. What is your favourite book and why?
I had this reading teacher, her name was Mrs. Galvin. Her classroom was big, and on every inch, going around the entire room, was a set of bookshelves. She was a generous woman in the age of Pizza Hut's Book It, when if you read ten books, you could have a free pizza. You could borrow her books from her bookshelf, take them home, and she didn't care if you ever brought them back.
There was a book I read from that shelf that I'll never remember the name of. It was a sci-fi about a teenage boy who had broken the law and was sent to juvie. He was being abused there by the other inmates and the guards, and so he had to figure out a way to escape. I remember at the time I was living a life with my family that was very much like being in prison, so the book spoke to me.
I read the entire book in one day, and all I can remember about it is a feeling. And that can be the legacy of some books. When you remember them, all you remember is a feeling, an emotion that carried you through the telling, a sensation in the chest, in the fingers as you hold the book open. I would have to say it is my favourite book, though the title's been lost to history, and the author steeped in mystery.
Q. What got you into writing?
When I was young, I searched for purpose, and I mean young, fourth grade, fifth grade. My sister was an artist—we all knew that. She could draw and she was good. But I had nothing, no hold on creativity, no place in the annals of art. But in fifth grade, about the time I had given up on ever finding a talent that made me more than just a working class boy, I was given the assignment to write my first short story. It was like coming home, like I had been born to that place, but had somehow wandered off into banality. And after years of walking a wasteland, had finally found my place.
I wrote a short story about a purple hippopotamus, and my teacher told me I was a writer. And I have been ever since.
Q. Song is the first book in the Manhunters series, where did the idea for the series come from?
The Manhunters series is the product of the movie The Fugitive. Tommy Lee Jones plays the head of a US Marshals unit to hunt down Richard Kimble. I was intrigued by the idea that there could be a group of law enforcement so focused on one task, each with their own unique abilities, each able to lead, each able to fight. I toyed with the idea for over a decade, letting it just nibble at my mind, slowly creeping out of the dark when my mind was at rest, chewing and gnawing at the edge of my concentration until it took shape. I didn't write it until it was in me, until it was burrowed in to my body and living inside me.
Q. How long did it take you to write Song? Any substantial changes whilst writing?
The first draft of Song took a month and a half. I write at a rate of 3,000 words a day. It was not as it sits now. Song in its original form only told the story of Rayph Ivoryfist.
It was years later, after the rough draft had fermented, when I pulled it out to revise it and got drunk on the idea of placing Konnon in this book. Like much of my work, this character had appeared before, in a short story collection where I explored his origin.
So I brought him in this, drank in his story, and enjoyed the ride he took me on.
Q. What did you most enjoy about writing Song?
Song has, the entire Manhunters series has, a very powerful cast. There's a part in the first scene of the book where Rayph finds himself dealing with another powerful character, and he thinks to himself, if this enemy and I fight, how much of this city can I save? The book is like that. We are talking about massively powerful men and women dealing against foes of just-as-epic proportions. The thing I enjoyed most about Song is finding a way to challenge those characters and putting them in a situation where they could feel fear, and even at times, confusing them.
Q. Who is your favourite character in Song and why?
My favourite character in Song gets a very small amount of page time. His name is Sabrar Maul. Sabrar is a dark wizard who's done dark things, yet he is friends with our main character. Sabrar is really the most important thing that comes out of Song in my opinion. He is just introduced and nothing more, yet he becomes, in books to come, in series beyond this one, a very important character to the shaping of the world. He also makes an appearance in the second book, Hemlock.
Q. Can you tell us more about Hemlock, The Manhunters Book 2?
Hemlock is a lot of fun. It allows me to introduce elements that will come into play in later series, like the Mothers Smite. This is a group of chemists that create poisons with magical effects, potion makers, only all of their potions are poisonous. Each of them is very unique, and it was a fun order to play with.
You also get, when you read Hemlock, my interpretation of the creature the vampire. I feel like, if you're going to write fantasy, or any horror, and really establish yourself, you need to create creatures, but you also have to weigh in on conversations about the classics. This is the book where I show the reader my unique perspective on the vampire creature, different from what we've seen in the past. Plus, there's pirates!
Q. What writing projects are you currently working on / excited about?
Well, I've got my secret project, which I'm going to hint at but give very few vague and cloudy details about. I'll talk about it just enough to be frustrating and anger everyone. It's a poem about a boy and a girl, autobiographical and magical.
I'm also working on a new series that the reader won't get a look at for a very long time. It's got 12 books in it; I'm working on the second book now.
Currently, I'm waiting for my editor to get back to me on my final draft of the third book of the Manhunters series. That book was written two years ago in rough draft form, but I'm polishing it up for its release on October 5th. It's called Crown.
I'm always working on my blog that provides a short every other week. But the main project I'm working on is one life-long endeavour that is the creation of a world I will be writing in for decades and honing and polishing my entire life, and that is the world all my books are written in.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
Of course I'm in the usual places. You can always find me on Facebook, on my author page.
There's a secret society steeped in mystery, hidden in the shadows, where you can find all my juiciest tidbits. It's a project I have nothing to do with, that my wife and a good friend are in command of. It's a fan page called The Nation of Jesse Teller. You know, I really wouldn't even know how to get there. You're going to have to ask my wife.
I'm on Twitter. I have a website, jesseteller.com, which is a good place to start if you are looking to embark on the story I'm telling. And of course, I'm on Goodreads, always scanning, always hovering, watching and listening for the thoughts and feelings that any reader that experiences my work is willing to share with me.
Thanks Jesse! Song is available from Amazon here.
>>My debut novel, a grimdark epic fantasy called MELOKAI, is out now! Available from Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play Books, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Read more about my books here.<<
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