Author: Bronwyn Eley
Publisher Info / Release: Talem Press | September 12, 2019
Rating: 5 / 5 *’s
Thank you to Talem Press for sending me an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review!
In the city of Edriast, there is no deadlier duty than to serve as the Shadow.
As the personal servant of the powerful Lord Rennard, the Shadow’s life is all but forfeit. Rennard possesses one of five rare and dangerous Relics – a jewel that protects his bloodline, but slowly poisons everyone else in its proximity. When the current Shadow succumbs to its magic, nineteen-year-old blacksmith Kaylan is summoned to take his place.
It’s an appointment that will kill her.
As the time Kaylan has left ebbs away, hope begins to fade… That is, until she discovers a plot to destroy all five bloodlines in possession of the Relics.
A rebel force plans to put an end to Rennard’s rule and Kaylan suddenly finds herself embroiled in a cause that might just be worth fighting for. But no cause is without its costs..
As her life hangs in the balance and rebellion bears down on Edriast, Kaylan must decide where her loyalties lie – and how she’ll leave her mark on the world.
Relic is the absorbing first novel in The Relic Trilogy, a thrillingly dark YA fantasy series.
This debut novel is jam packed with action, heartache and a shocking plot twist that you don’t want to miss! From the very start, the words hook into you and it won’t be easy to set it back down.
It was so easy to get lost in this world that Bronwyn created that I finished this 497 page beast in two days. The prologue pulls you right into the story and follows Kaylan who is a blacksmith in Edriast. There’s a few scenes where her job, family and best friend are introduced before she is summoned to be the new Shadow of Edriast – a job where someone is picked at random to be the personal servant to Lord Rennard.
The title of the Shadow is basically a death sentence though because the Lord has a Relic around his neck, the only form of magic but also very mysterious as to how it works, and it hurts anyone around him who is not part of Rennard’s bloodline. But from here, Kaylan meets even more people who fill her day to day life.
This is where it gets emotionally charged. Bronwyn’s detailed about what is physically happening to Kaylan are so well done that it will break your heart. I actually teared up quite a few times and actually cried at one scene. I will warn you that it can get a bit graphic and violent but remember that there is a reason – everything that happens leads Kaylan to where the book ends.
Overall, this is a fast paced book with many unforgettable characters and moments with a HUGE plot twist. There isn’t a huge cliffhanger that will make you want to throw something but instead, it leaves you wanting more.
Below is and interview I was lucky enough to have with Bronwyn!
Q: The synopsis of Relic states that Lord Rennard has a jewel that slowly poisons everyone in its proximity. Where did you come up with the idea for the jewel?
A: I honestly can’t remember the ‘aha’ moment for when I came up with the Relics as a concept. The original storyline was actually very different and I won’t go into it because I’d like to keep it up my sleeve as a possible future story, but I think a spark of the idea of the Relic being poisonous came from Maria V Snyder’s Poison Study. This book (and the whole series) is one of my favourites and was the first YA fantasy series to ignite my love of the genre.
In Poison Study, the protagonist is a prisoner inside a castle, forced to serve as the food taster for the Commander. In order to stop her from running away, she is poisoned daily and has to remain there to receive the antidote. I loved the fear of what poison does to your body. Poison comes in many forms – in Poison Study it was poison in the traditional sense. I wanted to do something different with magic because so often in stories, magic is this dangerous yet incredible gift that is used by the protagonist to save the day.
There’s also that common idea of how magic always comes with a price. This is a concept I really like because if magic could be used without consequence, then it would almost be too easy, no? I wanted to represent magic untethered from positivity. I wanted my magic to be raw, dangerous, powerful, dark and poisonous. For once not representing magic as the thing that can save the day, the thing that can be beautiful, the thing that is magical in a pure sense.
Of course, to use this kind of magic in my story, it can’t be all bad. There had to be a reason that people kept it around. As I said before, poison comes in many forms. Some forms we run from – such as toxic gasses and traditional poisons – because we get nothing from them. But every day people consume alcohol, smoke cigarettes, carry their phones in their pockets… These are all things that poison us in some way. Some people go their whole lives never feeling the negative effects but some people do. Some people die of lung cancer, some people’s livers fail… so why do we keep doing it? Why do we keep this ‘poison’ around? Because we get something out of it that we like. The physical sensations, the boosted emotions, the ease of communication… Whatever the reason, it’s enough for most people. That’s the idea I knew I needed. There had to be something positive about the Relics. So that’s why I made them so that they could be possessed by a bloodline. Rennard and all those who share his blood will never be poisoned by the Relic, therefore it is their ally. But to everyone else, it is simply poison.
Q: How did you go about shaping your characters? Such as personalities and overall development to make them unique?
A: I started with the basics: what is the plot and what kinds of personalities do I need to help the plot along?
Obviously I needed a protagonist. Kaylan’s situation is horrendously difficult and painful; therefore I knew I needed someone strong and almost pigheadedly stubborn. From there I thought about what kind of life could Kaylan have led to turn her into the kind of person who is strong and stubborn?
She needed to be emotionally strong; therefore I knew she had to have suffered some kind of hardship throughout her life. This is one reason why her father is dead. It is also one of the reasons I chose her to have multiple younger siblings. When her father died, she had to step into the role of parent alongside her mother because her mother couldn’t handle raising four children on her own. It’s also one of the reasons I had Elias, her brother, be an alcoholic because it meant she learn how to handle a volatile person alongside her own emotions.
I also knew she had to be physically strong to be able to get through the daily life as a Shadow, which is one reason I made her a blacksmith. Her life is laborious. She is tough and gritty and strong.
I did this for all my characters. Lord Rennard was perhaps the most difficult one to create. I didn’t want him to be just simply bad. I prefer antagonists who challenge the reader by making them feel something other than hate. Rennard is a bad man but like every bully in the playground, he has his reasons for what he does and he is the way he is because of his past.
If I say that Rennard doesn’t suffer laziness, I have to follow it up with ‘but why’? There always has to be a reason that a character does what they do. I want the readers to be angry with Rennard but I also want them to feel sympathy for his predicament because he deserves both emotions from the reader.
In terms of making my characters unique, I think it’s hard to know if I’ve accomplished that because ‘unique’ is a relative term. What I might perceive as unique might be seen by someone else as ordinary. I do believe Kaylan is unique in that she is physically strong, which isn’t all too common in the YA books I’ve read. This is a personal preference for me as I am the kind of woman who takes a lot of pride in her physical strength and never wants people to assume I can’t match men in this regard.
Kaylan’s profession is also unique. There might be more instances of female blacksmiths in stories that I’m not aware of but the only one I know is in the movie A Knight’s Tale. Even then, the female blacksmith is ridiculed because she is a female. Unfortunately, she is a product of her time and of this world, as the movie is set in medieval England. Writing in a fantasy setting gave me the freedom to be able to eradicate some aspects of sexism. I never wanted to treat Kaylan’s job as an abnormality. She is not the only female blacksmith in Edriast and she’s not the first. No one scoffs at a female blacksmith, just as no one in Edriast would scoff at a man doing something we would classify as a traditionally ‘feminine’ role, such as being a seamstress.
Q: Is there any particular moment that became a favorite of yours while working on Relic?
A: Jesper’s birthday celebration is one of my favourite scenes. For some reason, I just love writing party scenes! I love hosting parties in real life so I guess this is just an extension of that.
I also really love the scene that follows – I won’t give too much away here, but I do love a good dramatic reveal.
Q: What is a typical day for you? Is there a certain amount of time that you dedicate to writing?
A: I’m a very busy person, I have three jobs (including my writing) and I socialise a lot, do sport, read every day and still manage to watch TV. I don’t write every day unless I’m on deadline. When I am on deadline, I will write of an evening after work for 2-3 hours as necessary and I’ll write on the weekends.
Q: Since you also work in the book industry, what is the most difficult thing between balancing your job and your work as an author?
A: Definitely finding the time and energy is my biggest challenge. Coming home after a long day at work, when all I want to do it mind-numbingly watch TV, it is sometimes hard to convince my work brain to stay switched on. However, I’m not the type to force it unless absolutely necessary. If I’m not in the mood, I generally give myself the time off.
One other challenge I face is that because aspects of my work in the book industry are creative, sometimes I feel like I’ve exhausted my creative brain by the time I get home.
Q: Are there any particular authors that inspired you to pursue writing your own novel?
A: I’ve been writing since before I can remember. I used to write fanfiction and scribble stories in my notebook during lunchtime and after school. My friend and I would share our stories. In primary school, one of my teachers told my parents that I was ‘too creative’ – what does that even mean? So for me it’s hard to recall the moment I realised writing was a passion for me because I think I was born with it.
In saying that, as I got older there were books that inspired me to keep writing. Authors like JK Rowling, JM Barrie and Maria V Snyder showed me what was possible. I’ve always been writing with the idea that I might like to be published one day but it was only since starting work in the book industry (and spending time with authors every day) that I realised that I actually wanted to pursue that career path. I think I always knew deep down but I believe I suppressed it because it’s like saying you want to be a Hollywood actress. Being a successful, full-time published author isn’t easy. And ‘successful’ does not mean mega-successful like JK Rowling or James Patterson. Successful for an author can still mean working part-time elsewhere or only making enough to just live on. But, in the end, I decided nothing else was going to make me as happy as writing did so I’d better just give it my all.
Q: What book do you wish you wrote?
A: There’s actually a few. I definitely wish I wrote Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie and not just because of its incredible success and endurance. I wish I wrote it because it is my favourite story, because it has touched the hearts and minds of people for over 100 years and will continue to do so forever – I truly believe that. It has inspired me my whole life and even when you find out the truth behind the author and the story, it somehow – for me, at least – makes the story even more precious.
I also wish I wrote Stardust by Neil Gaiman because, again, it is an incredible adventure and makes me so happy. Neil Gaiman is a genius; I don’t need to tell you that. His stories are mind-boggling. I often just sit there and wish I had a mind like him. When I met him at work a few years ago and he heard I was writing, I very awkwardly went, ‘Yes, but I’m nowhere near as good as you are’, and Neil said, ‘I wasn’t as good as me either when I started’. That was such a kind and supportive thing to say and I’ll always appreciate him for that, as well as for his works.
Another book I wish I had written was the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. It’s a great adventure and really humorous and entertaining, but I think what I took away from her books the most was how brilliant her characterisation is. She wrote six characters and each was so in-depth and real to me. I now use Six of Crows as a character goal-post.
One final book is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – the whole series! I have an obsession with Scotland and with time-travel. Somehow Gabaldon beat me to the perfect story for me but in my defence, I was born the same year she wrote the first book in the series, so she had an advantage on me.
Q: Most anticipated read in the upcoming year or in your TBR?
A: Well, there are a few. Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff is the third and final in his Nevernight series, which is one of all-time favourites. It’s not out yet but is very soon. I was very lucky to read an advanced copy and it’s more than safe to say it didn’t disappoint!
There’s the new book from Leigh Bardugo – Ninth House. I also have an advanced copy but haven’t had time to read it yet!
Q: Favorite bookish ship of all time?
A: Ooooh that’s so hard. It might have to be Yelena and Valek from Poison Study. They’re both great characters and them getting together felt both right and wrong at the same time. It’s hard to explain!
I remember at a book event with author Maria V Snyder once where someone asked ‘Why did you make Valek so much older than Yelena?’ and she answered that she hadn’t intended them to be a couple but they had minds of their own and their chemistry was undeniable. I love when the characters write their own stories and I can see what she means. They do belong together, whether the author intended it or not.
Q: If you could only take three books with you every time you travelled, what would they be and why?
A: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon because it inspires and excites me.
Probably Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory because I am obsessed with the Arthurian legend and this is a classic and it’s such a huge book, it would keep me occupied for a long time.
Finally, I’d take the first adult-length book I ever wrote. This is not Relic but another project that is on the backburner for me. It is not fantasy; it’s contemporary and has to do with archaeology and the Mayan culture. It’s a coming-of-age story. It is my first love in that sense. It feels like home to me and I wrote it for so long during my formative years that the characters feel like old friends. Real old friends. When I think about them, they are real to me and the story offers a level of comfort nothing else does. So it would be nice to take some of my oldest friends along with me when I travel.
RELIC, Bronwyn Eley’s debut fantasy novel, is slated for release September 12.
About the author
Bronwyn joined the military right out of high school, where she learnt (among other things) to disassemble and reassemble a rifle blindfolded. After that she spent a lot of her time travelling around the world. Her favourite places (so far) are Scotland, Mongolia, Iceland and Ireland.
Bronwyn finally found her natural habitat when she landed her first job in the publishing industry. While she has always been a writer, it was only when surrounding herself with books that she realised her life’s dream was to become an author. Relic is her first novel.
Bronwyn lives in Sydney and spends her time eating chocolate, reading and practising her martial arts.
- Add RELIC on Goodreads -> https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46218744-relic
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- Talem Press: https://talempress.com/
- Writer’s Edit: https://writersedit.com/
- For those in Australia & New Zealand:
–Booktopia (signed edition!)
-Better Read than Dead – Bronwyn & Talem are having a release party, check out their socials for more information
- Amazon (will link once available!)