Sisters of the Storm Book 1 by Guy Estes Genre: Epic Fantasy, Adventure
It's one thing to be gifted by the gods. It's another thing entirely to figure out how to use that gift.
Three of them are born at once. Some say they are gifted - Chosen - by the gods. Others say they are so aberrant even the gods cannot stop them from existing. Three of them living at once is unprecedented... and dreaded.
Aleena is a gifted warrior who only wants the world to leave her alone. Anlon is an equally gifted warrior who wants the world under his boot. Baezha is a gifted witch whose intentions are unknown, even to her. Both Aleena and Anlon are skilled, proud and jealous. Their rivalry is inevitable, yet Aleena knows Anlon is a brother in addition to a rival. Jealousy, mercy, forgiveness and vengeance threaten to consume all she loves.
Yet what of the third Chosen, Baezha, a powerful sorceress quietly watching the other two? And will the gathering of this triad result in balancing the equation into order or unbalancing it into further madness?
“Those who are Chosen are chosen by the gods?”
“That is one belief. However, being one of them you need to know everything. Some whisper that the Chosen are not blessed by Tamura and Donya at all, but that they are creatures of evil. The extraordinary skill of the Chosen, they believe, simply isn’t natural. In addition to uncanny skill, the Chosen are remarkably beautiful and have eternal youth. Even if you live to be a hundred you will never look a day older than thirty. Moreover, your beauty will be immune to destruction. Scars will completely fade. Some people see the combination of eternal beauty with unnatural skill as proof that the Chosen are demonic. They believe that, rather than sending the Chosen, the gods protect humanity from them by making them rare, as if they were such an aberration that even the gods couldn’t always stop them from being born.”
“So which one are they?”
“That, I believe, is entirely up to the individual Chosen.”
Reckoning Sisters of the Storm Book 2
She won’t hesitate to take on any demon from any of the seven hells, but none of them are as terrifying as the ones in her own mind.
Baezha Ambrose is a gifted sorceress. Aleena Kurrin, her adoptive sister, is a gifted warrior. Together they have faced countless foes, but now Baezha must face what she fears the most – her past. She’d fled her home town of Oleppo after her world ended in fire and blood and left her crippled with guilt. In the years since, the forces that destroyed her world have taken over Oleppo and grown stronger. Now she must return to Oleppo to sort things out.
The Watchers is a secret society of religious zealots fanatically devoted to the extinction of magic. Baezha’s extraordinary talent with magic makes her their most hated enemy, and they bring all of their obsessive fanaticism to bear on her. The Order of Entropy is a faction of sorcerers dedicated to destructive magic. They see Baezha as an intolerably dangerous rival, and they know precisely how to hurt her. They know her sordid past better than Baezha herself.
Crippled by guilt and fighting a two front war in a city that has made her very existence a crime, Baezha will need all the help she can get. She has but one ally, her sister Chosen, Aleena, who is as powerful in war as Baezha is in magic. With Aleena’s help, Baezha shall bring a reckoning to the evil that destroyed all she loved. Or that evil will have its final victory over her.
Though listed as book 2 of the series, this is a stand alone novel.
The most dangerous women in the world dare the most dangerous place in the world.
The Shingora, a place known and dreaded by all, the name driving those who hear it to mutter prayers and make signs for protection. None who have gone to that island ever came back… until now.
The trade guilds sent an expedition there, hoping to find a wellspring of natural resources. Only one man returned, his experience having reduced him to gibbering madness. Now the guilds are sending a new expedition, three hundred strong and armed for war, to learn the fate of the previous one and rescue the survivors… if there are any.
Joining them are the Chosen sisters: Aleena Kurrin, the Battle Queen, gifted by the gods in war, and Baezha Ambrose, the Witch Queen, gifted by the gods in magic. Sworn to recover any survivors, they are joined by a host of new friends and brave an island teeming with bizarre creatures. And on the Shingora, everything kills.
Yet an even darker discovery awaits them in the Shingora’s depths, an unnatural horror far worse than anything the island’s sinister reputation ever hinted at. And while immersed in all the island’s perils, a traitor threatens the company from within. With treacherous enemies at their backs and engulfed by a horde of abominations, the sisters will be tested as they’ve never been tested before… and even those Chosen by the gods have their breaking point.
Though listed as book 3 in a series, this is a stand-alone novel.
A banshee-like screech slashed through them, and something pale launched itself out of the bushes, tackling a man. Reegan and Graff stabbed it with their swords. The rest of Reegan’s corps joined them. They surrounded it and jabbed their spears at it. Their foe, having shredded its victim, pounced on another man and ripped into him. The other men backed away and the rest of the company got a clear look at the thing.
It was a quadruped with pale, leathery skin, and a face that was an absurdly huge grin due to its long, jutting fangs in the underslung jaw and the total absence of lips. It was about the same length as a wolf, but heavier. Its limbs were thick and powerful, its heavy feet bearing massive claws of dirty ivory, and it had no tail. It raised its bloodstained face from its victim’s belly, strings of flesh dangling from its crystalline fangs. It had multiple eyes, large and completely black. Four were arranged on the front of its face in a square while a single row of two ran back along each side of the head.
Two arrows thudded into its side. Its only response was to charge the archers.
Lords of Illusion Sisters of the Storm Book 4
The Shrouded Masks, a sect of assassins feared above all others because they have a unique advantage – they’re doppelgangers, giving them perfect disguises. Everyone thought they were exterminated decades ago. Everyone was wrong.
They have returned from the brink of extinction seeking vengeance against those who sent them there – the royal family of Bukahr. To protect themselves from assassins who can take the forms of their most trusted people, the royals hire two who are not easily impersonated, the Death Queens – Aleena Kurrin, gifted warrior, and her adoptive sister, Baezha Ambrose, gifted sorceress. But things aren’t as simple as they first appear.
The masks the royals present to their adoring public are much prettier than the faces that wear them. For them, appearances trump everything, including Aleena’s strategic advice, making a difficult job even more difficult, and Baezha is sure they are keeping secrets that could prove vital. As Aleena learns about their adversaries, she discovers the relationship between the royals and the assassins may not be as simple as the king said, and she suspects the assassins want something more than blood vengeance, something worse than murder.
Add a secretive king, a haughty queen, a scheming princess, an arrogant prince, and a hostile guard captain to shapeshifting assassins and the sisters are once more tasked with the impossible. And if Aleena is right, the Shrouded Masks intend something far worse than their deaths.
Though listed as Book 4 in a series, this is a stand-alone novel.
“Make ready, lads,” Aleena told the guards. “Something’s afoot.”
She went from scanning the crowd to scanning the buildings behind them. Every balcony bore admirers, cheering and waving; every balcony except one. It was empty, the open doors behind it showing a dark room, its curtains waving in the breeze. Aleena fixated on it. Her gift gave her such a masterful understanding of strategy and tactics that her ability to anticipate an opponent bordered on psychic.
Even as she placed herself directly between the open doors of the deserted balcony and the princesses, she saw something dart from the doors in a blur of movement. It struck her breast plate with a terrific impact, glancing off the polished steel, up the slope of her right breast and over her shoulder as it knocked her back into the sedan and staggered the bearers.
“Steady on, you clumsy fool,” Jarella scolded.
The crowd laughed.
“Guards,” Aleena yelled, “surround the princesses, shields up! Baezha!”
She turned to Baezha and saw her looking up, sword in hand. Aleena joined her. A man with a dagger in his hand was falling straight towards the sedan. The crowd screamed. Baezha caught him using telekinesis, holding him up in the air. Then she drove him into the cobble stones, stunning him. She cast a sleep spell on him so they’d have a captive for questioning. Aleena was about to go after whoever was in that dark room when several firepots came arcing over the crowd. Eisen and the guards next to him raised their shields. Some firepots struck and exploded on them while others burst upon the cobblestones at the guards’ feet, splattering oil that blossomed in flames and inspired the crowd to further hysteria. The guards, their trousers on fire, danced away, while Eisen and his companions cast their burning shields away. With a wave of her hand, Baezha cast magic to extinguish the flames. As the fires went out, figures hooded and cloaked charged.
Aleena stepped forward to meet the first one. He held a curved short sword with a wicked serrated blade. Not knowing if her opponent wore armor under his cloak, she set her blade to be as sharp as it could. Her blade caught him in his left shoulder and emerged from his right rib cage, resulting in his head and right shoulder and arm separating from the rest of his body. Another one came at her from behind. She drove a kick into his stomach, then turned and split his skull. A third thrust his sword at her, but she knocked it aside and unleashed a counterattack too fast for spectators to follow. They saw her swinging sword as a blur of motion. Then the man dropped, his sword arm, forward leg, and head sliced off.
Baezha hurled glowing blue magic at one assassin in a motion like she was striking him with her palm. The mass of magical power drove him back into a wall with enough force to shatter his skull and several other bones. Another came at her, sword cocked over his shoulder. Baezha wrapped her telekinetic power around his neck and broke it while cutting down another one.
Eisen parried a thrust and stabbed his man in the neck, then blocked another assassin’s sword, grabbed his sword arm, then swung his sword in a low, backhanded blow, amputating the assassin’s legs just above the knees. Other members of the wolf pack took down their foes with the ruthless efficiency of sharks biting seals in half. With that, the assault ended, but there could easily be more assassins within the swirling crowd. Their entourage of artists and scribes milled about, aghast at all that just happened.
Aleena checked a dead assassin and confirmed her suspicion – he was a member of the Serpents of the Void.
“Get back to the palace!” Baezha yelled. “Now!”
The sedan bearers turned back toward the palace, hurrying as best they could under their burden. The guards stood on either side, shields up, the burned ones limping, but they hesitated.
“What are you waiting for?” Aleena demanded. “Get back to the palace!”
“That might not be the best idea, Mistress Kurrin,” Corporal Kade said. “Listen.”
Strident trumpet calls blared from within the palace walls.
“What is that?” Baezha asked.
“There’s been an attack at the palace.”
The God Makers
Sisters of the Storm Book 5
The problem with trying to trap the Death Queens is you run the risk of succeeding.
Over a year ago, Aleena Kurrin, divinely gifted warrior, and her adoptive sister, Baezha Ambrose, divinely gifted sorceress, faced the unnatural monsters of the Shingora – the Eighth Hell. The sisters triumphed, but their victory felt hollow, their souls scarred by guilt – though they saved many people, they failed others, something for which they cannot forgive themselves. Making things worse is the fact that the mysterious alchemists responsible for creating those monsters remain unknown… or do they?
A group of alchemists calling themselves the God Makers has set up shop just outside the alchemists’ guild’s jurisdiction, and they sound exactly like those who created the abominations on the Shingora. Haunted by their failures on the Shingora, the sisters must know for certain if the God Makers are who they fear, and if so, put them out of business. Permanently.
But when they get to the God Makers’ lair, they discover their fears fell short of reality. The God Makers’ master, Arleth, means to show the world just what they’re capable of, threatening a city and the sisters’ loved ones in the process. And the sisters would make an invaluable addition to his ranks… whether they want to or not.
To save their loved ones and a city of innocent people, the sisters chosen by the gods challenge those who would create gods, all while trying to accomplish the most difficult task of all – forgiving themselves.
Though based on the events in Book 3, this is a stand-alone novel and can be read without first reading the others.
“My name’s Gorlik,” he said, his grin never faltering as he stared down at her. “I was hoping for this. The chance to put the God Makers’ strength potion to the test!”
She thrust at his neck, but he twisted aside and struck her sword arm in a nerve cluster, numbing her arm and forcing her to drop the sword. He drove a fist at her face. She barely avoided the blow; she didn’t expect such a big man to be so fast. Slipping aside, she drove the heel of her palm up into his chin. Pain shot through her hand and forearm as his head barely moved. His grin broadened. His hammer-like fist slammed into her forehead with a backhanded blow, sending her staggering back three steps before she fell.
He came at her in confident strides as she got up, her equilibrium still wobbly from the blow he dealt her. Her head felt full of cobwebs, whether from the blow or the sedatives she did not know, but her mental faculties were slow and clumsy, like a limb that had fallen asleep. He shot another fist at her. She slipped aside and came in to deliver a flurry of blows with hands, feet, knees and elbows, then backed off. He continued to grin, amused at her antics. Then he came at her. She could barely block the punches he sent at her. She tried to block one of his hooking punches and slowed it just enough to keep it from knocking her unconscious, but it did light off pyrotechnics in her skull. She backpedaled, trying to buy enough time to recover. To do what, she wondered. My strongest blows do nothing but amuse him.
He came in with a nice opening in his guard. Aleena shot in and drove her fist into his abdomen with every bit of power she possessed, from her feet, up through her hips and torso, transmitting all of it through her arm into his belly.
She felt like she’d punched a stone wall. He looked down, smiling, and drove a hook punch into the side of her head and her world went dark.
Guy Estes was born in Huntsville, Alabama in 1970 and grew up on his family's ancestral sugar plantation in New Iberia, Louisiana, where he currently resides with his wife and three children. His children are the seventh generation of his family to grow up on the place, which was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War. He has a bachelor's degree in social studies education and a master's degree in European history. His day job is an instructor at a small safety consultation company. He taught public school for three years and, as a result, no longer fears hell.
The protagonists of the Sisters of the Storm series, Aleena Kurrin and Baezha Ambrose, started out as Dungeons and Dragons characters I played in high school. Aleena is a warrior while Baezha is a sorceress/warrior. When I started writing about them, the only women warriors in the genre (and we’re talking late 1980s here) were members of the bronze bikini brigade, and while I like looking at beautiful scantily clad women as much as any straight guy, I wanted my characters to be more than eye candy. I wanted them to be well-developed characters who were at least smart enough to go into battle fully armored. All the writing advice at the time was for your novel to have a unique angle you could use to sell to a publisher, so that was my angle – my female warriors were intelligent, fully fleshed-out characters, not just a couple of hot chicks (although, yes, they are hot – I’m a guy, when I picture women, I naturally picture hot ones. Admit it, ladies, you’re just as guilty – notice the total absence of short, pudgy bald guys on the covers of romance novels. I figure fair’s fair – ladies can have their beefcake and guys can have their cheesecake.).
Then the television series Xena: Warrior Princess premiered, featuring a complex, intelligent female warrior who wore sensible armor (yes, it showed some thigh and cleavage, but it was a damn site more practical than the metal lingerie all the previous women warriors in the genre wore, and was a reasonable fantasy equivalent of Greek armor). And I thought, “Well, crap, there goes my unique angle.” But I kept plugging along, my obsession refusing to let my stories go and, well, here I am.
Strong female characters have always been my favorite, and they are characters a lot of writers seem to have difficulty with, which always puzzled me. “How do you write strong female characters?” is a staple topic of writer message boards everywhere, at least among male writers. They tend to get preoccupied with things like “would a woman do this?” or “would a woman do that?” Speaking as a man, I have no idea what a “typical” (whatever that is) woman would do in a given situation, but I know what these individual characters would do because I created them.
Another common mistake is they try to keep the character “feminine” and in their efforts end up writing what tvtropes.org calls the faux action girl – she’s presented as tough and competent, yet she always ends up needing a guy to rescue her. R.A. Salvatore ended up doing this to the character Cattie Brie in the Drizzt Do’Urden novels and it absolutely infuriated me.
The other common mistake is to go too far in the other direction and focus all effort into making sure the reader knows how tough and competent she is, so that becomes her only characteristic and she ends up being a one-dimensional and thoroughly unlikable cast iron bitch.
Good characters need to be well-rounded and complex. Aleena and Baezha are strong, competent, and tough, but that’s not all there is to them. They’re also well-educated. In Reckoning, guilt has left Baezha a pile of emotional flaming wreckage bordering on suicidal. In The God Makers, they’re both suffering PTSD from the events in The Eighth Hell. They can be smartasses, a trait most of my protagonists share (no idea where they get it…). Other characters often call them arrogant and, well, those characters have a point. Being designed by the gods to be the consummate warrior, Aleena’s natural instinct in battle is to go for total annihilation of her opponent, so many people think her bloodthirsty, and Baezha is downright sadistic to anyone who threatens her loved ones. Both of them are extremely harsh critics of themselves.
Why, one might ask, am I so fascinated by strong female characters? I was so young when my father died I don’t remember him. Mom was the primary influence in my upbringing and raised three kids by herself after Dad died, so that would be the obvious answer, but it wasn’t until I was discussing this topic in a message board that I realized what an influence my older sister was on me.
Growing up, many of the clichés and stereotypes about women at the time – they have no sense of direction, they’re bad drivers, they don’t do well in math or science, they’re meek – never made sense to me. My sister was always good at math and science, excelled in all academics, and never held back competing with any students, boys or girls. I never knew her to get lost. She has a good driving record. She’s a master of biting sarcasm and never had any hesitation using it on anyone. I never knew her to compromise herself so boys would like her. But she also liked “girly” things like Little House on the Prairie and Holly Hobby, and she’s good with kids. When I was very small I did see her as a protector. Mind you, she was never a fist-on-her-hips, I-am-woman-here-me-roar type. She just went around being herself. In other words, she was a fleshed-out human being, and it wasn’t until I had been writing Aleena for about thirty years that I noticed how much of my sister had found her way into the character, through no deliberate effort on my part.
An excellent piece of writing advice is to keep your eyes and ears open. Notice things; a conversation you overhear in a coffee shop, mannerisms of a coworker. Incorporating things like that into your characters helps develop them and make them more authentic to the reader. Once your character is that developed, it doesn’t matter what a “typical” member of his or her demographic would do. All that matters is what this individual person you created would do, and now that you’ve made them an authentic person, it will work in the story.
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