The Bridge to Magic
The Sundered Web Book 1
by Alex Thornbury
Genre: YA Dark Dystopian Fantasy
2022 Royal Dragonfly Award Winner for Science Fiction/Fantasy
"This is dark fantasy at its best ... "—The Book Commentary
A gripping, award-winning debut for lovers of traditional high fantasy, set in the dying world where humanity is likened to weakness, and the only path to salvation is the same path which might lead to death.
The Blight. The end of Mankind. The Bridge that may be salvation or the final betrayal.
In this grimdark fantasy, Elika, an orphan on Terren's streets, hates and fears the bridge that spans the great chasm to the Deadlands. Like everyone else, she clings to the hope that purging every lingering echo of magic from the world can stop the Blight.
Then she discovers that magic is hiding within her, and through her it seeks to enact the will of its own. Everything Elika knew about her past shatters, as long-buried secrets about her true birth emerge. Accused of being a mage, many doubt her loyalties. Her gang turns against her. The one man she thought she could trust and love, abandons her. Elika must soon decide: Either destroy the magic inside her or cross the bridge to her own uncertain end. But what awaits them in the Deadlands where the enemy of mankind roams wild? Her future or her end?
The Bridge to Magic is a story of a life between two deaths and an impossible choice to make. It is a story of finding hope, love and survival in a world where none seems possible.
Praise for The Bridge to Magic
"A magnificent high fantasy debut...stunning page-turner...original, captivating, and readers may be surprised to find this is the author’s debut novel. The storyline is absolutely mesmerizing, and Thornbury has a knack for telling a dark story. And I do mean dark." Reader Views⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
"This was a really great introduction into the Sundered Web series. Alex is wonderfully skilled in world building and this book is a prime example of that. Her wonderful descriptions creates beautiful and vivid imagery. It's almost like the reader becomes Elika." NetGalley Reviewer ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
"This is dark fantasy at its best... The more creative descriptions of the darkness that threatens humanity pull the narrative somewhere between horror and fantasy... A delightful read with a voice that works and prose that is bold and enticing. But it is the immersive world of this creation that will have most readers turning the pages." The Book Commentary ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
"A sensational work of fantasy fiction that will captivate YA readers and adult fantasy fans alike... An accomplished tale with a fascinating core concept, great character development, and gorgeous, spine-tingling dark fantasy styling. A series not to be missed." Readers' Favorite ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
"A wonderful fantasy story for teens and adults... The author has a great imagination and whilst this book is a complete story in itself I look forward to the sequel." Booksprout Reviewer ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
"Shut your windows. Draw your curtains. Lit a candle and let the pages suck you in. This is a gritty chilling, and dark story set in a fascinating world. The plot has many pleasant twists and the characters can surprise with unexpected actions that reveal more about their hearts... Despite all of the desperation the end of the world brings, there is a sense of beauty and coziness. Occasionally even humor. And it all creates an engaging balance." BookSirens Reviewer ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
"Expertly crafted and highly readable… Mesmerising." The Prairies Book Review
"... thought provoking ... enchanting novel." Sally Altass - Author of the Witch Laws
"The Bridge to Magic is well written and draws you in from the start. Well-paced and filled with good characters... a quality entry into the fantasy genre." Christian Warren Freed – Author of The Lazarus Men
There was a time before the bridge was forged, but those stories had been mostly forgotten. The dark history of that bygone age was now buried in the archives of the priests. Only the echoes of it remained on the tongues of minstrels and drunks. Elika had heard them all and each tale seemed more terrible and unimaginable than the other. Those were dismal times of endless wars—men against magic, magic against men. The time when even the storms and rains were at the mercy of magic and its fickle moods. It might snow in the summer, or the hot winds might carry sand upon them, burying entire cities. Honest travelers feared to ride through the forest, lest the trees attacked them. A farmer might wake up to find his river flowing the wrong way or dried up altogether. Those days were gone and might have been forgotten, but for this stark reminder before Elika’s eyes. And who had not stood before the dark bridge in their last moments, facing that choice they all must one day make? Like that hoary, old codger in the ale-stained uniform of the city’s Blue Guard who had stood before the bridge for nigh on an hour; unsteady on his legs, his sour breath steaming in the crisp, winter night, drinking deeply of the cheap gin, which was as likely to kill him by morning as what he now faced. He took a long swig out of his bottle as he braced himself for the unknown fate ahead. Elika sat huddled in the doorway of an abandoned house, watching him, needing to know whether he would reach the other side or die crossing. Her ears filled with the howling winds rising from the great chasm, and she did not need to imagine what he was thinking, staring as he did at the monstrous bridge and the lifeless bank beyond, for she was thinking the same--surely it is better than what remains at our back. Better than what approaches. She clutched the cloak tighter around herself against the biting gust of wind trying to rip it from her. She had scavenged the woolen cloak some days ago from a dead beggar, and it still smelled of his mustiness. She pulled up her knees to her chest and clamped her icy hands under her arms. The stone wall was cold at her back. Her breath steamed. She waited and watched the old guard take another wobbly step toward the bridge, seeking courage in his gin-dulled mind. He took another gulp, stared at the empty bottle in surprise, then threw it aside with a foul curse. The bottle hit the frozen ground and rolled off the edge of their world into the chasm, to fall for eternity in that endless darkness.
“Bloody hell! Looks like he’s about to change his mind,” Rory said to no one in particular.
“He won’t,” she said.
“Confident, are ye? Why are you here, anyway, Spit? You won’t be getting his loot. My men are already outside his home, and they’ll cut any ragamuffin who tries to sneak past us.” She hated being called Spit. It was the name they gave the orphans. “Name’s Eli,” she mumbled, though why she bothered she did not know. Rory knew her name, knew all their names, for it was his job to know. He was the one Peter Pockets sent out to catch and bring in those young ’uns who might be worth something to Pockets’ gang. He was also the one who delivered the less savory messages to competing gangs when they strayed from their own hunting ground.
“Sure it is, Spit.” He gave her a mean, toothy grin. His yellowing teeth were large in his long, gaunt face, and made her think of a fox’s snout. “Why don’t ye just go back to your mouse hole and save yourself being cut again?”
“Not here for his loot,” she lied and instinctively scanned the buildings for Little Mite, in case Rory was of a mind to cut her now and be done with it. Mite was also watching, though she’d never see him unless he wanted to be seen. Mite only needed to give the signal across the roofs for Tick to slide down the chimney into the old guard’s home before Captain Daiger’s men got their own signal. Tick was fast and wily. He’d be quick to grab what he could and be gone before anyone had the mind to chase him. She’d already seen his pleased face from afar when he had signaled to Mite that he was in position. There was good looting to be had with this one.
“So, here for the spectacle, then?” Rory smirked. “Always thought you were morbid like that, watching them with those large, icy eyes of yours, as if you were death itself urging them on.” He shuddered. “Evil pup. Maybe you be thinking of taking the crossing yourself, hey Spit? Like your ma and pa.”
Alex Thornbury grew up in Cheshire UK, and developed a deep love of history and fantasy thanks to the many castles she visited as a child. Though she grew up to be an Alchemist by trade, she never stopped fantasizing about other worlds, dragons and epic battles. She has abandoned her Alchemy and potion making career, and is now a full time author of high fantasy. After all, who does not love to build new worlds and meet its wondrous inhabitants?
Q&A with Alex Thornbury Author ofThe Bridge to Magic:Book 1 of theSundered Web Trilogy
Question:The Bridge to Magicis your debut novel. What made you begin writing?
Alex Thornbury: I’ve always had stories swirling in my head, like colorful clouds of candy floss, waiting for me to give them shape and purpose. There is something notable and perhaps a little romantic about stories outliving their authors. From a very young age, as I read fairytales, legends, folk lore, and later classic literature written hundreds and even thousands of years ago, I began to dream of writing a book that would outlive me. But, as with everyone else, work and everyday life got in the way of dreams. However, 10 years ago I found myself between jobs and suddenly unfettered by daily worries. I sat down and wrote my first manuscript: an epic fantasy, The Sprite Catcher. It was both an achievement and a terrible mistake as far as my author career—but that’s another story.
Q: What is it that draws you to writing fantasy specifically? Are there any authors you look up to?
AT: I love the escapism, the possibility of endless worlds, strange beings, and wonderous places. With fantasy, there are no limits on the possible. Your imagination is the sole barrier to what can be. When I read a fantasy story, I find it hard to return to my own mundane world. Above all else, I look up to Robin Hobb. She had the most profound effect on me as an author, and on what I wanted to achieve with my own writing. Her books hook you and do not let go. As my sister-in-law once said to me, “Her books ruin you for other fantasy authors.” After finishing Hobb’s series it is hard to pick up another book.
Q: In the book, magic and the Bridge to Magic are two things Terren’s people, including Elika, shudder to think about. Do they have any greater meaning? What does the bridge symbolize?
AT: Escape from all that is wrong with your life, the way out, the hope that there is more in life beyond what you were given. How many of us feel trapped in whatever place we find ourselves in? Always we find reasons not to do something, reach for a dream, hope for better. It might be something like a dream of leaving your job and opening that coffee shop you always wanted. Or, it might be a move to another city—another country—and live by the sea, something you longed to do all your life. It takes tremendous courage and strength to leave everything behind: family, friends, security, and the familiar. We look at that insurmountable bridge across the wide chasm to a place we cannot clearly define—an uncertain future we both want and dread—and we fear the uncertainty, losing our path back, and making everything worse. And how deep is that fear? The Blight tests it.
Q: Who is the ideal reader forThe Bridge to Magicand what do you hope they walk away with after reading?
AT: Above all else, I hope the readers simply enjoy Elika’s story for what it is: a tale of a girl trying to find courage, let go of her fears, and embrace whatever fate she has chosen for herself whether that is to stay and fight the magic and the Blight, or make the fateful crossing to the other side. Sometimes there are no right choices and easy answers.
The book should resonate with young adults, for they are the ones faced with the task of making that crossing to their uncertain future yet ahead of them. And I remember how daunting and frightening those choices were in my late teens: the not knowing what awaits us on the other side of childhood and the fear of making mistakes that would haunt me the rest of my life.
Many of those choices still hold true for adults, too. I hope the book resonates with them, too, and gives voice to those fears inside them, and ultimately gives them courage to make that crossing to try and reach all their dreams.
Q:The Bridge to Magicis only the first book in theSundered Web Trilogy. What other stories and adventures can we expect to see in the future and when?
AT: I am currently busy writing and editing book 2 of this series. It will be available for pre-order in February 2023, with the release date likely to be between August and December 2023.
Then of course, there is my fist born, the one I slaved over, nursed and nurtured for more than ten years, the Last Song of Man epic series, with the first book, The Sprite Catcher, due for release for pre-order in July 2023. Though I love epic fantasy, the depth of complexity and the long journey they take you on, epics are also the hardest to write. That complexity turns against you, the world grows and grows, the characters lose their way, and the story becomes an unwieldy beast. But I have tamed it at last. The story is written for adults, though it may appeal to YA market as well. The sneak peak of it is available on my blog at https://alexthornbury.com/blogs/
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