Book Reviews by Steph

Live, Laugh, Love, Read

Masks.jpgTitle: City of Masks (Bone Mask Trilogy #1)

Author: Ashley Capes

Publication Date: August 14th 2016

Genres: Adult, Fantasy


A noble daughter burdened by power she never sought.

Perched on an unforgiving coast, the city of Anaskar is under threat from enemies within. Its own royal family feuds over possession of sentient bone masks of power, leaving Sofia Falco, daughter to the city’s Lord Protector, to foil a conspiracy designed to strip her father of both his title and powerful Greatmask.

A bitter mercenary accused of murder.

Yet when disaster strikes, Sofia is forced to flee the palace and into the city where she crosses paths with mercenary Notch. But Notch has his own problems – accused of murder, he must fight to clear his name, all the while hunted by the city’s robed assassins, the very people who are now searching for Sofia.

A young Pathfinder seeking vengeance.

Meanwhile, far across the western desert, Pathfinder Ain must overcome his doubts and leave on a hopeless quest. To restore his people to their rightful home, he must unlock the ancient mystery of Anaskar’s Sea Shrine and the gargantuan sea beast that lurks beneath its harbour. Yet all who have gone before him have failed…

Follow three unlikely heroes on an epic fantasy adventure where the struggle over bone masks of power threatens to tear their city – and kingdom – into shreds.

Purchase Links: GoodReads|Amazon

About Ashley

Ashley.jpgAshley is an Australian novelist, poet & teacher. You might have read his epic fantasy ‘The Bone Mask Trilogy’ or maybe you’re familiar with his other work, the fantasy/adventure series ‘The Book of Never.’ Either way, you can read more about his books and get access to giveaways and free books via his newsletter below 🙂

Ashley occasionally dabbles in film, is addicted to 80s cartoon shows and Studio Ghibli films, and finds himself constantly awed by the simple beauty of haiku. He is also convinced that ‘Magnum PI’ is one of the greatest TV shows ever.

Q & A with Ashley Capes

Mini Bio Note/Introduction

 I’m Ashley and I’m a poet, novelist and teacher from Australia.

I like to move around amongst various genres; epic fantasy, magic realism, supernatural and occasionally suspense. I don’t think I’d be able to stick to one genre but it guarantees that I never end up bored at least!

I also love volleyball, haiku and Studio Ghibli – although Cowboy Bebop is fast becoming my new favourite animated work. Over the last two years I’ve been fighting for free time to read more, as I miss it so much.

Q&A Questions: General

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Definitely, the money spent on an ergonomic office chair – it makes a huge difference to how often I can write, I’m still very happy with that.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Not really – when I’m struggling I don’t believe I’m blocked in a really final, insurmountable way. I tend to see it as either a problem with my motivation or if it’s early on in a project, confusion between whether I have a great idea or a great story. For me, an idea is potential but can lack conflict. Conversely, a story has both, and so while I can stall on an idea – when I find the conflict and story I’m usually good to go.

What are the most rewarding and the most challenging aspects of being a novelist?

Holding a finished book – it’s a thrill beyond what I’d expected. And just above that is probably hearing a reader tell me they loved one of my stories; that transforms the worst day.

The biggest challenge is definitely managing time. As we all know, there’s so little of it and so many demands on our time. Making sure I maintain my writing schedule is vital and something I think I always work on.

Do you listen to music when you write? Or when you edit perhaps?

Definitely both J

When writing, for me it’s often about pace. A fast beat really keeps me going and I listen to a lot of metal while writing first drafts, along with hard rock like Sabbath and Zeppelin.

Sometimes it’s any music I know inside and out, so that the lyrics don’t bother me and for some scenes I’ll switch to something tense – for instance, in some parts of City of Masks, where I wanted more tension, I looped a piece called ‘The Battle Remembered’ by Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble and it worked really well.

For editing I ease off a bit too. I might go with Miles Davis’ cool era or sometimes a game soundtrack, something from the Sega Megadrive perhaps. One of my favourite albums to edit to is actually the Howl’s Moving Castle soundtrack; it’s beautiful and just works so well when I’m revising.

How did your writing career start, and what motivated it?

Like a lot of writers I started young, making my own picture books in primary school, and was lucky to have supportive teachers, parents and friends along the way.

Specifically, I think it’s easiest to trace back to high school and being asked to join a band. I couldn’t sing of course (still can’t, really!) but my friends knew I wrote poetry so they thought I’d be good at lyrics. At the time, I remember being influenced by the acerbic nature of Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) but I also owe a debt to Jim Morrison for leading me to The Beat Poets.

Poetry was actually where I got my first publishing success, with several small publishers here in Australia, some years later, but it wasn’t until 2014 that I really started moving forward with my fiction. Again, I was fortunate to receive invaluable advice from my fav Australian fantasy writer, Jennifer Fallon. She helped a lot.

In terms of motivating me to write fantasy fiction specifically, I think it was in part reading The Hobbit at a young age and in part just the joy of exploration, the joy of wonder and awe. I felt those things so often when reading my favourite books, seeing my favourite films and even travelling, or walking the bush lands around my small country town. Or, to jump to City of Masks, I still remember seeing Amalfi clinging to the coastline, the lemon groves and the calm sea – and thinking that the same sea must have once been so ferocious on the day it swallowed the historical city.

Q&A Questions: City of Masks

 What were your cultural influences for the world creation for The Bone Mask Trilogy? Why those?

The main influence was probably Italy for setting it was the coast of Amalfi in particular. The historical city was perched on the coast and actually slid from the mountain into the sea in the 14th Century so there’s a bit of that influence on the city of Anaskar itself.

I also found smaller details from the region fun to incorporate into the setting, particularly the fire-lemon which is similar to limoncello, and a lot of the naming conventions are Italian-influenced with some Latin too. For a quick example, one character is named Lupo which would make his name “Wolf” in English. I followed such naming conventions throughout the city with people and placenames ─ all save the city itself Anaskar. (It’s not strictly very Italian-sounding because it’s actually a city that has been named by the previous occupants so I didn’t want it to sound too Italian influenced.)

I think Italy has ended up the biggest influence because back in 2011 (when I first had the idea for a city under threat by a sea monster) my wife and I were in Italy and we were immediately smitten by the country ─ it was one of those once in a lifetime trips and I think I was just keen to soak in everything.

City of Masks weaves together politics, history, culture, and the action in this book. What kinds of research influenced the politics of your world?

Thanks! I drew upon monarchies and tribal systems mostly ─ always looking at where power lies in a group, I guess. Is it shared or is it guarded jealously? If it’s disrupted, who takes what is left? Those sorts of questions are fun to explore as a writer.

I remember reading a lot about various royal families who always featured a brother or son (or uncle) keen to knock off a few family members on their way up to the throne. I think it was the shadowy Richard III that I recall the most.

I think all political structures tend to have an undeniable element of personality; the forceful, confident or clever tend to have the ability to direct others, no matter their title or lack of. With the desert-dwelling Medah people, for instance, despite there being multiple elders in the Cloud clan it’s clear that Raila is holds the most sway; she tends to command the most respect in the group.

Do you have a playlist that you used while writing City of Masks?

Sort of! Nothing like a specific playlist on Spotify etc, but here’s some of the albums that I remember playing quite a lot during the writing (and editing) of the story:

Pink Floyd – Animals

Prince – Sign o the Times

Killswitch Engage – Alive of Just Breathing

Opeth – Ghost Reveries

Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell

Yo Yo Ma – Silk Road Ensemble

Janko Nilovic – Rythmes Contemporains

Connect with Ashley Capes: Poetry|Newsletter|Twitter|GoodReads|Webpage





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