Bronwyn finishes her fantasy epic book Askar 20 years after she started it.
The altar fire belched black fumes; the priestess pulled back to avoid the black billow; the guests gasped in dismay.
"This marriage is doomed and so are all those present," the Voice said in Jena's head.
She cried out, but no one heard her.
The priestess turned toward the assembled guests. Her face was white and drawn. Jena could see that she had heard the Voice as well. Jena clutched the sides of the litter and watched as the priestess composed herself and said warmly:
"All marriages present challenges but my children, Ash and Freya, have good and loving hearts. All will be well."
Bronwyn Calder sets her romantic fantasy adventure ASKAR in
an imaginary world rich with allegorical comment on politics,
nationalism, war, religion and values. The female hero, Jena, would
find leadership and decisions a lot easier if her enemies were clearly and undoubtably
evil but she struggles with the discovery that this is not the case.
She learns to wield great spiritual and political power but that comes
at a great personal cost.
Her successes come from peacemaking rather than conflict.
On her journey Jena discovers friends and foes where she doesn't
expect them, experiences love and betrayal, and develops from
suspicion to understanding of other peoples.
ASKAR book and ebook on Amazon.com
||416 - in Amazon paperback edition. Can vary with other editions.
ASKAR ebook on Smashwords.com
ASKAR book on Fishpond.co.nz
- supplying to NZ and
Australia - also for ex-review and secondhand copies.
ASKAR book for sale on Wheelers.co.nz
- supplying to NZ and Australia.
- Read some of "Askar" and search inside with Google Book Search.
Askar - Reviews
ASKAR by Bronwyn Calder 01 Feb 2008,
by Anatole Sergejew
Askar is a rich and unexpected weave of stories.
A common theme for fantasy novels is how the central, seemingly powerless, character can play a crucial role in the war of good prevailing against the odds over evil. At first I thought Askar was based on the same theme - the central character Jena is scarcely accepted as a junior priestess in Navron, the Sacred Isle of the kingdom of Urkan, when the isle is invaded by warriors from the rival realm of Askar and almost all the isle's inhabitants are massacred. Jena survives and is guided by the voice of the Goddess to follow the kidnapped high priestess Jocea to Askar. She sets out with the help of Zorek (the king of Urkan's heir) and his friend Galen.
So is it the story I expected? No, we are told at the start that the peoples of Urkan and Askar are cousins, and although in Askar they worship the god Dread, it is the Goddess's wish to see the realms reunited, and the prophecy is that Askar will rule in Urkan. So it seems that the prophecy, and the Goddess's intention, is that evil should prevail over good.
Then we find the real threat (evil?) is the invading Falhar, and that the only way Urkan and Askar can prevail against this mightier force is by reuniting.
So is this book the story of the struggle to reunite Urkan and Askar in an attempt to repel the Falhar invasion? Much more.
It is a love story between Jena and Zarek, although again this story follows anything but the expected line.
It is the epic tale of Jena, Zarek, Galen and Ahron (the Askar king's son), fulfilling their destinies (sometimes in spite of themselves). It is a story of endurance and faith winding a precarious path through war and betrayal, where the line between good and evil is very much blurred, and where seemingly peripheral and powerless characters can play pivotal roles.
A great read.
"...the welcome subtlety that good includes accepting the imperfect" 29 Feb 2008
UPFRONT: This is posted by the Publisher, John Calder, passing on a review from
a test reader, Annika Streefland.
Bronwyn Calder is quite the storyteller and Askar is
a great achievement. She has developed the characters beautifully. This is the
sort of book one can't put down. I thought there was especially good pace and
structure such as around the battles. I've been reading NZ books lately so
Elizabeth Knox comes to mind as someone to compare Bronwyn to. I love
Elizabeth's writing, especially in Vintners Luck. Bronwyn's is alike in the use
of the unreal and the magical to draw analogies. The structures and stories are
entirely different but the character development is much the same. Their
characters have similar fears, insecurities, misunderstandings and regrets.
Askar is about the battle of good and evil, even within the characters. This
battle is depicted more in the classic sense than any overt sense. Good wins
with the welcome subtlety that good includes accepting the imperfect.
6 Jan 2008 by Colin Rock
I've just finished Askar and enjoyed it immensely...even the girly stuff, heh heh.
In fact Jena was a more complex character than I expected and it added great body
to the story. I did think 'The Voice' could have had a slightly more detailed intro,
for as a dedicated non-fantasy reader (which makes my praise more valuable, yes indeed)
I was expecting to hear something about her first hearing it in childhood, being
frightened etc. I liked the 'shadow' references to sorcerers etc.
Probably what I enjoyed most were the little human asides. The ship's captain turning
his back on battle and sewing a sail, or brief character descriptions of minor players.
Yes, so much enjoyed and thanks, Bronwyn. I sense a sequel also.
Response from Bronwyn Calder(Author) and John Calder(Publisher):
Thanks Colin for your review. 'The Voice' did have a "first hearing it in
childhood" passage in an earlier draft but Bron took it out because based on
feedback from other test readers she wanted to get the story moving more
quickly. However our latest round of test reader feedback lines up with you in
suggesting a little more establishment of characters and background detail. With
that we have restored that "first hearing it in childhood" passage and here it
is - see the preview to get it in context
Jena first heard the Voice when she was three years old and about to retrieve
the ball she had rolled into the fire in the kitchen. She reached her hand in
for it and the Voice said: "No!" loudly and sharply. She jumped and pulled her
hand back as if it was already burned. She looked around her and saw no one.
Then the dusty old cook returned: "Wot you doing my little lady? Come away then,
pet." And she knew the Voice hadn't been the cook's. As she grew up the Voice
came to her more and more: "There is a visitor in the yard now", before any
"Your brother has broken his leg, send a servant to help him" when Roban had
indeed been thrown from a horse and did indeed need a servant to pick him up and
bring him home. After that her mother took her more seriously, so that when she
announced "Lord Jevan will accept a marriage contract for Freya," her parents
She sighed and leaned her head on her hands. What would she do if the Voice
pronounced on matters of life and death?
Movie clip "Test scenes for
Askar" on Youtube
is based on the start of Chapter 8.
Ideas and themes behind "Askar"
A commentary by editor and publisher John Calder with a response by author Bronwyn Calder.