Fantasy novels with a touch of romance

slivers of 5 book covers, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Ninety Five Percent Human by Suzanna Williams, Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, and Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

There’s a long-standing tradition of romance playing a part in adventure storylines. Whether it’s the chivalry of King Arthur’s court or the love between Rose and the Doctor in Doctor Who, romance is often key to creating a rich and enjoyable plot. Done well, it can provide character depth or increase the stakes without getting in the way of the protagonist’s quest.

When it comes to fantasy novels, you’ll often find a budding romance or a long standing love affair in amongst the adventure of the piece. Here are my top five fantasy novels (okay, four fantasy and one sci fi) that feature a good dollop of romance alongside an exciting storyline.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Against the grey sky the towering tents are striped black and white. A sign hanging upon an iron gates reads:

Opens at Nightfall

Closes at Dawn

Full of breath-taking amazements and open only at night, Le Cirque des Rêves seems to cast a spell over all who wander its circular paths. But behind the glittering acrobats, fortune-tellers and contortionists a fierce competition is underway.

Celia and Marco are two young magicians who have been trained since childhood for a deadly duel. With the lives of everyone at the Circus of Dreams at stake, they must test the very limits of the imagination, and of their love.

Find Erin’s website here:

The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger

Clare and Henry met when Clare was just six and Henry thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty.

Impossible but true.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is the international bestselling novel of a time-altering love. Henry is a librarian who suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets, finding himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. Meanwhile, Clare is an artist waiting all her life for her great love Henry to appear. In the face of this force neither can prevent nor control, Henry and Clare’s struggle to lead normal lives is both intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

Find Audrey’s website here:

Ninety-Five Percent Human by Suzanna Williams

Save the girl. Accidentally trigger alien invasion. Stop ruthless alien warlord from killing the human race. This teen’s life just got complicated.

Joe longs to rebuild his failing family farm. But despite the long hours he works in the fields, everyone tells him it’s a crazy impossible goal for a sixteen-year-old. Then he rescues a mysterious girl who urges him to fight for his dream, and Joe realises his ambitions might now include this quirky stranger.

Sarah has resolved to kill herself. She’s an alien/human hybrid sent by hostile aliens to test the viability of life on Earth, and she doesn’t want the death of the human race on her conscience. Scared and alone, she hurls herself into a raging river, only to be rescued by the cutest earth boy. Living on the most beautiful planet in the galaxy just got a whole lot more desirable.

Working side-by-side on the farm, Joe and Sarah grow closer. But when more aliens arrive and Sarah’s secret is revealed, will their love be enough to keep them together as they fight to save the world?

Find Suzanna’s website here:

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

As children, sisters Gillian and Sally were forever outsiders in their small New England town, teased, taunted and shunned for the air of magic that seems to sparkle in the air around them. All Gillian and Sally ever wanted was to get away.

And eventually they do – one marries, the other runs as far from home as she can manage.

Years later, however, tragedy will bring the sisters back together. And they’ll find that no matter what else may happen, they’ll always have each other. An enchanting tale of love, forgiveness and family, Practical Magic is beloved of readers of all ages.

Read my book review of Practical Magic here.  

Find Alice’s website here:

Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett


Tiffany Aching put one foot wrong, made just one little mistake . . .

And now the spirit of winter is in love with her. He gives her roses and icebergs and showers her with snowflakes, which is tough when you’re thirteen, but also just a little bit . . . cool.

And if Tiffany doesn’t work out how to deal with him, there will never be another springtime.

The Word Wizard is no longer with us, but a website is still run in his name (and with the permission of his estate). You can find it here:

Four old ladies walk into a pub – Part Three

4 empty chairs with a table by a roaring fire in a quaint pub, lots of Halloween decorations

“That was easier than I thought,” said Babs.

“Too easy,” said Sheila.

“He won’t be a happy chappie,” said Constance.

“I don’t think he really does happy,” said Gwen.

The Graveyard Tap sat, unsurprisingly, on the border of a graveyard. From there the main road in town led up to the shops or down to a grid of residential streets. With the shops all closed for the evening, the four friends headed down the hill.

Gwen and Constance walked arm in arm, mainly because Constance wanted to enjoy the solid state that Halloween always loaned to her for twenty-four hours. She’d return to passing through walls and spying on the pub’s locals tomorrow.

Besides the Graveyard Tap being Constance’s haunt, it was used for the HAGS yearly get-together because of the delight that the locals took in celebrating Halloween. External Christmas lights were switched on, but Santa and his reindeers were replaced by ghouls, ghosts, and grinning devils. Pumpkins, carved into cute or demonic designs, guarded every doorstep. The pavements were filled with an onslaught of trick-or-treating children and their teen or parental guardians. For one day of the year, all things scary were celebrated.

“So cute,” said Gwen as they walked past a trio of children who were all dressed as fairies.

“I prefer them,” said Sheila as a teenage zombie fought to separate two warring demon toddlers.

“Oh, how pretty.” Constance pointed to a boy and girl who held a plastic bucket of sweets between them. Their faces were painted like colourful skulls, adorned with flowers. The girl had marigolds in her hair. “I do prefer the Mexican approach to Halloween costumes.”

“Dia de los Muertos,” said Gwen. “That’s what they call Halloween over there.”

“I still prefer Samhain,” said Sheila, grinning as another fight broke out, this time between two teens. “Reminds me of the old days. Good and bad.”

“Do you smell that?” Babs took in a deep, shoulder-raising breath. “Someone’s lit a bonfire.” She pulled her coat closer. “Is it just me or has it suddenly gone cold?”

“Good evening, ladies, again.” Mr Mortimer appeared to have recovered from the incident with the chicken leg. If you looked very closely, there was a broken blood vessel in one eye, but the blood was deep purple instead of red. “Shall we get on with this?”

“But we were having such good fun,” said Gwen. “Babs, can’t you do anything?”

Babs turned to Sheila. Sheila sighed and rolled her eyes. She looked around at the trick-or-treaters, weighing up her options.

“Please don’t hurt us,” she cried out, pressing her hands together and raising them in a feigned expression of appeal. “We’re just four old ladies. We can’t defend ourselves against a brute like you.”

A couple of the parents turned around to watch, gave Mr Mortimer the once over, and then returned their attention to their sweet-hunting children

With a tut, Sheila tried again. “No, no, you shan’t take my friends.” She flung herself across Babs, shielding her friend with her arms. “Ravish me if you must. But leave them alone.”

A group of teens edged closer, rather confused by the sight of a sweet-looking old lady thrusting her chest out at a strange man in a top hat. A couple more parents turned to watch.

“Ravish you?” said Mr Mortimer. “I don’t-”

“These are innocent women,” Sheila cried, looking at the passersby. “They don’t deserve to be manhandled.”

“I don’t think it’s working,” said Gwen as the passersby continued to pass on by. “Sheila’s knack at inciting a crowd isn’t what it was.”

“Maybe this will help,” said Constance.

Hunching down in the shadow between Gwen and Babs, Constance wrapped her arms around her head. When she looked up again, her elderly countenance had been replaced by that of a five-year-old girl dressed in a blue gingham dress.

“He’s hurting my grandma,” she wailed as she rushed to Sheila’s side. “Don’t let him hurt my grandma.”

“What are you doing to her?” One of the parents, a woman in her thirties trailing a little boy dressed as a werewolf with her, stepped in between Sheila and Mr Mortimer.

“Don’t you worry, sweetie.” A teenage girl bent down to reassure Constance. “We won’t let him hurt her.”

“I think you’d better go.” One of the dads got involved, prodding Mr Mortimer in the chest. “We don’t like perverts round here.”

“Pervert?” said Mr Mortimer. “I’m not a pervert. I was just-”

“We know what you were doing.” Another dad joined the first. “It’s not right.”

“And we’re backing away, backing away.” Sheila took Constance’s hand as the two of them retreated from the growing, cat-calling mob.  

“Everyone together,” said Gwen, reaching out to them all. “Quick, while nobody’s looking and Mr M is busy.”

“What do you have in mind?” said Babs as the four of them formed a ring.

“You’ll see.” Stepping on tiptoes, Gwen closed her eyes, hummed a couple of notes, and said, “Fairy dust and moonbeams bright, cloak us now in veil of night.” She clashed her walking stick on the tarmac. A sprinkle of sparkles scattered up into the air before floating down to cover them all.

“That’s a bit twee,” said Sheila.

“Well, I am a fairy godmother, dear.”

The sound of the crowd who surrounded Mr Mortimer dropped and muffled as if the four ladies had stuffed cotton wool in their ears.

“Has it worked?” asked Constance, now back in her elderly form. “Can they see us?”

“I’d say not,” said Babs as a child crunching on a lollipop walked between their legs without a glance at any of them. “But just to be safe.”

She picked up her walking stick and pointed the tip into the night sky. A cool breeze circled the four of them, riffling their hair and making them shiver.

“Over rooftops, chimneys high, on the wind now let us fly.”

Constance and Gwen both let out a little ‘oh’ and a giggle as the four friends lifted off the ground. It wasn’t until they had reached the rooftop of the Graveyard Tap that Babs lowered her cane.

“Nicely done, Babs,” said Gwen.

“Not so bad yourself,” said Babs.

“I suppose we’d best not hang around,” said Sheila. “Just in case he comes back.”

“I don’t think the townsfolk will let him,” said Constance. “But you’re right. Better safe than non-existent.”

“Same time, same place next year?” said Babs.

“Of course,” said Constance.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Gwen.

“I suppose so,” said Sheila.

Four old ladies walked into a pub on Halloween, but it was a witch, a ghost, a demon, and a fairy godmother who left that night. And Death, of course.


Happy Halloween.

Four old ladies walk into a pub – Part Two

4 empty chairs with a table by a roaring fire in a quaint pub, lots of Halloween decorations

“Expecting someone?” Sally handed out plates of food from the trolley. “Chicken drumsticks?”

“That’s for me, dear,” said Babs. “We’re not expecting anyone, no.”

“Meat pie?”

“Me please,” said Constance.

“Here you are. That gentleman by the bar’s been watching you all. Don’t you think he looks dapper? Or maybe it’s his Halloween get-up. Fiery wings?”

“Me.” Sheila held out her hands. “I’ve been looking forward to this all year.”

“That leaves the sugar-plum pudding for you.” Sally left the custard-swathed dessert in front of Gwen. She handed them their cutlery, carefully reversed her trolley out of the tight space, and nodded to a figure by the bar.

“Blimey,” said Babs. “I didn’t expect to see him tonight.”

“Really?” said Sheila with a chicken wing in her hand. “Seems like the perfect night for him to be out and about.”

The man at the bar smoothed down his thinning white hair as he laid his black top hat on the bar. He was parchment pale and smartly dressed in an old-fashioned suit that was so dark it almost seemed to be a hole, or an absence, or at the very least, disconcerting. He wore a ruby red waistcoat and matching cravat that only accentuated how pale he was. Small-framed, round, silver spectacles perfectly perched on his nose with no arms to support them. His eyes were an icy blue, his face gaunt and angular, and his nose long and hooked. His lips were thin and grey.

He bowed his head to them, picking up his hat and pressing it to his chest as he walked across the pub in a stiff, unnatural fashion.

“Ladies,” he said as he drew up a chair and sat. “This is a pleasure.” As he spoke, a goblet of deep red wine appeared in front of him on the table. His voice was dry and raspy, as if he couldn’t quite catch his breath. “I’ve been looking for you. All of you,” he said.

“How lovely,” said Gwen as she plunged a spoon into her pudding.

“You’ve given me quite the chase,” he said, lifting the glass to his lips for the smallest of sips. “I do hope you won’t give me any trouble,” he finished as he returned the glass to the table.

“Trouble? Us?” said Constance. “We are nothing if not ladies.”

“Debatable,” he said. “No offence intended.”

“Tough. I’m offended,” said Sheila. Hot sauce coated her chin, giving the impression of congealing blood.

“Now, now,” said Babs. “Mr Mortimer is only doing his job.”

“I’m so glad that you understand. Shall we?” He looked towards the door leading to the street.

“You know, Mr Mortimer. I appreciate you’re busy, but could we finish our food first? It is the last meal that we’ll ever eat after all.”

“Except for me,” said Constance. “I haven’t eaten in centuries, but I do enjoy the smell and look of a decent meat pie.”

“And this is very good pudding,” said Gwen. “Dreamy, in fact.” She smiled the sweetest of smiles.

“Well.” He reached into his jacket and pulled out a fob watch, which he considered with a raised, pale eyebrow. “I suppose there’s no rush. My next appointment isn’t for a while.”

“Chicken drumstick?” said Babs, holding one up.

“I don’t usually…” He stared at the chicken piece as if it was something both alarming and alluring. “I don’t have the constitution, you see.”

“Oh, go on,” said Gwen. “Our treat.”

“Well, if you insist.” He took the chicken drumstick between thumb and forefinger. “Bones, meat, and bread crumbs.” He gave it a sniff. “Can I eat it all?”

“Absolutely,” said Babs. “The bones are the best bit.”

“But-” Constance began, halting only when Gwen kicked her under the table.

“Thank you.” He bit into the chicken drumstick, teeth passing through flesh and bones alike. “I didn’t expect it to be crunchy,” he said, raising a hand to his mouth. “Is this normal?”

Most people who are choking on a chicken bone go red in the face to begin with, but Mr Mortimer wasn’t most people. Instead, his face changed from white to grey to a rather attractive shade of lilac. His eyes flicked from side to side as his hands wavered in the air.

“Not to your taste, Mr Mortimer?” said Babs. “Have a sip of your drink.”

Mr Mortimer shook his head and pointed to his throat. He weakly slapped his other hand on the tabletop as his eyes began to bulge.

“Don’t worry, ladies. I’ve got this.” One bright spark who had dropped into the Graveyard Tap for a swift pint on the way to a Halloween party hauled Mr Mortimer to his feet. “We’ll have you sorted in no time,” he reassured as he wrapped his arms around the choking man’s torso.

By now, every head in the pub was turned towards the incident. The bright spark’s friends had crowded round for support, cheering each attempted Heimlich thrust. No one noticed the four old ladies as they sidled around the edge of the bar, coats in hand, and left the Graveyard Tap.

To be continued…

Four old ladies walk into a pub – Part One

4 empty chairs with a table by a roaring fire in a quaint pub, lots of Halloween decorations

“Here they come. Seven pm on the dot.” Harold, landlord of the Graveyard Tap public house, nodded to the four elderly women as they sauntered in.

“They’re not regulars.” Sally finished pulling a pint of ale.

“They’re here every Halloween,” he said. “We always reserve the table by the fire for HAGS.”

“That’s a bit mean.” She handed the pint over to the waiting customer. “I know they’re old, but you don’t have to call them names.”

“No, HAGS,” he said. “H. A. G. S. It’s an acronym for their club.”

“What’s it stand for?”

“No idea.”

The four old ladies shrugged off their coats, strangely dry for such a rainy night, and settled at the fireside table. One picked up the handwritten reserved card, squinting at it through her thickly lensed glasses.

“First question,” she said. “What do we think HAGS stands for, if Harold asks?”

“He never asks, Babs,” said another of the ladies as she peeled off her dainty white gloves.

“But if he does, Constance,” said Babs. “I’ll go first. Halloween Assembly of Geriatric Spirits.”

“I’m not geriatric, thank you very much,” said the third. “I’m mature.”

“Like cheese?” said Babs. “Go on, Sheila. Play the game.”

“Cheese.” Sheila rolled her eyes. “Fine. How about Horror Association of Grimm Spellcasters?”

“That’s a bit on the nose, don’t you think?” said Constance.

“What’s your idea then?” said Sheila.

“I think it should be the Happy Ancient Grandmas’ Society. I have grandchildren, you know.”

“You had grandchildren, dear,” said the fourth lady, patting Constance on the hand.

“I’m not a grandma,” said Sheila. “Can’t stand kids.”

“What would you suggest, Gwen?” said Constance.

“Let’s see.” Gwen fiddled with one of her sparkly clip-on earrings as she thought. “HAGS stands for Hideaway for Ancient Goddesses Sisterhood.”

“Goddess,” said Constance. “I like that.”

“Agreed,” said Babs. “That’s what we’ll tell him.”

“If he asks,” said Constance.

“Which he never does,” said Sheila.


Harold knew exactly what drinks to serve the HAGS gathering. It had been the same every Halloween for as long as he’d worked at the Graveyard Tap. He’d started out as junior barman over fifty years ago before eventually taking over the place. The ladies’ drink order was always this: a murky absinthe cocktail with a sprig of rosemary for Babs, a lavender gin fizz for Gwen, a white whisky sour with a maraschino cherry for Constance, and a flaming whisky with an orange slice for Sheila. The drinks hadn’t changed and, strangely, neither had the ladies. They were old when he first met them, and they looked exactly as old on this Halloween.

Babs always looked slightly dishevelled, with flyaway grey hairs attempting to escape from under her knitted beret. She wore large circular glasses that gave her the look of a startled owl, and a long, heavy sweater over a floral print dress. A chain of silver charms hung around her neck. Her flesh-shaded support stockings wrinkled around her skinny ankles and above a pair of sensible leather brogues. She walked with the help of a scratched, old, wooden cane, which bore the remains of what must have once been carved symbols.

With her shock of curly grey hair and cherubic face, Sheila appeared the picture of a sweet grandmotherly type. She wore a frilly pink cardigan dotted with cats over a polka dot dress, tights, and soft white sneakers. A large cross hung on a chain around her neck, sitting on the fabric of her dress. Harold had rarely seen her smile but when she did, her teeth always looked just a little too sharp. Unlike Babs, Sheila walked with a youthful bounce in her step rather than an old woman’s shuffle.

Constance was a petite, rail-thin woman with wispy white long hair tied into a loose bun. She wore a pristinely pressed, white lace blouse over an ankle-hiding burgundy skirt. A string of pearls adorned her neck and her white gloves lay smoothed out on the table in front of her. She always moved slowly and with impeccable posture.

Of the four old ladies, Gwen was the most likely to smile and laugh.  She was a cheerful, plump woman with rosy cheeks and curly silver hair. She wore a lacy pink dress with a blue cardigan, chunky pastel bead necklaces, and soft ballet flats. Her sparkling clip-on earrings would catch the light when she moved, creating a fairy-like twinkle. In one hand she gripped a tall wooden cane decorated with flowers and vines. Whenever Harold met her, he always noticed the scent of fresh flowers and baking bread.

“Thank you, Harold,” she said as he served their drinks. “How’s life treating you? Is it all you wished for?”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” he admitted. “But not bad. Could be worse.”

“So much worse,” said Sheila. She took a sip from her flaming drink. “Perfect.”

“Sally will be over with your food in a minute. In the meantime, Happy Halloween to you all, ladies.”

“And to you, Harold,” said Constance with a ripple of agreement from the others.

“He’s not getting any younger,” said Babs as Harold dodged in between costumed partygoers and grumbling regulars.

“Neither are we,” said Sheila.

“Yes, but we’re not getting any older either,” said Constance. “Well, I’m not.”

“How long have you been body-liberated now?” asked Gwen. “Three hundred years?”

“No, over four hundred,” said Constance. She took a lady-like sip from her drink. “Of course, it feels nearer to three hundred because I went rather mad for the first eighty or so years. That slice of my afterlife is a feverish blur. So how are you all? Good year, bad year?”

“Slow year,” said Gwen. “People just don’t crave things the way they used to. They actually like to put in the effort these days. Be seen to achieve. And I just can’t get my head around Insta-telegram and Tock Tock.”

“Well, I’ve had a hell of a year,” said Sheila. Her glass was empty, and she was licking the singed slice of orange.

“Is that good?” said Constance.

“Not really,” said Sheila. “Babs, how about you? Cheer us up with tales of magical success, why don’t you?”

“I wish I could,” said Babs. “But spell-craft ain’t what it used to be. Everyone seems to be doing it these days, writing books about it, blogs, podcasts. The mystery has gone.”

The four looked down at the table-top, nursing their drinks – or empty glass in the case of Sheila – as their thoughts returned to the good/bad old days.

To be continued...

Lost down a rabbit hole: What I researched for Book 3 of the Haven Chronicles

I’m one of those authors who likes to prepare as much as possible before I begin to work on a new novel. One aspect of that preparation is plenty of research. You might think that because I write fantasy stories, the whole concept will be born from my imagination but I’m a firm believer in the value of grounding a story – even a fantasy story – in reality and possibilities that are believable to the reader.

Before I started on the third book in my YA futuristic fantasy series, I spent a lot of time on research so that I wouldn’t have to stop mid-way through to find out what was scientifically possible or historically correct.  Here’s what I researched.

Haven Wakes and Magic Bound

Haven Wakes and Magic Bound book covers and the words Magic and robots and a boy searching for the truth

Yes, I know I wrote both books, but over time the edges of your creations begin to blur. So I needed to check certain facts from the first two books to make sure I got it right in book three. Facts like:

  • what the travelling door in Hartley’s kitchen looks like
  • the layout of Darkacre
  • the entrance to the magical council controlled area, the Confluence (including golems)
  • Kiri Ema’s and the dancer Mariana’s appearances

and much much more.

Flying cities

Magic Bound was predominantly set in the magical portion of Steve’s world so I wanted to feature much more of the workaday (non-magical and futuristic) portion in book three. One expression of that high tech culture is a flying city. Research unearthed several possibilities:

  • aerostatic lift, involving lighter-than-air gases to provide buoyancy and lift
  • aerodynamic lift, with aerodynamic features that generate lift
  • anti-gravity, using technology that manipulates gravitational forces
  • tethered aerostat, a lighter-than-air structure anchored to the ground
  • static lift structure, generating enough buoyancy to keep the city afloat without a tether

It’s all very exciting and the technology I’ve chosen has definitely influenced the design of the city. And no, I’m not telling you what it’s called yet – you’ll have to wait and see.

Ostriches pulling carriages

Yes, that’s a real thing – look. I can’t include an image in this blog post for copyright reasons, but there are so many vintage images of ostriches pulling carts, traps, and carriages out there.

Now, there are no ostriches pulling a carriage in book three but there is something similar to an ostrich. That’s as much as I’m going to say. Again, read book three.

Cruise ships

Fi Phillips standing in a Norwegian setting with the cruise ship Iona in the background

This was a lovely topic to return to after my cruise of the Norwegian fjords last year, but I was especially interested in vintage cruise ships like Queen Mary 1 and 2, the RMS Aquitania, and yes, even the Titanic. It was the sumptuous interiors that piqued my interest.


I’ve been promising to feature Venice in my novels since I finished writing Haven Wakes and it finally makes an appearance in book three. This was one of my favourite research topics to dive into.

I’ve visited Venice several times and it’s a city that I still find fascinating and mysterious, so I’m taking Steve and co there this time round. Having said that, it may not quite be the Venice we all know.


So yes, those were the rabbit holes that I disappeared into last year. I have to say that I loved researching all of these topics. In fact, I probably spent way too much time down these rabbit holes because, well, shiny things and all that. Once book three is finished, I’ll be straight into research for book four and I already know that’ll include… Hang on. That’s a completely different blog post.

The inspiration behind Magic Bound

paperback of Magic Bound over blue forest backdrop and the words 'the inspiration behind...'

Back in 2019, in the run up to the release of Haven Wakes, I wrote a blog post about the inspiration behind the novel. I wrote about magic, the colourful folk I’d grown up with, and literary characters who had stayed with me for years. Now, with a release date in sight for book two in the series, Magic Bound, I think it only fitting that I tell you about the inspiration for that novel too.

Haven Wakes

Haven Wakes is where Steve’s adventure and journey into magic begins. It’s where he discovers that magic exists and makes new friends, Hartley Keg and Blessing. It’s also where he finds out that his family has a connection to this hidden world. Most important of all, he discovers just what he is capable of.

Haven Wakes sets a firm foundation for Magic Bound and the rest of the series.

A bigger look at the workaday, tech-led world

There was only so much of the futuristic world that Steve grew up in that I could reveal in one book. In Magic Bound, I wanted to investigate that world in more detail. From the public transport system, to non Haven robots, to how people live in the modern world beyond the city limits of Caercester, Magic Bound widens the reader’s viewpoint on the workaday culture of the novel.

And a bigger look at the magical world

The hidden world of magic is so much more than Darkacre. I wanted to explore that in much more detail. How are the magicals governed? How many workadays know about them? Are there other communities like Darkacre? Is the Reactor a one off device or part of something larger? What is the connection between magic and the Havens?

I wanted to answer all of these questions and more in Magic Bound.

Magic, mythology and fairytales

Since I was a child, I’ve been intrigued by the magic that’s inherent in mythology, fairytales, and folklore. I wanted to bring more of that to Magic Bound in a range of new characters. Some will be back later in the series; others may have books and short stories of their own.

Steve is growing up

Haven Wakes is just as much about Steve discovering his own capabilities as it is about his discovery of magic.

As Magic Bound begins, Steve turns 13. He’s a teenager and as he tries to work out what that means, he’s drawn back into the hidden underbelly of magic. I wanted to show his development into a young adult and his growing confidence in who he is.


Stories may be imaginary, but they are also based in the truths that we know. Just as real life has consequences, so too do the fictional happenings in books. Steve and his friends would always have to answer to the magical powers that be for their actions in Haven Wakes. I wanted to explore these consequences and the resulting path that Steve would be forced to take in Magic Bound.


Magic Bound will be published by Burning Chair on 2nd August 2022.

Progress? What I’ve been up to in March

March progress

I’ve been so head down in editing Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles that I completely forgot about writing a blog post until today, which unfortunately (or fortunately, in my case) coincided with me taking two hours out of my working day to get my hair done for the first time since Autumn 2020.

Now, I’m back at my desk freshly coiff-ed and raring to go. Except…

I haven’t thought up an inspirational, amusing, or informative blog post to write, so instead I’ll share with you two guest blog posts of mine that were out in March.

3 Ways To Step Out of Isolation

The lovely Lily Lawson was kind enough to let me appear on her writing blog at the beginning of March.

With the end of lockdown here in Wales on the horizon, and seeing reactions from friends, neighbours, and loved ones that ranged from outright fear to the need to get out there and celebrate, this blog post was my personal slant on how we should embrace our new normal.

You can find it here.

Fantasy With a Touch of Science

A little later in March, I featured on Clare Rhoden’s blog, talking about my love of fantasy and science, and how those two things shaped my debut novel, Haven Wakes.

I talk robots – from Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet to the Astrobees on the International Space Station – and you’ll also find an extract from Haven Wakes which shows some of the ways my love of futuristic tech and scientific development played a role in the novel’s world-building.

You can find that blog post here.


As for the editing of Book 2, well, it’s coming along nicely. There’s more robots, more fantastical places to visit, and many more faces – both good and bad – and as usual, Steve is in for a bumpy ride.

Author Interview with M J Mallon

author interview with M J Mallon

Today, I’d like to introduce you to M J Mallon, YA author, poet, photographer and book blogger.

1. When did you first call yourself a writer?

I’d say I first called myself a writer when I started my blog six years ago. A lot has happened since then: I published my YA fantasy The Curse of Time – Book One – Bloodstone in August 2017.

Cover photo courtesy of Dr John C Taylor

And my first poetry prose and photography book: Mr. Sagittarius this year in February.

For me, the distinction between a writer and an author is the moment when you start offering your books for sale. So, I became a published author in 2017.

2. Tell me about your novel and poetry

Both of my published works include poetry. With The Curse of Time there are numerous short Tanka poems throughout the book. The majority of the poems act as an introduction to the mysterious aspect of each chapter, or puzzle piece as I like to call them. The Curse of Time will be a three part series. To date, I have published the first in the series but I hope to release book two later this year.

Mr. Sagittarius is a short compilation of poetry, short stories and original photography conveying thoughts and feelings about nature, the circle of life, sibling relationships, love and magic. It is an uplifting, sweet book.

3. What inspires you to write?

Everything and anything. Art, observing and listening to people, reading books, watching films, and walking in the natural world: trees, flowers, birds, crystals .

Becoming a writer has opened up my imagination to the world in the most extraordinary way. I doubt I will ever be the same again! I am so fortunate to have discovered this creative me.

4. How important was research to you when writing your novel?

Quite important, especially with The Curse of Time. I researched The Corpus Christi Chronophage time pieces – all three Chronophages – the grasshopper, the mythological fly and the dragon invented by Dr. John C. Taylor, OBE.

M J Mallon & Dr John C Taylor
M J Mallon and Dr John C Taylor with the Grasshopper Chronophage in the background
midsummer chronophage
The Midsummer Chronophage – –
photo courtesy of Dr John C Taylor
dragon chronophage
The Dragon Chronophage – –
photo courtesy of Dr John C Taylor
The Grasshopper Chronophage in action.

Also, it was fascinating researching the properties of crystals. The main protagonist in The Curse of Time, Amelina Scott wields crystal magic. My antagonist, Ryder is a Shadow Demon, so naturally I had to research shadows too. It was intriguing and fun to investigate local Cambridge ghost and folklore stories.

With Mr. Sagittarius, I was drawn to tales of myths and magic associated with dragonflies, trees and the natural world.

5. When and where do you write?

I write at home in my study.

The only exception to this is a weekend break spent in Brighton. I wrote in cafes and the library. It was a wonderful, carefree experience and I would love to do it again. I met loads of interesting and creative people to engage with. I’d highly recommend it!

Also, from time to time, I write in pubic places with the SCBWI – The Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators. They host Scrawl Crawls in Cambridge for local authors/artists in art galleries and museums. I’m not an artist but I find art inspiring. I don’t mind having a doodle if the mood takes me!

6. Plotter or pantser?

Pantser, I’ve never plotted anything. I write from a burst of imaginative ideas. I always promise to plot next time but it never happens!

7. Putting aside the writing for a minute, what is your favourite genre to read?

YA fantasy is my favourite genre to read. l read in a wide range of genres, including crime and thriller, horror, poetry, romance, and memoir.

8. Any advice for writers just starting out?

Be resilient, persist, write often, don’t throw away any writing that you aren’t happy with. Instead, keep those pieces as they may spark ideas for future writing projects.

Read, write and believe in yourself.

Join a writing group that offers critique partners. If you can’t attend a group in person participate in an online group.

Start a blog, join in writing prompts and try different styles of writing. I’d recommend writing flash fiction, as short pieces help to hone your writing skill. Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Literary Community offers 99 word writing prompts and masses of encouragement.

Author Bio

I write YA Fantasy/Paranormal novels, Horror/Ghost short stories and multi-genre flash fiction as well as micro poetry – haiku and Tanka. I share book reviews, poetry, flash fiction, photography, guest posts and inspirational details of my writing journey at my lovely blog home – Kyrosmagica.

I’m a member of two professional writing groups: The Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators  and Cambridge Writers

I run a supportive group for authors/bloggers with fellow Administrator D G Kaye on Facebook: Authors/Bloggers Rainbow Support Club

I work as a Receptionist/Event organiser for an international sixth form and live in Cambridge, England.

M J Mallon online:

Author Website:

Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon and @curseof_time



5 facts about the Magic System in the Haven Chronicles

5 facts about the magic system in the Haven Chronicles

“So it’s more like super-hero powers than wands and spells then?”

“Super-hero. I like that,” said Hartley. “It’s actually a little of each.”

Haven Wakes, and the other books in the Haven Chronicles series, are filled with magic.

I knew from the outset that I didn’t want to copy what magic is assumed to be in the real world or use the magic system of any other fictional works (although I’m sure there may be a little overlap). What I did instead is create a magic system from sources that I love and which serve my story.

So here are 5 facts about that magic system.

Magic has a consequence

“Using magic has a cost. It weighs on us in the same way that physical exertion does.”

Hartley Keg in Haven Wakes

The idea of magic use without consequence has always been problematic for me. if there are no consequences, then what’s to stop a magic user doing whatever they want to do? They could become so powerful that nobody could stop them, which is no fun at all when you’re writing a novel. Either the heroes or the villains can’t be defeated: that kind of set up can only run your story into a literary cul-de-sac. The End.

So in the Haven Chronicles, magic is so tightly sewn to the magic user’s physical form, that using magic is like using any muscle. It takes effort and is limited by the individual’s health and strength.

Cast too much magic and you’re likely to pass out, or at the very worst, die.

Birth magic

Each magic user is born with an innate talent for a particular kind of magic. This is their birth magic.

Earth-smiths have a talent for dealing with plants and the earth. That’s what makes them the best gardeners.

Enchanters have a way of influencing people, but not just persuading them to do things. An enchanter can also affect the way you see them, making them look younger or more beautiful than they really are.

Birth magic is generally inherited from a parent, but sometimes it skips generations and a magic user inherits the birth magic of their grandparent.

Charms and Spells

Beyond birth magic, charms and spells can also be learnt by magic users.

In my books, both charms and spells can have a physical effect on something or someone, but are created in very different ways.

Charms are a collection of items, for instance:

  • crystals
  • herbs
  • straw, string or ribbon

that are bundled together, and then imbued with the intent of the magic user. A charm might be used to contain something, reveal the truth, or find a missing person.

Spells are altogether different. Some are spoken, while others are written down. Some of the most basic but powerful spells, such as casting a light orb, are simply down to gesture and force of will.

No Magic School

In my books, magic is taught at home in a family setting. This works especially well for birth magic because there is likely to be at least one living relative who has the same magical skills and can pass their knowledge on.

The basic charms and spells are also taught at home:

  • casting a light orb
  • short-range finding spell
  • protection of an area

but these will vary from family to family.

Sources of the magic system in my books

The magic system in my books is based on all kind of sources. You’ll find nods to folklore and mythology, crystal craft, herbology and various forms of witchcraft too.

If you’re interested, the books I regularly go back to include:

along with many more and so much online research too.


What kind of magic do you like to read about?

9 books to buy

9 books to buy

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re full-on into shopping mode in time for the festive season. One of the best presents, in my opinion, that you can give is a book.

I suppose I would say that as a writer, but I’m not flogging my own novel in today’s blog post. Instead, I want to share nine novels that have stayed with me long after I turned their final page.

For children and teens

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book begins in a very dark way – murder. It introduces us immediately to the assassin, the man Jack and the peril that our protagonist, Bod is in.

Gaiman’s portrayal of Bod as a child, at different ages, is completely believable. In fact, the whole book, although strange on the surface (a child living in a graveyard among ghosts and ghouls) uses the familiarity of family, childhood, and growing up to bind the story together.

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

I was introduced to the ‘Skulduggery Pleasant’ books when my son found the first book in the series at our local library. Back then, I would still read to him on a night-time. I think I probably enjoyed the book as much as my son did.

Skulduggery Pleasant is the dead wizard detective pictured on the cover who, along with 12 year old Stephanie, investigate her late uncle’s death.

Magic, danger and, well, more danger and magic. What more could you ask for?

Running with the Demon by Terry Brooks

This is the first in the Word & Void trilogy and tells the story of a 14 year old girl called Nest who has strange powers, magical animal friends, and a quest to protect the children in her neighbourhood from demons and the like.

Running alongside Nest’s story is that of a Knight of the Word, John Ross, come to Nest’s town to protect her and the world from the encroaching Void.

For fantasy lovers

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I love novels where an adult remembers what befell them as a child, and that is exactly what happens in this fantasy novel.

‘Ocean’ has Gaiman’s quiet, beckoning tone of storytelling, drawing you in until you have to know what will happen to the characters.

It’s a story of regret, bitter-sweet reminiscence, and the courage of a child who is wonderfully but terrifyingly out of his depths in a discovered world of magic.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This is a novel of magic, illusion (magical, mechanical and emotional), gameplay and love, set at the turn of the twentieth century in Europe and the USA which leaves you with more questions about the circus than you started with.

The circus arrives without warning.
   No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and  billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The ‘Word Wizard’ Terry Pratchett is no longer with us but his writing was so brilliant and prolific that I’m sure he’ll continue to have and attract an audience for decades more, if not forever.

‘The Colour of Magic’ tells the adventures of unlikely hero and terrible wizard, Rincewind.

I love the world that Pratchett created in his Discworld novels. I mean, who wouldn’t want luggage with legs and a mind of it’s own?

For those who love the classics

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I came across this book through my studies and it has stayed with me as an example of great writing ever since. Mary Shelley became an inspiration to me too, not only as a writer, but as a creative pioneer, and an incredibly strong woman.

Forget the Boris Karloff Frankenstein’s monster or Herman in the Munsters, this classic novel is a story of arrogance, struggle, abandonment, and heart-break.

I’m on the monster’s side, by the way.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

‘The Moonstone’ is told through the eyes of members of the family affected by the Moonstone’s seeming curse, their elderly butler Gabriel Betteredge, the family solicitor and the retired policeman Sergeant Cuff.

Considered to be the first detective novel, ‘The Moonstone’ describes the days and events before, during and after the theft of the fated diamond.

This novel is, if you’ll excuse the pun, a gem of a read whether you enjoy crime fiction or Victorian novels or both.

Curtain by Agatha Christie

My final book is an old battered copy of the last ever Hercule Poirot novel. This book belonged to my parents but I didn’t read it until I was an adult. This is by far my favourite Agatha Christie novel, if the only one that ever moved me to tears.

Set in the same country house as the first Poirot novel, ‘Curtain’ sees Hercule old and ailing as his loyal and long-time friend Arthur Hastings does his best to help his friend discover ‘whodunnit’ before Poirot takes his last breath.


So there you have it, my nine recommended books to buy for your friends or family, or just for yourself, this Christmas.

Happy shopping!