Monday, October 25, 2021

Now On Tour Untamed Isles: The Path Awakens by Aaron Hodges

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Untamed Isles: The Path Awakens
Untamed Isles 
Book One
Aaron Hodges

Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Aaron Hodges
Date of Publication: 26th October
ISBN: 978-1-99-101803-8
Number of pages: 400
Word Count: 105,000
Cover Artist: Nikko Marie 

Book Description:

On a still and peaceful night, the world shook, and light split the sky asunder.
The seas parted, an island rose.

And beneath the earth, an ancient power stirred.

Zachary Sicario thought he’d finally turned his back on the underworld. For ten years he was content with his cottage in the highlands of Riogachd. But a master thief never truly retires. When Zach is struck down by a wasting illness, he is left with two options: accept his fate, or return to his criminal past in search of a cure.
It isn’t a difficult decision.

With rumours of a mysterious island circulating the kingdom, Zach goes in search of old contacts. They speak of strange lights and disappearing ships, of treasure and riches promised for the first to reach its distant shores. Zach has little interest in trinkets—but there’s another tale, one that whispers of the power to change a man’s fate.

With a secret expedition departing in the coming days, Zach decides to roll the dice. But he’s not the only one interested in magic. His competition are warriors and thieves, noblemen and assassins, all in their prime. And Zach is far from the man he once was.

Can the master thief beat the odds one last time?

Amazon     Goodreads

Chapter 2- Exclusive Excerpt

Logan Kaine was puffing hard by the time he arrived at the port. A flurry of sound greeted him as he stumbled to a stop. Sailors shouted from the docks and wooden wheels rumbled across the bricked streets, loud enough to drown out the thundering of his heart in his ears.

Bending in two, he struggled to recover his breath, and choked as the unpleasant combination of rotting fish and tar assailed his senses. Eyes watering from the stench and the morning chill, he forced himself to straighten. Thankfully, the passersby had not noticed his destress, concealed as he was in the shadows of an alleyway. Even so, Logan’s father had taught him to be better composed.

A gentleman must always maintain his poise, the oft-repeated words were a mantra to him by now.

Doubly so for those of us of new bloodlines.

Logan straightened and puffed out his chest. He took a moment to straighten his woollen overcoat before allowing his hand to fall to the cavalry sabre he wore on his belt. His father’s weapon, the same one he’d used in the Battle for the North, when the king’s forces had quilled an uprising amongst the rebel clans. For his father’s heroics that day, their family had been awarded land and invited into ranks of the gentry class.

Logan could only hope to one day live up to that legacy.

Stealing the blade from his father’s mantle probably wasn’t the best of starts, but at least it was a start. As his father was so fond of saying, true men seized their own opportunities in life. And the Old Gods knew, Logan had waited long enough for an opportunity to prove himself.

The tall buildings that lined the harbour cast long shadows across the street, the winter sun still hidden behind their bricked exteriors. Studying the wagons and occasional motorcoach parked along the docks, he finally spotted the one belonging to the Kaine family. A man in an overcoat that fit far more comfortably than Logan’s own stepped from the vehicle.

Logan ducked back into the alley as his brother’s gaze swept the street. Had Dustin noticed his pursuit? Surely not—Logan hadn’t even been following most of the way. He’d lost the motorcoach in the busy streets of Leith and been forced to cut through the back alleys to arrive here in time. Unless…

Reaching into his pocket, Logan toyed with the brass token he’d taken from the packet of documents in Dustin’s desk. Had his brother noticed its absence? According to the papers that had accompanied the token, it would grant its holder passage on an expedition set to depart today. Unless Logan was mistaken, that meant Dustin would be turned away from the ship sitting at the docks below.

And Logan would be able to board in his brother’s stead.

His heart quickened at the thought. Dustin would be angry at the subterfuge. But Logan hoped he might also earn his brother’s respect with this escapade.

Afterall, whether he was fighting off pirates in the

Northern Sea or winning commendations for his work with the highland clans, Dustin Kaine was as much a hero as their father.

And Logan was tired of living in their shadow.

Glancing out from the alley, he saw his brother leave the coach and head down the steps to the docks. A line had already formed beside the giant steamboat with ‘The Rising Tide’ painted on its side, the other voyagers obviously eager to set off. Two muscled sailors stood beside the steamer, checking each passenger’s token before waving them past; Dustin would be in for a shock when he discovered his own missing.

Logan slipped from the shadows as his brother joined the queue. He strode across the street, doing his best to blend with the crowd as he searched for a better vantage point.

Finding a dock that neighboured the steamer, Logan settled on a half-sunken fishing ship. Like many of the vessels in port when the great storm had struck, its hull was cracked open like an egg and half its deck was submerged in the waters of the harbour. Even three months later, the clean-up continued across much of the kingdom. Those vessels deemed irredeemable had been left to rot while efforts were focused on better prospects.

Clambering onto the section of boat still above the waterline, Logan looked across at Dustin’s vessel. The steamer dwarfed the fishing ship, its twin smokestacks stretching to the height of the terraced townhouses lining the shore. Black smoke was already puffing from both chimneys as the crew stoked the engines. The great wheels powered by those engines were still, but even these loomed over the other ships in port.

A shout carried across the waters, drawing Logan’s attention back to the passengers waiting to board the ocean liner. A woman stood before the pair of sailors, gesturing wildly in their faces. Logan couldn’t pick out her words on the wind, but the reaction of the guards was all the interpretation he needed. While one remained at his post, the second caught the woman around the waist and hoisted her onto his shoulder.

A high-pitched shriek echoed from the nearby buildings as the woman was sent flying, followed by a splash as her unexpected dunk disturbed the calm waters. There was a moment’s silence as all eyes in the harbour turned to where the woman had disappeared, before she finally surfaced, coughing and spluttering.

“Guess she didn’t have her ticket,” Logan murmured, a smile tugging at his lips as he saw Dustin approaching the front of the line. He reached into his pocket and drew out the token, running it between his fingers in anticipation.

At twenty years of age, he should have had the chance to prove himself long ago.

The line of passengers kept their eyes carefully averted from the woman as she dragged herself onto a neighbouring dock. Closer now to where Logan hid, he could see this was not a woman of class. Far from than the lavish gowns of the aristocracy—or even landed gentry such as his family—she wore a pair of men’s pants and tunic, with a dagger on her hip.

Logan frowned as she stalked past his hiding place. Those on the docks with his brother looked to be a rougher crowd as well, their clothing tattered and hair unkempt. Most carried knives or sabres, even the odd pistol, but they certainly weren’t soldiers. Doubt touched Logan then. The papers on his brother’s desk had said little about the expedition itself. He’d assumed it was another voyage into the highlands, where Dustin had spent much of the past few years.

It must be, he reassured himself. They’re probably highlanders themselves, returning north with his brother.

He rested a hand on the pommel of his father’s sabre, but it did little to calm his nerves.

On the other dock, Dustin finally reached the front of the queue. The guards barred his path while he searched the satchel hanging over his shoulder, presumably for his papers and token. Even from a dozen yards away, Logan could read the confusion on his brother’s face. Despite his doubts, he found himself grinning again. Surely if he could outmanoeuvre his famed brother, he could survive a little expedition in the north.

Finally, Dustin looked up from the satchel and spread his hands. The guards exchanged a look before advancing on him. Dustin didn’t even try to avoid them. His voice rang out as they grabbed him.

“Cordelia Leif!”

The name froze the pair of guards in place. After a moment’s hesitation, they released Dustin and stepped back, doubt now etched across their meaty faces. The elder of the Kaine brothers only folded his arms, one finger tapping at his elbow.

No, no, no…

Logan’s heart was suddenly thundering. Surely Dustin couldn’t sweet-talk his way out of this one.

A woman appeared at the railings of the steamship. Dressed in a woollen trench coat with a sabre on one hip, revolver on the other, she looked more the part of pirate than sailor. The tricorn hat holding her greying locks in place only served to enhance the image.

Her gaze lingered on Dustin. He stared back, the hint of a smile tugging at his lips, before finally she waved a hand in a curt gesture. Immediately, the guards snapped to attention and stepped aside. Nodding his thanks, Dustin strode up the ramp onto the steamship.

Logan slumped to the wooden boards of the broken fishing ship. So much for outsmarting his brother. Just as he always had, Dustin was one step ahead. Cordelia was obviously the captain of the vessel; he must have arranged passage with her personally. Typical.

The token rang like a bell as it slipped from Logan’s fingers and struck the deck. He watched it spin, before finally settling against the wooden boards. He wanted to hurl it into the harbour, but he hesitated, glancing back at the ship. Dustin was just disappearing down a stairwell beneath the deck.


The guards didn’t appear to have a list of passengers, only the tokens. If Logan boarded while his brother was below, no one would be the wiser that he didn’t belong. And if he avoided his brother’s notice until they were out to sea…well, by then it would be too late to turn back.

His heart thrummed to the beat of the distant steam engine as he plucked the token off the deck. Leaping back to the docks, Logan set off at a run. The passengers waiting on the opposite berth had dwindled to a trickle now, the last of them moving quickly to present their tokens and board. Pounding up the steps to the street, Logan darted along to the next set of stairs.

Only there did he slow, taking the chance to compose himself again. Straightening his overcoat, he squared his shoulders and set his jaw. He would need to be convincing if he wanted to pull this off. Ahead, the twin chimneys of The Rising Tide puffed black smoke as the great paddle wheel began to turn.

You can do this.

He lifted a foot, only for a dark cloaked man to push past him.

“Sorry, kid,” a voice called back as the stranger thumped down the wooden steps. “In a bit of a rush!”

Thrown off-balance, Logan scowled after the man, before the sounding of a horn snapped him back to his more pressing concern. Men and women dressed in the tatty clothing of sailors raced about the steamship, readying ropes and raising the mainsail that would complement the power of the steam wheel.

It looked as though the ship would be departing any second. Cursing, Logan abandoned all pretence of dignity and raced down the dock. Ahead, the dark-cloaked man produced his token with a flourish. The guards paused only long enough to inspect the metal disk before waving the stranger aboard. They were about to follow, when the sound of Logan’s approach must have caught the attention of one.

He turned back as Logan stumbled up.

“Got a…token…for one.” His chest was heaving and he barely managed to get out the words.

The guard who’d lingered raised an eyebrow as Logan presented his token.

“Little young aren’t you lad?” Even so, he reached out and took the coin.

Logan noticed two of the fingers from his right hand were missing.

Logan nodded his thanks but did not respond to the question. He was used to people questioning his age. Unlike his father and elder brother, he didn’t have the muscular physique of a born warrior. Seven hells, he barely had a beard. He was relieved when the man waved him aboard.

Only as he stepped onto the metal ramp and felt the harsh vibrations of the steam engine beneath his feet did Logan’s earlier reservations come rushing back.

Suddenly his heart was racing and needles were prickling his scalp. What was he doing? He wasn’t a hero like his brother or father. He didn’t even know how to use the blade he wore at his waist. He had no place on this expedition, not with dubious sailors who threw women into the harbour, nor the passengers and their knives and swords and guns.

“You coming aboard, kid? Don’t know about you, but I’m fairly eager to see the back of this city.”

The voice had come from above. Logan’s head jerked up and found the dark-cloaked man from earlier leaning against the iron railings. He wore a condescending smile on his lips as he waved for Logan to hurry up.

Logan’s stomach twisted itself into a knot. Three times in as many minutes now he’d been called a kid, or worse. That was how everyone had viewed him his entire life. Dustin, his father, even this stranger, they all saw him as a child.

It rankled. Logan might lack the natural charm of his brother, might not possess the strength of their father, but he was a man grown. Flashing the man a glare, he continued the rest of the way up the ramp and boarded The Rising Tide.

It was past time Logan chose his own path.

About the Author:

Aaron Hodges was born in 1989 in the small town of Whakatane, New Zealand. He studied for five years at the University of Auckland, completing a Bachelors of Science in Biology and Geography, and a Masters of Environmental Engineering. After working as an environmental consultant for two years, he grew tired of office work and decided to quit his job in 2014 and see the world. One year later, he published his first novel - Stormwielder - while in Guatemala. Since then, he has honed his skills while travelling through parts of SE Asia, India, North and South America, Turkey and Europe, and now has over a dozen works to his name. Today, his adventures continue...

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