The Marked Hosts – A Review

Back in August, I featured Auden Johnson and her book release, The Marked Hosts on the blog. As promised, I am posting a review of the dark fantasy/sword and sorcery novel. (Again, I’m late in doing so. No excuses, just the post. Okay, one. I’ve been playing catch up for a few months.)

Contessa Torain is an alien warrior of Noble birth tasked with the duty of meditator: she has to talk the humans out of blowing up her world solely because of a few rogues. Not an easy task and after five years, she’s almost ready for war herself as it might be simpler than getting people to listen. I could understand her frustration and her desire to just be done with what seems to be a fruitless task.

I found it interesting to have a non-human point of view character, especially one that comes from an alien race not-too-keen on humans. (Okay, so they usually devour human souls, but hey… that was then. Now they have Vith, fabricated liquid souls that are just as delicious.) She’s tough, efficient, and takes public transportation.

She saves the life of a child while on the subway (Some readers may find the scene of a child being beaten and thrown around a subway car difficult to read.) only to find out he has a secret that makes him not fully human. Even so, she reluctantly takes him in, determined to find out what and who he is.

Cover art for The Marked Hosts.

World-building is an enormous part of writing, especially in the fantasy and sword & sorcery genres. Johnson pays attention to the details in the worlds she creates, designing a powerful, yet flawed, ruling class along with a race of dragon-like protectors who have their own agenda.

Contessa truly changes during the course of the book, becoming a more sympathetic character. Her experiences with the child and the destruction of her icy world, Devortus, finally pierce her tough exterior and she knows she has to have help to continue. I liked that she wasn’t drawn to be all-powerful and able to do everything on her own, even though she tried to. It made me root for her even more and gave me the chance to spend time with some of the other quirky characters. Saving the world was truly a family affair in this book.

Johnson is clever in her choices with The Marked Hosts. There is evidence of the Medieval feudal system and high fantasy–magicians and sentient swords–along with modern day technology and attitude. The characters had skin tones that ran the gamut of pale to deepest brown, and provided a variety and diversity that wasn’t cloaked in a human guise, which I found refreshing and enjoyable.



Colors in Darkness: A Multicultural Celebration of Horror

I’m part of a group of alternative female authors–dark fiction writer chicks, if you will. And we brainstormed an idea: What if we put together a multicultural celebration of horror, paranormal and dark fantasy?

Of course, we all agreed and after much discussion and planning, we announce the 1st Annual Colors in Darkness Facebook Party.

Come and Celebrate With The Fear! There will be contests to win spooky prizes, excepts from the dark writings of various authors, and more:

Colors in Darkness

Come join the fun beginning on October 29th. My personal takeover for the even will be on Saturday, October 31 at 6pm EST and 10pm GMT. Find the details here.

Happy Halloween!

Featured Author: Auden Johnson

In one of my recent forays onto Twitter, I came across the profile of one Auden Johnson.

I stopped because I rarely come across black female dark fantasy writers–even fewer that write sword and sorcery–and I love to talk with other female writers of dark fiction to get a feel for their experiences writing in the genre. I’m also excited that she has a dark fiction world-building guide planned. So I reached out.

Auden was gracious in responding and agreed to be a featured author on my blog. A little about her in her own words:

I am a Dark Fantasy writer. I can’t help but be one and believe me, I’ve tried. It seems no matter how far you run, your passion always catches up with you. I didn’t make the choice to be a writer, the stories made it for me. Dark Fantasy allows me to combine my two great loves–horror and fantasy. 

Darkness and dark things have always fascinated me. I’ve tried to write light or “normal” stories but you can’t make the stories into something they don’t want to be. Subtle creepy is beautiful. Without meaning to, all my stories deal with darkness in some way.

“The written word reaches into my soul and pulls out someone I didn’t know existed. ” –Auden Johnson

Words are an escape. They somehow lift the weight of the world off my shoulders. I talk about them as though they’re alive. Well, a writer’s job is to make words come alive for you. I’ve been writing for ages and I’m still surprised by the things my mind creates. My mind has always been this vast other world, bottomless, where nothing is impossible. I love it! 

Cover art for The Marked Hosts.
Cover art for The Marked Hosts.

Auden has published three short stories: No Vacancy, Clipped Wings, and Welcome to My World and three novellas: Visible Through Darkness, Shadows under the Light, and Devdan Manor. Her first two novels in The Merging Worlds series, The Sciell and Chains of the Sciell are now available. Her latest release is a dark fantasy/sword and sorcery novella titled, The Marked Hosts.


She should’ve left the boy to die.

Contessa Torain’s job was simple: Talk humans out of blowing up her homeworld, Devortus, because of a few rogue Brevia soul eaters. A moment of pure insanity leads her to save a child, Asamee Banks, and the brat follows her home. He smells like her kind, but different. His existence creates a mystery she must solve.

The brat is an aggravation when all she wants is a quiet life.

But more Brevia invade the human world, feeding off the residents. Contessa, and her team–along with the bratty Asamee–escape back to Devortus, but find it empty.

The Sencil, dragon-like guardians of Devortus, are dying and they now care only about getting another body as host to survive. Contessa’s only goal is to find her family. But which one of her team is marked?

If you’d like to pick up a copy of Auden’s latest release, The Marked Hosts, you can find it on Amazon here.

Dark fantasy author Auden Johnson.
Dark fantasy author Auden Johnson.

Auden’s bio:  Lover of dark worlds. Nerdy & proud. Anime fan. Nature photographer. Sometimes silly, everyday dreamer, forever lovely. Just trying to be me–writer to the core. Find out more about Auden on her blog, on Twitter, or on G+.