Today I’m pleased to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for the Blades of Bronze series by Mark Knowles!  Today we are celebrating the paperback release of the first novel Argo as well as showing off the new second book in the series, Jason, which isn’t published yet but which did have a cover release on Monday and if you missed it you can check it out below. 🙂 A huge thank you to Andrew at Head of Zeus for the chance to read this series and be a part of this tour.  Now, I haven’t had time to finish reading Argo yet because of a conflict in the times for the blog tour, and it’s a big book, but I will be sharing my thoughts on it as soon as I can.  So, today I’m so excited to share with you an extract from the new book Jason, which sounds so exciting and I hope after reading this you’ll feel like me and can’t wait to read it! 😀

 

2

‘Jason!’          

The sharp voice made him jerk awake, rubbing his face, which was damp with a gossamer-fine layer of mist. Peleus and his brother Telamon exchanged frowns whilst Idas looked away in disgust. The moment of confusion was brief but bewildering. He had never felt so utterly exhausted. Yoking the monstrous bulls of the Plain of Ares and ploughing it under a blazing sun had drained him to feverish levels of fatigue, but indecision now, so close to freedom from the oppressive marshlands of Colchis, would be fatal.

‘Beacons,’ said Meleager patiently, ‘on the opposite bank. What do you propose?’

‘A good night’s sleep?’ muttered Idas.

Jason ignored the spearman and took a deep breath. He wished the voices might return and offer him something. He wished Idmon the seer was still alive. Most of the crew had considered him a mad old fool and, though Jason knew better, he had still kept him at arm’s length. Was he afraid of the seer’s knowledge? If so, who was the fool?

Jason reached out to the two golden fleeces beside him, hoping for some sense of their numinous power. They felt gritty and cold, as if they had been rolled in damp sand. ‘I think we should just…’

A disturbance in the bows cut him short. An incantation in a voice like waves seething over rocks.

‘It’s her.’ The voice came from amidships.

Jason had almost forgotten about Medea and now everyone twisted to look at her. She had drawn her shawl over her head and was on her knees, rocking back and forth over the prostrate form of her cousin Phrontis. To the Argonauts, her prayer sounded more like a curse. Now she kissed his forehead and straightened, aware of all eyes being upon her.

‘He is dead.’

‘Least of our concerns,’ snapped Idas. Jason rose and strode past him, causing Idas to shake his head. ‘This is not the time!’ he said through gritted teeth.

Meleager glanced towards the bows, where Jason was now deep in conversation with Medea. ‘What will it take for you to show him any respect? Even a pinprick of it?’

Idas shook his head and looked away, wary of the prince of Calydon. Nobody aboard Argo had done more to enhance their reputation as a warrior than he. Pollux, sat aft of amidships, sidled to the end of his bench so he could peer around the sweeping bows of the ship. The curtain of mist billowed in the silvery moonlight but nothing broke through it. Others, assuming he had seen something materialising out of the night, did the same. It became infectious, spreading a wave of shuffling trepidation down the gangways. Jason noticed it and broke off his conversation.

‘There’s nothing there,’ he repeated as he picked his way back towards the stern, placing a reassuring hand on the oarsmen’s shoulders as he passed. ‘Nothing but brown water.’

‘Well?’ demanded Peleus. Jason’s face, they all noticed, was a shade paler.

‘She also saw a light. She thinks there’s a ship out there: one of Aeetes’…’

‘Then why didn’t she tell…’

‘Because we’d already seen it.’ Jason cut Idas off, his voice breaking in anger. ‘That’s why. It’s not unusual for his ships to keep watch this far downriver at night but we must assume they’d heard the warnings. She says noise travels a long way along the Phasis.’

A pause.

‘So? Speak your mind?’

Jason stood, suppressing a shiver. ‘We need to row. See what’s out there before we do anything rash.’ The others stood, joints clicking amidst grimaces. ‘Keep your strokes clean and steady and quiet as you can. Ancaeus?’

The helmsman rolled his thick neck and pulled his fleece around his shoulders whilst the oarsmen settled back upon their benches. ‘Everyone to front stops. And… pull… and… pull… Take it down a notch, Meleager.’

Meleager nodded. Achieving a silent catch and rocking backwards without ripping the water was hard enough at the best of times but the Argonauts were stiff and cold and hungry. Nevertheless, Argo nosed around a sweeping curve in the river, stippling the water with little more noise than a clinker. They all hoped that the dull thump of the oars against the thole pins would be muffled by the swirling mist, which showed no signs of abating.

In the gauzy light, the stretch of the river down which they had passed in the opposite direction seemed utterly different. Willows and clumps of sedge reared out of the darkness like spectres and were gone, veiled by the mist. Of the lonely houses on stilts, set back from the banks, there was no trace at all.

For half an hour more did they proceed like this before Ancaeus raised his fist. Jason and Meleager gently lowered their flattened blades to the water and the others copied, leaving Argo to snake through the water with a brief sigh before once more coming to rest. Despite the danger they faced, Jason felt his eyelids grow heavier with every blink. He tried to suppress an inchoate panic that he might pass out altogether.

‘Lynceus, up here!’ whispered Ancaeus.

After a short conversation, they both nodded and Lynceus returned to his bench. Ancaeus leaned forwards over the tiller bars. ‘Three fires, Jason!’

Jason’s heart sank. The Argonauts, many times over, had lit as many campfires for themselves in the evenings. A Colchian vessel was waiting for them; he was sure of it. What mattered was how many men were aboard.

He stood and took a look for himself. When the fires had first been sighted, Ancaeus had described a single pinprick of light, but now they glowed and flickered brighter than the dog star Sirius.

‘Take us a little closer.’

Ancaeus raised an eyebrow but beckoned Lynceus to the helm deck once more. They paddled closer to the fires, barely breaking the surface of the water with each stroke, whilst Lynceus craned his neck forwards and stared, wide-eyed, into the night.

One minute passed like this… Two… Four… The rowers’ jaws began to ache from gritting their teeth…

Lynceus stiffened and raised his hand and the rowing stopped. Still straining his eyes, he muttered something to himself, as if confirming his worst fears. ‘I saw a boat, prow on. Moored, I think. Opposite bank!’

The crew fell silent. Jason felt all eyes boring into the back of his head. He turned to face them and whispered. ‘Muffle the thole pins with whatever rags you have. If you have even a mouthful of water or bread, take it now.’

He had neither. His throat was parched and he felt wretched. He closed his eyes and mouthed a prayer. He could hear enough gulps behind him to suggest most of the others, at least, had something. It didn’t bear thinking about when they might next be able to eat…

‘Jason.’ He opened his eyes and turned to Meleager, who was holding out his waterskin. ‘Finish it.’

‘Thank you.’ The water tasted wonderfully cool and sweet against his parched tongue, reviving his spirits a little, sharpening his senses. He became aware once more of the expectant stillness. He nodded to Ancaeus. ‘Good luck.’

Paddling with their backs to the threat set their nerves humming with fear. As they slipped through the water, it seemed inconceivable that their silhouette wouldn’t betray them even if the sound of their oars didn’t. The mist provided good cover but it wasn’t perfect. Every so often, treacherously brief gaps would appear where only rags of fog drifted by. Jason assumed it was through one of these that Lynceus was able to glimpse the hull of the enemy galley. The man’s vision was extraordinary but it had its limits.

The soft murmur of conversation on the far bank now drifted across Argo’s deck. The rowing faltered for a moment and Jason closed his eyes, waiting for the clunk of blades thrown out of unison.

Silence.

Somehow, the oars kept apart, moonlit mist swirling around the blades like smoke. Jason sensed the shoulders of thirty-four men rocking forwards to the catch and, as he felt the water run under his blade, tried to attune his ears to the conversation on the opposite bank.

Understanding their speech was impossible but it seemed unhurried… unstressed.

He tried to guess how wide the river was at this point. On the way in, he had envisioned trying to clear the channel with his best javelin throw. Even allowing another ten paces, he doubted the tip would have reached the riverbank. Surely such a gap would allow Argo to slip by unnoticed?

Jason fancied he could hear the oarsmen holding their breath. They had all sensed that they were passing the galley now. The sound of conversation peaked but was still little more than a murmur. He looked into the hoary sea fret. He had never encountered anything like it, not even when he used to summit Mount Pelion and feel the clouds bedewing his skin.

Perhaps that was why the Colchians had moored up. Perhaps this far away from Aeetes’ eyes, discretion was the better part of valour. Then, for a fleeting second, the fret faded, and he discerned the hazy outline of a mainmast, sail furled, and a hull, oars in.

Jason turned to Meleager. The warrior’s jaw was clamped shut, his eyes glaring into the mist. With unspoken agreement, they hung out their oars. Miraculously, the others behind them had done the same, and the drips of water from the blade tips were lost to the gentle rush of the keel gliding through the water.

The image dissipated and was gone.

 

About and Buy the Books

Argo book cover

He has come to take what is yours…
Iolkos, Thessaly. 1230 BC.
King Pelias has grown paranoid, tormented by hismurderous past and a prophecy of the man who will one day destroy him.
When a stranger arrives to compete in the Games of Poseidon, Pelias is horrified, forthis young man should never have grown to manhood. He is Jason, Pelias’ nephew,who survived his uncle’s assassins as a child. Now Jason wants his revenge – and thekingdom.
But Pelias is cunning as well as powerful. He gives his foe an impossible challenge: toclaim the throne, Jason must first steal the fabled Golden Fleece of Colchis.Jason assembles a band of Greece’s finest warriors. They are the Argonauts, namedfor their trusty ship.
But even with these mighty allies, Jason will have to overcomethe brutal challenges hurled his way. His mission and many lives depend on his wits –and his sword.

Buy from Amazon UK

Jason book cover

They may have won the prize, but will any of them make it home alive?
Jason has fulfilled the mission set him by his uncle, the scheming King Pelias of Iolkos: he and the Argonauts have won the fabled Golden Fleece of Colchis. Jason dreams of glory – of taking his uncle’s throne, rightfully his – and, like his warrior shipmates, of home.
But it is not only Pelias who wishes Jason ill. Before the Argonauts can make it back to Iolkos, they must contend with a legion of foes who would see them dead – and a web of allies who are not quite what they seem.
Jason and his warriors must outwit the recondite Circe and the spies of mighty Troy, overcome hostile tribes beyond the Danube, and sail the troubled waters of the Archipelagos, where the Sirens wait to snare unwary seafarers.
Yet Jason’s perils are only beginning, for he will soon discover that a truer evil lies closer to home…

Pre-order from Amazon UK

About the Author

Mark Knowles author pic

Mark Knowles took degrees in Classics and Management Studies at Downing College, Cambridge.  After a decade working as a frontline of cer and supervisor within the Metropolitan Police Service, he became Head of Classics at a school in Harrogate. He is a particular fan of experimental archaeology and rowed on the reconstructed ancient Athenian trireme Olympias during its last sea trials in Greece in 1994. Follow Mark on @mark77knowles markknowles.info

Visit author’s website    Visit author on Twitter    Visit author on Facebook

Blog Tour Banner

I hope you’ve enjoyed my stop on the blog tour today and do look out for my review of Argo on this blog in a little while. 🙂  Please do check out the other stops on the blog tour too, on the banner below, and isn’t it such a clever banner (just wait to watch it change)! 😀

Blades-of-Bronze_Banner_gif(1)

 


What do you think of this extract?  Have you read Argo yet?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂