EWein Special Ops: Why I Love Elizabeth Wein’s Aksum Books (and why you should too)

R.J. Anderson the author of middle grade faery novels (Knife, Rebel and Arrow, Swift and Nomad in the UK; Spellhunter and Wayfarer in the US) and the YA paranormal thriller Ultraviolet and its sequel Quicksilver. I know that she’s a fan of Elizabeth Wein’s writing because I’ve seen her recommend it several times.

Please give a warm welcome to R.J.!
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Why I Love Elizabeth Wein’s Aksum Books (and why you should too)
by R.J. Anderson

RJ AndersonIt’s all Megan Whalen Turner’s fault.

Not that I’m complaining, I hasten to add; Megan is to blame for a number of quite excellent things, including her own very fine series of Thief books. But if it hadn’t been for Ms. Turner recommending a semi-obscure author named Elizabeth Wein way back in 2010, I would likely never have read The Winter Prince and A Coalition of Lions and The Sunbird and The Lion Hunters and The Empty Kingdom, and my heart might still be in one piece instead of a million little ones all crying “Medraut!” and “Goewin!” and “Priamos*!” and “Telemakos!”.

(Oh, who am I kidding. I would still probably have come across Code Name Verity eventually, and there was no way my heart was going to survive THAT.)

On the plus side, however, I can now look on all the accolades for Verity and Rose Under Fire with some smugness, because thanks to Megan, I was a fan of Ms. Wein’s writing long before most of her current readers had even heard of her. Yes, that’s right, I am a hipster Elizabeth Wein fan, and proud of it.

But seriously, if you’ve read and loved Verity and Rose’s stories, with all their vibrant humanity and sparks of wry humour, their flawlessly realized historical settings, their soaring triumphs and moments of shattering devastation — the latter often revealed so subtly that they slip right under the reader’s emotional guard — then you owe it to yourself to read Ms. Wein’s earlier books as well. It’s one of the great tragedies of publishing that the Aksum series went in and out of print with so little notice, but fortunately all five are still available as e-books, or you can find them through used book dealers if you look hard enough.

Like Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, the Aksum series is historical. But in this case Wein goes back all the way to Arthurian legend — specifically the story of Mordred, here called Medraut, and his twin half-siblings Lleu and Goewin. The first book, The Winter Prince, deals with Medraut’s bitterness toward his privileged half-brother and his temptation to betray him for the crown; the second, A Coalition of Lions, shifts to Goewin as she sets out on a desperate voyage to Aksum (ancient Ethiopia) to escape her vengeful aunt Morgause; and the third, The Sunbird, introduces us to Telemakos, the mixed-race son of an Aksumite princess and one of the most earnest, clever, fiercely courageous and altogether loveable young heroes in YA literature. The Lion Hunters and The Empty Kingdom continue Telemakos’s adventures as he grows toward manhood and finds his place in the world.

As in Megan Whalen Turner’s books, the Aksum series focuses on harsh political realities in a world where spies, assassins, and ambitious nobles abound; like Turner’s hero Gen, Telemakos becomes a key player in the great game. And as with Turner, it’s hard to say exactly what age range these books would be best for. They’re short enough (and Telemakos at least starts out young enough) for Middle Grade, but there are all kinds of nuances to the story and the relationships between characters that only a perceptive YA or adult reader is likely to pick up on. And for all the clarity of their prose, they’re simply too rich to digest in one narrative gulp: they’re the kind of books that not only reward, but practically demand, re-reading.

Be forewarned: if Code Name Verity made you gasp and cry, these books will devastate you in a whole new range of ways. But as all true fans of Elizabeth Wein know, the privilege of meeting her characters is worth all the pain their hardships make us feel. And no matter how long and rough the road they (and we) must travel, Wein never forgets to remind us of the things that make suffering bearable: the love of family and friends, the light of newfound wisdom, and somewhere in the near or far distance, a glimmer of hope.

Trust me. Read the Aksum books.


* (Seriously, do not even get me started on how much I love Priamos or how hard I ship him with Goewin. I could go on all day.)

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Thank you, R.J.! I love that you mentioned both Megan Whalen Turner and Gen in this post. I do hope your post manages to convince more readers to pick up EWein’s Lion Hunters books. 🙂

EWein Special Ops

EWein Special Ops: Introduction and How I Discovered Her Books

EWein Special Ops

I’m so glad that EWein Special Ops is here! EWein Special Ops is a blog event celebrating Elizabeth Wein’s wonderful novels. I have been a fan of her work for YEARS and I’ve been wanting to organize something like this for a while now. I’m glad I’m able to do it before the year ends. Watch out for guest posts from authors, fellow bloggers and fans throughout the week. On Twitter, I’m using the hashtag #EWeinSpecialOps if you want to keep track of tweets. If you’re interested in writing about anything related to EWein’s novels in your own blog at any point during this week, give me the link to the post and I’ll spread the word about it. As an aside, I love that I was able to find a picture of a younger EWein feeding a bird because I think it’s perfect for the event poster. I hope you all like it too.

Foxing The Sunbird

First page of my first copy of The Sunbird

To start things off, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about how I was introduced to EWein’s writing. I first found out about her back in 2008. That was before I had this book blog and at that time, I mostly got recommendations for the books that I read from Sounis, the LiveJournal community for fans of another author: Megan Whalen Turner (MWT). If you have been following my blog for a while, then you’re aware of how big a fan I am of MWT’s books. I even hosted a Queen’s Thief Week last year. So whenever someone recommends a book for readers who love MWT’s work, I sit up and pay attention. EWein’s Lion Hunter series kept being recommended in Sounis, by MWT herself, by R.J. Anderson (author of Knife, Ultraviolet, etc.) and other fellow Sounisians. I knew I had to get my hands on those books as soon as I could. When I went to the local bookstore in Manila to look for the books, I discovered that they only have copies of the last three books in the series: The Sunbird, The Lion Hunter and The Empty Kingdom. I was assured that I could start the series with The Sunbird so this was fine with me. I fell in love with the book and with its main character, the young Telemakos. I read the other two books soon after and they further cemented EWein’s status as one of my favorite authors. I was sorry that The Winter Prince and A Coalition of Lions wasn’t available in the Philippines but luckily, I traveled to the States in 2009 and I was able to grab copies there.

I was ecstatic when I started hearing the buzz that EWein will be releasing Code Name Verity in 2012 because of course, I wanted more of her writing. I knew it was going to be an amazing book, even if it’s different from her Lion Hunter novels, and I was right. I fell just as hard for Verity’s story as I did for Telemakos’. I guess it goes without saying that I was delighted to hear about the release of Rose Under Fire this year and I will always be excited for any new EWein title that will come out in the future.

EWein my own copies

My copies of Elizabeth Wein’s books

That’s the story of how I discovered EWein’s writing, what’s yours? Were her books recommended by someone you trust or you just happened to come across them in the bookstore? Were you introduced to her work through her earlier Lion Hunter novels or through Code Name Verity? For those who first found out about her by reading Code Name Verity, did that make you more curious about the rest of her books? One of the reasons why I’ve wanted to host an EWein week on my blog is to spread the word about the Lion Hunter series because I really think it deserves more attention. And now the Lion Hunter books are readily available in ebook format from Open Road.

I will be traveling from Singapore to Manila today (yay, I’ll be home for Christmas!) so I won’t be able to reply to comments right away but I would love to hear from all of you.

Rose Under Fire US edition

Available for Pre-Order: EWein’s Lion Hunters Novels

A few months ago, Elizabeth Wein’s first two novels in the Lion Hunters series (The Winter Prince and A Coalition of Lions) were released in ebook format by Open Road Media. The next three books in the series (The Sunbird, The Lion Hunter and The Empty Kingdom) are now available for pre-order! They will be available on December 17, just a few days away. I’m so glad these titles will be released as ebooks because it will be easier for more readers to give the books a try. If you’re a fan of Elizabeth Wein’s writing in Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire then I highly recommend that you read her Lion Hunters books as well.

I kind of feel like the synopsis for the latter three books give spoilers away so skip reading them if you would rather not know spoilery details before reading the novels. Here are links to the first two books if you want to order them (click on the images):

The Winter Prince ebookA Coalition of Lions ebook

Here are the rest of the books for pre-order:

The Sunbird ebookThe Lion Hunter ebookThe Empty Kingdom ebook

Reading order:
The Winter Prince
A Coalition of Lions
The Sunbird
The Lion Hunter
The Empty Kingdom

Or you can start with either A Coalition of Lions or The Sunbird and go from there. I love that the series now has matching covers! The printed editions of these had different cover artists so the covers didn’t match. I just finished rereading A Coalition of Lions for EWein Special Ops and I just started on The Sunbird – I’m almost afraid to continue because I know how difficult things will get for Telemakos.

EWein Special Ops

EWein Special Ops: December 21 to 28

First there was the Queen’s Thief Week:

Queen's Thief Badge

Then there was Marchetta Madness:

Marchetta Madness badge

In December, mark your calendars for EWein Special Ops:

EWein Special Ops

If it isn’t obvious yet, EWein Special Ops will be a week-long celebration of Elizabeth Wein’s novels including her Lion Hunters series, Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire. That pretty lady in the picture is a younger Elizabeth Wein. I thought the vintage photo would be perfect for the event’s poster. Fellow EWein fans, I hope you’re just as excited about this event as I am. For those who haven’t read any of her books, there’s plenty of time to catch up before December rolls around. 🙂