Blog Tour | The Queen of Eventide by Matthew Ward
Good Morning, Good Afternoon & Good Evening
Welcome to today's special blog post featuring none other than the inimitable Matthew Ward!
At the end of August (August 31st to be precise), Matthew will be releasing a completely revamped edition of one of his earlier novels, The Queen of Eventide. The ebook comes with a sparkly new cover, and in addition to this there is an audio version narrated by Kristen Atherton (narr. Legacy of Steel, The Invisible Library, A Murder of Crows.)
Today, Matthew talks about soome aspects of the book, particularly around the local history surrounding the book.
The Queen of Eventide is a fantasy set around Matthew's local Nottingham (although some of the settings are fictional and any resemblance to architecture rebuilt, destroyed or given a modern facelift is not entirely coincidental), and uses places of history and interest around the local area.
Now as you know, Nottingham has some quaint local legends that you may or may not be familiar with. I think there was a chap who used to run around with his merry men causing all sorts of problems for the local sheriff department. However, there are also other aspects that you may or may not be familiar with, and with that I hand you over to Matthew for a piece entitled...
PEERING INTO THE PAST
The best way to make someone learn, it turns out, is to trick ‘em into doing it, and Doctor Who certainly opened my eyes to events and concepts I’d otherwise never have discovered. Plenty of TV shows, books and movies have played that same trick ever since (I mean, historical fiction is a thriving genre these days) but it’s one that never loses its value.
History, told well, is a story in and of itself. More than that, it defines the character of a place, the deeds of the past seeping into a city’s bones. Open your eyes just a little and you can even see that past, looming over the present in road layouts, street names, folk traditions and language.
Given everything I’ve just said, it’s probably not a surprise that when I decided to set Queen of Eventide in Nottingham, I wanted to reflect a little of its history.
Compared to cities like York, Lincoln, Liverpool or Leicester, Nottingham’s oddly reticent about showcasing its past (beyond a large number of pubs vying for the claim of being the oldest in the country). I’ve never really understood why that’s the case, because there’s plenty of history to be had.
I guess it’s that truism about being blind to the landmark next door because it’s not special. How can it be, when it’s right next door?
More responsible is Nottingham’s most famous son – even if he isn’t real. Robin Hood, the daring outlaw of Sherwood Forest, tends to warp perceptions. Legendary figures do that. It’s right there in the job description. Visitors who arrive looking for a trail of Robin Hood related attractions, castles and the like are doomed to disappointment, unless they drive another forty minutes into the heart of Sherwood Forest (now long since retreated from city’s bounds).
But perhaps it’s understandable that the renowned outlaw and rabble rouser casts such a shadow over Nottingham. Let’s be honest, if you know two characters from the tales of Robin Hood, the first is Robin himself, and the second is the Sheriff of Nottingham.
More than that, glance at Nottingham’s past and you’ll see that it’s an extraordinarily grumpy city, given to settling differences with fists and fire, a tradition going back until at least the era of Danelaw, where invading vikings lived in on-and-off peace alongside the saxons. Even Nottingham’s arguably most famous flesh-and-blood son, Lord Byron, was what we might call a fabulously quarrelsome “direct action” poet, and eventually met his end while fighting in the Greek War of Independence.
Nottingham also holds the dubious distinction of marking the official start of the English Civil War. (Technically the First English Civil War, if you want to be picky … and let’s face it, someone always does. I prefer to think of it as one event with a particularly long intermission.) Faced with sweeping reform by parliamentarians, King Charles I raised his standard at Nottingham Castle. One of history’s ditherers, he left it too late to count for much. Plenty of towns and cities – Nottingham among them – had already seen clashes between the two sides.
By all accounts, the raising of the standard was less than auspicious … and Charles’ royalists promptly lost the castle to their parliamentarian opponents. They never retook it, despite making several attempts and, like so many others, the castle itself was demolished after the war. Only the foundations (and the caves) exists. Of King Charles’ grand gesture, only a street name (Standard Hill) and a commemorative plaque remain.
“But Matthew,” I hear you say, “there is a castle at Nottingham. I’ve seen signs for it. It has a website and everything”. It’s true, there is, you have and it does. But the aforementioned foundations aside, this is a very different building. What you see looming on the hill is actually a ducal palace – more technically, the restored remains of a ducal palace – built on the aforementioned foundations.
I say “remains”, because what you can visit today is a hollowed out facade, which was razed by an angry mob in the early 19th Century. This was hardly the first or last such angry mob in 1800s Nottingham. The city was famously a hotbed of chartist reformers, and saw the birth of the Luddite movement. Refurbished nearly fifty years later, Nottingham Castle MkII, CINO (castle in name only) has been a museum and art gallery ever since.
Like I said at the start, Nottingham’s a grumpy city (often with much to be grumpy about).
It’s also a wonderful setting for a storyteller. Queen of Eventide touches on several of the events described above, but to find out which you’re going to have to read the book (or listen to the wonderful audio version) …
If you’d like to learn more about Nottingham, there’s no better place to start than with the Nottingham Hidden History Team (https://nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam.wordpress.com).
If you find yourself visiting the city, be sure to take time to visit Wollaton Hall, home of the Nottingham Natural History and Nottingham Industrial museums. (https://wollatonhall.org.uk/hall-and-museum/ & https://nottinghamindustrialmuseum.org.uk/about/).
And of course there’s the castle itself (https://www.nottinghamcastle.org.uk).
I can also recommend the National Justice Museum, just a short walk from the castle in the historic Lace Market quarter (https://www.nationaljusticemuseum.org.uk/museum/).
Pursued through Nottingham’s mist-shrouded streets, Maddie is drawn into Eventide: a realm where legends walk and perception shapes reality. As the hidden dangers of Eventide bleed into the material realm, Nottingham falls under the sway of a vengeful, malevolent queen.
It falls to Maddie to stop the chaos from spreading … no easy task when nothing and no one are precisely what they seem.
Can Maddie discover the truth about the Queen of Eventide before it’s too late?
In addition to this, here are my thoughts on The Queen of Eventide......
Later this month, Matthew Ward will be re – releasing one of his earlier books, The Queen of Eventide which comes out in ebook, paperback and a sparkly new audiobook and also a new cover for the book.
The story revolves around Maddie Lincoln, who after her life has ended up as something of a bin fire, has decided that the best place for her is to return home to her recently deceased mother’s home in Thornhill, Nottingham.
When Maddie returns home, she finds herself at the centre of some bizarre goings on in which she is hunted by a strange horned huntsman who tells her that she is to be the prisoner of his lady boss, The Dark Lady, Maddie does what every self respecting person who has not the foggiest of what’s going on does, and legs it! As fast as her feet can carry her. Upon her return to Thornhill, she bumps into her old mate Inga and also makes some new friends along the way. The foppish fortune teller, Charles King, and the suave, slightly churlish, Charles, who saves her from The Dark Lady’s pursuers.
We soon learn that The Dark Lady is the sower of discontent, who resides in that mysterious place called Eventide, a ghostly land that lives alongside our own but is full of legends and magic.
To say that I enjoyed this book is an understatement as I have already listened to the book twice and Kirsten Atherton does such a brilliant job of bringing Maddie and the other characters to life, especially Maddie who is done superbly with a soft Nottinghamshire accent.
This book has firmly cemented its place, along with the almost unknown radio drama, Pilgrim by Sebastian Baczkiewicz, as one of my favourite pieces of British fantasy fiction that revolves around folklore. I am always drawn to this type of story, and I think it comes from being a person of a certain age that avidly watched British fantasy television like Robin of Sherwood and other such things. In fact, this book does put me in mind of this TV series that reinvented the legend of Robin Hood and put an almost folk horror/mystical edge to the titular bowman.
In addition to having those elements, Matthew Ward centres the story and setting around elements of local history, like the Weekday cross and other notable local places of interest in Nottingham, and whilst the village of Thornhill does not exist, the environment in which the story is set when it is not set in the shadowy world of Eventide resembles areas of Nottingham.
I love the inclusion of the Robin Hood in the story, although he is in no way like the merry representation that Errol Flynn did and is much darker and filled with regrets of his past deeds. In Queen of Eventide, he is more like a fae creature that haunts the mists of Eventide along with his indistinct Goodfellows. Not only does Robin Hood make an appearance, we get the inclusion of other characters from the legend like the Sheriff of Nottingham. Matthew Ward also treats us to a cameo by the mad, bad and dangerous to know Lord Byron, whose ancestral home was in Nottinghamshire.
As usual Matthew Ward writes some fantastic characters, both with Maddie Lincoln and her antithesis The Dark Lady. Another character that stood out for me was Charles King, who for some reason resembled Peter Wyngarde from the TV series Jason King in my head. It was probably the name that did it, but that will be my representation from now on.
In addition, the Dark Lady is a complex antagonist who thrives on sowing discord and rebellion which she has done throughout the ages, relentlessly attracting unwitting souls to her cause. However, we soon learn that she is much more, and that she is trapped in Eventide, for reasons unknown.
There is a lot to like about this book. Not only the setting of Nottinghamshire, but also Eventide itself, which, if like me you are a fan of Matthew Ward’s Legacy Series, you will recognise that there is some familiarity with the place as it put me in mind of the place where the gods live in that series.
I was immediately hooked into the story as I clicked with Maddie early on and found her to be a likeable character (and I think that this has to do with the excellent narration). There is lots of action and adventure, that has that mysterious and gothic edge as Maddie gets chased through misty graveyards by ominous horsemen. The story flows smoothly between points of view, cutting between the modern story but also to interludes that show key aspects of the past and how they affect the story.
I think one of the things that resonated with me as well is that it is unabashedly northern, and whilst I don’t go to Nottingham that often (even though it is not that far from me really!) there are things that I am familiar with, like The Nottingham Goose Fair which I visited when younger, and also the little colloquialisms associated with the area, like going to Thornhill proper, and other similar things.
I have listened to the audio twice now, and really enjoyed it. In fact I blasted through it both times and it was even better the second time round. As usual with Matthew Ward books, it is already in my top reads for this year as I enjoyed it so much.
He’s afflicted with an obsession for old places – castles, historic cities and the London Underground chief amongst them – and should probably cultivate more interests to help expand out his author biography.