I was very happy to welcome Helen Jones, author of The Ambeth Chronicles – Oak and Mist and No Quarter. The third volume in the series, Hills and Valleys, is due for imminent release. These beautifully written books are listed as Young Adult Fantasy but anyone who enjoys losing themselves in a magical world can find Ambeth waiting between the oaks…
There is something about a path as it turns, the destination not yet visible, the winding way an irresistible temptation, pulling me further along. I’ve always been one who searches, my journey taking me across the world and back again to find, like Dorothy, that all I wanted was to go home.
And yet the path still beckons. I love to walk in the woods, through the dapple of light and shade, mystery dwelling under green branches. I enjoy adventure, discovery and learning new things, living life consciously, aware that the choices I make affect my path as it turns.
The path can be used as a metaphor for many things. Religion and spiritual practice often refer to the path as a route to salvation, enlightenment or self-discovery. Many martial arts have the word Do in their name: Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Karate Do – Do is another word for ‘the way.’ In such practice, the journey is the reward, with each belt gained, each threshold passed another step forward in learning. After a while, the black belt of a master becomes worn through wear and age, the threads fraying and fading back to white, the colour of a beginner. In such a way does the path come full circle again.
The meditative path is one of prayer or reflection, where you emerge at the other end changed in some way. Labyrinths appear in stories and designs from pre-history to present day, spirals cut into stone and metal and earth a symbol of protection and ritual. Mediaeval pavement mazes led believers along a pathway of prayer, one of the most well-known at Chartres Cathedral in France, still a destination for pilgrims today.
In my Ambeth books, the protagonist’s life changes in an instant when she is pushed between two trees and disappears, to reappear in another land. There is a path there as well, both physical and metaphorical; the path through the woods leading to the Oak Gate, and the path she has to undertake, as she discovers her heritage and her destiny, and the choices she must make.
Sometimes the path turns unexpectedly, taking us somewhere we don’t expect – circumstance and fortune, good or bad, forcing us in a different direction. All we can do then is trust and persevere, with hope that if we keep moving forward, we’ll reach a place where things feel familiar once more.
I particularly love this quote by Douglas Adams:
‘I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.’
My own life path has deviated in many ways from where I thought it would go. And yet, all the steps I’ve taken along it have made me the person I am today. In Ambeth, Alma makes choices that cause her to stray from her course – yet she still ends up where she is supposed to be.
And that can be seen as one of the deeper meanings of the path. Destiny. The idea that we are part of some greater plan, that the way our lives intertwine with others has a more profound significance than perhaps we realise. As writers, we get a glimpse of what this might be like as we move our characters around within the pages, weaving their paths through the story to a conclusion only we know.
A path can be many things – a dream, a prayer, a meditation, a lesson. Or simply just a path, and we are walkers upon it.
The thought of finding magic in ordinary places is one that I love; the idea that just stepping off the path could take you somewhere unexpected. It’s part of what inspires my writing. When I was a child I did find a strange valley and hear a scream – the incident stayed with me and was the starting point of the Ambeth Chronicles.
I’ve lived around the world, Toronto, Vancouver, Melbourne, Sydney, but started life in Coventry, England. A couple of years ago I moved back to my native England and, once settled, started to write about Ambeth. The name ‘Ambeth’ comes from the Welsh ‘am byth’, which means forever, a nod to my Welsh family background and the fact that for me, Wales is my heart home.
Ambeth is not the only world I plan to visit in my books, but it’s where I am now. When I’m not writing, I like to walk, paint and study karate (when housework and family life permit!) Life has been a journey to get me to this point but I can honestly say I’ve lived it and am grateful for every day.
Alma Bevan didn’t mean to go on a quest.
But when she disappears between two trees at her local park and reappears in Ambeth, she finds they’ve been expecting her.
And now she has to find a lost sword or the consequences for humanity will be dire. With no idea where to look, despite help from her new friend Caleb, things become even more complicated when a handsome prince of the Dark expresses an interest in her.
All this plus homework too?
Travelling between worlds is hard enough without having to manage a suspicious best friend, complicated love interests and concerned parents. Add in some time-twisting, a mysterious bracelet and a group of immortal beings all vying for control of a lost sword, and it’s enough to make any fifteen year old girl want to give up. But then she wouldn’t see Caleb any more. Or Deryck…
Things couldn’t be better for Alma. She’s returned the lost Sword to Ambeth and is finally with Deryck, Prince of the Dark. But what’s really going on?
Deryck is struggling with his father, who wants to control Alma, while Alma is struggling with her best friend Caleb, who doesn’t trust Deryck one inch. Plus it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with her life in the human world.
Falling in love shouldn’t be this difficult. But things are about to get much worse…
Quests and friendship all fall by the wayside when there’s romance to be had. Plus, spending time with handsome Deryck is much more appealing than with an increasingly angry Caleb. The Light are always on about making choices, so they shouldn’t have a problem with her choosing to be with Deryck.
Besides, he’ll protect her from his father – won’t he?