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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: The Cathedral of Cliffdale by Melissa Delport

The Cathedral of Cliffdale (Guardians of Summerfeld #1) by Melissa Delport
Genre: Adult (Paranormal/Fantasy)
Date Published: August 14, 2015
Publisher: Self

A Guardian is dead. For the first time in one thousand years, no replacement has come forward. 
With only eleven Guardians remaining, the enchanted City of Summerfeld, home to the last survivors of the Blood War, is vulnerable. 
As their enemies close in the Guardians must unite or Summerfeld will fall.

The Cathedral of Cliffdale is the first book in the highly anticipated "Guardians of Summerfeld Series".

The Cathedral at Cliffdale is the first book in the Guardians of Summerfeld series by Melissa Delport. I'm a huge fan of this author. If you haven't read The Legacy yet, you must!!

This story mixes a little fantasy with a little paranormal with all sorts of critters running around.. fairies, dragons, unicorns, vampires. It has them all, but you're not bombarded with all sorts of fantasy fluff. These characters have substance and layers, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them. Quinn is a wonderful main character. She doesn't let her peers and superiors stand in the way of what she feels like she needs to be doing. There are many characters to get to know, but it's not overwhelming. Am I the only one who's Team Drake? I haven't seem him mentioned in any reviews so far! What's up with that? *wink*

The plot was fast paced and kept me engaged. The Cathedral at Cliffdale is a fantastic start to what I'm betting will be a highly addictive series. It already has me hooked.

The Cathedral of Cliffdale by Melissa Delport was kindly provided to me by the author for review. The opinions are my own.

Chapter 1

“And then the little man fell through the hole in the ground and was never seen again.”

Quinn Harden closed the storybook with a snap and the children jumped. “Time for bed, you two,” she smiled, setting the book down on the bedside table.

“One more, please Aunty Quinn,” Jack begged, his blue eyes wide.

“The one about the fairies!” Ava added, stifling a yawn.

“And then you’ll go to sleep?” Quinn raised her brows.

“Promise,” the twins replied in unison. They were masters of negotiation, their intelligence and competence far beyond their two years. It was so with all descendents of the original Guardians, no doubt a result of the miniscule traces of Fae blood that ran through their veins. Jack and Ava were, however, blissfully unaware that some of the stories Quinn told them were true.

She cleared her throat, waiting for them to settle back on their pillows before she began, reciting the words by heart, as she recalled the stories that Kellan used to tell her as a child.

“There was a time when all of the mystical creatures read about in fairy tales roamed the Earth freely and lived among men; when dragons shared the sky with birds of prey and giants claimed the mountains as their home.” Quinn stopped, a soft smile crossing her face. The children were asleep. She allowed herself the luxury of watching them for a while, as the memory of Kellan’s voice washed over her, from a night many years ago.

There was a time when all of the mystical creatures read about in fairy tales roamed the Earth freely and lived among men; when dragons shared the sky with birds of prey and giants claimed the mountains as their home. Faeries, merfolk, werewolves and vampires, among the many supernatural beings, were as much a part of civilisation as man was. Protected by the enchantments placed upon them by the Fae they were seldom seen, but those of purest heart, who would do them no harm, were granted glimpses of their magnificence.

Reaching over, Quinn switched off the nightlight, dropping a kiss on Jack and Ava’s foreheads before making her way quietly out of their bedroom. The children would never know that the story she’d started did not have a happy ending. The creatures she spoke of had filled the world with beauty and magic, until a xenophobic holocaust ignited by a mad king extinguished their light over a thousand years ago. Over time, their absence resulted in their existence becoming fabled, warped into legend and myth and shrouded in allegory. And yet, exist they did. And to this day, some still do. Only twelve people know this – only ever twelve, whose sole objective is to ensure the safety of those precious few who remain. These twelve are known as the Guardians, fierce protectors of Summerfeld – the City that shelters the last surviving supernatural beings.

With only her dark thoughts for company, Quinn went downstairs to clean up the whirlwind that was dinner time with two young, energetic toddlers. She couldn’t quite figure out how the peas had made it halfway under the refrigerator, but knowing how Ava loathed them she suspected foul play. The twins were crafty.

Quinn clung to the menial task, trying to stem the memories that threatened to overwhelm her. As she reached under the refrigerator, scooping up peas, she caught sight of the ornate, white tattoo that branded her wrist, and, like a floodgate, the memories forced their way through her weary defenses.

Kellan’s stories had been happy, much like the ones she told Jack and Ava, but Isaiah had spoken only the truth. Quinn had been twenty-one the first time she heard the legend. Her sister, Avery, had sat beside her at the council table, the girls eager for their first lesson. It had been nearly a thousand years since the Blood War, named for the sheer amount of magical blood that had been spilled, but now that they had been branded as Guardians, Quinn and Avery were to learn the the truth; that in secret, unbeknown to their human counterparts, the war still waged, and the hunt for Summerfeld continued.

“In order to understand our purpose, you need to fully understand our history,” Isaiah explained. “I must warn you, however, that the story is one of tragedy, and destruction.”

“Tell us,” Avery insisted, leaning forward in her chair. The Sacred Book was open before him, but Isaiah didn’t look at it as he began to speak.

“When Enah, princess of the Fae, fell in love with Julian, the Vampire prince, she used her magic to bestow upon him the forbidden gift of sun-walking. Imparting Faery magic to any other supernatural being or creature was punishable by death.”

“Why?” Quinnm asked, interrupting, and Avery scowled at her. “What?” Quinn shrugged. “It’s a logical question. Why was it so bad?”

“Fae magic was too powerful to be wielded by any other species,” Isaiah explained patiently, “and King Eldon feared that if any of the others learned that they could use it, they might turn on the Fae and try to take it for themselves. The Taboo was their most sacred law.” Quinn nodded that she understood and Isaiah continued, “In breaking it, Enah had betrayed her own kind, but more than that, she started a feud that would span centuries. Her father, King Eldon, couldn’t bring himself to take her life, so he hunted down the abomination she had created instead. He killed Julian.”

Isaiah heard Avery’s gasp of astonishment, but to his surprise, Quinn looked satisfied. The Guardian women were always more disturbed by this revelation than their male counterparts. Patiently, he waited for their questions, but again they surprised him and remained silent. Isaiah proceeded.

“Julian’s father, King Aleksei, declared war on the Fae. The werewolves were only too happy to unite with the Faeries, and all the other legendary creatures, reliant on the Fae magic, sided with them too – their alliance strengthened in the crucible of war.”

“So, if everyone sided with King Eldon, why is the war still waging?” Avery asked. “Surely all of those creatures could easily have overthrown the vampires?”

“Sadly not,” Isaiah sighed. “If that had been the case, we wouldn’t be here,” he remarked wryly. “King Eldon grossly underestimated the physical power of the vampires. King Aleksei wreaked his furious vengeance on all who stood between him and the Fae. Through his connection to all living creatures, King Eldon suffered terribly as one species after another was slaughtered to extinction. The Pegasus and the Phoenix did not survive the Blood War and the numbers of the ten species that remained were reduced dramatically. King Eldon’s hatred of the vampires grew with every death at their foul hands, manifesting in his evolution – and he became the first Slayer, a lethal, merciless vampire-hunter, whose very blood could kill them…”

Quinn jerked back to her small, humble kitchen as though she had been doused with ice-cold water. She could have sworn she had heard something upstairs. Dropping her cloth, Quinn raced up the stairs to check on the children. Jack and Ava were still sound asleep in their bed, Ava’s pyjama top pulled up, exposing her rounded belly. Her chubby, cream-clad legs were thrown over her brother’s stomach, and clutched tightly in her hands was Beebee – a pale pink teddy bear with a floppy hat that she had loved since birth. She never went anywhere without it. Smiling, Quinn pulled down Ava’s shirt and shifted her over, covering her up again with her blankets. Jack immediately rolled towards his sister, his curly dark hair falling over his eyes as he reached for her in his sleep. Ava was Jack’s comforter. Ava had Beebee… and Jack had Ava. Quinn watched them fondly for a few more minutes, a rapt expression on her strikingly beautiful face, and then left the room, shutting the door behind her. The twins didn’t stir.

As she pulled their door closed, Quinn’s senses heightened, jerking her from her moment of content. She hesitated, sensing that someone else was in the house. Moving silently down the stairs, she slowly pulled open a dresser drawer and extracted a long ornamental wooden stake. It was the only weapon within reach, although probably not the most suitable. The intruder was not a vampire – none had been invited in – but that didn’t change the fact that someone had broken into her house at this time of night. It didn’t bode well, either way.

Stepping quickly around the corner, Quinn raised the stake to shoulder height and jabbed it forward. It stopped less than an inch from the intruder’s right eye. Unperturbed, he lifted a hand and placed it over hers, lowering her arm.

“Hello Quinn,” her father murmured, his striking tanzanite eyes a mirror of her own, the perfect blend of violet and the deepest blue.

“What are you doing here, Braddon?” She always called him by his name, never ‘dad’ or ‘father.’ Not since she was a child.

“It’s time for you to return,” his eyes held hers and a million arguments died on her lips. “You have a duty to fulfil, and you have indulged yourself far too long already.”

“Indulged myself?” Quinn snapped, her anger back in an instant. “I have a life, Braddon! I have two children who need me!” He ignored her.

“You must return – the Guardians need you.”

“The Guardians can go to hell.”

“Quinn,” his voice was harsher, his eyes flashing angrily. “The Gateway needs to be protected. You know what is at stake.”

“The City is safe,” Quinn sighed, “Eldon wove his magic well.” The enchantments placed upon the City ensued that neither man nor vampire could find it, let alone enter.

Braddon didn’t acknowledge her words. “We cannot risk it! Enchantments can be broken, Avery’s death is proof of that. We are more vulnerable than ever before. It has been two years and we have yet to find your sister’s replacement.”

The mention of her twin sister, Avery, only fuelled Quinn’s anger. Avery had been a Guardian too, like their father. Like Quinn herself. Avery’s identity had been discovered by a vampire assassin.Since her death two years ago, no new Guardian had been marked and for the first time in Summerfeld’s history, only eleven remained.

“Has it occurred to you that Avery’s replacement hasn’t come forward for good reason?” Quinn sneered. “That maybe this person would prefer a normal life, without the burden of the Guardianship?”

“It is an honour to protect the last, Quinn. Duty is something no true Guardian would seek to avoid.” His words smacked of implied accusation.

“Well then, perhaps this one got lost? Perhaps the replacement Guardian is backpacking through Europe and didn’t get the memo?” Braddon shook his head at the blatant sarcasm in her voice.

“You know as well as I, that a newly marked Guardian will always find his or her way to Cliffdale.”

This was true; the moment that the white mark burned into a Guardian’s wrist the newcomer’s instincts led him or her to Cliffdale, to be inducted into the Guardianship. Eldon’s Guardian charm ensured it. When he realised that he could not win the Blood War, King Eldon had called upon twelve humans to protect the magical realm, and imbued each of them with a trace amount of blood from each of the ten remaining supernatural species –forging a blood allegiance. These twelve humans became the Guardians of Summerfeld and were marked as such – an ornate, white, S-shaped tattoo was branded on their left wrists. They guarded the Gateway, a magical portal between worlds, and ensured that neither King Aleksei, nor his descendants, could find the City. No-one but a Guardian could pass freely through the Gateway, and no creature could ever leave until the day that every last vampire had been destroyed.

The Guardians do not age but that does not mean they cannot die. Vampires have been hunting them for a millennium, armed with the knowledge that only through them can they enter the City of Summerfeld and finish their quest to destroy the last remaining supernaturals. With the knowledge that the vampires could never be allowed to access the City, if discovered, a Guardian would take his or her own life. It was a pledge of honour. When one Guardian died, another was inevitably marked, always a descendant of the original twelve. Indiscernible from ordinary people, tracking a Guardian was no easy feat for the vampires, but every now and then they succeeded and a new Guardian would take the place of the fallen.

“How can you ignore the severity of this situation?” Braddon persisted wearily, “You are being petulant.”

“I am protecting Avery’s children!” Quinn had lost all patience with her father. “Your grandchildren!” The comment seemed absurd, considering how youthful Braddon appeared. He had become a Guardian at the age of twenty-seven, Quinn and Avery just before their twenty-second birthdays. Braddon looked only a few years older than she did, although in reality he was over two hundred years her senior.

“Jack and Ava will be taken care of; we will make sure of that. They may well be marked in time to come. Do you really think we would leave them unprotected, considering how valuable they are?”

“They are children, not possessions! They deserve to be loved – as Avery would have loved them. As Tristan should have!”

“You are letting your feelings for Tristan get in the way of your reasoning.” Quinn curled her lip at the undeserved barb. She may have loved Tristan first, but to imply that he meant anything to her after what he had done was ridiculous. When Tristan Ormonde had become a Guardian, it had been Quinn who had trained him, Quinn who had shared the Guardians secrets and helped him adapt to his new way of life. Their relationship had blossomed, becoming intimate, and Quinn had truly believed she had finally found her soul mate, after being alone for a hundred years. That was until Avery returned from a journey north. She had accompanied Braddon on a search for the Phoenix – rumours abounded that the bird, long thought extinct, might have survived. Sadly the exploration had proved futile, and had kept Avery away far longer than Quinn would have liked. She was eager for the two most important people in her life to meet. The irony of her anticipation was not lost on her later.

In the instant that Tristan and Avery laid eyes on each other, Quinn knew that Tristan would never look at her the way he did her sister. So she had done the honourable thing and stepped aside, never holding it against either of them – until her sister had died, just a few months after the birth of the twins. Tristan had already returned to Summerfeld to resume his Guardian duties and Quinn would never forgive him for not being there to protect her sister, the woman he supposedly loved more than life itself.

“I feel nothing for Tristan!” Quinn hissed. “He abandoned Avery – and his children!”

“Tristan understands the meaning of honour! He understands the magnitude of our duty and that some things are more important, even than family.”

“Tristan is still captivated by the novelty of his own importance. He has only been a Guardian for a few years. His enthusiasm will wear off, trust me. This job is eternal.”

“That is not true, Quinn. You know the prophecy. When the balance is restored the war will end.”

“Don’t quote the book at me, Braddon, I know it far better than you do.” The Sacred Book, studied by all Guardians as part of their training, contained both history and prophecy. “The balance will never be restored!”

King Eldon had chronicled that the war between the Fae and the vampires would end when the balance was restored. The Guardians understood this to mean the the number of vampires in existence needed to be reduced to that of the inhabitants of Summerfeld – a literal balance between good and evil – but the vampires’ ability to multiply made it an impossible task.

”It has been written,” Braddon replied with absolute certainty, irking her with his steadfast belief. She had believed once, too, but over the past two years she had withdrawn, pulling away from the Guardianship for the sake of her niece and nephew.

“That book says a lot of things, most of which have never happened. I think old Eldon may have been a bit mental.”

“That’s sacrilege, Quinn! Do not forget your teachings; do not doubt your beliefs. I have been protecting Summerfeld for three hundred years. My allegiance has never faltered.”

“You don’t need to remind me. I remember,” Quinn’s own tanzanite eyes were flashing now. “You dumped me and Avery the very first chance you got.”

Braddon Harden had loved his human wife, but had fulfilled his duty and returned to the Guardians immediately after his daughters were born, visiting them only occasionally. Their mother had loved and cared for them, but she had fallen ill when they were very young and died shortly thereafter. The girls had been removed from their home to be raised within the City itself. Their basic needs were met, but never again did they experience the love and affection that they had known from their mother in the human world. Without Avery, Quinn doubted she would have survived her lonely childhood. This was the main reason she had wanted to raise Jack and Ava herself, in the real world, so that they could experience a normal, happy childhood, without secrets, being raised by someone who loved them as much as their mother had.

On their twenty-first birthdays, Quinn and Avery were allowed back into the realm of man to start a life of their own – although they would always be watched over. Under no real threat from the vampires as ‘innocents’, the Guardians preferred to keep tabs on all descendants of the twelve Guardian families. Most were raised by their human mothers and were unaware of Summerfeld’s existence, but every so often, if an heir of a Guardian was orphaned before reaching adulthood, the child would be raised within the City itself. Quinn had been nothing short of delighted to escape the confines of the City and live a life of her choosing. She had soothed Avery’s fears of the unknown and promised her a life filled with fun and adventure. Avery had been loath to leave Summerfeld and Quinn had wondered if Avery’s Guardian instincts were naturally stronger than her own.

In a sick twist of fate, two of Braddon’s Guardian friends had been discovered by the vampires and had taken their own lives to defend Summerfeld less than a year after the girls left the City. Quinn and Avery’s marks had burned onto their wrists in a flash of pain, the white S-shaped tattoo that they had always feared – seeing it as a symbol of a family divided. Nevertheless, the calling was too great and the girls reported to Cliffdale where they were trained as Guardians – the newest protectors of the magical realm. Conversely, it was Quinn who then championed their cause. Determined to be the best Guardian possible, she trained harder than any other before her and swore her allegiance without hesitation. She led… and Avery followed. Over time, their fierce devotion and astounding skills earned them even the grudging respect of their own father. And then Avery had died and Quinn’s sole focus had no longer concerned the protection of others – it became the protection of her own blood – Avery’s children.

“This is how it works, Quinn,” Braddon continued, bringing Quinn back to the present. “You have been a Guardian for a long time – you have seen it, over and over. The children will be protected – they will want for nothing.”

“They will want for a lot of things. I know that better than anyone. I have been defending the Gateway for almost a century. All I ask is a few more years’ grace, to allow Jack and Ava to grow up in this world – their world. When they come of age, I will return.”

“That is out of the question. Daniel himself sent me to get you.”

A resounding silence followed these words. Daniel was one of only two original Guardians. Two alone had survived the last one thousand years and had never been replaced on the Guardian council. Daniel and Isaiah were legendary. Satisfied that he had her attention, Braddon continued. “There has never been discord amongst the Guardians – not in one thousand years – not until now. We lead by example and your actions will result in doubt. Where there is doubt, there is fragility. Without your sister’s successor we are even more vulnerable.”

“I’m only asking for a few years,” Quinn repeated, but Braddon shook his head.

“You have had two. Unfortunately, we can grant you no more time.”

“I will take as much time as I want. You can go back and tell Daniel that you asked but I am not coming back.” Instead of anger, something akin to empathy shone in her father’s eyes.

“You misunderstand me, Quinn. I didn’t come here to ask you. I came here to fetch you.”

It took a moment for the words to sink in but when they did Quinn gave a gasp of shocked understanding. Racing for the stairs, she took them two at a time. Skidding to a halt at the door to the children’s room, she let out a wail of despair and heartbreak. The unmade beds were the least of her worries. Jack and Ava were gone.

Check out my review of another book by this author!

Wife and mother of 3, Melissa Delport is the author of The Legacy Trilogy and the stand-alone self-published e.books Rainfall and The Traveler.

She graduated from the University of South Africa with a Bachelor’s Degree in English in 2000

At the age of twenty-four Melissa started a logistics company (Transmax) from the spare room of her flat and built it up to two fully operational depots in Durban and Johannesburg. Now, 10 years later, she has sold her business in order to write full time.

Melissa lives with her husband and three children in Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

The Legacy (book 1 of The Legacy Trilogy) and The Legion (book 2) are available now and the final book, The Legend, will be released early 2015.

An avid reader herself, Melissa finally decided to stop ‘watching from the sidelines’ and to do what is her passion.

“I was driving home from work when inspiration struck, and a storyline started unravelling in my head. For a few days it was all I could think about and eventually I realised that the only way to get it out of my head, was to put it all down on paper. I started writing, and that was that.”

To learn more about Melissa Delport and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on GoodreadsPinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

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