Following the prophesied Artan’s victory over the Dark Powers, the land of Aerisia is finally at rest, until ancient beings, long imprisoned, begin to stir…
Eight years after Annie Richards’ stellar voice and musical talents skyrocketed her from rural Oklahoma to international fame, haunting visions have begun threatening her sanity. While she’s returning to her childhood home to convalesce, creatures straight from her nightmares bring down her plane. Annie wakens in a parallel world, Aerisia. Here, she discovers her musical gifts translate into magical powers—the legacy of a banished race who have been invading her dreams.
Mistrusted by Aerisia’s most powerful factions because of her heritage, Annie finds allies are hard to come by. Supporting her are one Simathe warrior, Cole, who refuses to label her as evil, and one woman willing to stand against anything and anyone to help a friend: the Artan herself. Seizing control of her destiny will mean defying both her ancestors and the Aerisian leaders. Mastering her magic may mean making the greatest sacrifice of all…or risk becoming the reason Aerisia itself is torn apart.
Don't believe all the hype. Sarah Ashwood isn't really a gladiator, a Highlander, a fencer, a skilled horsewoman, an archer, a magic wielder, or a martial arts expert. That's only in her mind. In real life, she's a genuine Okie from Muskogee, who grew up in the wooded hills outside the oldest town in Oklahoma, USA, and holds a B.A. in English from American Military University. She now lives (mostly) quietly at home with her husband and four children, where she tries to sneak in a daily run or workout to save her sanity and keep her mind fresh for her next story.
For a complete list of all Sarah's works and the links to find them, as well as her social media contacts and newsletter sign up, visit her website at www.sarahashwoodauthor.com.
This book hit me at just the right time, totally syncing with my mood! I was starting to fall into a bit of a reading slump but this fantasy totally whisked me away! It was a light read but full of substance, emotion, plight, and delight. I'm so glad Sarah Ashwood reached out to me about reviewing her work or I might never have stumbled across it.
Written in a voice of grounded reality while spinning a tale of enrapturing fantasy, Aerisian Refrain is an underrated story of music, magic, and the mastery of one's fate. Captivating characters and haunting enemies fill the pages while the softness of unexpected love softens the edges of impending demise looming over them all. A worthy read for any YA Fantasy fan.
For Annie Richards, music is not just a dream but her very life. It has propelled her to the very top as a star performer, sharing her songs and voice with millions every day. She is a woman fulfilled and fully alive.
Then the dreams come. Strange nightmares of an unseen Presence and nameless fear. They’ve become constant, consuming. Something wants her–and her voice.
Now, Annie finds herself face to face with a dark secret of her heritage and a destiny she could have never imagined. All to be revealed in the Land Beyond the Sunset…
The first thing I noticed about Aerisian Refrain is that I could hardly put it down. It’s been a while since I’ve come across a book I’ve enjoyed enough to completely suspend disbelief and intellectual analysis while reading it. The story (and its fictional universe) is riveting, enchanting, and richly detailed, with brilliant characterization. Some may find the narrative language a bit wordy, but it flows smoothly and even uses exposition in a way that genuinely enriches the story.
The plot can basically be described as a “portal” fantasy taking a character from our world and placing them into a “magical” universe. The narrative opens with a picture of the main character’s life in our world before transporting her to Aerisia (the Land Beyond the Sunset). This is done in a way that creates steady buildup and even a pronounced element of psychological drama (Annie’s dreams play a prominent role in what is to come). This book is the first in its own series but actually continues a story begun in a previous one (see the Aerisia: Land Beyond the Sunset). Nevertheless, the protagonist’s perspective is skillfully used as a means of explaining the story world to new readers as well as ones with knowledge of the prior books.
The imagined world of the book draws deeply upon several different mythologies, with the two primary ones in this particular story being Irish and Cherokee (in-story, many mythological creatures on Earth are based on real beings from Aerisia). The “metaphysics” of this imagined world are addressed similarly to those of George MacDonald’s classic novel Phantastes, and the imagery evokes comparisons at numerous points. The book is clearly intended for a general market audience, so it does not contain straightforward Christian allegory. I am not pointing this out as a bad thing. I definitely have a sense that this story was written “freely” and not weighed down by any heavy-handed “message” or wooden biblical parallels. One part that did give me some pause as a scene where one character advises the protagonist not to let “kin” or “religion” stand in the way of her love for a male romantic interest in Aerisia. This, however, just comes down to a somewhat unfortunate choice of words: the “religion” in question is an “honor code” similar to Bushido rather than a specific set of beliefs.
With this being said, the story is driven by a variety of significant themes. A core one is music and the power it carries (in-story, it’s deeply intertwined with the book’s magical elements). Incidentally, this is a very biblical idea: the account of David driving away an evil spirit with his harp comes to mind. I also thought of classical and medieval concepts regarding the “Music of the Spheres” and the “Great Dance” of creation.
Another significant theme driving the plot is that of determinism vs. free will: do our origins define us, or is it the choices we make? This ties in to another theme of “gifts” and how we use them, whether selfishly or sacrificially. Ultimately, this is the choice placed before the protagonist, with the outcome of the story hinging upon a moment of moral self-revelation.
All in all, I would recommend Aerisian Refrain to fans of romantic fantasy and those who enjoy a fantastical premise and plot that immediately latches onto your imagination.
Heat: There is a significant amount of romantic tension, and one scene where two unmarried characters come quite close to giving into their passions (but do not). There is also a “fade to black” scene involving a married couple.
Violence: Some action-oriented violence and frightening moments.
This book was an amazing read! I didn't think I would connect with the MC, Annie, who was a world-famous singer, but she had a depth of character and humility that made me wish she was real so we could be friends. She was strong, yet caring, and I hurt with her at all the losses and pain she suffered in the course of the story.
The fantasy elements were terrific! I had previously read the first Aerisian trilogy and already loved the fantasy world the author had created, but this book made everything deeper, more resonant, and more meaningful. The descriptions are beautiful and poetic and totally immersed me in the land of Aerisia. I love how some of the magic is tied to music. It feels real! And the dragons and their riders are memorable, even though they don't play a huge part in this story.
One of the best things about this book is the friendship Annie develops with her fellow traveler from Earth, the Artan, Hannah, and the BEST part is the relationship Annie develops with Cole, the Simathe Lord who was my favorite in the first trilogy. The ending was surprising with all kinds of unexpected elements, good and bad.
I highly recommend this engrossing tale of adventure, love, betrayal, magic, fairies, dragons, and the beautiful Cherokee folklore references. I'm having a hard time writing this review because I don't want to give away spoilers but I want everyone to read it, it's that good! Can I just say, "WOW"?
What's the last book that sang to you? The last book that touched your heart and had you think about the tale within it's pages a long time after turning the last page?
This was the one for me.
Aerisian Refrain sang to me. Through a relatable heroine to root for and a totally swoon-worthy hero, both underdogs in the fullest sense of the word; through an unforgettable love story that dares to defy both order and odds; through music and longing and feeling enough to melt a heart.
Saying that I loved it would practically be an understatement.
Annie, a young superstar with an unparalleled musical career, is plagued by nightmarish visions that threaten her sanity and tries to put an end to them by taking a break from the stage and returning to her childhood home. When creatures straight from her nightmares bring down her plane, Annie awakens in a mysterious world that seems more like a Renaissance Faire or movie set than reality - the world of Aerisia.
Annie's Cherokee bloodline may be the reason she had been brought to this other world, and the determining factor of her future. Because her blood heritage translates to magic power, just as her music and her voice. Power that could tear apart the very fabric of Aerisia.
Friendless, lost and alone, Annie finds shelter with the world's ruler, but mistrust, resentment and scorn for her heritage prevent her from getting close to anyone. Apart from one single scarred and deadly warrior, perhaps just as scorned as herself, but for other reasons - Cole. Cue that dreamy sigh again because - Cole is so damn perfect!! Perfectly imperfect and absolutely irresistible! The perfect book boyfriend material if ever there was one!
The world is intriguing and the races fascinating. The plot is solid and action nicely ramps up, complete with those little twists you're bound to not see coming. There's angst and darkness, entwined with mysticism and danger, folklore and legend beautifully entwined with fantasy and irresistibly wrapped up in music. All wonderfully portrayed. But what I loved the most was the love and the feeling. Enough to melt a heart!
The love story of two scorned lonely souls defying all odds and slowly finding solace in each other - practically unforgettable because of the feeling. The sorrow and longing you can practically feel, alongside the rise and fall of hope. Cheff's kiss for all of this!
Aerisian Refrain is the first book of a companion series to the Sunset Lands Beyond series but I've read it as a standalone, without any knowledge of the previous series. And because I fell in love with both world and characters, I'll be reading the original trilogy too.
Adventure, love, betrayal, magic, music and even dragons, honour and sacrifice, this book has it all. And more! It's a must read people! Give it a try!
Aerisian Refrain by Sarah Ashwood is the first book in the Beyond the Sunset Lands series. Annie is a superstar with bodyguards and adoring fans, but lately her dreams have turned into nightmares, making her feel trapped. The dreams are the same each time with Annie losing her voice and a presence begging for her help. Convinced by her manager to return to the farm she inherited from her father, Annie boards a plane to return home, only to find herself in the land of Aerisia where she befriends the Artan Hannah and the handsome Cole, a Simathe who saves her life. Her life gets stranger when she calls a dragon to her using just her voice and fairies appear in her room, calling her an abomination. When she discovers the truth about her origins, she learns she has a darkness that could be a threat to her newfound friends. Hannah's husband, the High-Chief of the Simathe, and his second in command, Lord Norband, have already decided she's evil. Both are willing to do whatever it takes to keep Hannah safe from her. As her powers grow, Annie must face the truth of her origins so she can confront a dark presence determined to use her to release an evil long since banished.
Sarah Ashwood tells a story of adventure filled with action, romance, friendship, and magic. Ashwood perfectly weaves mythology into this magical world where Annie is whisked away. Her life of fame shows her as this glamorous singer whom the whole world adores, though underneath this seemingly perfect life is a character with realistic layers. Annie lost her mother to drugs and then lost her father after her career in the spotlight put a strain on her relationship with him. She struggles with both losses while also dealing with her recurring nightmares. She ends up in this other world where she's confronted with magic for the first time in a gritty and dangerous introduction. Despite the danger, Annie is no damsel in distress. She has strength and a strong will and she's not afraid to tell these powerful people what she thinks about them. Ashwood has complex and determined female characters who are layered, emotional, and lift each other up. Hannah is the Artan so she's this savior with the ability to see the good in people and has a compassionate touch, but she's also feisty and firmly stands her ground. Annie and Hannah have an instant bond between them and it grows as the story progresses.
Romance is part of the story and while it's not the focus, it adds charm throughout as Annie and Cole have a dynamic built on friendship and trust which makes their relationship that much sweeter. The chapters shift from Annie's first person perspective to Cole's third person struggle on loyalty to duty and his growing feelings for her. Ashwood incorporates humor mostly through the wit and dialogue of the characters, including fun moments with Annie's accent which adds a charming touch. A book you won't be able to put down until the end, Aerisian Refrain is a story about strength and self-acceptance with strong female relationships, powerful women, and a charming and magical use of mythology.
It’s finally here. I read all of Sarah Ashwood’s fantastic The Sunset Lands Beyond books, but as wonderful as they are, they’re “just” the prelude for her newest series, Beyond the Sunset Lands, book one of which is Aerisian Refrain. The lead here, Annie Richards, internationally famed singer from Oklahoma, is thrust into the world of an Aerisia at peace thanks to the victory of the Artan over the Dark Powers (which is the story covered in that prelude series). That peace is at risk, however, and poor Annie is at the heart of things thanks to pretty nifty music based magical powers that are the gifts of ... well you’ll see soon enough. This is an exciting book that benefits from the strong world building done in the prior series. Reading that series will definitely enhance this new one bit is not a necessity as this new series does stand-alone nicely (you’ll just miss things you won’t know you’re missing). Wonderfully imaginative and superbly written - yes those are high praise but the book deserves it. But for the fact that I’m literally dictating this review to my husband from my hospital bed I could go on and on with praises - the book definitely deserves it. Since I can’t do that I will simply note that the book is most definitely one to read, it is easy to highly recommend. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in this series.
There’s quite a bit of home world building to slag through and a few unbelievable things, but I liked the characters and the return to Aerisia. This earns 3.5 stars from me. SPOILERS AHEAD Even though I liked Annie, I started to feel like she was making dumb decisions. As soon as she realized using her magic made the Raven stronger, she should have stopped. Or told someone who had magic (the Artan who she’d befriended) and figured out another way to continue. I didn’t like the ending. I understand this is the first for a new series, and I gather we will see more of Annie, Cole and the Raven boys (ha, I’m so funny) in future books, but that doesn’t excuse the incredible way the last scene played out. I couldn’t buy it or accept it. This and the fact Annie didn’t act rationally made me disappointed in this book. Other readers may be able to swallow all of these things, but I couldn’t.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I am amazed at how much I enjoyed this book! The Aerisian world is enthralling, this being my first step into this spellbinding universe. I had the hardest time putting my reader down. Annie is wonderful and her Simanthe warrior is what makes reading so much fun! I love brooding and stubbornly protective heroes!
I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
She has risen to be a great singer but she began to have haunting dreams so she knew she needed to go for a rest. She decides to go to her childhood home to save herself. On the way her plans crashes and she end up in a parallel world. In this world her singing is based on magic. She is alone except for a warrior and a lady. Can she was she is not evil as they all think? Will it all work out? See.how.It will end
I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
A beautiful story with unforgettable characters. I was swept up into a fantasy world that came alive. I felt the joy, sadness, fear, pain, and confusion that Annie faced. I could not put this book down and felt the wondering awe of a real experience. I became one with this book and the characters. I eagerly await the rest of this series. Thank you, Sarah, for this marvelous journey.
This is the kind of story that gets so settled in your mind that you dream about it at night. I legit got annoyed every time I had to put it down. Great worldbuilding, a sweet slow-burn romance, and a heroine who is intelligent and capable. Nice to see some other characters from the previous books make an appearance in a way that doesn't make them the heroes, but lets Annie take center stage (literally!).
Wow. This novel was absolutely incredible. Packed with magic, adventure and all the feels, I was swept away in this story and was sad when it ended. Aerisian Refrain has basically everything you need in an epic fantasy: a compelling story, likeable characters, a *very* memorable villian, an intriguing magic system and great world building. Five stars out of five. I got an early ecopy of this book, but my opinions are my own. I have since purchased a Kindle copy to show my adoration and support of this novel, and plan to buy it in paperback when it's released.
It’s been a long time since I read a book that surprised me at almost every turn. This book was it for me! I loved the magic, folklore, and paranormal feel of the book. Especially the Cherokee background. LOVED THAT! The book is a long but worth every minute. Annie is not your typical female lead and I loved it. She’s human and figuring things out. Not everything worked out the way the characters wanted. I loved that the author incorporated different paranormal creatures and different magic. While I was reading, I was transported into this magical world and enjoyed every minute. All the characters were very well written. Some you love and some, well you didn’t care for but that’s the whole point! Well done Sarah! I look forward to reading more from this author. I highly recommend reading this. You won’t be disappointed! I give this 5 Stars!
A gorgeous book that hits all the right notes! It has all the wonder and danger fans of epic fantasy could want, super shiny worldbuilding that draws from a diverse range of folklore, and the most adorkable, completely shippable couple I've read in ages. Highly recommend this one!
As a musician myself, I instantly related to protagonist Annie Richards. The concept of magic mantefesting itself through music is so well developed, and a concept I've found intriguing for years.
Sarah Ashwood's writing is beautiful - almost poetic in many instances. Her writing is unpredictable - you know that somehow everything will work out, but the way the story progresses and the events that occur are not predictable, and did not feel familiar. I enjoyed that!
This Oklahoma author lives near the capital of Cherokee nation, Tahlequah. As a girl who is 1/16 cherokee, and whose grandfather actually grew up there, I was ESTATIC to seek Cherokee legends woven into the story.
I read this story when I was sick, so I made it through in a single sitting with only meals and naps to interrupt. I was completely absorbed.
I'm so happy to be re-reading this book as I work with Sarah on bringing Aerisian Refrain to audio!
Annie is a singer well known throughout the world. But she has nightmares that feel so real but leave her helplessly confused. She;s been on hectic schedule for a long time and is now taking time out for herself. She;s heading home to Oklahoma. On the way the plane crashes and when she awakens, she is someplace she doesn;t recognize and eventually comes to realize that she isn;t on earth at all. Little things add up to an odd number and she is the oddest. She suddenly finds out magic is real and she is magic through her voice. Life gets very difficult as she has to come to terms with who and what she is in this new world she finds herself in. A fantastic story that will capture you and keeps you enthralled throughout the story!
I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
Parents: would be appropriate for 16+ Language: none Violence: murder (PG) Sexual content: references to rape, groping, sexual tension, allusion to intimate relationships.
The story was a bit disjointed but entertaining, the audio effects were a little distracting. It is easy to follow and fairly fast paced and enjoyable. Character development is plausible. This is a good adventure for older teens that is a very fun listen to be sure!
I would recommend this to almost anyone who enjoy a fresh take on magic and self discovery.
Narrator: ok pacing, differentiations could be stronger. Some audio effects were a unique touch. Overall brought characters to life well.
—I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
Annie is a star. For the last eight years she has had sell out venues. Her voice singing to millions. Now she was tired. The nightmares wouldn't leave her alone. Her parents both died. Her father's ranch waiting for her. She gave it all up for that ranch. But she never made it there. She was transported to another place....a place parallel to earth.
Annie meets Hannah. There's a good story there and also many non humans. Only Annie is human, or is she. It's an interesting story full of twists and turns. But I enjoyed it.
This book was an amazing Listen. The author , Sarah nailed it again with a story full of mystery, magic , betrayal, adventure and lots of fairies, dragons, . . Heroine is Annie. Annie has a musical talent and world known Annie developers a friendship with some earth people like Hannah. Annie suddenly finds someone who she cares about , Cole and Annie suddenly find themselves in a love relationship. Will it last.
Nichole James Performance was fantastic. She nailed this story with her tone for each character
Another great journey through the Lands of Aerisia! I read the firs trilogy and loved all the books. I have to say Annie's journey, her story, well, I finished the book in three days, could not put it down! I enjoyed every page! I'm still under the influence of the book and I'm sad it's over but the story for me is fantastic that's all I can say! Thank you Sarah for another great adventure in your fantastic world of Aerisia! I will wait patently for the next book!
I enjoyed this story a lot. The world building was fascinating, and I liked the unique races that populated the world. The characters were fun and complex. There were many twists and turns in the plot that moved the story along, with plenty of action. Nichole James' narration was fine and kept my attention. I was given a free copy of the audiobook, and I have voluntarily posted this review.
A famous singer/musician finds herself in unknown lands!
Annie Richards is a singing sensation, has been for 8 years. She decides to take a break & go back home to Oklahoma. On the flight home, she finds herself in an unfamiliar land. She looks for everyone else from the plane, yet finds no one else. Read on to see how Annie's story ends.
Sarah Ashwood does a great job with the characters, world building, and overall plot and story lines. This is my first time reading anything from Sarah and I am glad I picked up this book! I look forward to what she writes next. Audio Version: Nichole James does a great job with each character and overall narrating this story.
I loved this romantic fantasy adventure! The characters and world were so unique and beautifully rendered. And Cole, the scarred Simathe warrior lord - oh, boy, he (and their relationship) was awesome! I couldn't turn the pages fast enough during the emotional climax, the joining, the finale. Loved it all! Highly recommended.
This fourth book in the Aerisian series is just as riveting as the others. I couldn't put it down. Didn't want to put it down or have it end. I am looking forward to other books with these endearing and enchanted characters. In fact, I rarely re-read books, but these are the exception.