The Green Man’s Challenge

A while back, Daniel Mackmain’s life took an unexpected turn. Now the Green Man expects him to resolve clashes between those dwelling unseen in wild places and the ordinary people who have no idea what’s out there. Dan’s father is human and his mother’s a dryad, so he sees what’s happening in both these worlds.

Once upon a time, giants walked this land. So says everyone from Geoffrey of Monmouth to William Blake. This ancient threat is stirring in the Wiltshire twilight, up on the chalk downs. Can Dan meet this new challenge when he can only find half-forgotten fairy tales to guide him? Will the other local supernatural inhabitants see him – or the giant – as friend or foe?

Artwork and cover design by Ben Baldwin

Published by Wizard’s Tower Press on 28th September 2021
Paper editions from:
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble – USA only
Waterstones – UK only
Ebook editions from:
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble (Nook) – USA only

If you want to go through your local bookshop, these are the ISBNs
Paperback: 978-1-913892-23-4
Hardcover: 978-1-913892-24-1
EPUB: 978-1-913892-20-3
MOBI: 978-1-913892-21-0

Writing the fourth story in this series, I knew I had to avoid these books becoming predictable. It would be far too easy to fall into a pattern where the Green Man hands Dan a problem, Dan finds out how to solve it, then he wins the big fight at the end and goes to the pub. Those stories would be as boring to write as they would be to read. So I need to find new ways to challenge him, and that’s going to involve Dan encountering new people and new situations.

In normal times, I would list the interesting places and local museums where I found inspiration for these new elements in this story. Since this book was written in far from normal times, other than visiting Uffington and Savernake Forest which are close enough to home for day trips, I had to do most of my research from my desk. Local history and folklore enthusiasts have created websites and podcasts which were invaluable, as were the photos posted online by ramblers and walkers. My mum and Hampshire resident, Susan told me about eel houses and the threats to the chalk streams of southern England.

This book includes a bonus short story from Eleanor Beauchene’s point of view.  I had some fairly major questions about what months of shut-down would mean for Blithehurst, the stately home where Dan works. I soon had some entertaining answers, but there was no place for that particular thread in the story he has to tell in The Green Man’s Challenge. But I was pretty sure established readers would be wondering the same things as me, so I decided to let Eleanor explain that ‘Luck Is Where You Find It’.

Readers will note the background presence of the pandemic in this novel. This was an aspect of the story that I thought long and hard about, and where I took a great deal of care in the writing. I could have ignored it completely, but one of the things I learned writing epic fantasy in my Einarinn books is that for readers to believe in the fantastic, they have to believe in the solid reality of the non-magical setting.

I knew fans were saying how the contemporary detail of rural life in the UK really grounded this contemporary fantasy series and made the mythic elements all the more believable. If I ignored the pandemic, Dan wouldn’t be living in our world anymore. On the other hand, I really didn’t want to write a story about the pandemic, because that’s been unbelievably grim for so many people. So I decided to write a story about Dan encountering a new challenge in the same way as before, and reference the pandemic only where it had a direct influence on the story. That seems to have been the right approach, from the readers’ responses.

By the time I’d finished the book, I realised I’d been working through various lingering effects of the past year for myself. A few readers have commented that they’ve found a new perspective on these upheavals, prompted by the story. Only one reader has said they found it a major deterrent, and I am sorry for that – in the sense that I really hope they have not had some dire experience that I have inadvertently made worse.