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Interview with Linnea Tanner, author of historical fantasy Skull’s Vengeance (Curse of Clansmen and Kings, book 4)

cover of Skull's Vengeance by Linnea Tanner

A Celtic warrior queen must do the impossible—defeat her sorcerer half-brother and claim the throne. But to do so, she must learn how to strike vengeance from her father’s skull.

AS FORETOLD BY HER FATHER in a vision, Catrin has become a battle-hardened warrior after her trials in the Roman legion and gladiatorial games. She must return to Britannia and pull the cursed dagger out of the serpent's stone to fulfill her destiny. Only then can she unleash the vengeance from the ancient druids to destroy her evil half-brother, the powerful sorcerer, King Marrock. Always two steps ahead and seemingly unstoppable, Marrock can summon destructive natural forces to crush any rival trying to stop him and has charged his deadliest assassin to bring back Catrin's head.

To have the slightest chance of beating Marrock, Catrin must forge alliances with former enemies, but she needs someone she can trust. Her only option is to seek military aid from Marcellus—her secret Roman husband. They rekindle their burning passion, but he is playing a deadly game in the political firestorm of the Julio-Claudian dynasty to support Catrin's cause.

Ultimately, in order to defeat Marrock, Catrin must align herself with a dark druidess and learn how to summon forces from skulls to exact vengeance. But can she and Marcellus outmaneuver political enemies from Rome and Britannia in their quest to vanquish Marrock?

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Excerpt from Skull’s Vengeance

White Cliffs in Southeast Britannia,

Eve of Samhain, 31 October, 26 AD

Three human skulls hung over King Marrock’s stallion, dangling from a rope like ornaments. Feeling as invincible as a god, he rode to the precipice of the sheer cliffs and listened to the roar of the waves crashing below. Yet, the raven soaring overhead chilled him to the bone—an omen he was but mortal and could plunge to his death.

He embraced the warmth of Boudicca, his younger half sister, who sat astride his horse in front of him. A toddler full of mirth, she was a healer who could connect to the souls of the dead.

Whereas their mother accused him, also known as Blood Wolf, of being a soulless murderer.

On this eve of Samhain, Marrock knew the souls of the dead freely roamed among the living. He spotted his deadliest assassin, Gawain, searching for the wraith on the emerald hilltop. Gawain had a blue, triangular tattoo of a dagger’s blade on his forehead and deadly weapons underneath his black cloak—the royal insignia of the red dragon stitched to the front panel.

For Marrock, the Otherworldly dragon, with its leathery wings and fiery breath, symbolized perpetual power. It was said that where dragons trod, mystic energy flowed. The untamed beast guarded the portal into the Otherworld.

He yearned for the dragon’s mystic power—the power to summon forces from the earth’s molten underbelly to immolate his rivals.

Gawain pointed to a pile of rocks. “The sheepherder saw the wraith over there,” he said in his deep, gravelly voice.

Marrock handed Boudicca to him and then dismounted, pulling the rope of skulls off his horse and draping it over his shoulders. His family’s skulls served as a warning to anyone who threatened his sovereignty.

Until now, he had only been able to summon the deadly powers from the skulls of his stepmother and bastard sister; their souls were encased in the bone crowns. The soul of his father, King Amren, still eluded Marrock, even after he had sliced off his father’s head. If his father’s soul was indeed wandering the hilltop, he would imprison it in the largest empty skull he had.

Then, he would be able to unleash the collective forces from all three souls.

Glancing all around, he could not see his father’s ghostly figure in the thickening fog. Boudicca’s gleeful giggle roused his attention. He watched her waddle toward a mound of stones and place her tiny hands on the stacked rocks.

“Pa. Pa. Am,” she squealed with delight.

Marrock cast a glance at Gawain. “Did the sheepherder see the wraith disappear into those rocks?”

Gawain nodded. “Indeed, I believe so.”

Marrock transferred the roped skulls from his shoulders to the grassy ground and looked at Gawain. “Help me remove the rocks so I can see what is underneath.”

Gawain joined Marrock in the task of removing the white stones one by one. They inspected each rock for any defect before setting it aside.

Boudicca, mimicking the men, picked up flint pebbles and dropped them on the chalky ground.

After a while, they uncovered the gemstone handle of a dagger; its blade was embedded in a coil-shaped serpent stone. Marrock recognized the jewel-studded dagger as once belonging to his father. Intrigued, he gripped the handle with both hands and strained to pull it out, his muscles aching and his face dripping with sweat from the effort.

Suddenly, to his shock, the hilt turned sizzling hot. He jerked his hands away and inspected the blisters that had formed on his reddened palms. Hearing Boudicca’s gleeful babble, he looked down just as she gripped the dagger’s handle.

“Pa. Pa. Am,” she trilled.

To Marrock’s surprise, Boudicca’s hands did not burn.

A prickling sensation noosed around his neck as he recalled the original curse cast by his mother just before his father had executed her.

The gods demand that the scales be balanced for the life you take. If you deny my soul’s journey to the Otherworld by beheading me, I curse you to the same fate as mine. I prophesy your future queen will beget a daughter who will rise as a raven and join your son, Blood Wolf, and a mighty empire will overtake your kingdom and execute my curse.

King Amren had etched the words of the curse on the dagger’s blade using the Roman alphabet with the belief he could thwart the dark prophecy.

Marrock shuddered.

Does my father’s soul live in the dagger? Has he come back to exact vengeance on me?

Interview with Linnea Tanner

-What is something you’ve lied about?

I sometimes take on too much and can’t always meet the deadlines for my commitments. I may indicate I’m farther along on a project that I am with the hope of making up the time to meet the deadline.

-Who is the last person you hugged?

My husband, Tom—my soulmate and love of my life.

-What are you reading now?

I am currently reading Son of Anger: A fast-paced Viking Saga (Ormstunga Saga Book 1) by Donovan Cook. I just finished Minotaur’s Lair (Servant of the Gods, Book 3) by Luciana Cavallaro.

-How do you come up with the titles to your books?

The titles are based on a theme or powerful symbol in each book of the Curse of Clansmen and Kings historical fantasy series. Once the title was determined for the first book, Apollo’s Raven, the title for the subsequent books were consistent in format. Below is an explanation of how I came up with the title for each book released in the series.

Apollo’s Raven (Book 1): The main character is Catrin, a Celtic warrior princess who has a raven spirit that guides her and shows her how to summon magic from the ancient druids. The family sigil of the Roman hostage, Marcellus, placed under her change is Apollo in a horse-drawn chariot. Thus, the first book is entitled Apollo’s Raven because she falls in love with him and has a forbidden relationship with him. The title is also based on a Greek myth that Apollo’s messenger was once a white raven. When it failed to inform the sun god that his human lover, Coronis, had been unfaithful, Apollo became so enraged that he scorched the raven’s pure white feathers black. The raven is also associated with Morrigan, the shape-shifting Celtic goddess of war, fate and death. In the series, Catrin must undergo several trials as a consequence of her love for Marcellus and be forged into a warrior queen.

Dagger’s Destiny (Book 2): A curse cast by the former queen is etched on a dagger. The curse alters whenever Catrin changes the future by redirecting life threads on the Wall of Lives.

Amulet’s Rapture (Book 3): Marcellus has given Catrin an amulet with the figurine of Apollo to show his love for her.

Skull’s Vengeance (Book 4): The skull encases the dead’s soul from which dark magic can be summoned.

-Share your dream cast for your book.

Catrin is a female hero who embodies the complex archetypes of ancient Celtic women and goddesses whose functions embrace the entire religious spectrum from healing to warfare, from creation to destruction, and from birth to death. In Irish mythology, war goddesses were associated with fertility and sovereignty.  Historical Celtic warrior queens, such as Boudicca, and goddesses in mythology personified warlike strength used to defend their land. For a woman who is trying to figure out her destiny in life, this tale is relatable in our timeline for women trying to figure out where they belong in this world.  

About Linnea Tanner

author Linnea Tanner

Award-winning author, Linnea Tanner, weaves Celtic tales of love, magical adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts, who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids.

Linnea has extensively researched ancient and medieval history, mythology, and archaeology and has traveled to sites described within each of her books in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. Books released in her series include “Apollo’s Raven” (Book 1), “Dagger’s Destiny” (Book 2), “Amulet’s Rapture” (Book 3), and “Skull’s Vengeance” (Book 4). She has also released the historical fiction short story, “Two Faces of Janus.”

A Colorado native, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Fort Collins with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.

You can follow her on her website: https://www.linneatanner.com/


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