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The Legacy of Androva Series

Today's blog post is the second half of my A to Z about favourite characters in fantasy fiction. A great excuse for some enjoyable research, in case I ever write a book with animals or other non-human characters in it!

M is for Movie
My favourite character adaptations from book to film have to be from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. There are several other fantasy films in my top ten, but Harry is, overall, the best for me. Going to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in London was incredible – I would highly recommend it! Here I am on the Wooden Bridge next to a photo I took from inside the Great Hall.
N is for Name
Choosing this one was nearly impossible! Fantasy books are so full of brilliant names. In the end, I chose Yvaine, the star from Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. What I'm trying to say, Tristan is... I think I love you. Is this love, Tristan? I never imagined I'd know it for myself. My heart... It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it's trying to escape because it doesn't belong to me any more. It belongs to you.”
O is for Out of the Ordinary
Buckbeak is my choice for this one. J. K. Rowling did an amazing job of taking a creature that already existed (fictionally!) and making it entirely her own. The hippogriff was first mentioned by a Latin poet two thousand years ago, but it’s now associated it so closely with the Harry Potter universe that, if you’re a fan, it’s hard to imagine it in a different story.
P is for Partnership
Hiccup and Toothless in Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series.
Q is for Quote
“We’re all mad here.” The Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
R is for Rodent
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo comes a close second, but my absolute favourite rodent character is Ripred in Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins. “Do rats love?” asked Gregor wryly. “Oh, yes,” said Ripred with a smirk. “We love ourselves very much.” Ripred is a complicated character who is neither all bad nor all good.
S is for Spider
On the face of it, an unusual choice of creature for an A to Z of favourites! But I have to give a place on the list to Charlotte from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, the only fictional spider ever to make me cry. “You have been my friend … that in itself is a tremendous thing.”
T is for Terrifying
The Nazgul from Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. Once they were men, but they became ring-wraiths and slaves to the will of Sauron. “Do you not know Death when you see it?”
U is for Unicorn
Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn is the best book with a unicorn character I’ve ever read.
V is for Valiant
I’m going to break the rules of my own list here, and not choose from a fantasy book. I just have to mention the brave horses from Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, and War Horse, by Michael Morpurgo. Although the characters are fictional, the circumstances they encounter were very real.
W is for Wisdom
Who is your choice for wisest character? I originally thought mine would be a wizard, like Gandalf, or maybe Dumbledore, but I finally chose Aslan, from the Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis. What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
Y is for You
If you could be a character from a fantasy book for a day, who would you be? I’d love to spend time in Lyra Belacqua’s world, as created by Philip Pullman in His Dark Materials. Not just so I could find out what animal my dæmon would be, but to know what it would feel like to have one in the first place. Would it make me happy? Or would I be scared, because of the fear of losing it?
Z is for Zero to Hero
Most animals are brave from the start, but there are some who find their courage during the story. My choice is Varjak Paw by S. F. Said. “Believe something is impossible,” said his ancestor calmly, “and you will surely fail. But believe in yourself and you can do anything.”

This A to Z was a lot of fun to make, and I hope you enjoyed it. What would your choices be? Thank you for reading!

In the name of research (and fun!) I decided to create this A to Z of favourite creatures in fantasy fiction. I haven't written any books containing non-human characters yet, but who knows what will happen in the future? There's no harm in being prepared!

A is for Animagus
If I could break J. K. Rowling's rules on this one and actually choose my Animagus, I would like to be a wolf.
B is for Bird
Obviously Hedwig and Fawkes get an honourable mention here! I also love the Great Eagles from Lord of the Rings. But my choice is a little more obscure. There is a talking bird, a starling, quite an obnoxious one in fact, in Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers. I’ve never forgotten him, even though I read the book a long time ago. He appears in a chapter devoted to the baby twins of the Banks family. As the twins, John and Barbara, turn one, they lose the ability to communicate with this bird, and he cries, even though Mary Poppins mocks him for it. It made me wonder what I had forgotten as part of growing up, even though I was still quite young at the time.
C is for Canine
I choose Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox, for getting the better of farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean and for taking self-confidence to new heights! “I understand what you’re saying, and your comments are valuable, but I’m gonna ignore your advice.”

D is for Dragon
There are a lot of amazing dragons out there, but I eventually settled on Saphira from Christopher Paolini’s Eragon. I think what made up my mind was the chance of being a dragon rider, even if only in my imagination!
E is for Ensemble Cast
Watership Down by Richard Adams.

F is for Feline
Talking cats in fantasy books can be portrayed in different ways. There are the wise and noble characters (Aslan, Bagheera) and then there are the more stereotypical, superior cats looking down on the rest of us. I choose the cat in Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, for telling it like it is: “Now, you people have names. That’s because you don’t know who you are. We know who we are, so we don’t need names.”
I suppose that’s the reason my cat (see photo) always ignores me when I call her ☺
G is for Giggle
Which character has made you laugh the most? My choice is the djinni Bartimaeus, created by Jonathan Stroud. Some of the footnotes in the Bartimaeus trilogy are very funny. “Well, he wasn’t going to do our morale much good with that kind of talk.” (footnote: i.e. accurate).

H is for Horse
Shadowfax from Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.
I is for Idea
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman wins for me in terms of most original story/creature idea. In this book there’s a treaty between humans and dragons—who by the way are very intelligent and can fold themselves into human form—plus the heroine is half-human and half-dragon (considered to be an abomination) and the heir to the human kingdom has just been killed, apparently by a dragon…! It’s brilliant, isn’t it?
J is for Jerk
Bear with me on this one… by ‘jerk’ I mean the kind of character who is snarky/ annoying/ untrustworthy, but there are also glimmers of redeeming behaviour underneath it all. Or they’re just funny. Or both. Either way, you end up having a soft spot for them. I choose Puck, from The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley. “Maybe one of the monsters ate him,” Daphne whimpered. “That would be awesome,” Puck said. Sabrina flashed him an angry look. “Awesome in a terrible, heartbreakingly tragic way,” Puck continued.
K is for Kingdom
For nostalgic reasons Narnia is my favourite. Some day, you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again, C. S. Lewis.
L is for Loyal
Atreyu and Falkor the Luckdragon from Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story. They are kind of a double act in the book, particularly in the way they speak for Bastian at the end.
“Everything will turn out all right. You'll see.”
“I can't imagine how,” said Atreyu.
“Neither can I,” said the luckdragon. “But that's the best part of it.”

What Atreyu says is a lot like me when I sit down to write! I hope you enjoyed the first half of the list, and thank you for reading. What would your choices be?

There's a moment--isn't there?--when, as a reader, you decide if a new book is worth reading. You like the cover/title/blurb. You've picked up the book, or you've downloaded the sample, and at some point the potential of the story will hook you into wanting more. Or perhaps it won't. Those first few lines can make all the difference! Here are my top ten opening lines from books I've recently read:

1.      My big brother reaches home in the dark hours before dawn, when even ghosts take their rest. He smells of steel and coal and forge. He smells of the enemy. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
2.      My name is Anna. My name is Anna and I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t exist. But I do. The Declaration, by Gemma Malley
3.      Once upon forever, in an ancient, crumbling palace, two sisters, Love and Death, played their eternal game. Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book, by Jennifer Donnelly
4.      Yeah, I know. You guys are going to read about how I died in agony, and you’re going be like, “Wow! That sounds cool, Magnus! Can I die in agony too?” No. Just no. Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer, by Rick Riordan
5.      I am dead, but it’s not so bad. I’ve learned to live with it. Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion
6.      There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife. The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
7.      I heard it through the wall from the other room. It was faint at first, but then came on a little stronger. There was a moment when I was sure I was imagining it. Hoping. Praying. But then I heard it again. The low cough that always came. Always. The Clay Lion, by Amalie Jahn
8.      I’m lucky to be alive. At least, that’s what everybody keeps telling me. The reporter from the local newspaper even had the nerve to call it a miracle. I was “Vane Weston: The Miracle Child.” Like the police finding me unconscious in a pile of rubble was part of some grand universal plan. Let the Sky Fall, by Shannon Messenger
9.      My father used to walk with me every morning, back when I was young and blissfully naïve… while I was a part of a family isolated in its perfection, and perfectly isolated because of it. Hereditary, by Jane Washington
10.  They said the only folk who belonged in Deadshot after dark were the ones who were up to no good. I wasn’t up to no good. Then again, I wasn’t exactly up to no bad, neither. Rebel of the Sands, by Alwyn Hamilton

What do you think - would you read any of these books based on their opening lines (assuming you haven't already)? Which books would be on your top ten? Thanks for reading!

I moved house just before I wrote Stealing Magic, and there is an amazing area of ancient woodland practically on my doorstep. I can see it from my window as I'm typing this. In all other respects I live on an ordinary suburban street. It just happens to have this incredible piece of living history at the end of it!

Ancient woodland is defined as having existed continuously since before the year 1600. Prior to that date, deliberate planting of woodland in the UK was very rare. Most ancient woodland is actually much older -  Sherwood Forest, where Robin Hood was supposed to live, has been dated back to the Ice Age! Sometimes I distract myself from writer's block by imagining what happened in those woods hundreds of years ago. Here's my top three:

(1) King Henry VIII might have hunted there. He was supposed to have stayed nearby during his summer progress in 1509, and at that time in history most English woodland was under royal ownership. He'd just become king, and was only eighteen years old. He must have felt as if the future were his for the taking. He didn't know he would eventually marry six times and break with the Catholic Church in his desperate quest for male heirs.

(2) It was probably inhabited by wolves. Wolves have been extinct in England for hundreds of years, but once roamed free in the forests.

(3) Poachers could have hidden there, on the run from the law. If they were found to have killed the king's deer, their fate would have been death by hanging - reason enough for the poacher to be terrified. All thanks to William the Conqueror, who made it illegal in the eleventh century for commoners to hunt in "his" forests. But often the unhappy choice was poaching or death by starvation.

When we first meet Jax and Darius in Stealing Magic, they are magic-takers, according to the terms of a long-ago treaty between their world, Androva, and ours. They open portals in the dead of night to harvest from the endless supplies of living magic in our trees. I am sometimes asked where the idea for living magic came from. I suppose today's blog post is the answer! Thank you for reading!

Which path does my character choose when he doesn't know which one will lead to his death and his conscience won't allow him to stand still?

The sixth book is going to be Galen's story. I've been surprised (in a good way!) by how popular his character has been, considering he's only in one book so far. He lives two thousand years in Jax's and Shannon's past and his life was complicated even before they met him. The current day Androvan Council know him as the Missing Magician, and it's fair to say he chose to disappear for a very good reason.

I'm writing his story, because there is a lot more to Galen's past than I was able to explain in Seeking Magic. But I also felt there were too many unanswered questions about what happened when Jax and Shannon left ancient Pompeii. They told Galen about the terrible history of Androva and Terra. A history that, as far as Galen was concerned, hadn't happened yet.

What does he do with that knowledge? If he tries to change the future, he could end up making things worse. Or he might die in the attempt. His life, and the life of the girl he loves, are not the only ones at risk. Not to mention the impact on Jax's and Shannon's future too.

I haven't decided how things will end up yet and I thought sharing where I've got to might help me to make my mind up. The problem is that I love all of my characters, and I hate putting them into such horrible situations. But I just don't think Galen would be able to ignore what Jax and Shannon told him. Thank you for reading, and if you have any strong opinions, I'd love to hear them!

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