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!