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The Legacy of Androva Series

“There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.”
― G.K. Chesterton

One of the things I love about writing fantasy is the world-building. When the world is entirely of your own making, you don’t have to worry about limits or conditions. Of course, entirely is a relative concept because it’s impossible not to be influenced by personal life experience and the reality you see every day. But that’s half the fun of it—finding a reference point from the real world before letting your imagination take over.

Today’s blog post is about the world-building for Xytovia, the setting for the Beyond Androva series. At first, I thought Beyond Androva was going to be a duology because Serena’s and Art’s character development wrapped up so neatly at the end of Engraved in Magic. Although I wanted to explore Kellan’s backstory, I didn’t feel like it was strong enough to stand alone (sorry, Kellan ☺). 

That’s where Averine came in. She would be the link between Kellan’s past and his future, but more than that, she allowed me to explore what it was like to be a cotidian and an alchemist instead of a magician. And the world-building all started with a poem—two characters trapped in different Dimension Cells dreaming of something they didn’t think they could ever have.

After the poem came the props! I happened to be visiting a small town on the south coast of England famous for its fossils, and I discovered a shop selling all kinds of beautiful crystals. As soon as I saw them, I thought they looked magical and exactly like the kind of ingredients a Xytovian alchemist would probably use. Soon after that, I started writing Lost in Magic to continue the series. 

Which fictional worlds are your favourites? In the past few months, my imagination and I have visited Elfhame, the Magnificent North, and Charmant, and I loved all of them! Thank you very much for visiting my blog today ๐Ÿ’•.

Dimension Cell Dreaming

Every night he falls asleep
A promise he has sworn to keep
The line between dimensions blurs
No regrets, his heart is hers

Every day he wakes the same
Memories erased again
Knowing not how great the cost 
Two prisoners, one love, divided, lost

Every time she sees him leave
She doesn’t know what to believe
She tells herself it isn’t real
Pretend, deflect, play games, conceal

They cannot ever be together
For one day he will leave forever
A maze of magic and mixed-up feelings
No future in Dimension Cell dreaming
― Alex C. Vick

“The way to read a fairy tale is to throw yourself in.”
― W.H. Auden

Fairy tales have been around for a very long time—long before literary documents were even a thing. That they survived for thousands of years until finally being written down is evidence of their enduring appeal.

The very first fairy tale, The Smith and the Devil, can apparently be traced back all the way to the Bronze Age. It’s about a metalsmith who sells his soul to an evil being in exchange for a supernatural power of some kind. The story ends happily for the metalsmith when he uses his new power to cheat the evil being and keep his soul. 

Which brings me onto the subject of today’s blog post—YA fairy tale retellings. After previous posts on Beauty and the Beast and Rapunzel, this time it’s the turn of Rumpelstiltskin. I chose Rumpelstiltskin because just like The Smith and the Devil, it involves a high-stakes contract for magical gain, and I love the idea that the first fairy tale might have inspired other stories ☺. 

Rumpelstiltskin begins with a boastful miller telling anyone who will listen that his daughter can spin straw into gold. This extraordinary claim catches the interest of the king. The king locks the daughter in a roomful of straw and gives her an ultimatum. She has until morning to spin the straw into gold. If she fails, she’ll be executed.

Cue the arrival of Rumpelstiltskin. Spinning straw into gold turns out to be his thing, and the daughter gives him her ring in exchange for his help. The next night, she gives him her necklace. The night after that, there’s a twist. The king promises to marry her if she successfully creates a third roomful of gold. Unfortunately, she’s all out of jewelry, so Rumpelstiltskin suggests he take her firstborn child instead. The daughter accepts the deal. Given that the alternative is certain death, what else can she do? 

Time passes. She marries the king, and they have a child. Unfortunately for the new queen, Rumpelstiltskin returns to collect what he’s owed. She begs him to reconsider, offering him money instead, but he refuses. After all, he doesn’t need money. He can make his own gold whenever he likes.

Eventually, he agrees to let her out of the deal if she can guess his name, and he gives her three days. She tries her best, but none of her many guesses are correct. Her time is almost up when, in desperation, she searches the woods for clues about his identity and chances upon Rumpelstiltskin’s cottage. He’s outside, dancing around a fire and singing a gleeful song about taking the queen’s baby. This song isn’t as upsetting for the queen as you might think because Rumpelstiltskin reveals his name in the lyrics!

On the third night, the queen makes a show of continuing to guess incorrectly before finally using Rumpelstiltskin’s name. Enraged at losing his prize, he stamps his foot, pushing it so far into the ground that he tears himself in half when he tries to pull it out. And so the end of the story is also the end of Rumpelstiltskin.

When I started researching Rumpelstiltskin retellings, I was really looking forward to finding out how the original fairy tale had been used as inspiration. Unlike some other fairy tales, Rumpelstiltskin isn’t heavy on the romance, and several of the characters are presented in an unlikeable way. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In the end, it was a challenge to keep to only five books! I hope you find my choices interesting, and thank you very much for visiting my blog today ๐Ÿ’•.

Gold Spun, by Brandie June

If Nor can’t spin gold, she can always spin lies.

When seventeen-year-old Nor rescues a captured faerie in the woods, he gifts her with a magical golden thread she can use to summon him for a favor. Instead, Nor uses it for a con—to convince villagers to buy straw that can be transformed into gold. Her trick works a little too well, attracting the suspicion of Prince Casper, who hates nobody more than a liar. Intent on punishing Nor, he demands that she spin a room of straw into gold and as her reward, he will marry her. Should she refuse or fail, the consequences will be dire.
Desperate for help, Nor summons the faerie’s aid, launching a complicated dance as she must navigate between her growing feelings for both the prince and faerie boy and who she herself wishes to become.

“But aren’t the most dangerous creatures the beautiful ones?”
“They usually are.” He looked like he wanted to say more but decided against it.
“This won’t come off.” The thread was so thin, I couldn’t understand why I was unable to yank it off my wrist. I bit it, but it held fast.
“Ah, gold you have, but can never spend.” He smiled and winked. “Elenora Molnรกr, you should know that all faerie magic comes at a price. Consider yourself lucky that the trick I played on you was so small.”

My Unfair Godmother, by Janette Rallison

Be careful what you wish for—at least when your fairy godmother is in training.

Tansy Miller has always felt that her divorced father never has enough time for her. But mistakenly getting caught on the wrong side of the law wasn't exactly how she wanted to get his attention. That trip to prison was really not her best moment.
Enter Chrysanthemum "Chrissy" Everstar, Tansy's all-too-teenage fairy godmother. Chrissy is still training, so Tansy's three wishes don't exactly go according to plan. And if mistakenly bringing Robin Hood to the twenty-first century isn't bad enough, being transported back to the Middle Ages to deal with Rumpelstiltskin certainly is. That fairy tale is so much creepier when it’s happening to you.
Tansy will need the help of her blended family, her wits, and especially the cute police chief's son to stop the gold-spinning story from spinning wildly out of control.

Mortals are always going on about how important family is to them. They even believe it’s true. When Tansy Miller was seven, her father used to tell her he wouldn’t trade her for a mountain of gold. Of course, she should have been suspicious of this claim, since it was hard to prove. Very few gold-mountain owners are interested in bartering for little girls. But still, Tansy believed him.

The Crimson Thread, by Suzanne Weyn

"Once upon a Time" is timeless.

The year is 1880, and Bertie, having just arrived in New York with her family, is grateful to be given work as a seamstress in the home of textile tycoon J. P. Wellington. When the Wellington family fortune is threatened, Bertie's father boasts that Bertie will save the business, that she is so skillful she can "practically spin straw into gold."
Amazingly, in the course of one night, Bertie creates exquisite evening gowns -- with the help of Ray Stalls, a man from her tenement who uses an old spinning wheel to create dresses that are woven with crimson thread and look as though they are spun with real gold. Indebted to Ray, Bertie asks how she can repay him. When Ray asks for her firstborn child, Bertie agrees, never dreaming that he is serious…

He grabbed her by the elbow and pulled her close. “Then give me my payment now. Kiss me, and that will prove to you how much you love me.”
She yanked away. “No! I will pay you anything else, but you can’t make me feel what I do not feel! What else shall I pay you to make things square between us? Name your price, but it will not be me!”
He laughed bitterly, scornfully. “I don’t know. Why don’t I take your firstborn child?”

Small Favors, by Erin A. Craig

In Amity Falls, nothing is more dangerous than a wish come true.

Ellerie Downing is waiting for something to happen. Life in isolated Amity Falls, surrounded by an impenetrable forest, has a predictable sameness. Her days are filled with tending to her family's beehives, chasing after her sisters, and dreaming of bigger things while her twin, Samuel, is free to roam as he wishes.
Early town settlers fought off monstrous creatures in the woods, and whispers that the creatures still exist keep the Downings and their neighbors from venturing too far. When some townsfolk go missing on a trip to fetch supplies, a heavy unease settles over the Falls.
Strange activities begin to plague the town, and as the seasons change, it's clear that something is terribly wrong. The creatures are real, and they're offering to fulfill the residents' deepest desires, however grand, for just a small favor. These seemingly trifling demands, however, hide sinister intentions. Soon Ellerie finds herself in a race against time to stop Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves from going up in flames.

“But it would be nice to be able to call you something—anything, really,” I persisted. The seconds ticked by unfilled. “You’re truly not going to tell me?”
“No,” he laughed. “I’m really not. There’s a power in names, don’t you think? Once your name is given away, you can’t help but be pulled along by those who have it.”

Gilded, by Marissa Meyer

Long ago cursed by the god of lies, a poor miller's daughter has developed a talent for spinning stories that are fantastical and spellbinding and entirely untrue.
Or so everyone believes.
When one of Serilda's outlandish tales draws the attention of the sinister Erlking and his undead hunters, she finds herself swept away into a grim world where ghouls and phantoms prowl the earth and hollow-eyed ravens track her every move. The king orders Serilda to complete the impossible task of spinning straw into gold, or be killed for telling falsehoods. In her desperation, Serilda unwittingly summons a mysterious boy to her aid. He agrees to help her… for a price. Love isn't meant to be part of the bargain.
Soon Serilda realizes that there is more than one secret hidden in the castle walls, including an ancient curse that must be broken if she hopes to end the tyranny of the king and his wild hunt forever.

The golden spokes radiating across her gaze made most people uncomfortable. She had sometimes wondered if the god chose to mark her irises because you’re not supposed to be able to look someone in the eye when you’re lying to them. But Serilda had never had any trouble holding someone’s gaze, whether she was lying or not. It was everyone else in this town who struggled to hold hers. 
Except the children.

“A vital part of the journey is the beginning. It is perhaps the most vital part.

― Richelle E. Goodrich

Although I'm a big fan of beautiful covers and creative titles, it's the first few lines of a new story that really draw me in. Whether it's the voice of a character I can't wait to meet, or a scene-setter that's so intriguing I just have to find out what happens next, the introduction is what convinces me to read on.

And one of the (many!) great things about Young Adult books is that there's no shortage of brilliant beginnings. Today's blog post contains another ten examples ☺. I hope you enjoy my choices, and thank you very much for visiting my blog today.

1️⃣ “Today, Ruwen would finally die for the first time

Shade's First Ruleby A.F. Kay

2️⃣ “The trees have to be tied down by sunset. When the Woodsmen come, they always try to run

3️⃣ “Magnalia House was the sort of establishment where only wealthy, talented girls mastered their passion. It wasn't designed for girls who were lacking, for girls who were illegitimate daughters, and certainly not for girls who defied kings. I, of course, happen to be all three of those things.

The Queen's Risingby Rebecca Ross

4️⃣ “Once upon a time, on the coldest night of midwinter, in the darkest heart of the forest, Death and Fortune came to a crossroads

Little Thievesby Margaret Owen

5️⃣ “When hunting for secrets and scandal during the London season, then there is really only one place to go: the opera. All those people dressed up in their finery, packed in tight, pretending to watch the drama onstage while actually watching each other? The place is a perfect hotbed for intrigue. Which is precisely why I was there

The Agency for Scandalby Laura Wood

6️⃣ “We must, by law, keep a record of the innocents we kill.

Scytheby Neal Shusterman

7️⃣ “It's impossible to ignore an alarm that's going off inside your head. Which is probably why Syntex put it there instead of on my bedside table

Mindwalkerby Kate Dylan

8️⃣ “I was not born a monster.
People forget that. The cruel ones sneer and tell me I'm demon spawn. They think the words will hurt me, but they are closer to the truth than they know. It is the kind ones who lie. 'You have a good heart, like your sister,' they say in their pitying tones. 'Deep down, you are beautifullike your sister.'
I am nothing like my sister.”

Her Radiant Curseby Elizabeth Lim

9️⃣ “Today was the day a thousand dreams would die and a single dream would be born

The Kiss of Deceptionby Mary E. Pearson

๐Ÿ”Ÿ “The last person who called me by my true name was my mother, with her dying breath. When I was six years old, my hand was still small enough that hers covered it completely. She squeezed it so painfully tight that I hardly noticed anything else. So tight that I hardly noticed the silver of the knife pressing against her throat, or the fear in her eyes.
'You know who you are,' she said to me. Her voice didn't waver, even as drops of blood bloomed where the blade cut her skin. 'You are our people's only hope, Theodosia.'
And then they cut her throat and they took my name.

Ash Princessby Laura Sebastian

“And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

I'm hoping that 2024 will be full of books. New books, old books, old books with fancy new covers, sequels, retellings, spin-offs... I'm not fussy ☺. 

Books are like doorways, and the worlds that wait to be discovered inside their pages are different for every reader, much like the doorway between one year and the next. With that in mind, New Year's Eve feels like a good time to share my three favourite poems about the magic of books and reading.

1️⃣ The biggest
On the library shelf
Is when you suddenly
Find yourself
(The hidden you)
You wonder how
The author knew.
― Beverly McLoughland

2️⃣ I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.
― Dylan Thomas

3️⃣ I opened a book and in I strode
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.

I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king
And dived in a bottomless ocean.

I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.

I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.
― Julia Donaldson

Today's blog post ends with a quick update on my reading and writing resolutions for next year ๐Ÿ“š✍. Most of my reading choices are made on the spur of the moment (on account of my TBR being a little chaotic), but at this time of year, I enjoy choosing a bit more deliberately. For 2024, my list contains a standalone, a sequel, and a series.

The standalone: 
Revelle, by Lyssa Mia Smith

On the island of Charmant, magic flows like bootlegged champagne, and fantasies can be bought for the price of a gemstone.

The sequel: 
The Prisoner's Throne, by Holly Black

An imprisoned prince. A vengeful queen. And a battle that will determine the future of Elfhame.

The series: 
The Old Kingdom, by Garth Nix

Magic, romance, and a fight against the Dead who will not stay dead. 

And as far as the writing goes, my resolution is pretty simple―keep writing ☺. After wrapping up the Beyond Androva series at the end of October, I've written a couple of potential prologues for a new story. As of now, Lignora is the world that looks the most promising, but we'll see how it goes when I tackle the first chapter...

Have you made any book-related resolutions? Thank you very much for visiting my blog today, and I wish you a happy and healthy 2024!

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