The Frost & Filigree trilogy is LIVE and in the world. When I was approached to do this a few years ago, I honestly had no idea what to write. It came at the end of a very tough time for me, writing-wise. Nothing felt like it was moving in the right way. A lot of effort, nothing much to show. Glassmere was in shambles, Gods of Londinium was a mess, and I was starting to wonder who I was as a writer and what the hell I was doing in this business, anyway.
But then this idea started percolating. Why not take on something witty? Why not tell a story that wasn’t so high concept?
150,000 words or so later, the Frost and Filigree trilogy is complete. I call them novellas, but truly, they’re each novels in their own right, just not Traditional Fantasy Sized. Time & Temper is just shy of 60,000 itself.
I am very grateful for these books. I am exceptionally grateful for these characters. Who, in spite of life trying to turn me into a paste of human-shaped pulp, always seemed to be up to the task. Nerissa, Vivienne, Christabel, and Worth feel like friends, now, and I’m excited to tell more of their stories in the future.
Time & Temper completes their first series of adventures, beginning with the Tarrytown incident and ending on the coast of Spain. It features not only the story of Vivienne and Nerissa (as well as some intriguing information on how they got the be the monsters they are) but some of the Greek pantheon, a shadavhar, a dwarf, and the very handsome grandson of Hades, the return of Micheaux the vampire, and a bird doctor. Plus an ifrit named Nadine.
Her name, Christabel quickly learns, is Makaria, and the wine is a comfort in the wake of her chaos. Makaria looks nothing like an old woman, and despite Kalum’s protests to the contrary, she appears most ordinary, all things considered. Yes, she is about a foot taller than an average human woman. Yes, her hair is dark as pitch and light as smoke, and it forms a kind of moving art piece as she walks about, as if she is underwater. Yes, she dresses in black linen, and her arms are scarified rather intensely. But that is nothing compared to the kind of things Christabel has seen, having walked the Underworld more than once.
Since quite a bit of the story is full of spoilers, I’ll paste a little here from Christabel’s visit with Makaria, a goddess of death, as she follows what’s left of Vivienne’s trail.
Makaria is so delighted at Christabel’s arrival that she immediately pours three large glasses of dark purple wine and has a toast in her honor but forgets what she’s doing halfway through.
“To a most magnificent creature,” Makaria says. “To Christabel, who has come all the way from America to find…what is it you’re looking for?”
“It’s a bit of a missing person case,” Christabel says. It is not the first time she has had to clarify. Makaria initially thought Christabel was asking to marry Kalum, which was momentarily confusing but not out of the realm of behavior for a woman of her means and bearing. “A sylph, to be precise. An unusual sylph.”
“People go missing all the time, so I’ve learned, to say nothing of sylphs,” Makaria says gravely. She’s pouring more wine, and up until now Christabel has been very courteous about it, but she doesn’t usually drink so much. It will not end well if she’s not careful. Being drunk is not her preferred state.
“Mother, she doesn’t mean it that way,” Kalum says. “It’s a friend of hers. And she’s been missing for twenty years.”
“Well, that’s hardly a cause for concern,” says Makaria. “I once lost a husband for thirty years, and I barely missed him.”
Christabel tries not to laugh because she’s certain Makaria does not mean it in jest. Once she’s composed herself, she clarifies, “Vivienne du Lac was abducted. By a djinni.”
“Was she now?” Makaria is half-replying, and Christabel is painfully aware she’s not getting very far.
“Yes, and it’s—a bit—well, my fault. At least, I didn’t help in the matter at all. I’ve solved dozens of cases in the last twenty years, helped forge alliances in the arcane community, read enough books to fill up this entire house, and all I had on Vivienne’s whereabouts was dust. Until now. We have evidence she’s been tied up in some rather underground groups.”
“I like it underground,” Makaria says wistfully.
Kalum sighs, shaking his head, and gives Christabel an apologetic look. “Not everyone does, Mother,” he says. “And besides, that’s not what Christabel means. She means that someone has taken her friend against her will, and no matter what they’ve done, they haven’t found any indication of where she might be. But now they have, and it’s brought them here.”
Christabel notices a shift in Kalum’s tone. Slight. But just enough. The word “here.” It’s not the way one would say, “Here, at home.” It is more like, “Here, of all places.” Which, it does not seem, is terribly welcome.
“Then she must not be looking hard enough,” Makaria says to her flagon of wine. She sloshes it around, dips a finger in, and removes a fat cricket.
“But we’ve got reason to think that she may be in Andalusia,” Christabel says. “Which I why I wrote Kalum in hopes that he could show me around a bit and see if there are any lingering clues.”
Makaria frowns suddenly, her once rather confused and placid state evaporating before Christabel’s eyes. “Oh, that won’t do at all.”
“Your pardon?” Christabel asks.
“Kalum, why do you bring such people to me? Why do you involve me so?” Makaria stands and throws her glass, wine and all, shattering into the fire. “As if you and I don’t have enough business to attend. As if the family legacy can sustain another interloper.”
Christabel has never felt so out of place in her life. She chokes back her protest, and puts down her glass of wine, sending her gaze to the door. Kalum catches her, though, and shakes his head. “Not yet” he mouths.
Kalum continues, his voice so gentle it’s like silk across satin. “Hush, Mother. Please, we are not asking anything of you. No one wants to use you to their benefit. I promise. This is simply between Christabel and me.”
“But what is she?” Makaria peers over. Her eyes are dark, judging.
“Just someone looking for answers,” Christabel says.
“You stink of celestials.” Makaria sighs, and this is not a benediction, nor is it acceptance. But she appears a little calmer now.
“I have a friend who is an angel, mostly,” Christabel says. “Though the word friend is perhaps a little generous. It’s been some time since I’ve seen them, though, so I can’t imagine that’s it.”
She tells herself that she doesn’t miss Ophaniel. That she’s gotten over Worth. That she doesn’t ache when she thinks about the way he used to look at her, the feeling of his fingers intertwined with hers…
She tells herself a lot of other lies, too.