Queen of Fury is on the horizon!
I really wanted to come up with a 10 Things I Hate About You bit, because that is definitely the original energy dynamic of the book. But now that the cover is up and the publication date is set, I thought I would whet your appetite with some fun facts! I cannot wait to share this story with y’all.
1 – Queen of Fury is not really a direct sequel. Anna’s story in Queen of None is really a kind of prequel to the world. It’s a story that’s one long bottle episode. Everyone you meet and see is drawn from her perspective and experiences, including the two main protagonists of Queen of Fury, Hwyfar of Avillion and Gawain of Orkney (the former, one of Anna’s foils; the latter, her son). In Queen of Fury, I wanted to give readers a look into the wider world of my Braetan and also challenge some of the depictions you see through Anna’s eyes in the first book. I’ve reiterated since the beginning: Anna is not always a reliable narrator.
2 – The whole country of Braetan, and new kingdoms and conflicts. Like Anna returning to Carelon at the beginning of the first book, this story starts out with Hwyfar returning to Avillion, where her father is ailing and suffering from dementia. With one of her sisters dead and the other Queen of Braetan, the responsibility of maintaining the mantle of leadership falls to her, which is the very last thing she wants. She’s spent the better part of the last decade drowning in excess, but it’s catching up to her. Hwyfar’s mother is from Lyonesse, and that figures in the story as well.
3 – So much more magic! All different kinds of magic. Corrupt magic and healing magic, unpredictable magic and ancient magic. Magic that surprises and magic that kills. Unlike Anna’s experience, Hwyfar grew up in Avillion and understands magic to some extent, though she was never allowed to come into her own power due to her political standing as a princess. But you can’t keep things hidden forever.
4 – Body positivity. Because, did you know, people come in all shapes and sizes, and have always done so? Hwyfar and Gawain are firmly plus sized. Hwyfar is earthy, muscular, broad, and has cellulite. Gawain has a belly and a limp–plus lots of the side-effects of a battle-worn life (more on that in a minute). They’re still gorgeous and sexy and desirable. I’m so tired of reading fantasy romance with perfectly honed bodies, the only “faults” being strategically aesthetic scars and tattoos. And this extends to just about everyone in the cast, too. A wide range of body types.
5 – Lots of medieval Easter eggs. Unlike Anna Pendragon, Gawain of Orkney has reams of stories in the canon. I’d already set the stage for what he looked like and his general temperament (at last according to his mom) in the first book, but this was a fun opportunity to play around with the legends that I knew and loved. I drew extensively from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Wedding of Sir Gawain of Dame Ragnell, and a few others, like the Yvain stories (I mean, he has a LION). The forest of Brocéliande is a central plot point, as well as the legends surrounding Lyonesse, Ys, and of course, Avillion. A bit of the Fisher King stories, too. Plus, my own take on the holy grail. The graal plot sets the stage for a possible third book.
6 – The real effects of war. Gawain, as Arthur’s nephew and captain of the knights, has been on the field of battle since he was about fifteen. In her depiction of him, he’s a bit of a bully, has a brutish reputation, and a horrible temper. But those are only glimpses of Gawain. Queen of Fury spends a lot of time in Gawain’s POV, and you get a lot of insight on those instances in the first book, as well as how he has changed. I liked this idea, pulling from the fact that Gawain’s own personality shifts so much in the literature–from shining paragon to villain. When we leave him in Queen of None, he’s just endured a tragedy that not even his mother understands. And when his body fails him, and he’s no longer able to fight, he has to make some big choices about how he spends the rest of his life.
7 – Explorations of toxic family. Those Pendragons get a lot of air time, but let me tell you, it’s no easy thing living as one of them. Gawain has been both shielded from some pains, and then absolutely plopped in the middle of others. Arthur has been a mentor to him, and accepting him when others did not; but as he’s getting older, he’s beginning to see the cracks in his uncle’s iron grasp around the family and Carelon. When his own heart comes in direct conflict with his uncle’s wishes… well, that’s when things get even worse. Hwyfar has quite a story to tell, too, but I want to leave that one for readers.
8 – All the queerness. Both Hwyfar and Gawain are bisexual. It’s not a big deal to either of them. For Gawain, there are some complications–but it’s not due to his sexuality. Quite a few of the knights are gay. Many of the Skourr priestesses (the priestesses of Avillion) are queer, too. Then, there’s folks on the ace spectrum.
9 – Spice. Anna had a few passionate moments in her story, but Hwyfar and Gawain take it to another level. Though Hwyfar is paying the price of her own excesses, it’s not due to her inherent sensuality. The fact that she enjoys sex is not a problem. The problem is that she has lived a life of shallowness, casting people aside when they become meaningful to her, and losing track of herself. The intimacy in the book is not just about pleasure–but neither is intimacy for just pleasure a bad thing. In the context of this tale, sex is communication and connection. Also it’s just fun. It’s absolutely a fantasy romance.
10 – Two first-person points of view. I’ve written a bit on this before, but initially this was going to be from Hwyfar’s POV only. But the moment that Gawain entered the scene, he would not leave me alone. And as the story unfolded, I realized we really needed both of their interior tales. They are mirrors to each other in so many ways, but they also see each other in ways others do not. I love a dual 1st person POV, personally, and once I let Gawain in, the writing came so much more easily.
Now, an excerpt! Gawain and Lanval have a bit of a conversation.
“Your face looks like a crumpled walnut,” said Lanval, coming up beside me as we came to the narrow pass between the craggy Logodenn Mountains—which were somehow named for mice, and yet looked more like broken teeth—and Brocéliande forest.
“I always look like that,” I said. “Years of being punched in the face with gauntlets.”
Lanval laughed. His easy air always amazed me, no matter the circumstance. “I am willing to guess the source of your consternation has one of two roots.”
“Are you, now?” I asked. In addition to being almost insultingly sunny, Lanval also had a perilous window into people’s thoughts and moods. Palomydes called him a “soul reader” but I think he was just good at guessing.
“First of all, I could not help but note the expression on your face upon beholding the Queen Regent so arrayed,” said Lanval. He always spoke like that, too. Like some marooned poet left in knight’s armor.
“I was scowling.”
“You scowl when you attempt to conceal wonder and amazement. And I cannot blame you. Indeed, who among us would not be so moved?”
“Her armor is impressive.” I was trying to sound as if I had barely noticed, but my voice, deep as it was, hitched a little.
Lanval sighed. “It has been a long time for you, my friend. Just exercise caution.”
“I have no intent for conquest. And you should know better. Like all royals, ourselves included, she is just a woman. She shits and pisses like the rest of us.” Conquest? No. She was not a person for such a word. But I was indeed preoccupied with thoughts of her, whether or not I wanted to admit it.
“Ah, well, even I could not say that Hwyfar of Avillion is like the rest of us, and I only know her from my brother’s stories and my own limited experience. I am simply looking out for you, as my brother in arms, and adding a word of caution.”
I groaned, and not just because of the conversation. The chill was making my knee ache. “I do not need cautioning, Lanval. Arthur already gave me plenty of that before I left, and so has Gareth.” Indeed, my uncle had been very clear about where I needed to keep my attentions. And my loins.
Lanval let out a little hum. “And, historically, you have been so very inclined to follow Arthur’s advice.”
He had a point. “I would not do anything to compromise this mission, which is to assist in the protection of the Holy Isle and leave as soon as she’s wedded, bedded, and contained.” I said this low as possible, as it was not the sort of talk I wanted repeated. But even so: as I spoke the words, I felt my stomach turn. It had been easy to consider neutralizing the threat of the Avillonians from a distance, but the longer I was among them, the more time I around with Hwyfar, the more difficult it became.