Sunday, February 21, 2016

Guest Post & #Giveaway with Rhiannon Thomas, Author of Kingdom of Ashes!

Kingdom of Ashes (A Wicked Thing #2)
by Rhiannon Thomas
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 23rd 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings, Fairy Tales, Romance, Magic, Fiction, Teen

Asleep for a hundred years, awoken by a kiss, Aurora’s life was supposed to be a fairytale. But since discovering that loyalty to the crown and loyalty to her country are two very different things, Aurora knows she can only dream of happily ever after. Once the enchanted princess, savior of her people, she is now branded a traitor.

Aurora is determined to free her home from the king’s tyrannical rule, even if it means traveling across the sea to the kingdom of the handsome and devious Prince Finnegan—someone who seems to know far more about her magic than he should. However, Finnegan’s kingdom has perils of its own, and any help he gives Aurora will come at a price.

As Aurora and Finnegan work together to harness her power—something so fiery and dangerous that is as likely to destroy those close to Aurora as it is to save them—she begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the curse that was placed on her over a century before…and uncover the truth about the destiny she was always meant to fulfill.

Brimming with captivating fantasy and life-threatening danger, the sequel to A Wicked Thing takes Sleeping Beauty on an adventure unlike any she’s ever had before.

Kingdom of Ashes is a story of dragons. 
Fifty years before the novel begins, dragons awoke and burned the kingdom of Vanhelm away. Now Aurora believes that they might hold the answers to her questions about her own power, so she travels into their deadly territory to discover their secrets for herself. 
It was really important that I got the dragons right. For a start, huge fire-breathing beasts are likely to have a major impact on the way the world works. They’re threats, they’re legends, they’re animals that have a part in the food chain and they’re myths for people to weave stories around and admire. But they’re also characters in their own right – even if they don’t have names, or speech, the way they interact with other characters is a huge part of the story.
But there are so many different versions of what a “dragon” can be. We have Smaug-like dragons, cunning hoarders who trade conversation and riddles with humans who stumble into their lairs, have nigh-impenetrable armor, and can burn whole cities to the ground. We have Game of Thrones-esque dragons, who are more bestial and highly unpredictable, but can be tamed and ridden by the right person. We have dragons as benevolent gods and dragons as scheming villains, cruel dragons, noble dragons, persuasive dragons, dragons that breathe fire and ice, and dragons, in the case of Dungeons and Dragon’s Tiamat, who have five heads and might bring about the end of the world. 
Anyone writing dragons needs to decide what their dragons actually are. They need to put their own stamp on the creatures while still making them feel like dragons to anyone who encounters them.
The first part of writing the dragons, then, was picking out their key dragon elements, the things I didn’t want to mess with. For me, that meant they were reptilian beasts with wings and sharp, sharp teeth. They could fly. They could breathe fire. And, like in many dragon stories, they had magic in their blood. 
But I didn’t want that high-fantasy feel of talking dragons. They’re entrancing, and intelligent, but they’re forces of magic and nature, not intellectual beings engaging other characters in battles of wit. So they shriek, not speak, they don’t hoard things, and they regularly leave their mountains to hunt and explore. Although some people in the novel find them fascinating, these dragons are defined by their physical threat. They’re responsible for the destruction of an entire kingdom – a key part of the plot  -- so they needed to be basically unkillable and incredibly powerful.
Once their key “dragon-y” elements were defined, it was time to add my own author-y twist to them. It was important that people could have some barrier against the dragons – otherwise they were so destructive that there’d be no characters or kingdom left to be in the story. So my dragons can’t bear water. It douses their fire, at least temporarily, and they refuse to fly across rivers and lakes as a result. It might be a bit like Pokemon logic (author used waterfall. It’s super-effective!), but uncrossable rivers are a fairly common trope for magical beings, and it was a detail that allowed me to make them incredibly dangerous and that wove well into the plot.
But perhaps the most fun part of building a dragon isn’t designing the dragons themselves, but deciding what myths exist about them. If you write a creature so deadly that few people ever see them and live to tell the tale, no one’s going to really know much about them. In Vanhelm, the dragons vanished for millennia, were dismissed as a myth, and then reawoke for a reason that no-one can discern, fifty years before the story starts. So what stories do people tell about them? How do people feel about them? Where do they think they came from, and what, if anything, do they think might one day stop them? I can’t dig into that without spoiling the book, but deciding what tales people tell, what people believe, and what is actually true is the best and most rewarding part of bringing a legendary creature to life. 

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Rhiannon Thomas is a recent graduate from Princeton University, where she studied English and Japanese, and smuggled bubble tea into the library on a regular basis. She now lives in York, England. 

As well as reading and writing YA fiction, she runs the blog, where she discusses TV, books, and all kinds of fannish things from a feminist perspective. 

I don't hang out on Goodreads much, so if you want to contact me, please swing by my personal website or message me on Twitter.

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Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Ooooh. I could totally pick these books up just because of the covers! Beautiful!

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