A Bit of Magic is an upcoming fairy tale retelling anthology, and will be the fifth collection of stories published by the Just-Us League. One of the authors, Lynden Wade, joins me today for an interview about her contribution to the anthology – ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl’.
Lynden Wade was home schooled in a village in West Africa, giving her lots of time to read. The bright colours of illustrations to fairy tales, legends and medieval history – worlds away from the dry grasslands and termite hills around her – inspired her to write her own stories. Her muses include Joan Aiken, Diana Wynne Jones and Rosemary Sutcliff. She has had stories published in The Forgotten and the Fantastical 3 and in the JL Anthology From The Stories of Old. Two more stories are due to be published in 2018 in addition to ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud…
Nondula picks up the story of the waifs of Duldred started in Oy Yew. The children who have escaped from the dreaded halls of Jeopardine are literally thrown by a storm into a haystack in Nondula, a land very different from Affland, where they have travelled from.
The people of Nondula are gentle and welcoming, encouraging the children to rest, recover and find their jenies – their inner strengths and gifts. Gertie delights in the library she starts to work in. Linnet finds an affinity with weaving. Oy explores the art of healing. But before long, trouble returns. Linnet gets weaker and the Felluns, a thuggish race that threatens the Nonduls and their children, swoop in and take away Clair, Nondula’s healer, in their ongoing hunt for a remedy for their sick queen. Oy decides he will give himself up to the Felluns as the last healer, in the hope he can save Nondula from an invasion, but finds himself captured and locked in the foul underground cages of the Felluns’ animals.
In Oy Yew we met all the waifs and got to know a few of them well. Here, the group is pared down to a small number and, as they learn more about their strengths, we get to know them better. Alas turns his frustration at the Nonduls’ ineffective defence system into activity, and learns he has a skill for deflecting attackers. Gertie joins the library and throws herself into cataloguing the untidy collection. The character who takes the limelight, though, is Gritty, who comes into her own here. She pulls away from her beloved sister who wants to keep her safe, and infiltrates a troupe of dancers to search out Oy.
I often find I lose interest in a series. Maybe the overall arc makes too little progress or the arc of the individual book doesn’t grab me enough. Once, a book seemed to wrap up the story well then set the quester make another journey that was the reverse of the one he had just done, making the whole story so far invalid. Ana Salote, however, has avoided each of those pitfalls. The overall arc is the quieter one – who exactly is Oy? Where did he come from? All he remembers is living on the streets from a very young age. The arc of Nondula is the more urgent one – will Oy be able to save Nondula and his friend Linnet? And will Gertie and Alas be able to save Oy? I kept reading Nondula partly to find out the answers to these last two questions, but one reason I’m looking forward to the final instalment is to find out who Oy is.
The other reason to keep reading both book and series is to continue to savour the world Salote builds up subtly, as she introduces new countries and races over the course of the series. In Nondula, we meet the gentle but rather ineffectual Nonduls, the chattering Chee, the irredeemably disgusting Felluns and the misunderstood Dresh. Who knows what we will encounter in Nigma, the final instalment?
I know you’re out there – hiding in tree hollows, under mossy stones or just under the bubbles of that stream. I haven’t got an incantation to lure you out, so a blog post will have to do – scattered with fairy dust.
At the end of the month my story ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl,’ inspired by a Hungarian folktale I found in Joan Aiken’s gorgeous Kingdom Under the Sea and Other Stories, will be published in a collection of fairy tale reimaginings, A Bit of Magic, on 31st May. All eleven of us in the anthology are emerging writers and we’re using it to showcase our skills. We are looking for folks who are willing to review an advanced reading copy (e-book format) for Amazon and/or Goodreads, on or by the publication date. I will quote our editor’s exact words, as we have to keep to Amazon’s strict rules about reviewing.
Although advanced reading copies are provided to readers with the expectation that readers will then review the book, you are under no obligation to do so.
The oldest story can be made new again, changed and altered until it is reimagined and restored.
Pride interferes with happily-ever-afters: a proud princess is tested and tests the prince in return; a young thief is caught red-handed and must make amends; and a vain queen struggles to save her stepdaughter.
Finding love is not a simple task: a hero searches for the ideal magical bride; an innocent librarian is charmed by a man with a menacing secret; a queen takes a spoiled prince as her sole deckhand; and a well-intentioned princess seeks to make things right with her father.
Change causes chaos, for better or worse: a scheming cat seeks to better the lot of his daydreaming master; a cursed pirate captain is given a second chance when he finds a young stowaway; a spoiled teenager suffers the consequences of turning her best friend into a toad; and a thief and a rebel hiding secrets meet at a ball.
Follow these characters on their journeys as eleven magical tales are turned on their heads and seen from new perspectives.
If you do fill in the form and review our book, you will be blessed by all eleven authors and the editor!
After a few years of being in critiquing groups, I now know the ‘rules’ of writing. Stick to one point of view in a scene, ideally of one or two characters in the whole book, describe new people so we can picture them, use a character entering a new situation to cause the catalyst that kick-starts your story, and place your characters in peril. Oy Yew, the first book in Ana Salote’s trilogy The Waifs of Duldred, breaks all these rules, and gets away with it.
I was expecting the story to stick with the point of view of Oy, the boy who thought the calls of ‘Oy, you!’ meant that was his name. After all, the book gets its title from him. In fact, the story ranges from one set of eyes to another quite freely, giving us scenes from the viewpoint of other waifs and scenes none of the waifs could witness. This is particularly effective in that it shows us a range of responses from the waifs to their plight. Washed ashore in a foreign land and set to work in factories, these children might be chosen after a while to work for the bone collector Jeremiah Jeopardine – up teetering ladders and tight chimneys or down drains. All these nasty jobs require small bodies, so the ambition of every child is to grow tall enough to be released. By standard conventions, it should be Oy, the newcomer, who questions the status quo. In fact, Oy is not an agitator but a thinker. Alas, another waif, is more of a conventional boy, frustrated at the injustice of it all, keen to act. He and Oy contrast well, because Oy is gentle and empathic, traits that are traditionally feminine and, moreover, traits that can be ignored in a world that wants protagonists to be active go-getters.
The world of Oy Yew is made of elements of Victorian Gothic, but it also had details unique to the pen of Ana Salote. Descriptions are minimal, and as I read I’d wonder who a character was or what this or that custom involved. The effect, though, was to immerse me in this alternative world in that this was how the waifs would see it, familiar with much of its workings already and in no need of explanation. I particularly liked the system of religion used at Duldred Hall, and the unique species of animals were fun too.
The air of menace hung over the book all through the story; the waifs are thrown from one perilous situation to another. Eventually it becomes clear that their release is not at all the happy ending they were hoping it would be, and in fact a terrible fate is in store for some of them, Oy included. The details are kept quite vague, perhaps so as not to distress younger readers. The characters of the waifs, however – brave, resourceful and supportive to each other – made me root for them. The resolution at the end was superb, as it moved seamlessly from wrapping up the arc of Book 1, where Jeopardine exploits the waifs, to introducing a new danger that will throw the children, literally, into a new land and new dangers.
The book is published by independent press Mother’s Milk Books, and as is usual for that press, is a pleasing book to look at and hold as well as to read. I love the way the tunnels used by the waifs travel over front, back and spine of the book.
Book 2 of The Waifs of Duldred, Nondula, is out now, and the final, Nigma, is due this year.