by Karin Rita Gastreich
Publisher: Orb Weaver Press
Publication Date: March 31, 2016
In a land ravaged by civil war, the Mage King Kedehen initiates a ruthless purge of the magas. Eolyn, last daughter of the magas and sole heiress to their forbidden craft, seeks refuge in the South Woods.
When she meets the mysterious Akmael, heir to the throne of this violent realm, she embarks on a path of hope, seduction, betrayal, and war. Desire draws Eolyn toward Akmael’s dark embrace, but fate binds her to Corey of East Selen, a cunning mage whose ambition challenges the limits of love and loyalty.
Can she trust either man?
Hunted in a realm of powerful wizards and brutal deceptions, Eolyn must find her own path to freedom or she will burn on the pyre.
“Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes, with a romantic thread.” -Publishers Weekly
A Nest of Vipers
Mage Corey closed the distance between them. His magic spread in a hush through fallen leaves, surrounding Eolyn, cutting off all retreat, and daring her to defend herself with a counter spell. He stopped just in front of her, his face a breath away.
“Sometimes I like to imagine you and I live in a world where we do not feel compelled to keep secrets from each other,” he murmured.
Eolyn’s throat went dry.
“Indulge me in this fantasy and tell me: Why do you desire to go to the King’s City?”
Eolyn willed her eyes to remain steady on his. “It is a child’s wish. I had a friend growing up. I believe he lives there. I wish to find him. That is all.”
Mage Corey studied her a moment. Then he stepped away and continued his walk. The autumn earth released Eolyn’s feet. She quickened her pace to catch up with him.
“A friend,” Corey asked, his voice a mask of idle curiosity, “or a lover?”
“A friend. We were only children when we knew each other.”
“I see. I am sorry, Eolyn, but I cannot take you to the city, not because I object to you finding your friend, but because I am averse to leading fawns into nests of vipers. Still…” Corey stopped, his expression thoughtful. “I know many people in the city. If you give me the name of this friend of yours, perhaps I could…”
Eolyn’s expression put a stop to his words.
“I see I am pressing too hard. Very well, Eolyn. We have had a fair exchange: one truth for one truth.” Touching Eolyn’s chin, Corey brought her gaze back to his. “Perhaps we can continue down this path when I return.”
Q&A with the Author
1) Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I grew up in a small town just outside of Kansas City, Missouri. My mother was from Germany and my dad, while born in the U.S., also had German heritage. As a result, I grew up with a healthy dose of German culture and mythology, including Grimm’s Fairy Tales, my all-time favorite collection of stories. Because of our family connections, I had the opportunity to travel to Europe at a very young age, where I saw my first medieval cities and castles. That fired up my imagination and planted the seeds for many stories to come.
2) Where and when did your writing journey begin?
The first story I remember writing was based on an extraordinary dream I had when I was a little girl. I was walking with two friends in a medieval town, all of us dressed in medieval gowns. We were visitors, and so were caught by surprise when, as the clock struck noon, everyone began to disappear, shutting themselves up in shops and homes.
We soon realized that at midday, a dark and terrible knight came through the village, and woe to anyone caught on the streets when this happened. Panicked, we began to look for hiding places of our own, but everyone was locking their doors.
I became separated from my friends. Just as the terrible knight came galloping around the corner, I found a cellar and slipped inside. He came after me. I crouched in the shadows, terrified of making any noise as he searched for me. And then…
Mom woke me up, because I had to go to school. Aaaaargh!
I was very upset because I wanted to know the end to my dream. That day, I drew scenes from the dream (maybe I was too young to write?) and set the pictures by my bed in hopes of picking up the story where I’d left off. Of course, that didn’t work. So, I wrote my own ending, and I’ve been writing ever since.
3) Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing?
The list is too long to include everyone here, but I’ll mention a few. I love all of Philippa Gregory’s work in historical fiction. She puts women at the center of history in the way I strive to put women at the center of fantasy.
Gioconda Belli, a Nicaraguan poet and author, had a lasting influence on my writing through her memoir The Country Beneath My Skin, which chronicles her participation in the Sandinista Revolution during the 1970s and 80s.
I was not very well versed in fantasy when I began writing Eolyn, but I’ve since become attached to many fantasy authors that I now seek to emulate. I love the poetry and romantic beauty of Patricia McKillip’s stories. Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of Al Rassan reminded me that my own efforts at portraying friendship and love in times of conflict represent a worthy cause within the genre. Tanith Lee, in Night’s Master, showed me the glorious potential of imagination fully unleashed. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach the level of these and other masters, but all of them give me a horizon to work toward.
4) What does a typical day in your life look like? And how does your writing routine fit into your day?
Well, I’m a biology professor, so my typical day is generally not about writing. I love teaching and I love the biological sciences, so I feel very fortunate to have a day job that keeps me fed and happy.
My writing routine changes semester by semester, but the basic strategy is this: Once I have my class schedule in hand, I set aside a block of time, usually one morning or one afternoon a week that is dedicated entirely to writing. Of course, I always wish that I had more time to write. But with just this much, I make steady progress toward my goals.
5) How did you come up with the idea for your novel?
Eolyn had many sources of inspiration along the way, but at heart was my desire to write an epic fantasy in which women played meaningful roles in the purpose and outcome of every conflict. Coupled with this, I also wanted a woman protagonist who could be strong, even triumphant, without wielding a sword.
6) What do you think sets your novel apart from others currently on the shelves?
The diversity and depth of my characters; particularly the emphasis on women as key players in the determining the history of their people.
For example, I have one scene in the novel Eolyn where a military decision is being debated by leaders of a rebellion. Every character in that scene, with one exception, is a woman; and I was able to achieve this in the context of a world that is clearly misogynistic and patriarchal.
That’s not to say Eolyn has no important male characters; quite the contrary. Akmael, Mage Corey, Tzeremond, Sir Drostan, and many others all play central roles in the unfolding of this saga. But I do not fall back on stereotypes, nor do I let the patriarchal structure of Eolyn’s world stop its women from choosing and defending their own path.
We are starting to see more of this in the genre, but not nearly enough. Many say that everything has already been “done” when it comes to medieval fantasy, but that’s simply not true. Maybe for men, it’s already been “done”, but for the women, there are countless stories still left untold. To claim there’s no room for innovation in medieval fantasy is, from my perspective, a misogynistic statement, because it silences the voices that would tell the women’s stories.
7) Which character in your book is your favorite and how much of yourself is reflected in that character?
Well, after all that talk about women, I have to say, one of my favorite characters in Eolyn is a man, Mage Corey of East Selen. He’s a minor character in the first book of The Silver Web, but as the trilogy proceeds, he becomes more important.
I don’t think Corey and I have much in common personality-wise, but I really enjoyed working with him as a character. He never failed to surprise me, all the way through book three. His loyalties are constantly shifting, and he is a master of secrets and intrigue. I also like the sexual tension between him and Eolyn. He’s a foil to her attraction for Akmael, and it makes for very interesting story telling.
8) Which scenes in your book did you have the most fun writing?
The love scenes, of course! The battle scenes were also fun, but much more of a challenge.
9) What do you hope for your readers to take away after reading your book?
I want all my readers to have a good time, and to see a part of themselves reflected in the story. I hope they feel like they can find friends among the characters.
What I enjoy most about reading is finding a sense of escape, immersing myself completely in another world. This is what I hope to achieve for my readers.
10) What are your hopes for this novel?
I want Eolyn to find its way into the hands of everyone who would most enjoy it.
11) What do you have in store next for your readers?
Well, the sequel to Eolyn, called The Sword of Shadows, should be out later this year. After that, look for the third book in the series, Daughter of Aithne, to be released early in 2017. Together, The Silver Web trilogy chronicles Eolyn’s life-long struggle to restore women’s magic while balancing the demands of her oath with the conflicting desires of her heart.
Will she succeed? You’ll have to read the novels to find out!
About the Author
Karin Rita Gastreich writes stories of ordinary women and the extraordinary paths they choose. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she is part of the biology faculty at Avila University. An ecologist by vocation, Karin has wandered forests and wildlands for over twenty years. Her past times include camping, hiking, music, and flamenco dance. In addition to The Silver Web trilogy, Karin has published short stories in World Jumping, Zahir, Adventures for the Average Woman, and 69 Flavors of Paranoia. She is a recipient of the Spring 2011 Andrews Forest Writer’s Residency.
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