Thousands of years after a magical catastrophe reshaped the world and pulled the moons out of alignment, the secret of magic has seemingly been lost. At the centre of the vast, forbidding Plains of Kallanash lies a land ruled by a secretive religion, whose people fight a never-ending war against the barbarians in the wilderness beyond the border.
Amongst the nobility, double marriages are the norm. Junior wife Mia always dreamed of attracting the attention of the dashing lead husband, but never dared to compete against her lively older sister. Hurst has spent ten frustrating years as junior husband, longing to test his skill with a sword in battle, longing for his beloved Mia to turn to him.
The mysterious death of Mia’s sister thrusts the marriage into turmoil. As Mia and Hurst struggle to adjust and find out what happened, they uncover sinister truths about the ruling religion. But the gods are unforgiving; even Mia’s innocent questions carry a terrible punishment. Hurst is prepared to risk everything to save her, even if it means taking up his sword against the barbarians, his own people, and the gods themselves.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I read a lot of fantasy which is infinitely creative with worlds and magic and fantastical creatures, yet so often marriage is only defined in the conventional way: one man, one woman. What would it be like, I wondered, to live in a society where a marriage contained more than two people, perhaps as many as twelve? This book grew from that idea.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Once I started thinking about multiple marriage, I wondered what life would be like for the junior wife in such an arrangement. All of a sudden, Mia was there, fully formed – quiet, timid Mia, content to do whatever is needed, but secretly yearning to attract the attention of the senior husband. Jonnor appeared next, the handsome one, who treated Mia like a child, when he wasn’t ignoring her. And by contrast, Hurst, in love with Mia, and beautiful, lively Tella, the catalyst for everything that followed.
That afternoon, Mia was in the family hall, reading to the older children, the hum of conversation around her. A gaggle of servants murmured over their stitch-work, two of the younger children chased each other squealing around the work table, some of the Companions giggled together. The afternoon sun radiated through high windows, painting blocks of colour over the stone floor and reflecting from polished wood and mirrors.
Then the afternoon peace was shattered like glass.
The death alarm sounded. It rumbled, low and sonorous, through the Karninghold, the tone so deep that even the stone walls seemed to shudder.
Mia froze, the book sliding from her fingers, fear clutching her heart. How she hated that sound! Unlike the welcoming chime of the arrival bells, or the frantic wail signaling a fire, the death alarm was slow, deep and dreadful.
It could only be tolling for one of the family. Yet who? And how could the Gods take one of them, who had all woken that morning young, well and filled with life?
She spun, scanning the room, her eyes flitting from face to face, counting. All around her, activity had ceased. Mouths gaped, eyes widened, hands clutched throats. White faced servants turned to face her, waiting for orders. Her three Companions moved protectively around her. The children looked from one adult to another, puzzled. She tried to count them, her numb mind struggling. One, two, three… where was the baby? There! Thank the Gods, they were all in view.
Who else? Tella had ridden off to that village to the south, and must be far away by now. So it couldn’t be her.
It must be one of the two men. Something must have happened in the training yard, some accident – a wayward arrow, perhaps, or a badly wielded sword.
She turned and ran.
Jonnor! Sweet Gods, let it not be Jonnor! But it would be just as bad if it were Hurst. She didn’t want to lose either of her husbands. By the grace of the Nine, preserve us all from harm this day. Too late for that. On and on the alarm tolled, the slow beat of death.
Through the guest hall she ran, gasping for breath. On to the inner and middle halls. Servants jumped aside for her, white-eyed. Guards snapped to attention.
She had just reached the great hall when Hurst entered at a run through the opposite door, dishevelled and sweating. His limp gave him a strange rolling gait, but it didn’t slow him down. He crossed the room in great strides, and swept her into his arms.
“Thank the Gods!” he whispered. “I was so afraid… “ Then, just as abruptly, he released her. “The children?”
“All fine. Is it Jonnor?”
“No. No…” His voice became puzzled. “It can’t be Tella, surely?”
But it was.
I live in the beautiful Highlands of Scotland with my husband, my grown up daughter and a mad cat. I like chocolate, whisky, my Kindle, massed pipe bands, long leisurely lunches, watching TV with my daughter, chocolate, going places in my camper van, eating pizza in Italy, summer nights that never get dark, wood fires in winter, chocolate, the view from the study window looking out over the Moray Firth and the Black Isle to the mountains beyond. And chocolate. I dislike driving on motorways, cooking, shopping, hospitals. ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is my first published work.
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