The Dragon-mage series (I don’t know yet whether it will be a trilogy or four books) is in some ways my oldest book/story. In fact, Camilla – not Silmavalien – is the first dragon-mother/dragon-keeper.
When I first saw Camilla (by the way, the first syllable rhymes with ‘Can’ and the second two rhyme with ‘Vanilla’, not that it matters much) and Radiance, I was eight or nine, certainly no older than nine. Her transforming bond with her gold dragon was the thing I saw, that I absolutely knew. The fire that makes them as much one being as two, and gives Camilla abilities that typically belong only to the dragons, was so clear and true. But I wasn’t ready to write her story yet. I thought I was: the idea of seeing a story, a character, and not being ready was not one I knew. So I tried writing it: I don’t actually remember how many times I re-wrote it. And, somewhere along the line, I put a Love Interest in there, since that was what books had in them, right? I didn’t really get to read a lot of upper YA/Adult books (I was what? ten? eleven? at this point), but I certainly read the descriptions and summaries, and love interests were everywhere in those, that I read, and a good number of the YA/Adult books I did get to read – at least the epic fantasy ones – had that.
And I wasn’t old enough yet to realize how much it didn’t fit me. Or my character.
But, then, a few years ago, I saw another scene of Camilla’s story (a scene I will finally get to writing in book three), and I knew that now, at least, I was ready to write her story. I was ready to know Camilla now, to know things about her person and her journey that I couldn’t have known that I didn’t know when I was nine.
This is an epic fantasy, with powerful magic, dreadful enemies, and fantastic creatures. Camilla has to parley with elves who inhabit burning trees, escape from and contest nightmare creatures and magic, learn her own wild magic that burns her from within. There are unique takes on fantasy creatures – and if they’re not unique, they were to me when I invented them. I was perhaps ten when I first imagined the dragonmages – creatures born from the death of rider-dragon pairs, and possessing most of the memories of their “parents”, along with both forms and, in many cases, both sexes. I still marvel sometimes: at that point, I’d never heard of dragon-shifters, or creatures formed with the memories of others, or really any of these things – if I’d first created them now, I’d have thought they were inspired by other fantasy creations in books I’ve now read. But I hadn’t read those books now. They weren’t – they developed organically from the needs of my world.
But it is really a story about relationships and character flaws and mistakes and growth – and sometimes, is something a flaw even when it appears one? or a virtue? There is no romance in it, none at all, but it is no less fundamentally a story about love. Love is what defines Camilla’s relationship with Radiance – one that is far more complicated than it at first appears, with challenges to be overcome that neither human nor dragon are aware of at first. There’s Camilla’s relationship with her little brother, Lavilor, who it falls to her to protect, one with complexities, too, as protection and understanding what his real needs are, and her own fears and goals in life, clash. She’s not even his mother, she’s his sister, both of them thrown into a world they never asked for from the moment they were born, and one that changes in ways neither can imagine.
And contrasted to Camilla’s life, is Kario Flameheart’s relationship to Nelexi, a dragon-god of awesome power and knowledge – but one who is intimately aware of the limits of her knowledge, the limits of her experience, and also the need to allow younger creatures to find themselves, to find their own knowledge and have their own experiences, without being shaped by hers. And that is a challenge in her relationship to Flameheart, the child she chose to be her friend and her last rider before she returns to the Heart of Fire. And having that friendship is a challenge, one in which even Nelexi might make mistakes.
What does love mean? What challenges can love present even to loving others? Is what we call love one thing or always the same thing? What is the place of vengeance and hatred? What does freedom mean, and how are love and free will related?
This is a story about Camilla’s encounters with these issues in her own sometimes imperfect attempt to love her dragon and her brother and be loyal to those she loves. And the answers she finds for herself might not be the answers someone else does.
The Dragon-mage novels with hand-drawn by-the-author-illustrations, including chapter headers, scenebreaks for each PoV, and portraits of all the major characters.
You can preorder Heart of Fire here. The ebook won’t be available on Amazon until release day, but it is on 99cent presale everywhere where it is available through February and March.
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