What if you weren’t what heroes are made of? What if your life was an open book? What if you were just an ordinary soldier, with ordinary skills and ordinary goals? What if you weren’t “The Chosen One” but still had to try to save the world?
Lured into treason and only narrowly escaping the gallows, Keridwen was desperate to build some kind of life for herself. But between demons bent on death and mayhem, treachery at the very heart of the kingdom, and a prince who had every right to nurse a grudge against her, what were the odds that she could stay out of trouble for long?
A Spell in the Country is the story of that soldier – a young woman driven not by prophesy, but by circumstances and coincidence, and by the strengths and weaknesses that anyone might possess.
How does your main character fit into this world?
Keridwen of Orleigh is the youngest daughter of a lord who is not, on the surface, at least, particularly important or rich. She set out to make her way in the world, and got a lot more than she bargained for.
What are the people who inhabit your world like?
This is a world I imagined, based on the idea of how Celtic societies might have evolved if they had not been conquered by Rome. That was my starting point, at least. It’s feudal, but with strong elements of co-operative power-sharing, with the age-old complications of things like blood-feuds and so on.
Are there any magical creatures?
There are demons. And witches, too. There have been ghosts with actual powers, and there are other forces at work in the world – divine forces, as well as things that go bump in the night. I’m still exploring a lot of those.
There are also the Incarnates: mages who were caught in the backlash of a huge spell-casting/demon-raising that went wrong. They gained a kind of immortality, but it’s a curse, and most of them have become mad because of it: they are tied to the places of power they were in when things went belly-up, and while they may think they crave death, they still remain close to their power-sources, unable to face dissolution.
Is there a religious system in place?
There is a Mother Goddess based religion, wherein what remains of magic is somewhat corralled and policed, in the country of Keraine.
Over in Camrhys, things are a bit different. It’s in many ways far more strictly controlled, but the power is in the hands of a priestly caste that has maintained iron control over everyone, including the royal family, and is male-dominated, owing allegiance to themselves, and possibly to darker, older forces.
And then there are those northern pirates. They have a whole pantheon of gods.
What is one last thing you would like readers to know all about your world?
It’s expanding, as any self-respecting universe should
This digital reissue of an excellent 1999 fantasy in Smith’s Averraine Cycle stars Keridwen of Orliegh, youngest child of a minor house in the kingdom of Keraine. While seeking her fortune, Keri enters into military service with Lord Uln, who then turns traitor to his prince, Tirais. After the rebellion’s defeat and Uln’s flight, Keri is spared and sent to Penvarron, a posting for the kingdom’s misfit soldiers, where she earns the respect of her comrades. Together with the rest of the garrison, she interrupts a ritual by evil Camrhyssi priests who have infiltrated Penvarron’s ancient tower, where mystical forces still linger. Keridwen then finds herself in the company of powerful figures, including the very prince who pardoned her, trying to discover where foul magic may strike next. Though the mythologies differ, this feels much like Lois Bujold’s novels set in the World of the Five Gods. Keridwen is a wonderful protagonist to follow: a skilled soldier with something of a stubborn streak and a keen eye but no great powers. Smith’s terrific storytelling and worldbuilding will thrill fantasy fans. (Publishers Weekly BookLife)
About Morgan Smith:
Morgan Smith has been a goatherd, a landscaper, a weaver, a bookstore owner, a travel writer, and an archaeologist, and she will drop everything to travel anywhere, on the flimsiest of pretexts. Writing is something she has been doing all her life, though, one way or another, and now she thinks she might actually have something to say.
Excerpt from A Spell in the Country:
“In the epic tales that I grew up on in my father’s hall, the heroes were always victims of some singular circumstance of birth. They were the fruit of wandering
gods, or the heirs of great realms, fostered out in mysterious ways, kept hidden from evil enemies until the time for their great deeds was ripe. I might have known, then, that I was not the stuff that heroes are made of.
My family was a large and happy one. I was the youngest, a last tribute to my parents’ long love, and I won’t deny that I’d been somewhat indulged. Only somewhat; my father’s rigid principles and sense of duty didn’t allow him to forget that as a minor lord, he had little to offer me for the future. There were no lands left to make me a living, and little advantage to marrying the daughter of an unimportant man holding not very strategic lands.
Fortunately for all of us, I was fascinated by swords and soldiers, and he had himself been well-trained as a warrior. I got a fairly thorough education and, when autumn storms were late and Istaran raiders harried our fishing villages, some practical experience. It was just an accepted fact for most of my life that I would have to go out and seek service with some other lord, and in the spring of my seventeenth year, my mother dug out my grandmother’s old chainmail shirt, my oldest brother conned his rent rolls and came up with the coin for a decent horse, my sisters chipped in with a newmade sword, and my father sat down at his table and wrote a letter of recommendation to a man he’d been a squire with, long, long ago.
If I’d been prettier, or more inclined to my books, there might have been some other option, but by the time I was ten, it was obvious that I had no other future than what strength, a good eye and an unlimited appetite for war stories would bring me. I rode out on a perfectly ordinary spring morning, on a perfectly ordinary task: to search out a perfectly ordinary position as a simple soldier in some as-yet unknown, but surely ordinary lord’s troop.
It’s funny, really, how perfectly ordinary dreams turn sour.”
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