Welcome to Realm Explorers!  In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors.  Enjoy your travels!  And don’t forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book. 

Author’s name: Christy Nicholas

Title of book and/or series: The Enchanted Swans

Brief summary of the story: In pre-Celtic Ireland, Fionnuala was a fae princess, born to a life of luxury. She knew her duty and loved her family. She missed her mother, who died in childbirth when Fionnuala was but ten years old. Still, she had hopes and dreams of love and a full life.

All her dreams were stolen from her, ripped away in a torrent of envy and magic.

Now she must care for her three brothers while learning to live under an evil curse. Will she find a way to break the spell, or would they remain swans, tethered to three places for nine hundred years?

Brief description of the world or location you created for this story: This is set in pre-Celtic Ireland, around 500BCE, just as the Tuatha de Dannan were being forced beneath the hills. It is a world where magic is normal and the ravens are trusted friends and teachers. 

If we were to visit Ireland as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there? There are just so many things to see in Ireland! But if you want to see places associated with the events in the story, go to Torr Head in the northeast. It’s an amazing area, the Antrim coast is stunning.
What dangers should we avoid in Ireland? It’s not a dangerous place today. But you don’t want to fall asleep in a fairy circle. You might never come back to the world today, and be forever in the Fairy realm!

Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Ireland? Believe it or not, NOT potatoes. They were introduced in the 17th century from America. Pre-Celtic Ireland and modern Ireland have fantastic lamb, though.
What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in The Enchanted Swans? Magic or bronze swords. As they are Fairy, the Tuatha de Dannan cannot use our touch cold iron. This, of course, was their downfall, as the Celts had iron and used it to great effect.

What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used for travel in The Enchanted Swans? Chariots, horses, and boats for the most part. Occasionally you could ‘ride along’ in a mental flight with your bonded raven, but that was rare.

What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter? The ravens are definitely the star of the book, in my opinion. At a young age, each royal child is bonded with a young raven. This raven with grow with the child, teaching them etiquette, manners, magic, and history. They become the child’s dearest and nearest friend, protector, and confidante.

What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in The Enchanted Swans? Lots! Each person has magic, though each has a specialization, or something they excel at. Fionnuala, the main character, has a talent at healing. Her father, Lir, is great at protective wards. While anyone can do other magic, it’s difficult to do something they’re not specialized in.

Is there any advanced or unusual technology in The Enchanted Swans?  If you haven’t described it already, please give some examples. Not really, unless you count the new architecture for their cities Under the Hills. Since they aren’t required to be protective against invasion or weather, they can be elegant and soaring, like any fairy city should be.

Tell us about any sports, games, or activities that are available for entertainment in The Enchanted Swans. Fighter practice is common among the warriors and any royal children, learning to fight with bronze sword, spear, or arrow. Fionnuala is especially good at archery.

Is there a particular religion practiced in The Enchanted Swans?  Please describe what it involves. Since the Tuatha de Dannan are directly descended from the gods of ancient Ireland, such as Danu and The Dagda, it’s more ancestor worship than a religion. They do work with the Morrigan at one point to try to break their 900 year long curse.

What is the political or government structure in The Enchanted Swans?  Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she? King Bodb Dearg is the High King, and his queen is Dervla the Dark. They are good, fair rulers, though Dervla is thought to have Fir Bolg ancestry, and thus her dark complexion. There are lesser kings under the high king, and King Lir, Fionnuala’s father, is one of them. He wanted to be High King, and this desire had been the start of the tale, resulting in Bodb Dearg gifting him one of his daughters as a bride, and then a second when the first died.

Are there any other unique cultural practices that we should be aware of? The Druids are the advisors, historians and entertainers of the Tuatha de Dannan, being the keepers of knowledge, magic, and law.

Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book? I love Ireland. I’ve visited many times, and to me, it’s my soul’s home, mo anam bhailein the Irish. The entire land is magical, with mystical, mist clad hills undulating under the lowering clouds.

What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book? Jealousy, family, duty are the main themes. Abuse and alcoholism are touched upon.

Author Autobiography: Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon, has her hands in many crafts, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing, and photography. In real life, she’s a CPA, but having grown up with art all around her (her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected her, as it were. She loves to draw and to create things. She says it’s more of an obsession than a hobby. She likes looking up into the sky and seeing a beautiful sunset, or seeing a fragrant blossom or a dramatic seaside. She takes a picture or creates a piece of jewelry as her way of sharing this serenity, this joy, this beauty with others. Sometimes this sharing requires explanation – and thus she writes. Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business. She does local art and craft shows, as well as sending her art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.
Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your book(s)?  Please include links.
·      Amazon
·      Publisher website
Where can readers connect with you online? 
·     Facebook
·     Twitter
I hope you all enjoyed the trip to Pre-Celtic Ireland.  Questions about the world or the book?  Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!  

Click here to read other posts in the Realm Explorers series.

Please join us again next Monday for a trip to another world in next week’s edition of Realm Explorers!
-Annie Douglass Lima

What happens when Lara Croft meets Jane Austen in colonial Africa? You get the USA Today bestselling “Society for Paranormals”, a delightful cozy mystery series in which a paranormal investigator refuses to let danger, death and unwanted suitors inconvenience her in the small town of Nairobi.

The first book in the series, Ghosts of Tsavo, is free, as is the prequel and a beginner’s guide to African supernatural beings; pick up your copies from http://veredehsani.co.za/free-books/.

As if that’s not awesome enough, you can pick up 8 books for $2.99! On 29 January, Stones of Nairobi (the seventh book in the series) will be released. Everyone who buys a copy in the first 48 hours of its launch will also get free access to seven more books. For all the details on this time-sensitive deal, go to http://veredehsani.co.za/books/stones-of-nairobi/

Enjoy this excerpt from Stones of Nairobi:

A cool dampness enveloped us as we descended into the tomb but it wasn’t a pleasant relief from the humid heat above. Moist slime soiled the walls. The air clung to my skin with hints of mouldering bones and unpleasant secrets. In a few steps, we were entirely swallowed by earth and shadows. The opening above our heads provided us only the dimmest illumination. Still, as the tomb we entered was not so big, it was sufficient for the purpose.

A sarcophagus filled most of the space. Carved out of a single chunk of coral, it had similar engravings on the side as the stone above it. The outline of an unusually tall man protruded out of the lid, the carved features of the face sombre and stern.

“Do we need to launch into poetry again to open this lid?” I enquired. “Or will a song and dance suffice?”

Smirking, Koki replied almost affectionately, “Insolent human.”

Approaching the sarcophagus, she gestured to me to join her. Wordlessly, we both pushed on the lid. Despite its size, it wasn’t as heavy as it appeared. I could only thank the porosity of coral for that one consolation. In preparation for the fumes that would certainly exit around us, I ceased breathing through my nose and, as the lid crashed onto the other side, I held my breath entirely.

Peering down, we came to the same realization at the same instant: Liongo’s body was gone.

“Well, how inconsiderate,” I said as I turned to Koki. “It’s one thing to drag me half way across the country to this desolate, dreary and uncomfortable isle. It’s quite another to do so for no purpose at all.”

Bewilderment was a rare, if impossible, mood for Koki and yet, in that moment, it clouded her countenance thoroughly. “I don’t understand. The body is supposed to be here.”

A glimmer caught my attention. I leaned over the edge of the sarcophagus, its cool stone pressing into my waist, and studied the phenomena through my glasses.

“There’s more writing here,” I said and read the inscription. “Cool water.” Straightening up and removing my glasses, I scoffed, “There’s nothing cool around here.”

“It’s the Maasai name for Nairobi,” Koki said, her smug smile reasserting itself. “Enkare Nairobi. Cool water. His body must have been moved there, to protect him from his enemies.”

Before we could continue discussing the whereabouts of a corpse, a deep, throaty, snarling growl vibrated around me, its volume equivalent to an entire pride of lions growling together. The earth vibrated just as we heard an explosive crashing above our heads. Bits of coral and dust loosened and fell upon our upturned faces. Something large covered the opening to the tomb.

In the resulting darkness, I heard Koki sigh.

“What is that?” I demanded, hefting my walking stick in preparation.

Koki replied in a bored tone, “That, dear Miss Knight, is why the island is deserted.”