I’m excited to announce that my young adult action and adventure novel, The Gladiator and the Guard, is now available on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible!

The Gladiator and the Guard, by Annie Douglass Lima (narrated by Joseph Baltz)

The Gladiator and the Guard is book two, continuing the story of Steene, Ellie, and enslaved martial artist Bensin that began in The Collar and the Cavvarach. Here are the blurbs for both books:

The Collar and the Cavvarach

The Collar and the Cavvarach by Annie Douglass Lima

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

(For a fun tour of the world this story is set in, click here.)

The Gladiator and the Guard

The Gladiator and the Guard by Annie Douglass Lima

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

The Collar and the Cavvarach is already an audiobook, recorded by the talented Joseph Baltz in 2020. (See it here on Amazon and here on Audible!) I’m excited that book 2 is about to join it, with book 3 coming later in 2021. Want to listen to previews of either book? Just click on the links below!

(Warning: if you haven’t read or listened to The Collar and the Cavvarach yet, you may want to wait till you’ve finished that one before listening to the second preview, as it does contain spoilers for the first book.)

Click the play button below to listen to part of the first scene of The Collar and the Cavvarach!

Click the play button below to listen to the whole first chapter of The Gladiator and the Guard!

Download The Gladiator and the Guard from Amazon here!

Download The Gladiator and the Guard from Audible here!

I’d love to hear what you think of either audio sample! Please do leave a reply and let me know! Meanwhile, want to make sure you get notified when new books are available? Click here to join my author email list and be among the first to know about all my new projects!

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: Annie Douglass Lima

Title of book: The Collar and the Cavvarach
Brief summary of the story:
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?
Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:
The story takes place in a world almost exactly like our own.  Although most aspects of the culture are just about what they are currently on Earth, a few sports are different, such as the martial art known as cavvara shil (more about that later).  The main difference, however, is that slavery is legal there. 
Jarreon, where this story is set, is the second-largest city on the continent of Imperia.  It’s located on the coast and has a warm climate most of the year, though winter nights are cool enough that you would want at least a light jacket.
What is the political or government structure there? 
The Krillonian Empire rules much of the world.  An emperor (Geoffrey Kolvar Vandion, though his name isn’t actually mentioned in this book) governs from the capital city, Krillonia, on the continent known as Imperia.  Eight separate provinces (independent nations before they were conquered) can be found on nearby continents.  Each province, plus Imperia, is allowed to elect its own legislature and decide on many of its own laws, but the emperor reserves the right to veto any of them and make changes as he sees fit.  This seldom happens, however, and to most people the emperor is merely a vague and distant ceremonial figure.
If we were to visit Jarreon as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?
The city of Jarreon is famous throughout the empire for its martial arts, especially cavvara shil.  If you enjoy sports, you will definitely want to attend one of the many local tournaments.  I recommend the Grand Imperial Cavvara Shil tourney held in Jarreon every spring.  The contest is held on four consecutive weekends at one of the city’s large arenas.  Contestants of all ages, both male and female, battle it out for fame, trophies, and large cash prizes.  Reserve your seat early, though, as tickets usually sell out months in advance.  If you can’t get a ticket, you’ll be able to watch the matches on television on any of Imperia’s sports channels.
What dangers should we avoid in Jarreon?
On the whole, Jarreon is a pretty safe city, thanks in part to the City Watch officers who patrol its streets.  (One of them, Officer Kalgan Shigo, plays an important role in the story.)  I would recommend not walking around alone at night, however, especially in the bad parts of town.
Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Jarreon?
Not really.  Most foods you might find on Earth are readily available there, including fast food such as pizza and hamburgers.  One item often eaten by manual laborers is boxed meals that include rice or noodles with vegetables and meat (how much meat depends on how much you want to pay).  Many side-of-the-road eateries specialize in variations of the boxed lunch, which owners will often order for their enslaved workers.
What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Jarreon?
Firearms very similar to ones we have on Earth are readily available throughout the Krillonian Empire.  Watch officers carry them, and they’re legal for citizens to own.  However, it is against the law for slaves to use or even touch a firearm.
A number of martial arts are popular in Jarreon.  One kind is called kickfighting, which is similar to our kickboxing.  Another is cavvara dueling, in which fighters strike at each other with a sword-like weapon called a cavvarach.  The cavvarach has a hook about halfway along the top edge of the blade, and you win a duel by disarming your opponent: hooking or knocking the cavvarach out of his or her hand.  Contestants wear poncho-like padding that protects their torso and groin.
Cavvara shil is the most widely respected martial art in the Krillonian Empire.  It is difficult to master, since it is a combination of kickfighting and cavvara dueling, with a little wrestling thrown in.  You can win a duel either by disarming your opponent or by pinning his or her shoulders to the mat for five seconds.  In addition to the protective padding, you wear a narrow shield-like guard on one forearm, with which you can block an opponent’s blows or kicks.  Bensin, the main character, is particularly skilled at cavvara shil.  He and his owner/coach, Steene, each have their own reasons for hoping he will qualify for and eventually win the Grand Imperial Cavvara Shil Tourney.  (Click here to read a tournament scene from the book.)
Cavvarachs used by most martial artists are unsharpened and not very dangerous, though minor injuries can and do occur.  Only professional gladiators, who live and compete in Jarreon’s four major arenas, use sharpened weapons and fight without the protective padding.  While not usually intended to be to the death, these duels can nevertheless end in serious injury, and all gladiators do die on the job eventually.  (Barely mentioned in The Collar and the Cavvarach, gladiators and the whole arena system play an important role in book II: The Gladiator and the Guard.)
What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to the Krillonian Empire?
Transportation works the same way there that it does on Earth.  Steene, Bensin’s owner, drives an old blue pickup truck.  When not riding with him, Bensin takes the bus to and from the different places where he works.
What types of sentient races might we encounter in the Krillonian Empire that we don’t see on Earth?
Humans are the only sentient race in this world.  There are different races of humans, closely coinciding with races found on Earth, though their cultures don’t necessarily match. Bensin, a Tarnestran, has “light skin, short blond hair, and green eyes” (though hair and eye color can vary). Nelirians, like Bensin’s friend Ricky, have “narrowed eyes and high cheekbones”.  Skeyvians, like Officer Shigo, have “dark skin, kinky black hair”, and in his case, “the stereotypical deep voice”.  Imperians such as Steene are described with “medium brown skin and straight black hair”.
I should add that race is really not much of an issue to most people in Jarreon.  As you might expect in the largest port city on the continent, it is a cultural melting pot, and people from all over the empire can be found there.  One character does recall someone making racist remarks to him, but most don’t see others any differently based on their skin color or appearance. 
Slavery is not based on race, either.  People from any race can be enslaved as punishment for certain crimes.  For example, Ricky and his family were sold into slavery after his dad, who worked as an accountant for a government agency, was caught embezzling money.  It’s true that more Tarnestrans are slaves than anyone else, but that’s because the nation of Tarnestra refused to submit peacefully to imperial annexation.  After the Krillonian Empire eventually conquered it, tens of thousands of Tarnestrans were ripped from their homes and sold into slavery as a warning to anyone else who might be tempted to resist imperial progress.
Is there any advanced or unusual technology in the Krillonian Empire?  If you haven’t described it already, please give some examples.
Technology is nearly the same there as on Earth, but some of it is used in different ways.  For example, all slaves wear a metal collar that locks around their neck and identifies them as a slave.  For an extra fee, a slave’s owner can purchase an upgraded version that comes with GPS, making it easy to track the slave if he or she attempts to escape.
Are the days of the week and months of the year the same in the Krillonian Empire as on Earth? What holidays or special events are celebrated regularly there?
The days and months are exactly the same, though the years are based on the time since the empire was founded.  The story starts on January 1st of the year 154. 
The biggest holiday in Imperia is New Year.  People celebrate by buying each other gifts and enjoying a feast with family or friends.  As on Earth, it’s common to stay up till midnight on New Year’s Eve.  Schools close for two weeks, and families often use the time to go on vacations.  In the first few days of the new year, those who can afford it usually buy new clothes.
Are there any other unique cultural practices that we should be aware of if we visit Jarreon?
The prevalence of slavery is probably what would stand out the most to visitors from Earth.  There are nearly as many slaves in Jarreon as free people, and they are easily identified by their steel collars.  From each collar hangs a tag inscribed with the slave’s name, their owner’s name, and a tiny copy of their owner’s signature.  On the back of the tag is their owner’s phone number and a bar code that can be scanned to access additional information.
Owners may choose to send slave children to up to five years of public slave school, which meets only in the mornings and involves reading, writing, and arithmetic.  This is considered all that most slaves need to know for their daily tasks, though some owners pay extra for them to receive additional education or specific vocational training.
Many families own one or more slaves who do their housework and yardwork.  Businesses often own a large number of slaves, usually for manual labor, though some are trained for more complex tasks.  “Green slaves,” or those who were born free and enslaved later in life for one reason or another, are in high demand.  Often they have college degrees and the white-collar work experience so hard to find in the enslaved population.
People or businesses who don’t own their own slaves may “hire in” a slave belonging to someone else.  The accepted rate for an hourly wage is two-thirds the amount that a free person would earn for equivalent labor (the money goes to the slave’s owner, of course).
Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book?
I’ve based a few details of Jarreon’s culture on the culture in Taiwan, where I live.  The convenient boxed meals and the importance of New Year, for example.  In addition, people receive award money in red envelopes.  As in Taiwan, some in Jarreon’s lower class chew betel nut, a legal drug sold in shops decorated with flashing colored lights.
What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book?
Slavery is definitely the big one.  I wanted to explore the idea of what our world would be like if slavery were legalized in the modern day.  It sounds so impossibly wrong that it’s easy to think we could never let it happen in this day and age, but how many other wrongs do we overlook because it isn’t convenient to do anything about them?  It’s my hope that this work of fiction will make readers take a second look at some of the practices we accept or choose to turn a blind eye to in our own culture.
Where, and in what formats, can we purchase The Collar and the Cavvarach
My other books, including two more novels in the Krillonian Chronicles trilogy and one spin-off novella, can be found here.
Where can readers connect with you online? 
I hope you all enjoyed the trip to the Krillonian Empire.  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 the world of Yargon in Realm Explorers Part XLVII!
-Annie Douglass Lima