Synergy Books (2006)
Reviewed by Ian McCurley (age 13) for Reader Views (4/07)
Tyler R. Tichelaar of Reader Views is visiting for the second time with Jayel Gibson. Jayel was here last month to talk to us about the first book in her “Ancient Mirrors” series, titled “Dragon Queen.” Now she is back to talk about its recently published sequel, “The Wrekening.” We are also fortunate to be joined by Ian McCurley, our thirteen-year-old reviewer.
Jayel Gibson is the author of several fantasy novels. Her writing is heavily influenced by Celtic folklore, mythology, and role-playing games. After teaching elementary school for fourteen years, she quit teaching in 2003 to devote herself full-time to writing.
Tyler: Welcome, Jayel. It’s great to have you back. To begin, would you tell us a little about the “Ancient Mirrors” series in general?
Jayel: Thank you, Tyler
“Ancient Mirrors” is a fantasy series based on the mythical world of Ædracmoræ, a place that is home to Ancients, guardians and men, dragons, deathawks and downy fliers, magic and machines.
The series title comes from the seven ancient mirrors scattered beneath the earth, mirrors that provide magical links from one kingdom to another.
Tyler: Since “The Wrekening” is a sequel to “Dragon Queen,” do you recommend people read “Dragon Queen” first?
Jayel: I do, although a recent reviewer, who read “The Wrekening” first, indicated that knowing the goal and eventual end result of Yávië’s actions in “The Wrekening” added to his reading experience of “Dragon Queen.”
I think that reading “Dragon Queen” first will provide that intimate familiarity with the world and its inhabitants that readers often enjoy in a series. “Dragon Queen” contains the building blocks of the Ædracmoræn kingdoms and the history of Yávië the Dragon Queen. “The Wrekening” launches the reader forward with Cwen, the queen’s estranged niece.
Tyler: Are there characters from “Dragon Queen” whom the reader will meet again in “The Wrekening”?
Jayel: Yávië is back, now in command of the Seven Kingdoms as the official Dragon Queen. The guardian Nall and the sorceress Näeré make appearances, as do a number of the Ancients and dragons, and the obligatory downy flier.
Tyler: Ian, I know you had some questions about Nall and her minor appearance in the book.
Ian: Why didn’t you use some of the main characters from “The Dragon Queen” as the main characters of “The Wrekening?” Why did you use Nall’s daughter instead of Nall?
Jayel: The plot for “The Wrekening” required characters that traveled a less savory path than Yávië and the Guardians from “Dragon Queen.” Cwen and her companions met that criterion. Yávië and Nall had very specific callings by the end of “Dragon Queen” and they were too well known in Ædracmoræ to take on the quest for the Wreken heart shards, though Nall did volunteer. Writing Nall’s daughter also allowed readers to see Nall develop in a very different light.
Tyler: Thanks, Jayel. That makes perfect sense. It reminds me of the Arthurian legends, where King Arthur is introduced early on, but then once he becomes king, he has to see to running the kingdom, which isn’t as interesting as having adventures, so the stories shift in focus to his knights and their quests.
But Ian, I know you were interested also in finding out more about the new characters who appear in “The Wrekening.”
Ian: Where did you find the inspiration for Cwen?
Jayel: The Guardians Nall and Näeré were the inspiration for Cwen. The question – If Nall and Näeré had a child, what would she be like? – refused to go away, and so did Cwen. Cwen is the quintessential rebellious child, determined not to be like her parents. One of the things I love about her is her personal struggle for independence. Outwardly she appears so sure of herself, but we catch glimpses of another Cwen, the daughter in search of paternal love and approval.
Tyler: I understand you depict Cwen as a strong woman who does not submit to any man. Is she modeled on any particular female archetypes in Celtic literature?
Jayel: Not particularly. In Cwen we find a quasi-medieval idea of knighthood, with a womanly twist. She is a combination of the battle-hardened warrior prepared to fight for honor and justice, at least as she sees them, and a gentler knight, one who defends the defenseless and can pass as a lady among the more civilized members of Ædracmoræn society.
Tyler: I know many novels in recent years have tried to retell Celtic literature from the women’s viewpoint and depict strong female characters. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “The Mists of Avalon” especially comes to mind. Do you feel such works accurately depict women of that period, or are they more projections upon the past of our own twenty-first century issues?
Jayel: In my opinion, it’s a bit of both. I believe that the fundamental qualities of women (and men) are the same today as they were long ago. There have always been women who were submissive and silent and those who were forceful and outspoken. We tend to assign many modern freedoms to the women of today’s fantasy, while staying true to the legendary strength of the women in the Arthurian lore. Honorable qualities, such as courage, strength and truth aren’t particularly masculine or feminine, but represent the best of humanity. It is these qualities that are exemplified in the women of Celtic legend and the women of modern fantasy.
I strive for an ice and fire quality in my female characters. On one hand they exhibit unshakeable courage and stubbornness, which means they either win or die – giving up is not an option. The flip side is that they can express a warmth and shy grace that makes them attractive to the reader.
Tyler: Well said, Jayel. So much of what we see today we think of as new when it has really been around since the beginning of time. And, of course, love has been part of the human story since the beginning. While I understand Cwen refusing to submit to any man, I also understand there are men in pursuit of her affections?
Jayel: Cwen is a young woman without much faith in romance, so she is constantly off balance due to the endless dogging of the thief Caen and the less overt attention of Klaed, a diplomat’s son.
Tyler: But will Cwen find love, or is that a secret you won’t tell but leave up to the reader to find out?
Jayel: Cwen’s fierce desire for independence tends to handicap her relationships. Readers will have to follow the series into “Quondam” to discover where, and with whom, Cwen finally settles.
Ian: Where did you find the inspiration for Caen?
Jayel: Caen was inspired by several real-life folks I have known over the years. He is an enigma, that person that we love one minute and despise the next. He is reluctant to admit to goodness, but not truly successful at being a ‘bad boy’ either.
Tyler: Jayel, the plot of “The Wrekening” centers upon the need to destroy the Wreken Shards before they will destroy your fantasy world of Aedracmorae. Where did you come up with the idea for the Wreken Shards?
Jayel: As a child, one of my favorite tales was about the great legless dragons called wyrms and the magical power of their heart shards. A large piece of amber, complete with a misshapen pocket of air and a large ant, served as further inspiration for the symbiotic relationship between the ancient wyrms and the ethereal race known as the Wreken.
Tyler: Presuming the Wreken Shards are destroyed and Aedracmorae is saved, can readers expect more novels in the “Ancient Mirrors” series?
Jayel: They can. “Damselflies,” the next book of the “Ancient Mirrors” series, will be released November 1st of this year, with “Quondam” following in the summer of 2008.
“Damselflies” tells the story of Arcinae, the last Damselfly. It is a tale of twisted legends, broken promises and humanity’s never-ending fear of what it does not understand.
In “Quondam,” a sorceress tempts fate by binding a dragon’s seed within the womb of a mortal woman, forcing Yávië and Cwen to venture into the unlikely realm of a dragonspawn.
Tyler: Wow, you have been busy writing. What sorts of difficulties have you faced in writing a series? Did you have the entire series all mapped out in your head when you started writing and publishing your books as J.K. Rowling seems to have done with the Harry Potter novels, or do you write them one at a time and see where each one will take you?
Jayel: A series requires that character development take place over a long (several books) period of time. Even in the final episode readers expect the characters to be unfolding in a fresh, though familiar, way. It’s difficult sometimes to rein characters in and stop their headlong gallop into oblivion.
For me, the entire series is like a single story. I’ve always known where the characters were headed and the ultimate reason for their existence.
Tyler: If it were at all possible, do you think you would physically want to live in the fantasy world you have created, or are you content to live with it only in your mind?
Jayel: My husband would argue that I already live in a fantasy world. He delights in telling people that he never knows which “Ancient Mirrors” character he will meet over morning coffee.
I love what I do, and I am quite content with the magic of the mind. Given the opportunity, I would enjoy traveling through history, both real and imagined. I am an adventurer to the marrow in my bones, so traveling our existing world and writing the realms beyond, keeps the itch of wanderlust salved.
Ian: Ms. Gibson, why did you start writing?
Jayel: Wow, that is a heavy question. The truth is I didn’t have a choice. I think that writing chooses the person, rather than the other way around. Once the story was in my head, I had to get it out. It is the last thing I think about before I sleep and the first thing on my mind when I wake.
There is a lot of truth in the old cliché: a writer writes.
Ian: And what is your favorite thing about your books?
Jayel: The Ancients, Willowort and Rosewort are my favorite characters because they are the point where it all began, but it is the communication with readers that brings me the most pleasure. Nothing is better than meeting and chatting with folks who have read the books. Whether it is at a book signing or through an email, I love that interaction.
Tyler: I mentioned at the beginning of the interview, Jayel, that you left teaching to pursue writing full-time. What advice do you have for others who wish to make a career out of writing?
Jayel: Burst your ego before you begin. Join a constructively critical writers’ group. Attend writers’ workshops, conferences and conventions to become familiar with the commercial aspects of writing and network with others in the business.
Tyler: Before we close, Jayel, would you tell our readers where they can go for more information about “The Wrekening” and where to purchase a copy?
Jayel: Thank you, Tyler. For additional information and author-signed copies, or to contact my publicist, visit the “Ancient Mirrors” website at [http://www.ancientmirrors.com]. The books in the “Ancient Mirrors” series are available wherever books are sold; just ask at a local bookstore or order from any online bookseller.
Tyler: Thank you, Ian, for taking the time to join us today. And of course, thank you, Jayel. It’s been a real pleasure. We’ll be looking forward to your next book. I hope you will come back then.