To hide from the terrible things in the world, I will attempt to wreak a bit of joy before I return to the real world in my next post [which will be the incendiary and hope-reviving “8 steps to toppling a dystopia”]. For now, the dark and crazy writer has been reading–oh, no! [Oh, yes!]. Feast yourselves on A Court of Crows by Eliza Eveland, ladies and gents and non-binaries and everyone in between! Here is the cover & book description and my feels below!
DESCRIPTIONA young queen in peril.
A city under siege.
An elven mercenary with a dark desire.
Nineteen-year-old Eris Telari was never supposed to rule Brucia. She’s always been more interested in swordplay than courtly intrigue.
After her brother’s assassination, however, Eris has no choice but to take up the crown and defend her city against an invasion led by an undefeated elven warlord.
With Brucia’s forces decimated, and a siege looming, Eris needs help. Who better to repel the elven invaders than a band of elven mercenaries?
Their leader, Ruith, is as charming as he is deadly, and used to getting what he wants. Six thousand swords strong, his Crows have a reputation for winning against impossible odds. He won’t take a fight he can’t win, and now he has his sights set on Eris…
Is it her kingdom he wants? Or her?
With assassins and traitors still lurking around every corner, and an army nearly twenty thousand strong at her gates, Eris cannot afford to turn away the Crows’ assistance. Even with their help, the battle for Brucia will be hard-won.
And the most dangerous threat may already be inside her walls and vying for a place at her side…
A Court of Crows is the first book in the gripping Talons and Tethers Saga, a new adult fantasy romance series. Expect courtly intrigue, assassination plots, plenty of heart-pounding action sequences, and strong heroines who do their own rescuing.
This book does one of my favorite things ever: it follows multiple storylines that each have their own romantic subplot! [Well, some of the romances haven’t started yet, but I love getting into different people’s brains anyway. And, no, I’m not weird at all. Stop accusing me of it :-P]
The main story line is a city besieged by invading elves, and the queen of that city is trying to defend it. Eris wasn’t actually supposed to be queen, but after her brother dies [ahem, in mysteriously abrupt circumstances, anyone? NO, THIS IS NOT A SPOILER BECAUSE YOU SHOULD ALWAYS BE SUSPICIOUS WHEN SOMEONE DIES UNEXPECTEDLY IN BOOKS, Y’ALL. It’s a rule or something – whatever, though I’m not actually confirming 😀 Anyway], she’s like, “Nope, I’m gonna be queen and not marry anyone, thank you very much.” But then the elves drop in like an unpleasant smell and, yep, she has to deal. So.
A small army of elves called Crows comes to help (for remuneration, naturally, and after Eris issues them an invite), and when the leader Ruith and she meet, romance explodes (well, semi-explodes… mini-explodes? I mean, they’re not VOLATILE or flammable anything, but there’s definitely heat, and they’re not IMploding — aaaagh :-D) Anyway (dork tangent aside), besides the main storyline of them working to survive the city being beseiged, there’s a secondary storyline (romannnnnnce!) between a Crow and what I imagine is this world’s equivalent of a war monk 😀 I can’t give names because spoilers (maybe? Blah), but anyway, I am a guilty gal here (goin’ Texan again, y’all), ‘cuz I loved that sub-storyline so much, even maybe more than the main romance – shame on me sorry not sorry 😛 I kept finding myself wanting to get back to their storyline, which I think is a testament to how well-drawn the minor characters are!
In any case, one of my favorite parts was when a little boy appeared the wrong place, wrong time, and offered a coin to save his life – I’m super-curious what the story behind him having that coin is! I’ve asked the author if it’s going to be told and she said that at some point she would definitely like to slip it in, so yassssss 😀
Also, the details of the siege were fascinating. I’m a total nerd for this stuff, especially the curfew, the rationing, all the maneuvers, and the fact that the invading army was making noise to keep those inside the city awake so they’d be tired during battle fending off any attack – I seriously loved those details!
And for you squeamish peeps, you’re good here, since the battles weren’t explicit 😀
I was also a bit giddy with: the mystery of the woman who left her cloak with one of the characters as a challenge to find her again, the part where Katyr had to put his life on the line to help her live (and everyone’s reaction to that!), 😀 and of course meeting the little boy in the enemy camp – wonderful, wonderful! I had a lot of fun reading this, as you can tell 🙂
And I have a bonus for you – inside info on the author!
I asked her a zillion questions and she answered them! Feast yourselves (bolded text indicates my questions; non-bolded are her replies):
So I’m curious, is there anything you edited OUT of this book? [and why?]
The biggest thing I edited out was the price the Crows initially asked for. In earlier drafts, Ruith actually married Eris, becoming queen’s consort before the siege ever really got going. It made him a little less likeable, though it was a stronger enemies-to-lovers type plot. I thought it made Eris seem a little too weak, though, and so it got edited out during the second draft.
I can’t imagine Eris seeming weak! She’s badass in the current version for sure! So onward: what was your hardest scene to write, and why?
Definitely the chess scene. Ruith is really big into playing chess and it’s important to how he thinks and manages battles. I’m not very good at chess and so I had to spend hours watching tutorials to get the metaphors and everything to line up just right. For the second book, I had to learn to play Go and I think it melted my brain a little bit.
Oh, no, haha, I hope your brain has coagulated back to brain texture again! I don’t even know how to play chess (Shh! No one heard me say that 😛 ). So what was the funnest scene to write, and why?
The final battle sequence where Eris commands the wall. I love big, epic battles and I wanted it to parallel the battle at the beginning, showing how she’d grown as a queen, a commander, and a fighter in her own right. Plus, I just love writing battle sequences.
Brave lady 😀 So do you want to share a snippet from the book?
Here’s a roughly 500-word excerpt
“This council is dismissed,” Eris said. “Everyone, give us the room.”
The three advisors exchanged a look. Fabric rustled as they made their exit.
Eris said to her queensguard, “You two, wait outside.”
Vantis looked like he wanted to argue, but he went, glaring at Ruith all the way to the exit. Isaac closed the door gently behind him.
Eris lifted the paper. “You didn’t really expect me to implement such restrictive measures on day one of a siege, did you?”
“Of course not,” said Ruith with a shrug.
“Then why give it to me at all?”
“Because they think I’m here to take Brucia from under you.”
The queen’s mouth was dry. “And are you?”
Ruith stood. His heavy footsteps thumped in time with her heart as he came around the table. Trailing his fingertips over the tabletop, he stopped next to her throne, towering over her. “I have six thousand Crows at my command. I am stronger than any man, better with my sword than all three of your queensguard put together, and faster than every human I have ever met. If I wanted your city, it would be mine. Whatever I want, I get.” He lifted his fingers from the table and brushed them against her cheek.
Eris’s heart skipped a beat.
She grabbed his hand. “You do not have me.”
The sound of his dark chuckle left her fighting a shudder.
“Not yet,” he said.
“If you ever touch me uninvited…”
“Please.” He wrinkled his nose, disgusted, and pulled his hand away. “I would never. I have no interest in bedding a woman who doesn’t wish it. If the touch is truly uninvited, then I apologize. But if it isn’t, and if these sultry looks you’ve been throwing me are more than just curiosity…” Ruith leaned down, lips hovering next to her ear. He smelled like warm leather with a sharp citrus bite. “I will touch you in ways no one ever has, or ever will again. I could give you more pleasure with one finger than you’ve ever known.”
Eris’s insides turned molten, skin prickling at the thought. She turned her head toward his, their mouths suddenly so close that they shared breath for a moment. “That’s a bold claim. I’m a queen. I could have anyone I wanted.”
He leaned back, his smirk returning. “I’ve seen the men in this city. I know what I’m up against, and I stand by my statement.”
Let me just say that this bit:
She grabbed his hand. “You do not have me.”
The sound of his dark chuckle left her fighting a shudder.
“Not yet,” he said.
Shivery! Hehe 🙂 And his statement “I’ve seen the men in this city. I know what I’m up against…” cracks me up! So because I’m a total sucker for music, is there a particular song that encompasses the book’s atmosphere for you?
Noble Blood by Tommee Profitt ft. Fluerie off their Gloria Regali album. I could pick almost any song off that album, though.
Y’all, I looked it up here and the song is so delish! Hehe.
So onward! I loved the details of the siege; the curfew, the making noise so people in the city couldn’t sleep and would be tired when fighting, the rationing – did you do a lot of research for this, and were there any fascinating details that you didn’t include that you’d share here?
Oh, absolutely. I dug into A LOT of research on medieval sieges, going so far as to hit up a few medieval scholars I know. I had to make sure the premise worked. Very few cities withstood prolonged sieges for exactly the reasons that Ruith stated. I studied the siege of Rhodes, which is one of the few historical instances I could find where the defenders managed to push out the invaders and win. I also watched Kingdom of Heaven’s siege scenes probably 100 times. They’re a bit inaccurate, but they look great. The one thing I couldn’t put in that I wanted to was the practice of sapping. It gets a mention, but Taratheil never makes an attempt. It would’ve added a lot of words to the book that probably weren’t needed, but that’s actually how most city walls came down historically, not via trebuchet bombardment.
“going so far as to hit up a few medieval scholars I know” – this is awesome. I want to know some medieval scholars! 😀 For reader peeps, the defintion of sapping is “to approach (a besieged place or an enemy position) by means of deep, narrow trenches protected by gabions or parapets.”
The boy Faelyn and his coin – I’m super-curious which (Shikami?) gave it to him and why! Will we find out in some later book? 🙂 Or did I miss it in this one?
It hasn’t been revealed yet! Faelyn is sort of a minor character who I’d love to give his own story to when he grows up a bit. I’m planning to tell the story of the coin either in its own short story, or in book 3 if I can fit it in there.
Ooooh, I so want to be there for that!
Alright, so are any of your characters based on someone you know in real life?
There are pieces of people I know in them, for sure. The closest, believe it or not, is Brick the Molossus Hound. I had a dog named Brick (so named because he was dumb as a brick…) But he was a great dog who always seemed to know when he was needed.
“believe it or not” – I can totally believe this since animals have such personalities sometimes!
“so named because he was dumb as a brick” – oh, nooooo! But that reminds me of a dalmatian I once knew…
Okay, so if you could meet your characters, what would you say to them?
I’d have to ask them why they’re such obstinate, stubborn jerks who won’t just do what’s best for them. They tend to want to be dramatic.
Maybe they have to be dramatic and shout for us to hear them across parallel universes? 😀
And now for my favorite question: how would you survive if you woke up in your fantasy world / what role would you take?
I’d find myself a job in a bakery or someplace where I could cook! I love to cook (a trait I passed to Katyr) and if I couldn’t write, that’s exactly what I would love to do the most.
Oh, yes, I drooled over his confections in the book! So yum!
Who is your favorite character / which do you relate to most and why?
I identify very strongly with Katyr, the commander of the Crow mages. His relationship with people is difficult due to a traumatic past, but he’s always the first one to be there supporting the others. Not much of a fighter in the traditional sense, but he’s fighting an inner battle every day and the masks he wears mean that others are often unaware of how difficult that fight is for him. He’s also only genuinely happy when he can help other people, whether that’s with his magic, or by cooking or painting, doesn’t matter. He’s a creator at heart.
“the masks he wears mean that others are often unaware of how difficult that fight is for him” – this reminds me of so many people in our real world, too, who put on makes to pretend they’re okay when really they’re not.
“He’s also only genuinely happy when he can help other people” – me, too! I think people genuinely love when they can help!
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from other gender viewpoints?
Inner monologue. If there’s one thing I’ve learned while writing romance, it’s that men view it very differently, at least according to my husband. He’s been super helpful.
I can believe that! Besides which, their physiology is completely different. I read about one author who had a scene where a drunk old geezer was walking around while urinating and she’s like–Wait, can men do that, walk while peeing? And she calls her husband, “Hun…?” and he’s game – “Lemme go for a walk on our field and check…”.
Later: “Yep, it’s doable” 😀 Hahahahaha I loved that.
And I’ve digressed again! What risks have you taken with your writing that have paid off?
Definitely adding LGBT+ characters, and coming out publicly myself. I really agonized over that decision, whether to leave in the subromance between Kat and Isaac that develops over several books. But response has been great. So far, people have been telling me they enjoyed that more or as much as the main romance.
“whether to leave in the subromance between Kat and Isaac that develops over several books” – OH MY GOSH this was one of my favorite parts, too! I am so glad you left it in! I’ve noticed that nowadays, sadly, it’s a risk if you have LGBTQ+ in AND if you leave it out. So go with your passion and your heart and find the readers who are right there with you (in my opinion).
Okay, so if you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Write fearlessly. Those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind (to paraphrase a Dr. Seuss quote).
Wonderful 🙂 What themes / tropes interest you most and why?
Enemies to lovers. I’m working on another book in another series that goes from full hate as in “I’ll kill you and everyone you ever loved given the chance” to love. Not only do I find the evolution of those strong emotions enticing, but it makes writing the spicy scenes much more interesting. To go along with it, there’s a trope called slap-slap-kiss-kiss. When those two go together, it’s chef’s kiss.
“Enemies to lovers.” – I am SO for this trope, too!
You mentioned that you never wanted to write in the romantic sub-genre, but now you’ve embraced it. How does it feel? [Welcome to the ranks, by the way :-D]
It’s more empowering than I expected it to be. I used to spend a lot of time worrying that readers would think I’m weird if I wrote certain things into books. Now, I have fictional characters with all kinds of kinks and fetishes and people are looking for that. I don’t feel weird about it. I feel like I’m part of a tribe of fearless women writers, and that makes me feel more confident.
Personally, I think love is universal and that’s why it’s so popular in literature, since there are so many types, including asexual and aromantic, which I’ve also found represented in books (well, at least the asexual aspect). Will you mostly stay with sexual & romantic relationships and focus on more diversity of orientation?
There’s quite a bit of diversity. Katyr is bisexual, Isaac is gay, Ieduin is pansexual as is a character who comes in later in book 2 named Rowan. The 4th book in the series is a poly triad romance, and I have another epic fantasy trilogy (Greek and Irish myth retelling involving gargoyles) that’s another poly triad. I’ve got plans to write a flintlock fantasy romance where one of the main characters in a couple is a transgender man. It’s sitting on a backburner at the moment while I gather research so I can do it respectfully and accurately. I don’t feel I’m familiar enough with asexuality to tackle that at this moment. I’d love to do it in the future, but only if I were 100% certain I could do it well.
And that’s all she wrote, folks! Thanks for being fantastic! Here are her social coordinates if you want to (very nicely) stalk her. [Also find the book link below, too!]
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorElizaEveland
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/616062436341571/