Dear readers, I don’t think I’ve ever participated in a book blitz before. But I read something from Amy Bai on John Scalzi’s blog, and she had me hooked at “inspired by Aerin-Sol”. Even though I haven’t read the book yet, I hopped right over and signed up to participate. Keep going for a summary of the book, author interview, and giveaways – one ebook copy just for readers of this blog, and an international giveaway of the print book plus goodies for all the book tour stops combined.
Sword by Amy Bai
Publication date: February 10th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Sword shall guide the hands of men . . .
For over a thousand years the kingdom of Lardan has been at peace: isolated from the world, safe from the wars of its neighbors, slowly forgetting the wild and deadly magic of its origins. Now the deepest truths of the past and the darkest predictions for the future survive only in the verses of nursery rhymes.
For over a thousand years, some of Lardan’s fractious provinces have been biding their time.
Kyali Corwynall is the daughter of the Lord General, a child of one of the royal Houses, and the court’s only sword-wielding girl. She has known for all of her sixteen years what the future holds for her–politics and duty, the management of a House, and protecting her best friend, the princess and presumed heir to the throne. But one day an old nursery rhyme begins to come true, an ancient magic wakes, and the future changes for everyone. In the space of a single night her entire life unravels into violence and chaos. Now Kyali must find a way to master the magic her people have left behind, or watch her world–and her closest friends–fall to a war older than the kingdom itself.
Amy Bai has been, by order of neither chronology nor preference, a barista, a numbers-cruncher, a paper-pusher, and a farmhand. She likes thunderstorms, the enthusiasm of dogs, tall boots and long jackets, cinnamon basil, margaritas, and being surprised by the weirdness of her fellow humans. She lives in New England with her guitar-playing Russian husband and two very goofy sheepdogs.
Interview with Amy Bai
1) What is your novel about?
Sword is a coming of age high fantasy about a girl pretty much at odds with everything, including and especially herself. It’s set in a fictional kingdom called Lardan, one with a long history of magic and war, and a population so complacent they’ve forgotten that either one ever applied to them. They learn differently when history begins to repeat itself: there’s an uprising, the kingdom is thrown into civil war, and the royal family, of which my main character Kyali is a satellite member, is murdered. Kyali, her brother, and the princess are forced into exile with a small army of refugees. Kyali was badly hurt during the uprising, and comes out of that a changed person; unfortunately for her she’s now the only person with the training to command what is left of the army, and her friends need her.
Sword is her story, how she learns to deal with what happened to her without shutting out the people she loves, and with the responsibilities she has to shoulder now that the older generation is dead and the kingdom is overrun. It’s about loyalty and love, fate and family and politics. It’s also violent, occasionally sarcastic, and unabashedly sappy.
2) What inspired you to write the story?
I had a very sullen young woman with a battered old sword and no patience kicking my frontal lobe. As motivators go, it was a pretty good one.
–Ok, so that’s a little dramatic, but really not too far from the truth (except the part about the frontal lobe, of course). Kyali Corwynall started out as a patchwork of some of my favorite characters from books like Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, and Patricia McKillip’s Cygnet, going all the way back to Barbara Helen Berger’s Gwinna, which I read when I was seven. My brain is like cosmic flypaper: the stuff I like (or hate) sticks, accumulates, eventually acquires a gravitational field, and before I know it light’s bending around it and I’m up at 3 am mainlining coffee and my keyboard’s broken. Sword was like that. One day I had scattered pieces, and the next I had a character with layers, flaws, goals, scars, and a complicated history. Stories always start that way for me, no matter how cool my premise may be (or how cool I may think it is, anyway) –my characters inspire and drive it, start to finish.
3) Since your novel is medieval-influenced, can you tell us a bit about your researching journey?
Wow. How I’d love to give you a list of planned, organized steps I took. It would make me feel so much smarter!
But no. I stumbled into the research for Sword much like I did the story itself. I think my research began the moment I realized I had no idea how heavy a sword really was, or how hard it might be to wear armor and, you know, walk at the same time. I remember thinking writing fantasy would be easy (yes, feel free to laugh at me). It didn’t take long before I realized it was very, very obvious when I didn’t know what I was talking about. So I went from looking up Irish baby names online to running to the library after work to find the Focloir Scoile or The Book of the Sword. I eventually learned to restrain myself, because research can be a wonderful excuse for not writing when you’re stuck– but overall, it was great fun.
4) What’s your best revision tip?
Remember basic dramatic structure when you’re reading your draft(s). It definitely doesn’t always apply, and definitely shouldn’t always apply, but I’ve found it can be a great lens: I can look at the whole story, each subplot and character arc, each chapter, and each scene with that structure in mind, and I’ll always find something to tweak. Or mangle. Or outright kill.
…Revision is a slightly violent process for me.
Win an ebook copy of Sword! Tell me about your favorite sword-wielding heroine in the comments. This giveaway runs through midnight EST, February 26. You can (also or instead) use the Rafflecopter plugin to enter to win the grand prize package of a print copy of Sword with an extra short story, character sketches, and a poster. The Rafflecopter giveaway ends February 26.
Graceling by Kristen Cashore
Gwenhwyfar, the White Spirit by Mercedes Lackey
Triss by Brian Jacques (do mice count?)
(Looks like my comment from several days ago got lost…) I love Graceling, too! Of course mice count! and I really should read Gwenyhwyfar myself…
When it comes to swordswomen, Robin McKinley’s Aerin-Sol and Angharad Crewe will always have a fond spot in my heart, as will Alanna Trebond from Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” quartet.
Excellent swordswomen all!