I’m so happy to finally get to host an amazing young writer, Suzy Knight, author of the YA romantic fantasy series, Chronicles of Estoria. She’s joining me for an interview, plus offering a copy of her new release, Rules of Ascension, to the winner of this week’s Lie-dar contest.
Suzy describes herself as an average English girl, who—after completing a degree in boring business management—decided to travel halfway around the world to the land of kpop and kimchi to be a teacher.
Whilst in Korea, Suzy rediscovered her passion for writing and managed to write the novel Love and War in between working at her academy and volunteering with animal rescue. Two years later and she’s back in England with her rescued Korean puppy, Panda.
Now she is working on her next novels, while training Panda to be less nervous.
What was your first car? I just bought it! A Fiat Panda in a dark blue! Funnily enough my dog Panda is obsessed with my car and the second the door is opened she jumps in and starting sniffing all the seats!
- Star Wars, Star Trek, or Firefly? Firefly! That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the others, but Firefly and Serenity are by far my favourite.
- Worst movie ever? The Airbender movie. I loved the Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, but the movie adaptation was by far the worst movie I have ever seen.
- Best guilty pleasure ever? Curling up in bed with a good book and a chocolate cake with Panda curled up under the covers too.
- What is the one thing you can’t live without? Hmmm… I’d have to say family. Even living in Korea I kept in constant contact with my family. If I’d gone out there and not been able to keep in touch, I doubt I’d have been able to stay out there as long as I did.
- As a child (or now!), what did you want to be when you grew up? I always dreamed of being an author! I still don’t feel like I’ve fully achieved that goal. I’m planning to keep at it though
- Are the names of the characters in your novels significant? I like to have meaning to the names I choose, but for the most part it’s about making it sound right, fit the personality.
- What is the single biggest challenge of creating the settings in your novels? Getting all the details right. I find myself getting too caught in getting every detail perfect, usually this will actually get me completely blocked and I’ll have to start over.
- What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard? To get an editor. If you can find an editor that you trust then your battle is half done.
- Book Title: Rules of Ascension, Chronicles of Estoria Series, Book 2
- Author: Suzy Knight
- Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
- Publisher: Hartwood Publishing
- Length: 126 pages
- Release Date: 24 September, 2014
Book purchase link: Amazon
BlurbAs a child, Lady Elsabeth Durnfir dreamed of marrying a prince, but after seeing her elder sister’s personality make a complete 180 degree turn after her engagement to Crown Prince Henry of Estoria is announced, Elsabeth has traded in her childish hopes of a fairytale wedding for the equally unlikely hope of inheriting Durnfir Manor and the surrounding land. Life at court is not something she is interested in, or good at, but in order to help prepare for her sister Alicia’s wedding, Elsabeth must live at court for an entire year. As well as trying to fit in at court while living up to her sister’s reputation, Elsabeth has a secret to keep. But, court is full of secrets that are all about to come to light. How will Elsabeth survive court without destroying her family’s reputation—and how can she get Prince Frederick, the renowned rake, to stop teasing her?
Review: Rules of Ascension, Book 2 Chronicles of Estoria
Once upon a time, my mother brought home a huge book of fairy tales. No, seriously– it was about two feet square, so big I could only look at its incredible full page illustrations when it was spread out on the floor. At first I adored it, but after (many, many) reads, I realized that the pictures made me uncomfortable for two reasons.
First, according to those gorgeous paintings, fairy tale princesses were wimps who needed rescuing, and their siblings were pretty much shits. Especially sisters. I’m thinking Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Toads and Diamonds—the list just goes on and on. But I was one of ten siblings. And (although I was pretty sure my parents liked me best) I liked my brothers and sisters. A lot. That’s just how families work.
Second, of course, I also wanted to be a hero princess who saves the day—and still gets a tiara—instead of the swooning princess who needed rescuing.
In her YA series, Chronicles of Estonia, Suzy Knight nails both of my childhood fairy tale issues. In both Love and War, and its prequel, Rules of Ascension, the narrative flows around the relationship between sisters. All of the fairy tale trappings are there, of course. You’ve got your castles, handsome princes, evil villains, balls, and gorgeous dresses. But in both cases, the central story revolves around a pair of sisters.
In Rules of Ascension, the naïve young Elsabeth fears that the big sister she loves is gone forever when Alicia becomes engaged to the Crown Prince of Estoria. Even worse, Elsabeth is forced to leave her home to spend a year at Court in preparation for her sister’s wedding. Their relationship deteriorates from further pressures of court intrigue and the strain of family secrets.
In Love and War, twin princesses Amelia and Sophia have been training all their lives for the throne only one of them can occupy. Everyone assumes that will be Sophia, so both are stunned when they learn that it is Amelia who is to marry a prince and assume the throne, while Sophia is to wed a Duke’s son.
In each case, as the sisters’ shattered relationship is played out against the backdrop of politics, intrigue, and betrayal, their choices lead to injury and death for those they love, and even to the fall of their kingdom. But what separates their stories from the standard fairy tale is that these are three-dimensional young women who make choices based on their experience and the information they have at that time, even as they plunge themselves and those around them into disaster. That lack of evil intent gives a depth to each sister that leads to hope for resolution, if not absolution, for their futures.
I find it interesting that many of the modern fairy tale adaptations from Ever After to Tangled have at least paid lip service to making the heroines more kickass. But until Frozen, very few have addressed the evil sister (or stepsister) trope. Just as Frozen is about sisterly relationships that survive the appearance of deadly intentions, so the relationships in both Love and War and Rules of Ascension face the challenge of actions that appear to be motivated by greed, envy, or betrayal.
And these books are fun, fast reads. The sisters get to have adventures, make mistakes, suffer, fall in love, and yes…kick some ass. Secondary characters are well-rounded and entertaining. The plots are beautifully paced with plenty of action and charming (if not explicit) romance. I’d give them each four stars and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to young teens who want stories of kickass princesses. And their sisters.**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
The high table had never been so full. The king and queen sat in the center, as always, with Georgiana on the queen’s left and Henry on the king’s right. However, Alicia was in Frederick’s normal place at Henry’s side, leaving Frederick no choice but to sit between Elsabeth and Georgiana, not willing to subject one as innocent as Elsabeth to Georgiana’s stern gaze of disapproval.
Food was served within moments of him sitting down; the kitchen had pulled out all the stops tonight. Frederick watched as his plate became laden with thick cuts of roast beef; golden, crispy potatoes, and thick gravy. The servants knew his habits well, giving him only the smallest helping of greens but loading him with still-warm rolls of bread and the thickest of the beef slices they had.
Not long after Frederick demolished his first roll, the king called for a toast to the happy couple. This was a precedent that would set the theme for the evening, for every few minutes there was yet another toast. Frederick sipped at his wine, sometimes only pretending to drink, knowing the evening meal was going to be long the toasts were not likely to stop, and he hadn’t quite recovered his head from the night before. However, after the fourth or fifth toast, he noticed Elsabeth swaying a little in her chair as a servant dashed forward to refill her wine goblet. The flush in her cheeks confirmed his suspicions as another lord stood to toast the couple. The prince leaned in to Elsabeth and whispered in her ear. “Pace yourself, sip the wine or simply pretend to drink. If you get too drunk, you’ll fall out of your chair, and then what would Lissy say?”
Elsabeth hiccupped, her big blue eyes staring at him from under her dark, long lashes. Seeming to have to concentrate on her motions, she nodded and put the cup down, glaring at it suspiciously. A smile tugged at the prince’s lips as he watched her frowning at her cup as though the cup itself were to blame for her inebriation.
Georgiana leaned past Frederick to glower at the young woman. “Is she drunk?” she hissed, eyebrows knitted tightly with judgment. Frederick felt that same knot in his stomach that he had felt earlier when Elsabeth had floundered under the queen’s questioning. It was almost a protective feeling, which didn’t make sense, as he didn’t know her at all. Besides, I never go after innocents—I only ever pursue women who understand that I’m not promising anything.
Nonetheless, he turned in his chair and rested his chin on his hand, careful to position his elbow quite obviously on the table, blocking Georgiana’s view. His distraction worked. “Get your elbow off of the table at once! Are you a heathen?” Georgiana’s whisper could cleave wood, the tone was so sharp. With a flash, she hit Frederick’s elbow with the bottom of her fork, causing him to curse and rub at the offending body part.
“Jeez, Georgiana. Is there really a need to turn to violence?”
“It’s all you men seem to understand.” She sniffed and turned away, focusing on her own meal once more.
New to the castle, the servants played it safe by putting a little of everything on Elsabeth’s plate. But, Frederick noticed her request second helpings of everything except the gravy. If the way she gazed longingly at the steaming tureen was anything to go by, he suspected her refusal of the gravy was in accordance with her wish to lessen the chance of spilling on herself.
Frederick sighed and sat back in his chair, watching Elsabeth play with the food on her plate. He felt himself smiling again as he watched her keep dropping her potatoes, her coordination suffering greatly from the amount of alcohol she consumed. There was something endearing about her, but it’s not like he could bed his future sister-in-law to get her out of his system.
“Will you tell me something?” he asked, leaning forward to take her fork from her slack grip. She pouted at him, following the fork with her gaze.
“Sure,” she mumbled, watching as he speared a golden potato and waved it tauntingly before her.
“Why were you so floundered by my mother’s question? Surely there are things you enjoy doing?”
“Of course,” sighed Elsabeth, gaze still focused on the potato he held out. “But I promised Alicia I wouldn’t tell about the embroidery and nothing else I do is very ladylike.”
“What do you mean by ‘not very ladylike’?” He fed her the potato and speared another.
“Well, I teach the village children to read, and in return they teach me dancing. Alicia says I shouldn’t dance like a commoner. I like to walk through the gardens while the dew is fresh, but it ruins my dresses. I don’t much care for fashion, but I like sewing.” She opened her mouth patiently, expecting a reward for her answer. He obliged, holding out the second potato. Spearing a third, he twirled it while he contemplated his next question.
“Why can’t you tell anyone about your embroidery? That’s a very ladylike hobby. You must have seen how much my mother enjoyed the piece Lady Alicia made.”
Elsabeth shook her head and wobbled slightly in the chair. “I have a secret. Lissy made me promise.”
“I won’t tell anyone, I promise,” he whispered, leaning closer and teasing her with the potato, touching it to her lips and pulling it away before she could bite. A swipe of her tongue across her lips almost made him forget why he was trying to get information.
With a moan, Elsabeth nodded. “Okay, but you can’t tell anyone! Lissy can’t sew at all, so I can’t tell anyone that I can, or they might notice that my work is identical to the work that Lissy claimed as her own.” With a triumphant grin, she leaned forward and snatched the bite of potato, chewing happily.
Frederick sat back in his chair, watching Elsabeth as she reclaimed her fork and enthusiastically attacked her vegetables. Why would Alicia lie about that? It’s not as though Henry would care if she were able to sew or not. Yet she made her sister promise to keep it a secret? Frederick didn’t think Elsabeth was lying, but it gave him something to think about. He knew how the court worked, a skill with embroidery got you close to the queen—could Alicia have planned it all in order to get herself close to Henry? He shook his head clear of such thoughts. Henry is cautious, and Georgiana is like a hawk. There’s no way anyone would be able to trick their way into the royal family.
He focused on Elsabeth once more, smiling as he watched her eating with such exuberance. She seemed completely at ease, now that her inhibitions had melted away. It was hard not to laugh at her disastrous attempts to feed herself, her coordination having suffered greatly, but he didn’t think he could feed her again. Not if she was going to moan in pleasure with every bite.
When the meal was finished, it was time to dance. Queen Charlotte and King George followed Lady Alicia and Crown Prince Henry out onto the floor. Georgiana had disappeared again, which left Elsabeth with Frederick. He helped her out of her chair, trying not to let others notice how heavily she leaned on him. At least she isn’t tripping over her dress anymore. The music started before they reached the floor, where the tables had been pushed aside to make a dancing area. Other couples joined the royal family, giving Frederick the chance to pull her in closer than was appropriate. Only because I need to be able to hold her upright, that’s all there is to it, he told himself, ignoring the curious glance Henry shot across the room.
Their fingers were entwined and his other hand rested on her lower back, his thumb gently rubbing small patterns. He was careful to move slowly and not to turn her too often, but he couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face as he watched her bite her lip in concentration. “Are you doubting me again, Ellie?” he whispered, making her head snap up. She glared at him.
“My name is Elsabeth. And I’ve never once doubted you, so there.” She stuck her tongue out at him, and he struggled to quiet his laughter. He tugged her closer so her hips were pressed against his.
“I’m sorry, Elsabeth, I’m glad to be thought of so highly by such a discerning young lady.” She shivered and looked up, her eyelids fluttering with the effort to keep them open.
“Are you teasing me?” she said, her head tilted to one side like a curious puppy.
He smiled, his gaze locking with hers. “Never.”
For this week’s contest, I asked Suzy to tell us about her favorite tattoo. Please enter your guess about which one is true in comments below for a chance to win a free copy of Rules of Ascension. (Winners will be announced next Thursday, September 18)
- The word “fighting” in Korean on my wrist, it means to keep trying and not give up hope, but it can also mean good luck and do your best!
- The symbol from the anime Fairy Tail at the top of my thigh
- The date I adopted Panda along my rib cage over my heart.
And don’t forget—there’s still time to win Emily Taylor’s contest for two copies of A Soul to Take