Friday, May 17, 2013

"Grail of the Summer Stars"

Freda Warrington, who was born in and lives in Leicestershire, England, is the author of twenty novels. The recently released Grail of the Summer Stars is her third Aetherial Tales novel, her first series to be published in the United States. The first, Elfland, was named Best Fantasy of the Year by RT Book Reviews.

Warrington applied the Page 69 Test to Grail of the Summer Stars and reported the following:
The ‘Page 69’ test is such fun – I’ve applied it before (to Elfland) and it worked out quite nicely, showing a pivotal scene in the protagonist’s life. Of course, every page should do this but it won’t always be the scene the author would have chosen to showcase! So I’m pleased to find that page 69 of Grail of the Summer Stars – my third Aetherial Tale for Tor – contains a crucial encounter for my character Rufus.

Rufus is an age-old Aetherial (a non-human, elf-like-but-not race who live in the contemporary world) from an ancient civilisation known as the Felynx, and he's a bit of a “baddie”. He loves bringing mischief and mayhem to those around him, with the odd bit of genocide thrown in. However, believing his brother Mistangamesh to be dead (see Midsummer Night), he’s embarked on a grief-stricken orgy of self-destruction which has led him to the depths of evil – illegal arms-trading. Somewhere in the wilds of the Pakistan/ Afghanistan border, he has lost his Jeep in an earthquake and found his way to the nearest town, where he meets a seismologist calling herself Dr Orla Connelly. Rufus strongly suspects Orla of being his long-lost sister Aurata, with whom he once had an incestuous relationship. After a long day spent digging survivors out of the rubble, they are resting in Orla’s tent, playing a game of “Who’s going to admit it first?”
The ground began to tremble with a prolonged aftershock.

“Now one of us should make a joke about the earth moving,” said Rufus.

“The earthquake is due to faulting within the lithosphere of the subducted Arabian Plate as it grinds beneath the convergent plate boundaries,” she murmured.

“I’m not sure that’s funny, but the way you say it sounds incredibly sexy.”

“Oh, it is.” She smiled, more with her eyes than her mouth.

They lay in silence, waiting for the movement to subside. Orla stared upward, as if absorbing every nuance. He still couldn’t believe that she’d become a scientist, a doctor, part of a team. That was true human camouflage. He’d never troubled to learn anything in particular, still less to attend a university or give any credence to human qualifications. She’d evolved, and he felt oddly inadequate. But, after all this time, who wouldn’t change? Even the ancient, timeless Felynx. The question was not whether they’d changed, but how much the changes actually mattered?

Now they were engaged in a strange dance around each other, both secretly knowing the truth but daring the other one to speak first.

“One of us should begin,” said Orla. “What are you thinking?”

Finally Rufus said, “I used to dream about you. You were calling to me from some kind of limbo with grey walls. Nine-tenths of me was sure you perished in Azantios, but the last tenth insisted that you must still exist . . . somewhere.”

He heard her release a small breath of exasperation. “Who do you think I am? Rufus, we both know, so why can’t we say it aloud?”

“It might break the magic,” he said softly.

Her eyes narrowed, irresistibly seductive. “Magic? Rufus, please. Is it gun-selling that’s turned you so romantic?”

“All right.” He paused. “It’s gentlemanly to go first, but I hesitate because I’ve made grave mistakes in the past. I was convinced I recognized someone, so convinced that I couldn’t accept I was monstrously wrong. Now I have the same feeling about you, but I don’t trust it.”

“This time, you probably should trust yourself, Rufus. I have been calling you. Gods, it took you long enough to hear me!”

“Calling . . .?” He stared into the deep fire of her eyes. “Tell me your real name. I’ve already told you mine.”

“No. You must say it; then I’ll tell you if you’re right.”

“This is turning into a game.”

“No game.” She trailed a finger from his shoulder to his elbow. Her voice was honey. “This is more important than you can imagine.”

Grinning, he leaned off the mattress and picked up her notebook and pen lying nearby. “All right, I’m going to write your true name on a piece of paper. Then you say it out loud, and we’ll see if it matches what I’ve written.”
While Rufus isn’t the main protagonist – that role is shared by a new character, Stevie, and the supposedly dead Mistangamesh – he is a definite antagonist, a major player crucial to the plot. Was Rufus responsible for attacking Stevie and stealing an enigmatic painting from her? And why has the artist – her old flame Daniel – gone missing? The story takes Stevie and Mist from an industrial museum in Birmingham (UK), to the village of Cloudcroft (where they seek help from characters we met in Elfland) and on a weird and terrifying journey through the Otherworld to the colourful deserts of Nevada, as they try to unravel a tangle of unearthly mysteries. Each Aetherial Tale can be read on its own, but it's nice if you read all three because there's a big background arc that resolves in Grail.
Learn more about the book and author at Freda Warrington's website, blog, and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Elfland.

The Page 69 Test: Midsummer Night.

My Book, The Movie: Midsummer Night.

Writers Read: Freda Warrington.

--Marshal Zeringue