Cassandra Rose Clark is joining us today to talk about her novel, The Beholden. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Orphaned as young women, Celestia and Izara De Malena find themselves land rich but destitute, with only a failing rainforest acreage, Celestia’s perfect manners, and Izara’s nascent magic to their aristocratic names. With the last of their money running out, they enact a dangerous plan—using a spell she doesn’t fully understand, Izara summons the Lady of the Seraphine and demands a favor: a husband for Celestia, one rich enough to enable the De Malena sisters to keep their land. But a favor from the river goddess always comes at a cost . . .
Now, five years later, rumors of war and disease are spreading, Celestia’s husband has been called away on a secret mission for the Emperor, and the Lady of the Seraphine is back to collect her due. Izara will be forced to leave the academy where she has been studying to become a mage; Celestia will be pulled from her now-flourishing farm while newly pregnant with her first child. Together, they must repay their debt to the Lady—embarking on a mission that will put them on a collision course with Celestia’s husband, the Emperor, and a god even more powerful than the Lady of the Seraphine.
Gorgeous, compelling, and utterly captivating, The Beholden follows Celestia and Izara as they journey from the lush rainforest to a frozen desert on an impossible quest to find a god who doesn’t want to be found and prevent the end of the world.
What’s Cassandra’s favorite bit?
CASSANDRA ROSE CLARKE
My latest book, the Beholden, is, at it’s core, a classic quest narrative. I love writing quest narratives. First of all, the plot is built into the structure, so that means less time fiddling around with the question of What’s Going to Happen (my natural inclination as a writer is to have the characters wander plotlessly around for 100,000+ words whilst emanating vibes). But quest narratives also allow me to indulge in the fantasy writer’s disease, worldbuilding.
With a quest narrative, your characters get to explore strange new worlds as part of the plot! They’re hopping from one place to the next! New life! New civilizations! And I, the author, get to create those lives and those civilizations!
Which brings me to my favorite bit. About halfway through The Beholden, the characters visit a hidden city named Bloodvine. (Is my favorite bit kind of a spoilery? I suppose it is, but I’ll try to keep the revelations to a minimum.)
The landscape of The Beholden is a tropical one, built up around a long, winding river that carries my characters on their journey to find an infamous dark lord, Lord Kjari, who may—or may not—be coming back into power. The hidden city in question was built to oppose Kjari’s previous reign of terror five hundred years previous, and it’s been hiding in plain sight ever since his downfall, developing its own unique culture independent of the country in which it sits.
If I can be totally honest, Bloodvine started as just a Rule of Cool thing (I mean, look at at that metal af name). Because how freaking cool would it be to find a thriving lost city with commerce and culture? Unfortunately, as it so often goes with Rule of Cool, it didn’t totally make sense. But as I edited the book, Bloodvine became a chance to indulge in a writerly game of what-if: What if magic blended with technology? Why might such a combination come about? What if a city hid itself for political reasons five hundred years ago, then couldn’t undo those protections—and what if it didn’t just whither away? What if it adapted?
The other reason I love this particular bit is that it really highlights one of the book’s viewpoint characters, the scholar-mage Izara. She is, to use the parlance of our times, a nerd. When our adventuring party comes into Bloodvine, Izara is met with a whole new type of magic, one she’s never encountered before, and she does want any respectable nerd would do, which is flip the heck out. Izara is often overshadowed by her more aristocratic sister, but in Bloodvine, she’s finally in a place where her strengths are magnified. And that was a delightful moment to write for a character I think we can all empathize with.
Cassandra Rose Clarke is the author of Star’s End, Our Lady of the Ice, and The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, as well as several novels for young adults. She holds an M.A. in creative writing from The University of Texas at Austin, and attended Clarion West in 2010. Her work has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award, and YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults.