Kayleigh Nicol is joining us today to talk about her novel, Crystal Awakening. Here’s the publisher’s description:
A team of adventurers enters an epic trial of wits, magic, and monsters in this thrilling new fantasy series set within the Arcane Ascension universe.
Parties attempting to claim the treasures of the Tortoise Spire of Dalenos are usually composed of six professional climbers. But following a near-disastrous climb, Team Guiding Star Legacy finds itself two challengers short. With Nieve as the frontline fighter, Sage as the strategist, Lani as the healer, and Emiko as the spellcaster, they need a couple powerful allies to round out the squad.
The first new recruit, Hane, is a fighting and stealth specialist, while the second, Aldis, has quite the talent for teleportation magic. Though their individual reasons for scaling the spire vary—wealth, fame, favor—the team’s shared goal is thus: fight, win, ascend, and repeat. All in the hopes of one day making it to the top, where the goddess awaits to grant them the objects of their deepest desires.
To achieve this goal, they must master escalating levels of fire and ice, dangerous creatures, and confounding illusions. Whether facing a threat to their bodies, their magic, or their minds, each of the climbers accepts the risks. And bending the rules is part of the challenge. Some call this cheating; others call it winning.
But no test is ever straightforward. Because Guiding Star Legacy is being judged, and their next contest is one they aren’t meant to survive. Ascend or fall, the quest is only just beginning.
What’s Kayleigh’s favorite bit?
The Shattered Legacy series is a collaborative project between myself and Andrew Rowe, set within the expanded universe of Andrew’s Arcane Ascension series, so before I can tell you about my favorite bit from my latest novel, I first need to tell you about my favorite bit from Andrew’s works. While there is a lot to love about Andrew’s world, from his characters to his complex magic system, what really caught me up was how much the setting reminded me of a video game—and as someone who even uses a gamified website for my writing, it’s safe to assume that I love all things related to video games!
Before Andrew even invited me to write in his expanded universe, I pictured his setting of Kaldwyn as the map of a role-playing game, and his complex magic system like the class system found in many multiplayer online games. The Soaring Spires were like the dungeons, requiring adventurers to form teams comprised of complimentary skillsets in order to tackle the challenges of combat, traps, and puzzles for a chance of earning treasure, weapons, and armor. I was already asking myself that if this were an actual video game, what area would I choose as my starting zone? What attunement (or, magic power) would I want, if I were able to choose? What spire would I want to take on first? Or would it be better to level up in the Unclaimed Lands for a while before joining any dungeon parties? So when Andrew asked me what I would like to write for his expanded universe, the answer was simple: A classic dungeon-crawl through each of his Soaring Spires!
My favorite part of writing Crystal Awakening was including common video game themes and tropes into the story. Many classic dungeon-crawling games include elements of strategy, tower defense, navigating mazes, solving puzzles, and, of course, combat. Andrew’s setting makes it easy to incorporate all those elements in ways that are challenging for the characters and exciting for readers who may have experienced similar situations in video games. In particular, I enjoyed representing a few common quests that players of role-playing games might encounter, such as gathering specific items, trading sequences, and tower defense. My favorite bit of all is one that makes most experienced gamers groan: the dreaded escort quest.
The thing about escort quests is that there are so many ways to fail: the non-player character being escorted might move excruciatingly slowly, taking up more time than necessary to go from point A to point B. Or, the escort character might go too fast and lose the player entirely, which also results in failure. Sometimes the escort characters are weak or injured, and if they encounter combat, they can die. Other times, the escort character may start fights with more enemies than the player can handle, thus killing the player. And each time an escort quest fails, the only thing to do is start it all over again from the beginning. At times, quests like these can feel tedious and frustrating, causing many experienced players to groan when they encounter one unexpectedly–which is exactly what Hane does when they accidentally trigger an escort quest in Crystal Awakening. I think many gamers will be able to relate to Hane’s silent lament of “Oh no, not an escort quest!” before grudgingly accepting the challenge, and it’s a part that makes me laugh every time I read it.
I hope fellow gamers will be as entertained by reading this story as I was while writing it, and I look forward to hearing my readers’ favorite bits. And for any video game enthusiasts who have yet to read Andrew Rowe’s Arcane Ascension series, I highly recommend it, both as a reader and as a gamer!
After earning her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science at Cal Poly Pomona, followed by years of exhausting (but rewarding!) work with many amazing animals, Kayleigh made the unexpected decision to begin writing fantasy books full time. She stays true to her animal background by loving her real pets, digital pets, and strays, and correcting people on their animal facts. After living in various regions around the United States (the Northeast, the Midwest, California, and Texas) Kayleigh has come to believe that a home is where and what you make it.