Celia Lake is joining us today to talk about her novel, Illusion of a Boar. Here’s the publisher’s description:
In March of 1944, four magical specialists are brought together at a secret camp for an even more mysterious mission.
Hypatia and Cammie adopted each other as sisters twenty years ago, during their school years, after Cammie’s mother married Hypatia’s older brother. Cammie has been neck deep in signals work since the start of the Second World War, while Hypatia has used her gift for sympathetic magic and materia to support the war effort. All while keeping up the proper standards for ATS girls, of course.
Pulled from similar work in Scotland, Claudio knows the most about what’s needed and about what resources might actually be available. That’s a big problem, but he’s far more worried about his chosen brother, Orion.
Orion’s war had been comparatively simple until six months ago. After an injury invalided him out of active service using his magic to support the front lines in the Mediterranean, he came home to find betrayal. Now he’s figuring out where to begin rebuilding any sense of himself and his place in the world.
None of them have enough information or access to resources for what they’re being asked to do. And they’re doing it in a camp that has no idea what to make of them and that has its own deep secrets.When the challenges keep coming, they have to figure out whether and how they can trust each other and whether their objective is even possible.
Illusion of a Boar takes on the run-up to D-Day inside the magical community of Albion, figuring out what magic could help turn the tides in their favour. It’s about trust, choosing new paths, and just maybe taking a chance on love and romance. The fifth book in the Land Mysteries series, it can be read in any order.
What’s Celia’s favorite bit?
Orion is the stroppiest character I’ve ever written and I love him for it. To be fair, when he first appears on the page in Illusion of a Boar in March of 1944, he’s had a horrible year.
Orion was born and shaped for fighting, expert in martial magics as well as protective ones. Growing up in Albion (the magical community of Great Britain) in the aftermath of the Great War, he saw all the ways that war destroys. But when the Second World War began, he threw himself into fighting. He was brilliant, in ways that haven’t often happened in the rest of his life.
Invalided out in1943 after an injury that destroyed half his hand, Orion came home to find betrayal in ways that not only hurt him but continue to baffle him. Adding insult to injury, he’s been told to forget about a goal he’s aimed at his whole life. Orion’s not certain he actually wants what it would mean, but he sure doesn’t want someone else to tell him he can’t. As an autistic man born into the great families of Albion, he knows there are all sorts of political machinations he’s missing, but he’s never sure what to do about it.
Once he’s recovered a bit, he’s assigned to a new mysterious project with no information about what he’s working on until he has arrived. Just four people are supposed to create magical deceptions to support the D-Day invasion, backing up the non-magical deceptions already in motion. And they’re to do it with almost nothing in the way of resources, support, or even suggestions of where to begin.
The good news is that one of the other three people on the project is Claudio; Orion’s best friend, chosen brother, and one of a handful of people Orion trusts to tell him the truth. The bad news is that the other two people are a pair of women – chosen sisters – who make no sense to Orion. Cammie is sharp and fierce and does things with signals work that go too fast for Orion’s grasp. And Hypatia, half-Egyptian, is working with materia and sympathetic magic on a level that he hasn’t seen up close before.
For all Orion is stroppy – and for all he often thinks he’s the dimmest person in the room – he’s learned when to ask for help. In one of my favourite bits of the book, he manages to get away from the secret location he’s working at to do some research, and to see Isembard and Thesan, married professors at the magical school he attended. Both of them are now good friends with decades of teaching experience. Even though Isembard was his particular mentor at Schola, Orion turns to Thesan because she – more than anyone else in his life – understands when he needs more of an explanation, and someone to break down what he’s missing in ways he can do something with. She thinks the same way herself, often enough to know it from the inside.
Thesan and Isembard know him well, in all the comfortable and uncomfortable ways our best people understand us. After letting him enjoy the things he’s good at, giving him the best food rationing will permit, and sharing the small pleasures they can offer, of course they’re also going to ask about what’s bothering him. There are a lot of things Orion’s upset about, but most of all, he doesn’t understand why conversations with Hypatia keep breaking down into screaming arguments.
Thesan is the one who’s able to explain what it’s like for Hypatia – not only a woman, but of Anglo-Egyptian background, with all the social complications that brings. Hypatia’s learned she needs to constantly defend herself and her skills. At first, Orion loses his temper, shouting about how that wasn’t what he was saying, why would she think that? Thesan doesn’t flinch, Isembard doesn’t step in. They just wait, until Orion’s more able to listen. Point by point, Thesan lays out what words Orion could try instead. She convinces him to make an experiment out of it, do it her way a few times, and see what happens.
In many ways, this is the heart of the book for me. Illusion of a Boar is part of a larger arc of books dealing with the magical community of Great Britain during the Second World War. I am at this stage (with an ever increasing number of books out) deep in my own worldbuilding and all of the characters’ interconnections. All of these people have known each other for years, they have layers of support – and opposition – that go back decades. I – and many of my readers – have seen Orion, Claudio, Cammie, and Hypatia as teenagers with the ordinary and extraordinary challenges of school. But this is also a new look at them, as adults, with so many events in their pasts that weren’t yet on the page.
I love tangling in the webs of the ways we interact with the people in our lives and the larger world around us – and in this case, also the land magic of Albion. I adore getting to see how these four are, grown up and in their 30s but still figuring out things that matter about their lives. Playing with two different sets of chosen sibling relationships and everything that means also fascinated me. Seeing all four of them learn how to trust each other, despite differences and a few secrets just makes me smile every time, and hope for a bit more of that magic in my own life. Most of all, I love a chance for neurodiverse characters to have a bit of help understanding what they need so they can thrive, and so can everyone else around them.
Celia Lake writes cosy historical fantasy romances (and the occasional non-romance) set in Albion, the magical community of Great Britain. When not writing, she’s a research librarian, or playing a tabletop roleplaying game or three. Celia lives just outside of Boston, Massachusetts with an increasing number of research books, often serving as a nap spot for her cat. Learn more about her books at https://celialake.com, including content notes and some suggested starting places.(But starting with Illusion of a Boar is just fine!)