My Favorite Bit: M.A. Carrick Talks about Labyrinth’s Heart

M.A. Carrisk is joining us today to talk about their novel, Labyrinth’s Heart. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Ren came to Nadežra with a plan. She would pose as the long-lost daughter of the noble house Traementis. She would secure a fortune for herself and her sister. And she would vanish without a backward glance. She ought to have known that in the city of dreams, nothing is ever so simple.

Now, she is Ren, con-artist and thief. But she is also Renata, the celebrated Traementis heir. She is Arenza, the mysterious pattern-reader and political rebel. And she is the Black Rose, a vigilante who fights alongside the legendary Rook.

Even with the help of Grey Serrado and Derossi Vargo, it is too many masks for one person to wear. And as the dark magic the three of them helped unleash builds to storm that could tear the very fabric of the city apart, it’s only a matter of time before one of the masks slips—and everything comes crashing down around them.

What’s their favorite bit?

M.A. Carrick

We will shamelessly admit that our favorite bit of the Rook and Rose trilogy — the bit which truly goes on parade in the final book, Labyrinth’s Heart — is the characters.

Specifically, our trio of main protagonists, Ren, Grey, and Vargo. We admitted in the My Favorite Bit piece for The Liar’s Knot that this series is born out of a tabletop role-playing game run by Alyc, and those characters are the heart of what got carried over when we decided to turn a side story from that game into a trilogy of novels.

The characters, and the relationships between them — because who they are is deeply bound up in how the three of them interact. The whole way through this series, we’ve taken gleeful delight in bouncing them off each other like rubber balls covered in spikes and glue, seeing where they stab each other, where they get attached. All of that reaches its pinnacle here in the third and final book, when the core relationships achieve their final form (cue your favorite video game boss fight imagery here).

A lot of this book is built around those relationships. We can’t say too much without giving spoilers, but one of our mission statements here is to treat different kinds of love as equally significant and valuable. So much of modern storytelling valorizes romantic love above all — and romance is great! We love it, too! But we don’t like the tendency for other kinds of relationships to be relegated to secondary status by comparison. Family (whether it’s of blood or choice), lifelong friendships . . . these things are profoundly important, too. We’re seeing more stories nowadays that acknowledge other kinds of love, and we wanted our trilogy to contribute to that conversation.

To the point where there’s a facet of our worldbuilding we invented entirely to give weight to one key relationship moment we knew would happen in Labyrinth’s Heart. Because one of the ways to convince readers that a connection matters is to make it matter to the society the characters live in: to give it a specific name and ceremony, the way marriage and a wedding name and ritualize a romantic relationship. (Yes, we see those of you raising your hands to comment on the history of marriage as an economic and political alliance between families, not a romantic match between individuals. That’s in here, too — but for the purposes of Our Favorite Bit, we’re more concerned with love.)

Honestly, a huge part of this series is driven by relationships, and not just among our core trio. Yes, there’s intrigue and con artistry and street warfare and gorgeous clothes and duels and colonialism and magic . . . but even our magic is, in the case of one tradition, fundamentally about relationships. Pattern, the magic our heroine Ren practices, is often seen as a system of card-based divination, but the divination runs on an engine of the connections between people. As Ren’s skill with pattern grows, she goes from being able to read the meaning in the cards to being able to see those connections directly — and not only see them, but make and break them. More than one character here gets defeated or saved by the threads that bind them to those around them.

If we’ve managed to spin threads between our readers and our characters, so that you care about them while you’re reading and maybe even after you’ve closed the book, then we’ve done what we set out to do.

(And as for pattern? You can get your own deck here, right now, via our Kickstarter campaign.)


Labyrinth’s Heart book link


Twitter (I refuse to call it “X”): @ma_carrick | @swan_tower/ | @alychelms

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M.A. Carrick is the joint pen name of Marie Brennan (author of the Memoirs of Lady Trent) and Alyc Helms (author of the Adventures of Mr. Mystic). The two met in 2000 on an archaeological dig in Wales and Ireland — including a stint in the town of Carrickmacross — and have built their friendship through two decades of anthropology, writing, and gaming. They live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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