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She Is An Avatar Of Fire

Aino Lahteva
Aino Lahteva Author Interview

Sea of Shadows is book two in the Strands of Existence epic fantasy series. What were some new ideas you wanted to introduce in this book that were different from book one?

Well, the whole book is different in tone from the first because it largely deals with the war in the city and not so much Istrae’s personal past and current journey. It also shows more of what the consecrators (the magic casters) are capable of doing in regard to pure power and gives some implication on what fuels their magic. I also wanted to open up the smaller story line that will explore Rime’s affliction down the road and show a softer, more caring side of Riestel.

Istrae continues to be an interesting character. What were some challenges you felt were important to developing her character in this book?

I wanted to show both acts of selfishness and kindness because she isn’t a “good” character nor is she an “evil” one. In the stagnant world, she is an avatar of fire (change) so whatever she gets involved in will eventually cause rippless in the world that will result in the destruction of something. She has to be selfish enough to sometimes do bad things on a whim and kind enough to do good things when she considers her options. Also, at the beginning of the book, I wanted to show that finding out that she is in fact a construct, a homunculus of sorts, more than a real human sort of paralyzed her in an existential crisis / depression which I suppose is a bit of a sour note to start the book on but I felt it was only right to show how deeply it affected her and to illustrate with it that she can carry heavy burdens and not break. She may feel down, angry, dissappointed and even detached from the world but she will eventually find that something to keep her going forward.

What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer with this book?

To try and make the fight scenes somewhat realistic even with the magic. I, personally, dislike when everything is just “smash and go” in battles and war so I wanted to make the characters use a wide repertoire of things to solve issues: threats, intimidation, bribery, pincer attacks, flanks, decoys etc. So even though there are some straight forward battles, there is usually some description of tactic too when Rime or his guard is around.

What can readers expect in book three of your Strands of Existence series?

A return to the style and feel of the first book, though the tone will stay considerably darker. One very significant detail from book one will come into play. It’s something I suspect not many will have paid much attention to, so I’m looking forward to hearing some of the reactions from beta readers once I get that far. The third book will reveal more on the actual three-fold structure of the world (light world, “real” world, heavy world and the pocket planes in between). The next book will also further increase and deepen Riestel’s (Istrae’s counter force) part as Istrae will try to help him recover his daughter (or what’s left of her). There will also be scenes where Rime and Riestel interact a bit more which I think is fun dynamic to bring out as they deeply dislike each other but also very much respect each other. Also, a new race (the arochs) will be introduced in the later chapters to set up some things in the fourth and last book.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

How many souls is a crown worth?
Parts of Istrae’s past are now known to her but not all her deeds. How will the knowledge shape her future amidst the struggle for dominance over the city? Rime stands by her and Governor Laukas unwavering, though something worrying is showing through the cracks. Riestel seems to have calmed after his meltdown and is taking a well-earned break from acting like a colossal jerk which may be more unnerving than the usual routine. The city might soon be a battleground. What will be left for the winning side after the dust settles?

Sea of Shadows is the second book in a fresh epic fantasy series Strands of Existence with tones of adventure and a splash of romance. A new world with its own laws, intuitive magic, and religion.

Compared to the first book, Island Girl, in the SoE series, the second book is somewhat darker and revolves partly around war which does not necessarily spare men or animals.

Strands of Existence 2

Strands of Existence 2: Sea of Shadows by [Aino Lahteva]

Strands of Existence 2: Sea of Shadows by Aino Lahteva follows Istrae, a woman who is a reincarnation of a women who set out to change herself in order to rule properly. Istrae knows some of the past but there is still much more to learn as she figures out who she is in the middle of a war. Sea of Shadows is the second book in the Strands of Existence series and is a unique epic fantasy story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Sea of Shadows is a slow burn type of story, or at least it felt like that to me because it took be a bit to get into, I think because the novel feels different from book one in the Strands of Existence series. Istrae continues to be our main character, and continues to be as compelling and fun to follow as before. I was intrigued by Istrae, at least after she stopped being so apathetic about everything. It is hard to cheer for someone who just does not care, but I think that is the point here and it is executed so well that it had me bubbling, and few books do that.

The city is split into districts, and they are big, and it was interesting to see how war affected them. The world continues to develop in this story and I really enjoyed the detailed world being built in this series.

While I’m not a 100% sure how the magic system works, it is unique and captivating, but still has enough familiarity that I can follow along and get behind it. I loved how grounded it felt, taking this out of the realm of fairy tale fantasy and making it feel much more authentic, or at least as authentic as ‘magic’ can get.

I was intrigued by how the action played out in the fight for the city and was rooting for Istrae and her side. I was disappointed that the book ended where it did. But that is only because I want to see what happens next and how Istrae is going to fix the world.

Strands of Existence 2: Sea of Shadows has unique magic and city districts that make this epic sword and sorcery fantasy story feel distinct and interesting. I highly recommend reading book one in the series first, as there is a lot of great story you will be missing if you don’t.

Pages: 394 | ASIN: B08VLLHXQZ

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Her Hunger to Belong

Aino Lahteva
Aino Lahteva Author Interview

Strands of Existence follows a woman who leaves her home and must piece together her memories while navigating a new world. What was the inspiration for the setup to this riveting story? 

These sorts of questions are difficult for me as I’m very much a “pantser” when it comes to characters and plot. I see most things in my head in movie form. It always starts with the main character’s image and name. After some prodding, they start to reveal a little more about their nature which will, in turn, help me to make them into a more believable person and get a feel whether the story is going to have a happy or sad ending, or something in-between. I have conversations with them, or sometimes as them, trying to reason their positions on moral issues (which I’m sure amuses my neighbors as they see me prattling to myself in the garden).

Istrae is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

I wanted to illuminate her hunger to belong and know more about herself and explore how much she would be willing to go through for such revelations. To me, she is a character that can become a hero or a villain in the course of the story, and I want the reader to know her intimately so her decisions make sense intuitively when we get to some darker issues later on in the series.

What were some themes that you wanted to focus on in this book?

Finding oneself, finding a place to belong, someone to belong to, and how much of all that is up to the person. The battle between wanting something and knowing that to get it you have to deprive someone else of something (which is probably an overarching theme for the series starting with smaller personal issues at first and progressing to a larger scale later on).

This is book one in your Strands of Existence series. What can readers expect in book two? 

Book 2 (working title “Sea of Shadows”) will open up new parts of the city and the natural laws of the magic system more. We’ll dive a little into the world of Istrae’s love interest as Rime’s Guard with the army behind him steps into the light. Much of the book will focus on events just leading up to and happening during the civil war within the city. Hopefully, the next book will be out in 2021 either in late spring or early autumn.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

As an opportunist, Istrae yearns to get off her home island and visit Kerth, the City of Light and Abundance. Her preferred method of travel, however, didn’t include drowning. And she didn’t expect the city to be so dirty. Her memories are as broken as her body. She begins to piece them together with the help of a spirit bound to a statue and an ambitious army captain called Rime she enjoys teasing. While Rime guides Istrae in her new life, it becomes evident the rigid rules of society and the city’s Temple do not welcome those who seek to shake the established rules, which is something Istrae is incapable of resisting.

The *new linguistically revised* version of the novel. Island Girl is the first book in a fresh epic fantasy series Strands of Existence with tones of adventure and a splash of romance. A whole new world with it’s own laws, intuitive magic, and religion.

Strands of Existence 1: Island Girl

Strands of Existence 1: Island Girl by [Aino Lahteva]

Strands of Existence: Island Girl follows a woman who is desperate to leave her home. Her home is an island that is feeling less like home and more like a prison. Her destination is the City of Light and Abundance. A city name that perfectly reflects her mental image of it. When her journey to the city ends in disaster, she arrives with scattered memories, and the city is not what she thought it would be. Can she learn the rules of her new life without attracting unwanted attention?

Author Aino Lahteva has created a detailed world that is grounded in reality, even though it is filled with magic and religion. This is a character driven fantasy story, with our protagonist Istrae, going through a slow evolution throughout the book that is consistently intriguing. She goes from almost marrying a man out of necessity and turns into a strong woman that embraces her destiny with vigor. The world in which this story exists always seems like there is deeper lore behind everything, and we’re only scratching the surface of a much larger story. Magic and religion is seamlessly blended into the world and the story in a unique way that elevates this book from a simple fantasy story and into an epic fantasy novel. While I heartily enjoyed the story I felt like the ending was not as fulfilling as I wanted it to be. This leads me to yearn for a follow up book, but I would have enjoyed a more complete ending.

Strands of Existence: Island Girl is a different type of fantasy story that breaks the mold of the epic fantasy genre in an entertaining way. I recommend this book to sword and sorcery fans looking for some romance added to the mix of a fantasy story that doesn’t overwhelm you with specifics and focuses instead on delivering human drama that is easily enjoyed.

Pages: 261 | ASIN: B08GS8XNQ6

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