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Dylan Madeley
Dylan Madeley Author Interview

Alathea: Goddess & Empress follows a young princess coming of age in a dangerous kingdom that shapes who she becomes. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?

The first works in which Alathea appeared were the three books I had written prior, the Gift-Knight trilogy. Alathea is barely in the first book of that series but she’s the primary antagonist. She has goals and an interesting way of going about them, and quite the aesthetic as well. I once had a reviewer suggest that they were more interested in Alathea because Alathea is a “stronger character”, more effective at getting things done than her rival Chandra. While I believe this reviewer might not have been interested in ethics at all, I must thank them for reminding me that compelling antagonists are often the protagonists of their own story and there are always readers who love them. This novel is the story that I decided to give Alathea, where she certainly is the protagonist and has some sympathetic goals.

I appreciated the slow development and subtle evolution of Alathea’s character. What were some obstacles you felt were important to developing her character?

My values permeate my works, so representing them well can be a challenge. I wasn’t about to write a story where it turns out Alathea was secretly the one you should have cheered for in the Gift-Knight trilogy all along, so I needed the reader to become invested in her world, what happens to it, what happens to her, and what she does to it, without writing a lawful good character who would make more dedicated readers wonder what went wrong between this and the Gift-Knight trilogy. I felt that I needed to show the many complicated things that can go wrong with parenting, especially in the halls of brutally acquired imperial power, without making it look like pure ineptitude or lack of effort. I didn’t want to show many characters who are being evil for fun, but I didn’t want to rule out the existence of such. As a writer, finding and maintaining this balanced perspective was an obstacle. Another challenge was the passage of time and how I express it, because Alathea does plenty of growing up in this story, yet if she began the story too young then it might seem she’s growing up unrealistically fast. I needed to be careful about anything I said that marked the passage of time, such as rainy versus dry seasons. I needed to give Alathea noble goals, then show you how difficult it is for her to live up to them when the tools she’s given are brutal ones, and when she’s not aware of any precedent in her culture or her world for successfully accomplishing such goals.

The world you’ve created for this story is intricate and intriguing. What were some sources that informed the worlds development?

For naming conventions, clothing and aesthetics, I looked to Ancient Rome and Greece. All the large port settlements in my created world feature different peoples and cultures, and Port Selumer is no different; I show people with different backgrounds living side by side, because one thing empires do is expand to forcibly encompass many lands and cultures that used to be independently governing. For the clans north of the empire, I once again looked to Ancient Rome and their attitude toward people who lived north of them: the Gauls, the Celts, people living in a large swathe of land labelled “Germania” by Ancient Romans, also the Norse. I didn’t go into such depth with my depiction of Einar’s people, but I did highlight the tension between these peoples and the empire south of them, the deal-making, the imperial game of playing some clans against others. Also, the tiered design of Port Selumer is inspired by port settlements in the Mediterranean such as Santorini, and any place where the urban geography is a bit vertical and descending toward the water. This is also seen in famous fantasy capitals like Minas Tirith. The idea of class divisions based on topographic elevation is probably not new but I didn’t look at a specific example when I decided to do that.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My current project is getting through this pandemic with my parents in as safe a way as possible. I have stories that I can pursue, but I can’t yet predict which one I will choose. The safest guess is another story within the same world that contains Kensrik, Port Selumer, Derek, Chandra, and their respective family histories, because I would only have to do local world-building instead of arranging an entire continent. I have a couple of options if I go that route. I would love to write something that’s a complete departure from this, just to know that I could.

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Alathea was raised to rule, but the benevolent and deranged forces that hope to prepare her for the throne may create a monster. She’s torn between her father’s reign of empty order through terror and violence, and a magical path that could be completely illusory. She can’t live one exclusive of the other, so she lives both.

Her father is bent on protecting his daughter from the same fanatics who killed her mother, but far too often his desire for revenge takes him away from her. His yearning to raise a strong and steadfast heir compromises what little time they spend together.

Her tutor intends to help her be better than her father, more sensible and knowledgeable, in control of her own story and the narrative of the empire just as her mother had been. But he isn’t raising her alone and can’t predict how his teachings will be used.

Her nurse subtly coaxes her toward a path of faith and enlightenment according to the nurse’s secret masters, believing that Alathea can be saved and in turn save the empire. But the Seers have grim plans that they would never reveal to their minion.

This tragic story touches on loss, the insatiable hunger for control, the way people live stories and narratives, the innocence and danger of dreams, the follies of love, the deep hatred and rage dwelling within people, and the dangers of using conquest to strive for peace.

Embattled by all the forces hoping to shape her to their whim, Alathea takes a piece of everything they give her and becomes something never before seen in the land. Goddess. Empress. Monster.

Alathea: Goddess & Empress

Alathea: Goddess and Empress by Dylan Madeley is an adventure-filled fantasy novel that is sure to please fans of  epic fantasy like the Game of Thrones. The name of Madeley’s novel intrigued me from the very beginning, and the novel kept me engaged through the closing pages with its fast-paced chapters and unexpected plot twists. Reading this in 2020 when many of us are stuck at home with few options for escape, it was certainly a treat for me to follow the adventures of the characters in Alathea: Goddess and Empress across the Coast Empire and through the streets of Port Selumer.

The novel centers on its namesake, Alathea, who is the young heir to the Coast throne. Alathea’s age is vague, she is not a girl although net yet a woman. Alathea is educated in the ways of the world by her sage tutor, Rheb, yet she has much to learn if she seeks to assume control of the throne. Alathea’s father, Emperor Maximian, is an abrasive character who frequently lets his rage get the better of him when dealing with both friend and foe. As the course of events unfolds, Alathea finds herself taking on the responsibilities of the throne and defending her kingdom from enemies at many angles who wish to usurp her power. With the support of Rheb and Einar, a young warrior from a northern clan, Alathea takes on new powers, both earthly and mythical.

With Alathea: Goddess and Empress, Madeley has created a novel that you can hardly put down due to the excitement and action contained within its 300-odd pages. I frequently found myself staying up past my bedtime to finish a chapter to see how Rheb and Alathea triumphed over their challenges, and Madeley does a good job of keeping the plot fresh and surprising. The novel struggled, though, with its main character: Alathea is not particularly likeable, and I frequently found myself feeling annoyed with her actions and her gratuitous self-indulgence. I struggled to relate to her emotions and felt she was a bit too unsympathetic of a character to be a protagonist for whom I would want to cheer. Thankfully, Alathea is surrounded with good people, and Rheb and Einar are strong supporting characters. Rheb was perhaps my favorite character, and I would love to read a novel by Madeley about his development and experiences. His vast knowledge and mysterious aura really appealed to me, and every chapter from his perspective was a delight. Madeley also excels in his descriptions of hand-to-hand combat – these scenes truly blew me away with their detail and expertise!

Alathea: Goddess and Empress is creative and engaging, with several very positive supporting characters. The world that Madeley has created in the Coast empire is one worth exploring and I hope for future installments in this literary world.

Pages: 288 | ASIN: B085LDXDZX

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