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A Little Revenge

Etched in Fire is about a 14 year old girl that is caught in the middle of a war and is forced to leave her home. Maelen is an intriguing young girl, what was your inspiration for her character and development through the story?

I originally conceived of Maelen as a very quirky adult character, one who had been through so much that she had stopped having the ability to feel fear. But as I worked on that character, I started to wonder exactly how she had gotten that way, and to theorize about what sorts of experiences might create the kind of adult I was envisioning. Since a wartime situation is one which can produce some of the most intense trauma, I decided to set her in that sort of a situation. Her development was a bit of a tightrope between keeping the intensity of her emotions while making sure she was still sympathetic. And because, realistically, no matter how talented she is, a fourteen-year-old isn’t likely to change the course of an entire war, I had to figure out what she could do to maintain an active role in the story.

I enjoyed the intricate detail of the bustling city of Kaelennar. Are there some cities, fictional or non, that inspired the creation of this Kaelennar?

First, I have to say that the city was initially created by a friend, who gave me permission to use it as my setting. This iteration of it, however, is entirely my own. Kaelennar is a cosmopolitan city in a semi-medieval setting, but it’s also in a fantasy world, and as a result, doesn’t have the same limitations as a medieval setting in our own world. This means it can be a mix of medieval and modern sensibilities. It’s also absolutely huge by medieval standards, though not impossibly so. That gives it the potential to have a great diversity of peoples and cultures represented. In real life, living in a university town, there is a sense that one could potentially run into almost anyone, and there are a tremendous number of cultures, races, religions, and sheer eccentricities represented. It’s not at all unusual to see someone decorated with multiple piercings and tattoos walking down the street with someone else dressed in business casual and perfectly coiffed hair, and a third person with old jeans and a superhero t-shirt. It’s also not unusual to run into people from places as widely spread as China, the Philippines, and Nigeria. Kaelennar has more than a touch of that mix of peoples and interaction of cultures.

After the city is taken over, Maelen is torn between personal revenge and saving her people. How did you balance these competing drives?

Again, it’s a matter of trying to keep Maelen a sympathetic character. She’s a very fierce person, and that’s a core element of her character, but when it comes right down to it, people matter more to her than principle. That doesn’t mean she would be averse to a little revenge, just that she has her priorities straight. The experiences she has during the war change her dramatically, but she began life with a strong, loving family, and that’s one of the things that helps to keep her grounded. Having something important to do also keeps her going.  Were she completely on her own, she might have taken a very different path.

Etched in Fire has some amazing creatures and races that were well developed. What was your favorite creature to create and write for?

The tava-spider was a lot of fun to write; I had to figure out how to make it creepy enough to hit, not just a fear response, but a revulsion response. As humans, we’re wired to react toward something that is unnatural, not simply something that is frightening. It also helped to show what the owl-dwarves were capable of doing and why they were so terrible, so it was a win-win creation as far as I was concerned. My favorite part of the tava-spider in particular were the eyes; when I came up with the idea of clustered eyes that all looked cat-shaped, I had to go with it, considering it creeped me out as well!

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Etched in FireJust as a barge enters Kaelennar, the city is attacked by an army of bloodthirsty esch. To protect fourteen-year-old Maelen Saltbearer, Gannet dresses her as a boy, and they take refuge with another family. Maelen wants to fight—she has some untested magical powers—but instead the children are to flee the city. The occupation of Kaelennar continues, and the children eke out a meager existence, unable to better their lot against the esch . . . until one day Maelen Saltbearer is caught, along with her friends, while smuggling children from the city. Tortured and left for dead, Maelen snaps. Torn between personal revenge and saving her people, Maelen has a decision to make.

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Etched In Fire

Etched in Fire5 StarsFourteen-year old Maelen Saltbearer is finally on her first business trip with her parents who are merchants from the shore. She is old enough to learn more about the family business and has the opportunity to learn hands on while discovering the world outside of her hometown. However, their arrival in the diverse city of Kaelennar takes a turn for the worse and they find themselves in a perilous situation with no escape. With an invasion of magical creatures against the humans and other races that lived in harmony in this bustling city, Maelen learns first thing about survival as well as herself. Nothing in her life could have prepared her for the battles ahead.

From the first paragraph that is rich with vivid detail, readers are drawn into Maelen’s mind as well as her world. No description is left out, which makes it more exciting and more interesting to read. The story is from her point of view and readers feel her impatience of not knowing enough of what is happening in the world that is slowly dying around her. It’s easy to feel as if the reader is right next to Maelen through it all and enduring the joys and hardships she encounters. Each chapter has little teasers as the reader tries to understand more about Maelen and what her destiny or purpose is. She is just an average girl who is smart and driven, but there is something about her that makes her a bit more special. In the story, there are sexual situations and violence, but considering the predicament Maelen and her family are in with a hostile invasion, it is relevant to the plot and suitable for young adults. The story also deals with a variety of themes such as war, dystopian society, racism, and fighting back against corruption without picking up a weapon. Even those characters that come across as physically weak draw on their own strength and talent in order to survive. This fantasy is complete with amazing creatures and races as well as magic and dark powers. It has its share of tyrants and tragedies. Emotional and gripping, it is well written and makes it difficult to put down at the end of the chapter. As Maelen’s life comes to a place where her path must take a turn, the reader easily tries to imagine and predict her next consequence for her actions. She even learns that she cannot anticipate the direction her life will take her no matter how hard she fights it or tries to make a change for the better.

Etched in Fire by Beth Hudson is intense and complex from start to finish. It makes the emotions and fears tangible to the reader and changes them. The journey with Maelen is long and full of moral challenges, but it is a worthy read that will take the reader away to a darker world of its survivors of all ages.

Pages: 544 | ISBN: 9781310614965

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