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.
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
The Masked Queens Lament finds Althea still trying to expand her empire from the shadows but is forced to come out of hiding to ensure victory. What did you want to accomplish in this last novel that was different from the first two books in the trilogy?
Beyond wrapping up every plotline I had hatched in a manner that I felt the characters deserved, I had a few other things to address. One was to sufficiently show how awful war is even when necessary–a point I’m not sure I drove home thoroughly enough in the previous book of the series. Another was to show human stories from every part of the world that I wanted to focus on, because Alathea’s empire is definitely not a realm of pure evil, and she’s not leading some horde of orcs or goblins. Nor was I going to allow Derek and Chandra to be completely responsible for saving everyone when some people have the opportunity to choose, albeit not easily nor simply, to decide differently. I also enjoyed giving text time to characters who may have been barely used in the previous books or whose motivations had not been adequately explored.
The world building in this novel continues to be superb. What were some sources of inspiration that guided you as you continued to build the world throughout the trilogy?
I’ve done a bit of travel in my life, visiting some of Europe/the UK’s castles and memorably the church structures of Lalibela, Ethiopia, carved directly from the rock with minimal brick and repairs needed after centuries of wear and some seismic activity. I follow aesthetic blogs and also try to learn a bit about the cultures that inspired aesthetics and also first names. The rest is having the map drawn up and trying to define each place in the context of the geography I’ve already given it. I once also got some advice about the realities of having a mountain range rather close to a coastline, as it looks in the southwest of Kensrik. If you’d like to know what I mean, consider the geography of places like Chile or New Zealand. I was inspired to make this mountainous edge of the continent seismically active and mentioned “mountains which belch fire”, the possibility of it raining ash, and the potential sulfurous odor.
When a trilogy comes to an end many readers expect an epic showdown, and you deliver on this point masterfully. How did you envision the final chapters playing out and what changed while writing?
The main challenge was not what the final showdowns would be, because I set most of them up in the previous books and just needed to follow through. A key challenge for me was making sure the last conflict with Derek against enemy forces was not just a repeat of the end of the previous book. In the first draft, it basically was the same, in the shadows of the old Wancyek castle, but once more with feeling! During the second-last revision cycle of The Masked Queen’s Lament, the further I went along in the draft, the more completely I rewrote what was there. By the penultimate chapters I was barely looking at the source material because of how wildly the final draft needed to diverge. Keeping in mind, the whole trilogy was written in first draft before the first book in the series was even finalized. I also needed to propagate every change that needed to come as a result of that. It just had to feel coherent to me, and I’m glad the coherent result worked.
Now that the The Gift-Knight Trilogy is complete, do you intend to expand this world with more books, or are you working on something new?
I have four total prequel manuscripts that don’t focus on Derek or Chandra, or even mention them. I could go and start reworking these, or I could write something completely different. For now, I’m enjoying the lack of commitment that comes from not having already promised what comes next! I’ll decide eventually.
Derek, Master and defender of his people, rides with Chandra toward a friendly city in the aftermath of a victory. They will have no time to celebrate as Derek suddenly finds himself up against a foe he can’t kill with a sword. Having delivered her friend and ally to a healer, Chandra contends with more than just waiting in dread: she will be faced with a part of her personal history that she never knew and the promise of a place to belong after her exile from Kensrik. But can she trust it?
And they will have so little time to regroup. Alathea, masked ruler of an expanding empire, still hungers to recreate the world in her image. Dissatisfied with the delays and failures of her minions, she intends to personally oversee the final victory over her most hated foe, the “witch”, Crown Princess Chandra Kenderley.
Whether they battle enemies from without or within, an ensemble cast faces the fight of their lives on every part of the Continent and its inland sea. No one but Alathea has the full picture of what she’s set in motion, and whether they have any chance of stopping her, nothing will ever be the same.
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Author of the epic fantasy series, The Gift-Knight Trilogy, Dylan Madeley brings to you the third and last in the series, The Masked Queen’s Lament. A brilliant novel that blends medieval times with on-going issues of the world we live in today.
A fantastical and medieval plotline combining elements of eccentricity, adventure, treason, power, knighthood and intrigue. The Masked Queen’s Lament continues Madeley’s narrative from books 1 and 2 (The Gift-Knight’s Quest and The Crown Princess’ Voyage) to conclude the dramatic twists and revelations conveyed throughout all three books.
The story is set in the medieval era where “Alathea enjoy[s] the feeling of all the thunder-men staring at her, not daring to blink, ready for her signal.” As a ruler of the land, the protagonist attempts to recreate a world in how she perceives it to be. However, all is not as simple as it seems. Alathea must reign in all of her troops in order to combat the wicked witch “Crown Princess Chandra Kenderley”. A real medieval plot line that allows the reader to envision concepts of reigning, power, control, and misjudgment.
Dylan Madeley does a fantastic job at writing fluently with regards to his characters. The characters are well described, and I was able to clearly envision what they would look and act like. The author clearly knows how to build his characters. Despite being the third book in the trilogy, Madeley still continues to keep the reader’s attention with these characters, reinforcing how their presence in the book is key to its success.
What I loved about this book is how the story follows the life of power and reigns. Think about this book like a Game of Thrones episode – packed full of terror, excitement, uncertainty, and conflict. As the story unfolds, the reader is made aware that the end result is going to be via battle, and who wins that battle is very much left in suspense until the very end. I won’t provide any spoilers for those of you longing to read this book, but what I can say is that the ending does not disappoint!
The only downside to the book is the flow. I found it slow at times, particularly in the first few chapters. However, the pace does pick up as the reader is subject to more action between the characters, and this is where it got more interesting for me. What makes for good reading is uncertainty, eccentricity, and uniqueness, and I believe the author of The Masked Queen’s Lament does this outstandingly. The grammar and punctuation is strong, and the narrative is creative and unique.
An emotive, fantastic, epic medieval storyline that is well-written and well-thought out by the author. Dylan Madeley has proven to be a great author, and this book is a great way to end The Gift-Knight Trilogy.
Pages: 476 | ASIN: B07DD18H76
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The Crown Princess’ Voyage is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a fantasy, history, and romance as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I did always want to hit a variety of notes since the 2006 zero draft of the first book in the series, The Gift-Knight’s Quest, that was meant to be more of a mystery. That sort of multi genre crossover continues here, as more of a natural follow-up. I also felt that I needed whichever elements would tell these characters’ stories in the most complete way.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
You see it more in the next book, maybe, but I liked writing Jan’s branching-off point. He is this purely obedient, trustworthy guard for about a book and a half, then he becomes his own character with his own plot thread and nothing is quite the same. I like a few of them but he springs to mind quite easily.
The background and backstory of the characters is very detailed. Did you do a lot of research to maintain accuracy of the subject?
I let my knowledge from various studies and other books just synthesize, I decided what naming conventions and characteristics each culture featured, and it became more of an effort to keep it consistent. Especially character names which have been changed before. I think a lot of research just casually occurred on the internet over time, but also came out of my secondary Bachelors degree in Social and Political Thought which had components of anthropology and history.
What is the next book in the Gift-Knight series that you are working on and when will it be published?
I have an official third book of the trilogy which was written in 2011. However, I must revisit it, because I need it to be the caliber of The Crown Princess’ Voyage or possibly better, in order to feel right about how the trilogy is closed out. You might be intrigued to know that this past November, I decided I liked Alathea enough to write her a book. This last project is meant to be stand-alone and tell her full story from late childhood to the start of “Trilogy time”. Including a revisit of scenes you have now already witnessed through Rheb’s eyes or otherwise. Keeping it fresh without contradicting what you have already read will be a challenge but I look forward to it, when I get back to it. Book 3 will become a priority.
The Crown Princess’ Voyage is the second book in the “Gift-Knight” series of fantasy novels. It continues the story where The Gift-Knight’s Quest leaves off, developing familiar characters while introducing new ones, and showing you more of the fantasy world illustrated in Steven Sandford’s original map. Chandra’s been pushed to her wits’ end trying to keep the peace in Kensrik, the world’s largest empire; trying to spare the lives of subjects who don’t necessarily want to be ruled, who have difficulty viewing her reign as legitimate. For all her efforts, they may just banish her from Kensrik and embrace uncertainty.
Except it’s not just Kensrik facing a new and dire threat, one to whom the past conspirators threatening Chandra were mere puppets. No one has any idea what’s about to hit them, and no place in the world will be safe.
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We’re brought into a fantasy world right after a princess has ascended her throne while another plots the death of a beast. The Crown Princess’ Voyage by Dylan Madeley tells two intertwined stories about young women thrust into power and broken from that power at the same time. Both have won, both have lost and in the end they both will fight over the same possession. Our princess Chandra is about to be thrust from her kingdom as a peace-keeping act to satisfy those disenchanted with the monarchy. Alathea has ascended to goddess-hood and viciously fights to keep her place. Both women are wrapped in mystery and an air of sorcery, yet which one of them will be victorious in the end?
In the beginning of the book it is a bit difficult to fully grasp which tale is being told. The switch from one to the other can be a bit confusing, especially when Alathea’s peculiarities are taken into consideration. A self-proclaimed Goddess who needs to wear a mask in order to fulfill the dirty parts of being royalty could just as easily be a figment of Chandra’s imagination.
They are two separate women, however, and while they are living different lives they share something in common: Derek Wancyek. This assassin-turned-knight who serves Chandra is also desired by Alathea. There comes a point when he is offered an easy life or the choice to struggle. This means betraying one for the other and the decision our dear Derek makes will be surprising to some readers.
The first section of the book seems devoted to world-building which is important when you’ve got complicated structures like those that exist in this tale. After the first few chapters when the reader realizes that Chandra and Alathea are two separate women who will eventually come into contact with each other, the book is easier to read.
The joy of this book is that we’ve got two strong female leads. More often than not it is the men who shine in tales like this. While both Chandra and Alathea have men that they confide in, trust in, it is clear that these two women are the ones who call the shots. Alathea especially. Her youth was twisted and taken from her in the most dramatic of ways, yet she used this to her advantage and pressed forward with her goals.
One of the best parts of Madeley’s tale is the description. Everything is explained with intricate detail that would have taken ages to compile and keep straight in the mind. Dialogue isn’t used to fill gaps, as it sometimes can be. While there are some rough areas that need tidying up, the story as a whole is compacted into a single volume that does lead to a resolution. The only thing that can be a bit difficult to digest is the large cast of characters and learning about their fates post-story. But in then end, readers won’t be disappointed with this fantastical tale.
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When a young woman named Chandra takes the throne under suspicious circumstances, she has to solve the deaths of the King and Queen before those responsible get to her. She has to maintain peace in an empire where people consider her the number one suspect. Derek is summoned by an official letter and his people’s tradition to be Chandra’s personal guard. He’s immediately suspicious given that her family ruined his once-noble ancestors, but if there’s no way to escape the world’s largest empire, what might he do to turn the tables? Interwoven with Derek and Chandra’s story is the history of their ancestors, infamous and famous, that lead them to confrontation. A new world is built before the reader’s eyes, and key groundwork is laid for the impending sequels, leading to a highly detailed narrative.
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