"She’d never been to a boarding school before, but it was a school just the same as all the others. Except that here the students wore black and blue uniforms—a good reminder as any of the pain they could inflict if she let them."
Since the death of her parents,
Callan Blair has been shunted from one foster family to another, her dangerous
secret forcing the move each time. Her latest foster family quickly ships her
off to an exclusive boarding school in the Cumbrian countryside. While her
foster-brother James makes it his mission to get Callan expelled, a nearby
ancient castle holds the secret doorway to another land...
When Callan is forced through the
doorway, she finds herself in the magical continent of Tardith, where she’s
shocked to learn her schoolmates Gawain and Darrion are respected soldiers in
service to the king of Nordaine, one of Tardith's realms. More than that, the
two are potential heirs to the Black Knight—Nordaine's crown prince.
But when the Black Knight fails to
return from a mysterious trip, the realm teeters on the brink of war. Darrion
and Gawain set out to find him, while Callan discovers there is more to her
family history than she thought. The elves are claiming she is their princess.
Now with Darrion growing ever more
antagonistic and her friendship with Gawain blossoming, Callan must decide
whether to stay in Nordaine—where her secret grows ever more threatening—or go
to the elves and uncover the truth about her family before war sets the realms
With her sad, resigned
cynicism and her muted self-consciousness, Callan Blair makes for an
immediately likable protagonist who is easy to root for in this
interesting, mysterious portal-fantasy novel, The Vanished Knight by M. Gerrick (pen name of Misha Gericke, who blogs here).
Gericke (or Gerrick, if you prefer) does an excellent job with characterization. Some characters start off at the beginning of the book acting a bit like archetypes—such as James, Callen's foster brother who is both
attractive and arrogant in his upper-class snobbery, and Phipps, the castle guard who threatens expulsion to all who disobey even the smallest of rules.
But, as it turns out, these archetypes are actually only the outer layers to the characters,
which peel away as the adventure progresses and they reveal more of
their true selves.
Callan's character is very well-developed, as she has both flaws and positive traits, both fears and desires. Her backstory and her life outside the fantasy realm are realistic, making the transition through the portal more accessible and believable.
Descriptions of action are dynamic and engaging, tracing the flowing moves of sword fights. The pacing of this novel is excellent and remains exciting page after page. The mystery behind who Callan's real parents are, where the Black Knight disappeared to, and who will be chosen as the next king keep the suspense going. I am eagerly anticipating the sequel!
Now, how about an interview with the author, Misha Gericke?
often use the mantra "Write what you know." This usually turns into
characters as manifestations of the author's traits. How much of Callan
Hahaha oooh this is tricky. I see
her as a person of her own, but in fact, I guess you can say that each
of the characters have an aspect of my personality. Which is
interesting, given how much they clash.
for Callan, the most obvious bit to her that comes from my own
experience is living with constant nightmares. I get night terrors, the
intensity and frequency of which vary. But at the time I was rewriting
the book (which is when her dreams started to feature) I was pretty much
getting at least one night terror per night, every night, for months.
It became a rather important part of the story, but when I was
improvising it during the rewrite, I guess I was channeling my own
feelings and fears onto the page. The nature of her dreams differ from
Tell us about the world of Tardith. How did it develop in your mind?
After the first inspiration came, I started thinking of the world I
wanted to write about. And I wanted to be different, so I made the
"world" a continent, and made the setting into four countries.
a sense, I approached these four countries the same way I approach
characterization. So I assumed (in my special special little mind) that
Tardith and its countries existed. I also knew there'd need to be some
sort of conflict between them, coming out of their history. (The same
way I believe character conflicts need to come from their motivation.)
I drafted, I started realizing that one country (Icaimerith) was the
aggressor, one (Ladrien) was the scrappy Jack Russel that had been
fighting Icaimerith off for centuries, one (Alfen Cairn) was actually in
Icaimerith's sights and its king knows it, and one (Nordaine) despises,
or at least ridicules the other three. Nordaine could counter-balance
Icaimerith, but... well... due to one long and nasty history, they're
simply not bothered to.
But then, of course, the war's coming, and suddenly Nordaine might just have to step up after all.
What is your writing process like? Do you plan ahead or just write as you go?
Mostly, I just write, discovering as I
go, but making sure that everything I've learned before adds to the
present discovery, or else the story wouldn't make sense. Usually, it's
like a thinking game, where I contemplate what I know, and then see
where I can take that knowledge within the overall story.
What has been the most challenging part of your writing and publishing journey so far? What's been the easiest? :)
Time-wise, drafting the story that would become The Vanished Knight and The Heir's Choice was the hardest. Took me about five years just to get that done.
querying was the hardest. The book simply wasn't standard fantasy fare.
Still isn't, even if it might seem so. So I received a ton of
rejections without, I feel, the agents even bothering to read anything I
sent in except for the query.
was editing it. I spent so long locking up my inner editor that she had
a field day when I unleashed her on my manuscript.
The Vanished Knight is the first in the series. Can you give away any fun teasers as to what's in store? :)
In the The Heir's Choice, Callan's the only person who can save Alfen Cairn (and if you've read The Vanished Knight, you could probably figure out why she wants to). Problem is, she owes Nordaine for saving her life, and they need her to act against Alfen Cairn's interests...
M. Gerrick (AKA
Misha Gericke) has basically created stories since before she could write. Many
of those stories grew up with her and can be seen in her current projects.
She lives close
to Cape Town, with a view over False Bay and Table Mountain.
If you’d like
to contact her, feel free to mail her at warofsixcrowns(AT)gmail(DOT)com, Circle her on Google Plus, or
follow her on Twitter. If
you'd like to see her writer-side (beware, it's pretty insane), please feel
free to check out her blog. You can also add The Vanished Knight on Goodreads.