Congratulations to WU contributor Juliet Marillier on the upcoming U.S. release (Sept. 9th) of her latest novel, The Caller! We’re happy she’s with us today to answer a few questions in a WU Take Five interview.
We’re also pleased to tell you that Juliet will be giving away a hard-back copy of The Caller to a randomly chosen commenter for this post, to be shipped later in September to anywhere in the world.
Without further ado, our Take Five with Juliet.
Q: What’s the premise of your new book?
JM: The Caller is the third and final book in the Shadowfell series. The series is for young adults (14+) but is also a good read for adult lovers of folkloric fantasy. The books are set in Alban, an imagined version of ancient Scotland. Tyrannical King Keldec has held the throne for fifteen years, using fear to maintain control. Under his laws, interaction between humankind and the Good Folk, Alban’s uncanny inhabitants, is forbidden, as is the use of ‘canny gifts’, special talents possessed by certain humans. The central character, Neryn, has a canny gift as a Caller, one who can draw out the Good Folk from their places of hiding and win their cooperation. This has the potential to make all the difference in the planned rebellion against Keldec – but the risk to both Neryn herself and to the rebel movement is immense. The main theme of the Shadowfell books is rebellion: What is the true cost of standing up to be counted? Can a person justify carrying out acts of violence and terror in the pursuit of a long-lasting peace?
Q: What would you like people to know about the story itself?
JM: Neryn has been visiting the four ancient Guardians of Alban in order to learn the proper use of her gift as a Caller before the rebels mount their challenge at the king’s midsummer Gathering. In this book she searches for the White Lady, Guardian of the East, and finds her shockingly diminished. Meanwhile Neryn’s beloved Flint, a rebel spy at Keldec’s court, is struggling with his conscience and is close to having his cover blown.
As midsummer draws closer, a new player comes on the scene, throwing plans for the rebellion into disarray. Far from the rebel base at Shadowfell and running out of time, Neryn makes the riskiest decision of her life, placing herself directly in the path of danger.
Q: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them?
JM: The Shadowfell rebels face huge odds: they are young and relatively untried, while Keldec is a powerful ruler backed up by the Enforcers, elite warriors who are unswervingly loyal and prepared to carry out any order. The people of Alban have been living in fear for so long that nobody trusts anyone – in that kind of climate it’s almost impossible to get people’s cooperation. As for the Good Folk, they’re not keen to join in a human rebellion, but would prefer to wait out the time of the tyrant in their various bolt-holes. They don’t even like cooperating with each other, let alone with humankind.
There are personal challenges for my characters, too. For Flint, the years of playing a part as Keldec’s trusted man have taken a heavy toll, and the weight on his conscience is becoming unbearable. As for Neryn, whose role is to call in the Good Folk on the day of the battle to lend their aid to the rebels, she knows that however skilfully she plays her part, her call will result in deaths and injuries for both Good Folk and human fighters. That makes every choice difficult. And she’s only sixteen.
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?
JM: The Caller was quite hard to write in places – bad things happen to good characters. That’s inevitable in a war. Overall, I was happy to have given Flint, Neryn, Tali and the other major characters journeys that felt true, not idealized. I hope I managed to show the cost of being a hero, the side of it that is blood, pain, loss, sacrifice. And I hope I managed to show that in the darkest place, in the most terrible situation, there can be found courage, love and truth.
On a lighter note, I had a lot of fun creating the Good Folk in this series. They are loosely based on beings from Scottish folklore, but with a generous dollop of artistic licence. I love every one of them, from the tiny wise woman Sage to the fearsome brollachan Hollow.
Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of The Caller!