A different kind of fantasy heroine: the pregnant, short-sighted scholar…

Firstly, so far so good. Stormlord Rising has been selling well in US, an indication that readers of The Last Stormlord want to know what happens next. I have my first Amazon reviews, and — as I am totally into watching Amazon ratings because I’m ridiculously pathetic — I am delighted that they are 5 stars; as are the ratings over at Barnes&Noble. (Yeah, I look at those too. Didn’t I just say I’m pathetic?)

So, for those of you haven’t read it yet, what’s Stormlord Rising all about?

It continues the story of Terelle and Shale/Jasper, as Terelle is caught up in the coercion of waterpainter magic and Shale is trapped by his nemesis, Taquar. Book 1 ended with a siege and a war, you may remember. Stormlord Rising also ends with a war and a battle — although a very different sort of battle employing a great deal more water magic.

But in many ways, this is Ryka Feldspar’s story. In many ways it is also (I hope) a touching love story, although not a romance…

Imagine this: you are a privileged woman aged about 29 or so, newly married and expecting your first child, when your entire world is turned upside down. You see your husband fall in a battle, and have good reason to think he is dead. Your side loses the battle, your home and family are destroyed, your whole life has vanished into the maws of your enemies. You see and experience unspeakable things.

And then you are seized as one of the spoils of war. You — that privileged, educated woman — are about to become a victim of unimaginable horror. A slave. You have water power and you could possibly escape by yourself … but every decision you make means life or death to others. Above all, you want to keep your unborn son alive.

You’re in the situation of a classic victim. Trapped in circumstances you can’t control. Supposedly powerless.

But underneath, you aren’t the stuff that a victim is made of — you’re strong-minded, independent … and enraged.

Yet to keep others alive means sacrificing yourself.

Ryka’s dilemma looks to be unsolvable. It’s something that happens to women in wartime everywhere. It’s happening right now in different parts of the world.

Ryka makes her choices and through it all, she stays a very special woman, a human being of dignity and courage who maintains her integrity. She is my tribute to all civilian mothers who are the victims of war.

You often read fantasies nowadays where the woman protagonist meets the male hero on his own ground: you know, the kick-ass heroine sporting a gun or a sword. I did that in The Isles of Glory with Blaze. But that’s not Ryka. Although she can handle a weapon up to a point, she’s no warrior.

She’s a short-sighted, pregnant scholar worrying about how to keep her child alive … especially when he chooses a really inconvenient time to be born.

She’s my heroine.

And if you want to know what happens to her, read Stormlord Rising. It’s out now in the US, in November in UK.