A warm welcome to author Amy Rae Durreson joining us today to talk about her newest release “Recovery”.
Welcome Amy Rae 🙂
When I started writing Recovery, my biggest worry about my protagonist was that he had no idea what he was doing with his life. He’s twenty-three, has been devoting himself to freeing his homeland from tyranny since he was a teenager and is suddenly as lost and confused as most people are at the age he was ambushing enemy supply trains. Everything he’s done over the last few years has been to help restore his god to power. Except now his god is back, and hasn’t quite lived up to Raif’s expectations.
So I sent him on a very long walk (I’m a great believer in the power of walking to soothe a troubled soul). Raif sets out on a lone journey to the source of the River Anniel, where he hopes to find the dragon Arden and wake him from his centuries-long sleep. After everything that’s happened to him in the last few books, I thought he needed the healing time.
It took him about half a chapter to turn it into a quest with which he would prove his worth to the world. And then, before I’d done facepalming at him, he romanticised it and started daydreaming about the great and mighty dragon he was about to offer his loyalty and devotion.
It takes meeting the dragon for real to shock him out of his idealised notions, a lot more false starts along the way, and several fights with a soul-devouring hydra to find out his true purpose in life.
The extract below comes from early in his journey, when he’s still searching for a long-lost dragon.
There was nothing at the top of the cliff save more mossy stones, an expanse of boggy ground, and a long stretch of scree that might offer him a path over the moor. Ahead of him he could see the next ridge rising, soaring slopes of moss and turf scored with granite crags, but everything in between was low and marshy. There was no sign that anyone had ever lived here.
The sun was low, brushing gold over the mountainside with a tender hand. Discouraged, Raif returned to his tent and built a fire on the pebbly edge of the lake. The air turned cold as the sun set, and he was glad of the extra warmth.
He’d fallen into the habit of planning his next day’s journey in the evenings over a cup of tea. Tonight he brewed it anyway, soothed by the familiar ritual.
His father had carried an enameled Tiallatai samovar into exile with him and transported it all over the Alagard Desert as they traveled with the Selar nomads who had offered them asylum. Raif had left it in Tiallat stored with the rest of his belongings because it was simply too bulky to carry on his back, but he missed it now. The tea didn’t taste quite right brewed over the fire in a tin kettle, though breathing in the steam still reminded him of home. Even after being carried so far, the scent of cardamom and rose petals still clung to the tea leaves, and it tasted of other mountains, of the golden highlands of God’s own country, where the sun baked the rocks dry in summer.
He didn’t want to think about his god. Closing his eyes, he breathed in and thought of drinking tea in the desert beside his father’s fire.
What would his father have thought of this quest? He had never managed to venture far from Tiallat, even when persecution had forced him to smuggle his young sons over the border. He had disapproved of Raif’s adventures in revolution in a dry, restrained way that had always left Raif hoping it might also conceal pride. His father had never stopped longing for home. Would he sympathize with this different yearning that pushed Raif to travel, to move farther and farther in search of something that would give him a purpose in this world, something that would never disappoint him?
“Arden,” he said aloud and was surprised by the sound of his own voice.
He was woken the next morning by the sound of movement outside the tent. His first thought was of Arden, already awake and coming to see who his visitor was. The next, more pragmatically, was of brigands, so he grabbed his sword and rolled out of the tent.
It was a herd of deer, following a huge red stag down to the water’s edge to drink. One of the does turned her head to look at Raif, but none of them startled away.
So there were no men here to teach the wild creatures fear. Reassured, Raif sat back to watch them, not quite awake yet.
There had been times, up in the mountains with the resistance, when Raif would have looked at them and only seen the numbers of mouths they could have fed. He wasn’t sure what this was, this luxury of not always being responsible—this release from duty. Was this what wealth felt like? Was it freedom? He didn’t entirely care for it, or the strange dreamlike state it left him in, as if he had been cast adrift from the world as he knew it.
The deer faded back into the forest, and he was left alone by the lake. He had no desire to sleep again, although it was still early enough that the light was wan and mist was rising off the water in pale curls. He filled his kettle and set water boiling for his morning tea. Then he decided to brave the edge of the lake enough to wash his face and sluice himself down. If he was to be meeting a dragon today, he wanted to look respectable. He even considered getting his headscarf out, but he had grown accustomed to the wind on his neck and the way his head felt so much lighter without it.
The kettle was singing, so he set the tea to brew and took a little of the warm water, the soap, and his razor down to the lakeshore. Now the deer had gone, the water was still enough to see his reflection, and he shaved carefully. He hadn’t bothered since he entered the highlands.
It made him feel like a boy again, living out of his father’s tent. It disturbed him sometimes when he saw his own reflection. He never felt truly young, but he could have been any Tiallatai youth, dark of hair and eye, brown skinned, high boned, sober. When he had returned to Tiallat from his childhood in exile, he had been called handsome—but he had never believed it, not after years surrounded by dark, confident Selar boys with their bright smiles and braided hair, their complete comfort within their own skin, even the shyest of them the child of a laughing god.
What would Arden look like, he wondered, and blushed a little at the thought. He kept telling himself that it was completely inappropriate to fantasize about such things, that his attraction to powerful beings was a flaw to overcome, but he had, albeit briefly, been part of Halsarr’s hoard and had felt the edges of Hal’s love for Iskandir. He couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to be at the center of a dragon’s focus, to be touched by one. Sometimes, in the quiet loneliness of the night, he craved it so much that his blood heated and the hairs on the back of his neck rose in desire.
Hal and Tarn were both tall and fair skinned, modeling themselves on the northern tribes who had made up their earliest hoards. Beyond that, there was little to suggest they were related, let alone brothers. Raif suspected, from the few stories he had heard, that Arden would look more like Tarn’s fierce spellsword than Hal’s learned professor.
Rinsing his razor in the lake, he turned back toward the tent just as the morning sunlight broke between the mountains to the east.
It revealed the mossy cliff he had failed to climb yesterday from a new angle, and Raif gasped in surprise. From here the steep angle of the slope suggested a folded wing, the low descent of the cliff face toward the lake the narrowing of a back toward a curled tail. The pile of mossy boulders before the cliff face emerged could be a sleeping head.
The boulders scattered across the grass suddenly resolved into broken lines, and he could imagine the ghostly shapes of walls. Slowly he made his way forward, dropping his belongings by the fire and picking his way across the clearing. This close, the picture no longer made sense, but he knew what he had seen. Arden was right here.
It could still be an illusion, he reminded himself firmly. Only a fool went chasing mirages. His heart was beating faster, though, and he kept having to catch his breath. As soon as he got close to the head, he reached out and tore at the moss.
It had grown deep, layered onto old, dusty roots, but when it fell away he did not see gray rock beneath it but the crimson gleam of a dragon’s scale, wine bright and smooth. Amazed, Raif reached out and brushed his fingertips against the scale.
It was warm.
Resistance, exile, plague. Raif has survived them all, but now he finds himself in search of a new purpose. Traveling north to wake the dragon Arden, he hopes he has finally found a leader worthy of his loyalty, but Arden turns out to be more of a frivolous annoyance than an almighty spirit lord. Now bound to Arden’s side despite his frustration, Raif follows the dragon to the rich and influential lagoon city of Aliann, chasing rumors of the Shadow that once cursed his homeland.
With the election of a new duke at stake, Raif struggles to make sense of the challenges he meets in Aliann: a conspiracy of nixies and pirates, selkie refugees in desperate need of a champion, a monster that devours souls, a flirtatious pirate prince, and a machine that could change the world. For nothing in the city of masks is what it seems, from the new friends Raif makes to the dragon he follows—or even himself.
Amy has a terrible weakness for sarcastic dragons, shy boys with sweet smiles, and good pots of tea. She is yet to write a shy, tea-loving dragon, but she’s determined to get there one day (so far, all of her dragons are arrogant gits who prefer red wine). Amy is a quiet Brit with a degree in early English literature, which she blames for her somewhat medieval approach to spelling, and at various times has been fluent in Latin, Old English, Ancient Greek, and Old Icelandic, though these days she mostly uses this knowledge to bore her students. Amy started her first novel twenty-one years ago and has been scribbling away ever since. Despite these long years of experience, she has yet to master the arcane art of the semicolon.