Today I am heading into the realm of the fae to interview a most intriguing character. But first, a little bit about the book she’s from – a new novel from H.L. Burke, To Court a Queen.
Knight errant, Devin, takes a shortcut through the woods, only to be captured by fairy forces. The fairy queen has run out of breathing males to fight for her hand, and Devin, while not ideal fairy stock, is breathing–for now.
Telling a vain fairy queen you’d rather not be her one true love is a ticket to life on a lilypad, so the knight agrees to face three challenges to win Queen Agalea’s hand. When a clever servant girl offers to help him navigate the trials in order to stop the constant bloodshed of the courtship ritual, Devin jumps at the chance. However, as he balances “flirting” with his “beloved” and overcoming tasks specifically designed to kill him, he finds his heart drawn to his new partner in survival.
I had the privilege of beta-reading this story, and it is such a fun tale! Like everything else I’ve read from this author, it was full of a delightful blend of heart and snark. I am eager to read the finished product. If this sounds up your alley, you’re in luck, because it released a few days ago!
I open my eyes and find myself in a strange, and yet beautiful garden. As I gaze about I can see that various trees are inexplicably bearing both spring and summer fruit at the same time. Nearby a fountain burbles happily. A figure darts through the door of the small cottage before me and I follow. Inside, I clear my throat and the figure whirls to face me.
“Whoa, hold on there, I’m not an enemy!” I exclaim, holding up my badge and notebook in as non-threatening a gesture as I can manage. “I’m a reporter with the InterFiction Gazette. I just wanted to ask you a few questions. I know this isn’t a great time, but it’s the best I could come up with.”
The figure relaxes slightly, but her pointed ears twitch slightly, and now that my eyes have adjusted I can see the brown tufts of fur at their tips. She tilts her head to one side. “You’re not a fairy–human, right? How did you–Oh, nevermind. Look, I’ve got a bed to hide under, but if you can get out of here before the fairies get here, I’ll answer whatever questions you have … within reason.” Sevaine slides under the bed.
Startled by her sudden disappearance, I open my notebook and pause… it’s a bit awkward interviewing a character who is hiding under a bed. “Uh… so… can you begin by telling my readers a little bit about yourself? You are a fae, right? But there are more than one kind of fae… so… what kind are you?”
Sevaine’s muffled voice rises from her hiding place. “Felys. We’re not a very flashy sort of fae. No real magic, or the sort we have is more the everyday kind. It makes us agile, clever, we tend to land on our feet. We’re good hunters and live in trees … people like to call us ‘Cat-Elves’ but that’s kind of an oversimplification. We don’t have tails, you know? We don’t eat mice … exclusively.”
I suppress a chuckle, I don’t want her to think I’m laughing at her, but the mice thing…. eeesh. “If I’m remembering correctly, you have just met and spoken with a human named Devin. Can you tell me why he’s here in your realm and what you think of him so far?”
Sevaine emits an irritated groan. “Well, he’s here because Queen Agalea ran out of fae victims–I mean “suitors.” She has had this long running contest that challenges men to win her hand by completing three trials. Unfortunately, people keep dying in the attempt, and the smart males have all fled the kingdom rather than face her death trap of a competition. Poor Devin just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, so she’s ‘volunteered’ him to face the trials. As for what I think of him.” She sticks her head out from beneath the bed, her eyebrows melting together. “I think he’s smarter than he lets on. He’s trying very hard to appear flippant and careless when he should be scared out of his mind, but I’m fairly certain that’s bravado, not idiocy … at least I hope so. Anyway, he seems quick on his feet, and between that and his ability to lie to the queen’s face and get away with it, he might have a chance to survive this. If he listens to me, that is.”
I nod in sympathy. “I hope he listens to you. This Queen Agalea sounds like a monster. But… not to pry too much, from what I’ve seen of the fae, I’m surprised to find one willing to help a human. Why do you care what happens to this one?”
Sevaine’s gaze grows distant. “The queen has hurt so many people. It’s not so much about Devin–I mean, Devin’s fine, but I have only spoken to him once for maybe ten minutes–as it is about stopping this madness. Every man who has died in the trials has been someone’s friend, son … brother.” Her voice cracks. “If you saw that happening over and over again, and you thought you could stop it, wouldn’t you try? I have to try. Devin isn’t the first man I’ve attempted to save, but he’s only the second to ever listen to me or accept my help. The other–” She slips back under the bed. “I’d rather not talk about that right now.”
I can feel that her interest in the conversation is waning, so I quickly speak up. “Just one more question, real quick: If you could ask your author to change one thing about your story, what would it be and why?”
Sevaine sticks her head back out and squints. “Author? Story? Did you perhaps sample some of the queen’s wine? It has strange effects on humans sometimes … or are you being metaphorical? It’s hard for me to tell with humans sometimes.” She fiddles with her ponytail. “I guess … well, I’d be kind of selfish to pick anything except ‘the queen hasn’t killed all these poor helpless men,’ wouldn’t I? If that’s not on the table, I’d like to have some magic … maybe something that would let me turn Agalea into a gnat.” She stiffens. “Do you hear someone coming? I really can’t let them catch me here.”
My badge starts to glow and I grimace, my time in this world has been far too short. I’d love to stay and explore a bit more, but I don’t want to interrupt what happens next in this story. “Well, I have to get going. Thank you for talking with me!”
“No worries. Watch out for the winged hounds on your way out. They don’t really like strangers.” Sevaine disappears under the bed for the last time.
Winged hounds? Startled, I whirl around, but before I can see anything else the scenery dissolves around me and a moment later I’m back in the mundane (but possibly safer) world I call “home.”
Ah, Sevaine. She’s a really neat character and I hope you enjoyed meeting her today as much as I enjoyed interviewing her. And if you like Han Solo even a little bit, you’re sure to love Devin, the other protagonist of this book!
H. L. Burke is the author of multiple fantasy novels including the Dragon and the Scholar saga and The Nyssa Glass YA Steampunk series and Coiled. She is an admirer of the whimsical, a follower of the Light, and a believer in happily ever after.
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