Daughter of the Flames

Daughter of the Flames is the first book of the Ruan Series and the companion novel to FrostFire.

After I finished writing The Swan Kingdom, I intended to take a couple of weeks off - leave the house, meet friends, catch up on my pile of unread books. Unfortunately, before I'd managed to get half-way through the first book on the pile, a character barged into my brain. Her first words to me?
"I never knew my mother's name..."
Compelling stuff. I told the character that I was very pleased to meet her, but I really needed a holiday right now. Could she come back later?

No. No, she could not. She shouted for attention non-stop, day and night, haunting my dreams and shoving intriguing images before my eyes (this happens to writers quite often, and doesn't really mean we're mad. Probably). Gradually (if reluctantly at first) I came to know this extraordinary character, and her story became clear to me. It was like nothing I'd ever written before. When I finally gave in and began scribbling, I managed to finish the story in about four months flat.

One of the things that helped to form the story was the fact that, when I stared writing, I had just re-read an old favourite of mine: Diana Wynne Jones' 'The Tough Guide to Fantasyland'. This non-fiction satire raises a lot of tough questions about the fantasy worlds that we all take for granted. So as I worked on the book I also worked out a lot of my frustrations about the fantasy books I was finding on the shelves. Like the fact that hardly any fantasy novels had main characters who weren't white. Or characters that were mixed race. Or that depicted mixed race relationships, even though these are an everyday thing in the real world. 

I had also noticed that characters with strong religious beliefs tended to be painted as the villains (and usually insane as well).

Something else that left me a little cross was the lack of heroines and heroes who weren't perfect physical specimens. The odd picturesque scar, maybe. But you never saw any main characters who had to struggle with physical disability like people do in real life, who managed to be brave and resourceful and save others anyway. Or anyone who had to live with a significant disfigurement, as so many people do in the real world. 

There were and are lots of books set in the modern world that deal beautifully with these things, but, as far as I could find, barely any fantasy. When authors had made an effort to break these unwritten tabboos, the result was nearly always an extraordinary and beautiful book. I wanted my story to be one of them.
The result of all these thoughts was Daughter of the Flames, a rather unusual book about war, and love, and about learning to judge people by what they do rather than who they are or what they look like. I think it will surprise people.

Daughter of the Flames, was listed in the American Library Associations Teen's Top Ten, was nominated for a 2009 Cybil Award and for the Amelia Bloomer Project.

You can download the first chapter for free here.

And here's the book trailer.

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