"Writing About the Romanovs": Guest Post by Gill Paul, Author of THE LOST DAUGHTER

I’m excited to welcome Gill Paul to the blog today to talk about her latest novel, THE LOST DAUGHTER, recently released from William Morrow. I’m about a hundred pages in, and can assure you that this is a story you won’t want to miss! A dual-timeline tale exploring the mystery of what truly happened to the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna of Russia, daughter of the last Tsar, Gill’s novel recounts the Romanov’s tragic history with a captivaing blend of emotional sensitivity and narrative ingenuity.

Writing About the Romanovs
by Gill Paul

Why write a fictional account of the murder of the Romanovs when the historical facts are so dramatic and compelling? Yacob Yurovsky, leader of the execution squad, left detailed testimonies about the night of July16th, 1918. According to him, the shots the killers fired ricocheted off jewels the four daughters had sewn into the seams of their clothing, wounding but not killing them. They lay moaning in pain and shock, on a floor slippery with the blood of their mother, father and younger brother, as well as four servants who shared their fate. Then the murderers finished them off with vicious bayonet thrusts as they huddled together screaming in terror.

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Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, with Alexei,photographed in 1910.Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Romanovs were right up there amongst the wealthiest families of all time, closely related to most other European royals, and that gives their fate a fairy-tale dimension. There were no wicked stepmothers or scary ogres, but Nicholas and Alexandra were blinkered and unable to respond to the wind of change in Russia. They weren’t lighting cigars with hundred-rouble notes, as cartoons depicted them, but there were priceless Fabergé eggs, the no-expense-spared royal yacht and train, and all those glittering palaces, while their people starved. It wasn’t evil but it certainly wasn’t smart.

Their children were blameless, though. The elder daughters worked as nurses during the war and helped refugees; the younger ones cut bandages and visited the wounded. They were naïve, devout young women, living the life they had been born into.

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The Ekaterinburg basement.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As a novelist, I couldn’t resist trying to imagine how it felt to be them, through the sixteen months of house arrest, in conditions that became increasingly terrifying, and then during that last half hour in the Ekaterinburg basement. With fiction you can intensify the tragedy by letting readers relate to them as individuals. I’ve ventured into areas biographers can’t go by giving the sisters dialogue, emotions and thoughts and a little bit of alternative ‘What if?’ history.

In fairy stories, princesses wait passively for rescue, and the common trope is that beautiful innocents are saved, Cinderella by her prince, Snow White by the seven dwarfs. In the 21st century we like our heroines to be braver and more in control of their fates, like Captain Marvel. Either way, the Romanovs got the wrong ending and it offends our story sense. Perhaps that is why novelists keep returning to them, as if in the retelling we can somehow make things right.

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Gill Paul Bio - "Writing About the Romanovs": Guest Post by Gill Paul, Author of THE LOST DAUGHTER

Gill Paul’s historical novels have reached the top of the USA Today, Toronto Globe & Mail and Kindle charts, and been translated into twenty languages. They include two novels about the Romanovs: The Lost Daughter, which has just been published by William Morrow, and The Secret Wife, which came out in 2016. Other novels include Women and Children First, set on the Titanic, and Another Woman’s Husband, about mysterious links between Wallis Simpson and Princess Diana. Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A History Of Medicine In 50 Objects. She lives in London, where she is working on her tenth novel and swims daily in an outdoor pond. Learn more about Gill Paul and her books at her website.

You can order THE LOST DAUGHTER from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent booksellers everywhere.b2dKw7av4cQ - "Writing About the Romanovs": Guest Post by Gill Paul, Author of THE LOST DAUGHTER

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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