arthuriana,  publication,  queen of none

The Faces of Queen of None

It’s been… a week. But, in exciting news: I handed in my edits for Queen of None. And since the book has been knocking around my brain, when I stumbled on Artbreeder… well. I just had to make a little rogue’s gallery of some of the primary players in the novel. I’ve been sharing some of them on Twitter, but figured it would be fun to keep them here. For, you know, posterity.

 

 

Here’s a little family tree primer:

 

 

Anna Pendragon is our heroine and narrator. She’s the sister of Arthur. Gweyn is Arthur’s wife.

 

 

Together with her first husband, Lot, Anna had Gawain (also Gaheris and Gareth, but they come later). While Arthur is her full brother, she also has three half-sisters: Elaine (not pictured), Morgen, and Margawse. Bedevere is Arthur’s right-hand man, and also Anna’s old paramour. Vyvian is her aunt. Merlin and Lanceloch, well, they aren’t directly related, and too much about them might make some spoilers.

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Natania Barron

What is a gentlewitch?

We are quickly approaching the release date for Netherford Hall, and I’m currently busy working on the third installment, The Game of Hearts, right now, so my brain is thinking about all things gentlewitch. (Which is available to pre-order in paperback and in ebook–and soon in audiobook.) Now, this is a term I’m very familiar with. In fact, I’ve been writing so much about gentlewitches that I forgot it’s a term I made up. So, I wrote a little backstory about said magical beings, a la Tolkien’s “Concerning Hobbits.” What is a gentlewitch? To understand the Love in Netherford series, one must first become acquainted with the role of a gentlewitch in English society. The year is 1812. The Great Peace between witches and mortals has stretched for a little over two hundred years, but preternaturals—witches, werewolves, and vampires—have lived side-by-side with humankind for at least a millennia. Just not always in agreement. We have Queen Elizabeth I for establishing the first gentlewitch titles, elevating thirteen houses to a peerage, gaining land and status in exchange for pledging their loyalty and lives to the protection of the Crown. It was 1578, a year after the Witches Spiritual aided Elizabeth I against the Spanish Armada, that the Coven Council was officially absorbed into the larger body politic. In 1717, when the Parliament of England became the Parliament of Great Britain, the Coven Council was officially recognized as an extension of the Lords Spiritual. There are thirteen members of the Coven Council, all of which are inherited positions, but voted on by members of the founding families. Beyond the Coven Council, there are hundreds of gentlewitches across Great Britain and the Continent, who all trace their lineage back to the first thirteen families. Each has an ancestral home, though many live and work in London or abroad. In times of yore, it was said gentlewitches were more powerful closer to their ancestral homes, but that has been disputed. Gentlewitches may own property, inherit property, and marry as they like. As a whole, they have been the driving force for progressive change, helping to alleviate tensions wrought by the East India Company, slavers, and privateers. Other witches do exist in the Realm, but they are not part of the thirteen families, and are referred to as hedge witches. Hedge witches must register with the local gentlewitch household, share all their magical inclinations, and file for specific magical provisions in order to practice their powers under the protection of the local house. Especially powerful hedge witches may be “tempered”—adorned with bangles of metal which curb their magic for the safety of all. With no structure or accountability, they must be closely monitored for potential instability. All witches live longer lives than their mortal counterpoints, aging more slowly over time. Getlewitches each choose a discipline of magic to focus on after their harrowing, a secret test of physical, magical, and mental prowess, most take in their twentieth year. This assesses their strengths and weaknesses, and the results are shared with the Coven Council for posterity. Officially, members of Parliament are welcoming and grateful for the gentlewitches and Coven Council for their wisdom and protection. Unofficially, there is some resentment with their continued power and influence. There are many other witches and mages across the world, of course, but their governance is relegated to their specific countries of origin. Edith Rookwood, one of the protagonists of the series, is a gentlewitch–but not a remarkable one, at least not at first. Her harrowing was unremarkable. In fact, she barely passed it. A big part of the series is her discovering her capabilities and confronting her own desire for power. And a desire for power is probably the biggest weaknesses among gentlewitches. Although this world is more diverse in terms of sexuality, demographics, and power between genders–and that good stuff is certainly brought about by gentlewitches–they still love power. And this causes all sorts of problems, especially when we discover where their power comes from in the first place. Finally, here is an excerpt from Netherford Hall, featuring some of the key players: Poppy Brightwell (Edith’s love interst), Auden Garcliffe (Edith’s uncle), and Laertes Byrne (vampires) over dinner. Poppy derived no pleasure speaking with Laertes Byrne. He gazed at her as if she were a crooked painting he could not straighten, and it made her squirm. “Tell me, Mr. Byrne,” Poppy said, refusing more wine from one of the servants. She had to be careful tonight. “What do you mean by ‘the old ways,’ in regards to Netherford Hall and the gentlewitch?” Mr. Byrne gave a smug grin. “Oh, I forget, little darling, how unfamiliar you are with the ways of the arcane folk.” “Though I’ve lived here most of my life, we’ve never had a gentlewitch in that time,” she simpered. “And my mother and father never spoke of vampires.” Yes, she could play the ingénue if needed. “Then let me enlighten you. It is said that the Fae themselves bestowed powers upon the witch bloodlines, back before the world changed, when we were one people,” said Mr. Byrne, breathing in the substance in his glass. He had not been served food in any form other than liquid. “All three preternatural houses—witches, vampires, and werewolves—are said to be descended from the Fae. And it is from the Fae that we inherit our traditions.” Poppy suppressed a shudder and forced an interested expression on her face, batting her eyelashes coyly. “Such sentiment is terribly out of fashion,” chimed in Mr. Garcliffe. Mr. Byrne shrugged. “You short-lived creatures wouldn’t know fashion if it was wrapped up in paper and tied with ribbons,” he scoffed. “But I digress! Regardless of Mr. Garcliffe’s opinions, the ‘old ways’ are clear on disputes such as these: the contending witches must come face one another in the Rite of Place. It is a kind of second harrowing.” “Harrowing?” Poppy did not have to feign her ignorance this time. “That’s the test of a witch,” said Auden. “It is completed before a witch’s twentieth birthday, to discern which branch of witchcraft suits them best.” “It’s more complicated than that,” said Laertes. He sloshed around whatever substance he was drinking and made a sour expression. “In order to best nurture their strengths, which are typically quite clear during the harrowing, they are attuned to their homes. I doubt even Mr. Garcliffe understands that particular ceremony, as it is shrouded in most sacred secrecy. But a witch, gentle or otherwise, is only as powerful as the land she cares for.” “That’s why you came to Netherford,” said Poppy, addressing Auden. “And why the Rookwood-Nourses want it so badly.” Mr. Garcliffe gave her a weary nod. “Indeed. But, unlike the larger dynasties, we have limited capacity.” “Such a tragedy,” said Mr. Byrne. “The Rookwood-Nourses are looking for a place to put down their own roots. Netherford has old bones, and Netherford Hall most of all. “At any rate, a Rite of Place is likewise an attunement. It is also a contest, of sorts, for the land itself. An arcane duel.” Poppy felt as if she was missing something. “Why didn’t Liege Rookwood bring about the challenge right away?” “Because,” said Auden, “as I said, it is considered somewhat old fashioned. A bit, ah—well, backwater. Perhaps not best for someone still trying to improve upon her reputation.” “That, and everyone knows that our liege is not the most, shall we say, dazzling enchanter,” said Laertes, voice dropping even lower. Poppy flushed, shocked at Mr. Byrne’s tactlessness. She may no longer be beholden to the gentlewitch, but she had absolute confidence in her abilities.  The vampire’s words offended her to her marrow. “Well, I have every bit of faith in her,” said Poppy. “And I cannot imagine a situation where she wouldn’t find some path to success. Netherford Hall is in her very bones. She belongs there as much as the village belongs between the rivers.”

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Natania Barron

Queen of None is Now Available Everywhere!

No, this is not a repeat from 2020. Well, that’s not entirely the truth. As you may remember, the Queens of Fate series was picked up by Solaris books early last year, and Queen of None has officially been re-issued with a brand new cover, updated text, and new acknowledgements. This truly is the little book that could. This morning, I sat in my car to get some celebratory coffee, and listened to the beginning of the book narrated by the amazing Deborah Balm. She just absolutely inhabits Anna’s spirit in a way that made me quite emotional. As an audiobook nerd myself, I was thrilled when her voice sample first made its way to me and even more in awe now that I’m able to hear the whole story unfold. Truly a dream come true. You can grab Queen of None in paperback, audiobook, and eBook just about everywhere. And then later in December, Queen of Fury finally comes raging in…

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Natania Barron

Presenting The Portraits of Fate: Anna Pendragon and Sir Bedevere, Art by Mae Morrison

I am a massively visual person. Part of this comes from having a fine arts background, but part of it is just the way my brain is wired. I have hyperphantasia, which means when I read a book I can see, hear, smell, and feel things in vivid detail. So it’s not surprising that I’ve dreamed a long time of having my characters rendered in beautiful art. And with the increasing challenges with AI everywhere, I decided that for Queen of None–and all the books in the series–I wanted to hire an artist to make project come to life. I took to social media for this project, and for one for Netherford Hall, and found Mae Morrison and was immediately drawn to her work which was exactly what I wanted: somewhere between Art Nouveau and tarot art. Not to mention, she’s French-Canadian, like me! Over the last few months, I’ve been sharing progress with my patrons, but now–a week out from Queen of None’s wide release–it’s time to share. Words don’t clearly express just how magnificent these pieces are. I wanted Anna to be powerful, queenly, and a bit mischievous, but I never imagined how stunning the final product would be. And Bedevere! That’s him! In Pendragon regalia, because he’s gonna be Arthur’s BFF no matter what. Check out Mae’s work here. – Instagram Just a reminder, you can still pre-order Queen of None before launch on the 21st, and Queen of Fury, too!

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Natania Barron

Netherford Hall Series Picked up by Solaris Books Imprint Solaris Nova!

Publishing moves slow, until it doesn’t! I’m so happy to announce that Solaris Books, via their new imprint Solaris Nova, has acquired Netherford Hall and its two sequels (currently titled The Viscount St. Albans and The Game of Hearts). The pitch is fast and furious: a sapphic Bridgerton with witches. And werewolves, vampires, Fae, and a motley crew of characters. It’s light, romantic, silly, sexy, and joyous, with magic, politics, and of course, lots of fashion. So much fashion, in fact, that it’s the book that inspired ThreadTalk in the first place! Yes, indeed. It was Viola’s chintz dress that got me going on my first research project, and look where we are now. Netherford Hall is a loose retelling of Pride and Prejudice, where a gentlewitch by the name of Edith Rookwood returns to her family seat in the Kentish countryside search of a wife. She must marry for money, for the family’s money is tied up and dwindling. Of course, Poppy Rookwood–the younger daughter of the tenants living in Harrow House on Edith’s property–both vexes and enchants her. And is totally not the right match. Add some terrible distant relatives, a monster on the loose, a meddling family, and plenty of misunderstandings and makeups. It’s romantasy for everyone who wished for a little more magic in their Jane Austen books. Netherford Hall lands on August 2024! Here’s a little sneak peek of the story, where Auden Garcliffe–Edith’s uncle and majordomo–seeks the help of Molly Hode, the resident Warder, upon arriving in Netherford. The rain began in earnest just as Auden and Henry left the clothier’s, but thankfully the pub—the Holly and Sickle—was easy to find and both open and dry. It smelled as so many pubs did, of sawdust and salt and ale, but it was neat and bright. In fact, the Holly and Sickle was pristine in terms of cleanliness. The floors were smooth, pale wood, the walls matched the wattle and daub of the exterior, and the bar top gleamed in copper and tile, shades of green and gold accenting the hammered spiral motifs.  The ceiling was strewn with ribbons tied with witch’s wishes, not terribly uncommon in pubs, but in number unusual. Amidst the long, colorful ribbons, were bunches of herbs, mostly culinary, in neat rows and patterns. Somehow, there was a kind of symmetry to the whole business. Still, the pub’s protective spells washed over Auden as he passed over the threshold, a welcome familiarity. He knew the feel of magic, and this reminded him of fresh baked bread, malt syrup, tart apples, and oats. Rather appropriate, he thought, as his stomach grumbled. There were two figures behind the bar top, one man and one woman, and they were so alike in bearing and coloring that they had to be siblings, if not twins. Each of them was broad about the shoulders, square of jaw, and red of hair. Twin pale eyes set in freckled faces. But the woman’s face was interrupted by a web of scars that obliterated one eyebrow and curled down the edges of her eye. The man wore a dusty apron, and the woman had the longest hair he’d ever seen before, braided in a series of twists that went down her back and almost to her knees, swaying like long reeds as she twirled around doing her work. The man was slim, however, where the woman was all muscle. At the chiming of the front bell, or the indication of the wards, they both turned to Auden and Henry and nodded. “Well, it’s about time,” said the woman, her voice honeyed and deep.  Auden, not accustomed to being spoken to with such ease from pub staff, looked behind him a moment to make sure someone else wasn’t standing there, more befitting of the address.  “Oh, yes,” he said, with absolute awkwardness. “I am here.” “She is here,” said the man, correcting Auden, the capitalization of Her name somehow stressed in speech. “I suppose you’re ready to begin staffing now.” Feeling his face flush at this rather stunning lack of decorum but being too well-mannered to question it lest he make a bad impression in town, Auden nodded. “Well, yes. I’m looking for Molly Hode.” “You’ve found her,” said the woman, rolling up her sleeves and coming around the bar to get a better look at Auden. “I’m Molly.” “Good,” said Auden, as it was the only thing he could think to say with any conviction. Truly, he was wondering if Molly was planning on using her impressive biceps to deliver a blow to the side of his head.  “I’m Henry! I like birds. And I’m very hungry. It smells like apples in here. Do you have apples?”  They all turned to look at Henry who seemed entirely unaware of the woman’s looming menace.  “Well, Henry, I’ve got quite an affinity for birds myself,” said Molly, her expression softening into something rather lovely and almost childlike at Henry’s outburst. “And this, over here, is my brother, Basil. While I don’t think birds are quite his fancy, food is. If you hop up on the barstool there, he’ll help you.” Henry’s eyes went wide as saucers, a brilliant smile spreading on his lips. Before Auden could stop him, the boy was clambering up the barstool and making conversation with Basil who, at least from this distance, appeared to be considerably gentler and more soft-spoken than his sister. Molly wasted no time. “Come into my office,” she said to Auden. When he hesitated slightly, glancing back at the boy, she snorted and said, “He’ll be safe. Even if I wanted to hurt him, I couldn’t.”

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