Award Winning Fantasy with a Twist!
The next book up from the ladies of BroadUniverse.org pulls from one of the most enduring murder mysteries of history, the Princes in the Tower, or the unexplained disappearance of Richard III’s nephews in 1483. Did a greedy prince kill two innocents or was there something more sinister involved? Nancy Northcott shares her theory in The Herald of Day, the first in an exciting new trilogy!
What inspired this book?
A college friend introduced me to the controversy about Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, and it hooked me. I’ve read about it ever since, and it set off that “what if’ thing that leads writers down primrose paths.
The Tower of London was not just a prison for high-ranking enemies of the state. It was also a royal residence. Many people lived and worked there, and Richard III’s nephews had a household of attendants. Yet their fate remains a mystery. How could that happen? Maybe by magic?
Then I wondered what would happen if a wizard, a decent man, unwittingly helped murder children. I figured guilt would compel him to confess to King Richard. But the political situation then was unstable, with Richard’s enemies already whispering that he’d done away with the boys. So I figured the king would tell the wizard to keep quiet until the king told him to speak. Unfortunately, the king went off to Bosworth Field and died, only to have his enemies, determined to smear his reputation, take power, blame the king for his nephews’ deaths – then hold the throne in their family line the rest of the wizard’s life.
I decided the wizard would swear that neither he nor his heirs would rest in life or death until they proved the king’s innocence. He wrote a confession, hid it away, and waited for the Tudors to die out, confident that whichever of his heirs was living at the time would produce the confession and all would be well. Only things didn’t happen quite the way he hoped. When the story opens, the curse has lasted almost 200 years, and the current heir, the hero of the story, sees no hope of that ever changing.
What did you enjoy most about your story? What was your biggest challenge?
I enjoyed building the world. Finding out how people lived and what London was like in the 17th century, then sprinkling those details into the story, was fun. The biggest challenge was finding a map of London during this period, but I discovered The A to Z of Restoration London, which was published by the London Topographical Society, and got a copy through interlibrary loan.
The magic was a bit of a challenge because I had a magic system in my earlier work Light Mage Wars, and had to come up with a different one for this trilogy.
How much research do you do and where do you get your information?
How much research I do depends on how much I already know about the world and the characters going in. For The Herald of Day, I’d already done a lot of research on the controversy about Richard III and his nephews. I was a member of the Richard III Society for several years, and I was able to borrow materials from their library. I was also amassing a library of my own on the topic, partly via the Society’s shop, because it interested me so much.
I also did a lot of research on 17th-century London, some of it through library books and some by building my own reference library. I find the period intriguing, which is one reason I chose it for Herald.
What’s your background and how did that influence your work?
I’ve always been an eclectic reader. I like biographies and history, but I also enjoy speculative fiction–fairy tales, comic books, science fiction, and fantasy–as well as mysteries, suspense, and romance. Everything I write draws on these longstanding interests. For example, my Light Mage Wars paranormal romances are about mages because they’re one way to write superhumans. They draw on the action-adventure in so many of these genres, as well as suspense and magic.
The Herald of Day and its siblings in the Boar King’s Honor trilogy come from my interest in English history, my love of mysteries, and my enjoyment of using magic in stories. I’m also interested in the history of London, which probably isn’t surprising when you consider that I’m an Anglophile. So it was natural to set much of this trilogy in the city.
What comes next for you as a writer? What’s your end goal?
I’m writing the second book in the trilogy, The Steel Rose. It’s set in England during the Napoleonic Wars and has a climactic confrontation during the Battle of Waterloo. I’m also finishing the research on my next mage book and developing a couple of other projects.
My end goal is to entertain a lot of people so that they enjoy buying and reading my books.
Thanks for having me, Kathy. If anyone has questions about the books or the writing process or the history, I’m happy to answer them.
Excerpt – Dover, England, September 1674
Most of Dover’s folk turned out for the witch’s hanging. Merchants in fine silk and linen mingled with farmers and laborers in stained homespun. Shoulders hunched against the damp ocean breeze, they chatted and waited.
“Black Bess, now,” said a short woman, “she danced like a hen on a hot slate b’fore she stopped.”
Her burly, male companion shook his head. “That don’t compare to Jack Dawes, the highwayman–took near an hour dyin’.”
Their anticipation rasped across Miranda Willoughby’s magical senses as harshly as rough surf scraped the shore. Standing by a small wagon in the midst of the crowd, selling hot bread from the inn where she worked, she steeled herself against the callous talk.
Although she hid her own powers, they would alert her to anyone else’s gifts, and she’d never caught a whiff of magic around old Mistress Smith. But saying so wouldn’t save the woman. It would only win Miranda a hanging of her own.
With luck, perhaps her limited magic could somehow ease the prisoner’s death.
Her cart sat near the hanging tree, a stout oak. Swaying in the breeze, a noose dangled from a thick branch. It seemed to taunt her with her lack of skill.
A sturdy, blond man in rough woolen garb stopped by the cart. “A hot cross bun, mistress.” He drummed his fingers on the cart’s side, whistling tunelessly.
As she expected, he barely looked at her. Men did not favor ugly women, and she’d used her magic to become so. Her dark hair appeared thin and greasy, her form scrawny, and her face pox-ravaged. In homeliness lay safety, worth its cost in other ways.
She uncovered one of the pails in the back of the cart, where warm bricks kept the buns hot. When she reached in, the sweet, yeasty smell of hot bread teased her nose. “That’ll be a ha’penny, if you please, sir.”
He passed her the coin and accepted his bread. As he turned away, the crowd roared.
People surged toward the road. In the sheriff’s approaching wagon stood a lone passenger, her hands bound behind her and her aged face twisted with fear.
People grabbed rocks and dirt clods. Threw them at that helpless woman.
Miranda gripped the edge of her cart, the weather-worn wood biting into her palms. What use was power if you didn’t know enough about it to help anyone?
When the wagon reached the tree, Mistress Smith’s face was dirty and bleeding. The sheriff climbed up beside her to read the sentence. The wind mostly carried his words away, but Miranda caught some bits. “For the crime of witchcraft…Squire Mason’s cows…”
Miranda frowned. Cows, hah! This had more to do with Squire Mason’s desire for the old woman’s land. Everyone knew he’d tried to buy her little plot at an absurdly low price, which gossip said the widow resented. Those rumors had opened the way for the witchcraft charge. As had Mistress Smith’s eccentric ways and homely, pox-scarred features.
Miranda’s hand rose to the pox scar illusions on her cheek. She forced it down. Her disguise could carry risks she hadn’t expected.
“Hanged by the neck until dead,” the sheriff finished. He rolled his parchment with a flourish and jumped from the wagon.
“I’m innocent. I done nothing!”
The crowd’s derisive shouts drowned the old woman’s screech. “Nothing anymore,” a man yelled, and everyone laughed.
Sick at heart, Miranda put one foot on the hub of one of the cart’s wheels, boosting herself above everyone’s heads. Her eyes sought the condemned woman’s in the probably vain hope of making her last sight a kindly one.
“Now,” the sheriff yelled.
The rope tightened. Mistress Smith’s body thrashed wildly in the air. Her desperate, pleading gaze met Miranda’s. In her reddening face, her eyes bulged.
Miranda’s stomach lurched, and she tasted bile. Swallowing frantically, she thought, Ease, and tried to push power into her thought. Have ease for the pain. It wasn’t working. Oh, if only she could do something. Anything!
Wrenching pain lanced through her head, and the crowd vanished. Purple-gray mists swept around her, swallowing the shouting, hooting voices.
Beneath her feet lay solid shadow, and the nasty odor of rotten eggs pervaded the dank, foggy twilight. Her neck and arms tingled with magic. With cold foreboding. Stumbling, she groping for something solid.
The fog receded, revealing a white boar–with blue eyes, not small, black, piggy ones–lying on a carpet of deep blue bordered in mulberry. It struggled to rise, its eyes dark with pain that wrenched her heart. Above it loomed a red dragon bugling in triumph. White and green striations shimmered on the undersides of its spread wings. Blood dripped from its talons and flowed from gouges in the boar’s side. The dragon’s joy stabbed into her with the certainty that it was evil.
Summon the boar’s knight, said a voice in her head.
About The Boar King’s Honor Trilogy – The Herald of Day
A wizard’s fatal mistake, A king wrongly blamed for murder, A bloodline cursed until they clear the king’s name
In 17th-century England, witchcraft is a hanging offense. Tavern maid Miranda Willoughby hides her magical gifts until terrifying visions compel her to seek the aid of a stranger, Richard Mainwaring, to interpret them. A powerful wizard, he sees her summons as a chance for redemption. He bears a curse because an ancestor unwittingly helped murder the two royal children known as the Princes in the Tower, and her message uses symbols related to those murders.
Miranda’s visions reveal that someone has altered history, spreading famine, plague, and tyranny across the land. The quest to restore the timeline takes her and Richard from the glittering court of Charles II to a shadowy realm between life and death, where they must battle the most powerful wizard in generations with the fate of all England at stake.
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About Nancy Northcott –
Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman. Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy, history, and romance.
Nancy has taught a college course on science fiction, fantasy, and society. She has also given presentations on the Wars of the Roses and Richard III to university classes studying Shakespeare’s play about that king. A sucker for fast action and wrenching emotion, Nancy combines the magic, romance and high stakes she loves in the books she writes.
Reviewers have described her books as melding fantasy, romance, and suspense. Library Journal gave her debut novel, Renegade, a starred review, calling it “genre fiction at its best.”