This is my post during the blog tour for Charm Wars by Dan Lutts. In a world where women rule, commoner Rill Larkin desperately wants to become a mage, but noblesse Alyse Dejune wants to have nothing to do with magic even though she’s expected to become a mage on Name Day.
Charm Wars (Charm Wars #1)
By Dan Lutts
Age category: Young Adult
Release Date: 2 September 2021
Welcome to Caldon, a land of mages and magic, where the noblesse possess massive political and magical power and destroy anyone who threatens the noblesse way of life—especially the commoners.
Rill Larkin, the son of a commoner blacksmith, has high ambitions. To be a mage, join the exalted ranks of the ruling noblesse, and establish his own noblesse family. Defying both the system and his family, Rill becomes the apprentice of Deuth Estati, a powerful archmage. But appearances deceive. As training progresses, Rill learns of decades-long secrets and manipulations that threaten his dream. And Deuth might not be as benevolent as Rill thought.
Alyse Dejune despises magic, even if she does belong to one of the oldest and most powerful noblesse families in Caldon. The deceits and treacheries of noblesse life and the loveless marriage alliances among the noblesse families disgust her. Her family however has high expectations: that she fulfill her role as a noblesse girl by marrying Troy Estati, an arrogant, selfish noblesse boy she does not love. And Alyse harbors a secret—the potential to become one of the most powerful mages in generations and wield forbidden magic—that, if revealed, could mean her death.
In this deadly game of ever-shifting alliances, where the state wages perpetual war against an ancient enemy, Rill and Alyse are thrown together in a land where magic is failing. And as greedy noblesse families raid surrounding family compounds for powerful charms, Rill and Alyse are left standing at a terrible crossroads.
What was it like building the Charm Wars world?
Building the Charm Wars world was an interesting challenge that required both a lot of research and plenty of imagination. I wanted to create a world in which women not only played a prominent role and also wielded the power. ( Hence the saying, “The men receive the honors, but the women have the power.”) So I modeled the Caldon’s social structure on the Iroquois. Theirs was a matrilineal society in which the husbands lived with their wives, and the family’s matriarch ruled the roost. Iroquois matriarchs wielded a lot of power, including deciding when to wage war and make peace. Caldon’s matriarchs have even more power than the Iroquois, including telling the magestrates in the Magesterium, who are men, what topics to discuss in their meetings and how to vote.
When I first met my wife, she was heavily involved in the Goddess movement. She’s the one who inspired me to made the goddesses supreme over the gods in the Caldonian religion. Because Caldonian society is Goddess- and female-centered, I decided to make the Caldonians’ vocabulary woman centered too. For example, traditionally, people have said “men and women” and “he and she.” Caldonians say “women and men” and “she and he.” Things, such as the cave entrance in Chapter 1, are “woman made,” not “manmade.” In Book 2, Revenge of the Estati,” Caldonians won’t say “humanity,” but “huwomanity.”
My background in Roman, Medieval, and Renaissance history inspired me to base Caldon’s physical structures and lifestyles on a mix of those three eras. For example, the tenement buildings have a Roman influence, in part because the inhabitants don’t cook in their apartments but go to outside vendors for their meals. The noblesses’ compounds are modeled, in part, on the Roman homes, including having a drain hole in the roofs to carry rain water into a cistern. Their compounds also have a medieval flare with their high walls and the wall walks that are patrolled by armed sentries, called “protectors.” In Renaissance Italy, states fought against one another. In Caldon it’s a bit different because the First and Lesser Families fight one another for charms and staffs, which are scarce.
Creating the world of Charm Wars is an ongoing process. As I said, it’ll be “huwomanity” instead of “humanity” in Book 2. I’m sure I’ll come up with other woman-related terms as this imaginative world keeps growing.
A deafening explosion shook the back courtyard.
Alyse jerked into a sitting position in bed, her heart frozen and her mind whirling in confusion.
Kate’s connecting door with Alyse’s burst open. The meager flame from the finger lamp Kate held illuminated the sword and dagger buckled over her white cotton nightshift. “Get up! We’ve been attacked.”
Alyse scrambled out of bed, fear billowing up her throat, expanding with air until she almost choked.
Wild shouts, clangs of swords clashing, and voices crying in pain attacked her ears through the partially open window shutters. Alyse’s mind turned as blank as a parchment sheet. She strained to recall where she had put her dress. No! There wasn’t time to grab the dress because the cardinal rule had been drummed into her head since childhood. If the compound is attacked, go to the safe shelter immediately because even a moment’s delay could end with her death if the raiders quickly overwhelmed the family’s defenders.
Kate eased the door open and peeked into the family area.
Her heart hammering in her ears, Alyse peered over Kate’s shoulder.
Servants were racing through the family area lighting torches set in sconces along the walls to provide light for the defenders if the raiders should make it into the house. Backwatchers were sprinting toward the adults’ bedrooms on the side opposite Alyse’s to escort the other family members to the safe shelter.
The ring of sword against sword and ear-piercing cracks of spells and shouts of attackers and defenders moved into the peristyle garden just outside the family area.
Another blast shook the front courtyard.
“Come on!” Kate said.
They ran toward the dining room. Before they’d covered two spear lengths, the door to the garden burst inward with a deafening roar that made Alyse’s ears ring. A huge wood splinter whizzed by Alyse’s head as attackers charged into the family area.
“Back!” Kate cried. “Into the bedroom.”
They dashed inside. While Kate locked the door, Alyse closed and bolted the window shutters, then took the dagger from her dresser drawer and unsheathed the blade.
A sharp burst, followed by something crashing onto the floor. Booted feet pounded and swords clashed.
“Jade! Oh, Goddess—no! Help! Somebody, help!”
Alyse’s breath caught in her throat as she imagined her sister being hacked to pieces by the raiders. “Mora!” She charged toward the door.
Kate yanked her arm so fiercely that Alyse almost lost her footing. “We have to help ourselves.”
Shouting raiders raced past their door toward the receiving hall.
“Listen,” Kate said, her voice tight with urgency. “We don’t need to worry about the mages. They have to see their targets to cast spells. As for the bladeswomen, the door’s only wide enough to let in one or two at a time.”
Alyse’s nerves twitched as if they were being pricked by dozens of sharp-pointed pins. She gulped a deep breath that reached the bottom of her lungs, and nodded. She wouldn’t get out of this if she panicked.
Kate stoked the hearth to create a low flame, then drew her sword. “If they come in, let me do the fighting. Use your dagger only to defend yourself, and don’t hesitate to strike. Understand?”
Alyse’s fingers tightened around the dagger’s leather-wrapped grip. The weapon, puny though it was, gave her strength. “Yes.”
Kate extinguished the finger lamp. Alyse waited tensely in the shadows near the hearth while the sounds in Mora’s room subsided.
“The other’s in here.”
An earsplitting blast blew the door off its hinges.
A woman wielding a sword rushed over the shattered wood.
Kate cut her down.
A man and a woman leaped over the body. Kate met them face on, parrying their blades with both sword and dagger. The fight took them toward the sleeping alcove. Alyse beat down the urge to attack the raiders while their backs were to her.
A mage stepped over the body sprawled by the door. “Give me a clear cast!” he shouted.
The two attackers split apart, exposing Kate to full view.
The mage pointed his staff at her.
Horror sealed off Alyse’s throat, threatening to choke her. Don’t hesitate. Kate’s injunction sliced through her brain like a knife cutting through bonds.
Alyse screamed and charged the mage.
Whirling, he swung the staff at her head.
Alyse ducked and plunged the dagger into his chest.
The mage dropped the staff and staggered backward.
Alyse scooped up the staff and smashed his skull with the orb.
He fell to the floor, dead.
Breathing hard, Alyse retrieved her dagger and turned toward the three shadowy figures battling. Part of her mind was mesmerized by Kate’s deadly skill—the first time she had ever seen her cousin fighting for real. The other part was terrified one of the raiders’ swords might slip through Kate’s guard because Kate was maneuvering to keep the attackers away from her.
A murky figure in the doorway blocked the torchlight from the family area. A bladeswoman holding a bloodstained sword.
***About the Author***
Dan Lutts, the author of Charm Wars, was brought up in Quincy, Massachusetts, and began addictively reading Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman comic books at an early age, much to his mother’s distress. In junior high school, he switched to reading science fiction novels. While in high school and college, he wrote science fiction short stories.
Dan taught history and archaeology in high school for ten years. After being laid off because of budget cuts, he used his love of writing to retrain and became a software technical editor and writer. He worked for several computer companies, taught technical writing at the college level, and worked as a freelance writer. Now, combining his love of history and writing, he works at a World War II museum doing research and writing.
Dan loves to read and has varied tastes, including Young Adult, historical fiction, mysteries, 18th-century sea epics, and history. He especially enjoys Young Adult fiction and decided to try his hand at it. Charm Wars, Dan’s first novel, is the result.
Dan lives in rural Maine with his wife, Lisa. When he’s not working or writing, Dan can be found reading, making and shooting medieval arrows with his longbow, or playing with his two dogs and two cats—all rescue animals.
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