AIZAI THE FORGOTTEN
by Mary-Jean Harris
With an otherworldly horse borrowed from an astrologer, and armed with a strange magical device, seventeen-year-old Wolfdon Pellegrin sets off through seventeenth-century France and Spain to fulfill his dream of finding the forgotten realm of Aizai.
One obscure book, by the philosopher Paulo de la Costa Santamiguero, has given him a lead to start his journey—go to the northern coast of Spain, where a portal to Aizai supposedly exists.
Though death and danger loom ever near, nothing can dim the longing for Aizai kindling within Wolfdon’s heart. Yet even as he strives to discover the mysterious realm’s secrets and fate, a frightening truth becomes clear—one that may cost Wolfdon everything, including the future.
“I must be off,” Wolfdon said, deciding that he would try to find these Philosophers and anyone else who knew about Aizai or Paulo.
Fredrick then took Wolfdon’s arm and whispered, “I suppose you have a proper Wert?”
Wolfdon shook his head, having never heard of a “Wert” before. Fredrick released him and took a thick rod from a strap on his belt. At first glance, it might have been a flattened pickaxe. The rod was made of what appeared to be petrified wood, for it was hued with a pleasant entwinement of red, green, rose, and orange, and the bronze head had two blades that curved down the sides of the rod like the drooping ears of a hound so that the top was smooth and harmless. Mysterious runic writing was etched where the rod met the head.
Seeing Wolfdon’s puzzled expression, Fredrick smiled and said, “This is a spare, fortunately for you.”
“What does it do?” Wolfdon asked.
“That is for the bearer to determine. A Wert is what we make of it—its power will shift accordingly. Ay! Rub that skeptical face away! The best men carry a Wert at all times, even Queen Anne Sophie of Norway.”
“I only have ten deniers, and that’s for my trip.” Wolfdon had little faith that the Wert would work anyway.
“Ah.” Fredrick lowered the Wert and tapped the wall behind him with it. He looked about idly, but Wolfdon saw the wall shift. The dragon’s tail wriggled up and down, the light and dark stones moving accordingly. It flicked down the wall, subtly, so that no one saw it but Wolfdon and a young girl who cried to her mother that the dragon was waking up. But by the time her mother looked, it was no longer moving.
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AN INTERVIEW WITH MARY-JEAN
-What inspired you to become a writer?
I just tried it out! I started writing when I was in elementary school and high school, mostly with short stories, although I did start a novel in grade 7 and finish it a few years later. I never published this one, but I’m glad I wrote it all the same. Now, I’m focusing on my series The Soul Wanderers, such as the second book that I’m writing now, though I also have some short stories within the same world that are related, but can be read alone. For me, creating a story and writing beautifully are one of the few things that are goals in themselves. I love to write, to explore places I’ve never been, and to follow characters I’ve never known, but in a way, as I write, I go to these places, learn magic, and become friends with intriguing characters.
-What draws you to fantasy?
I am drawn to fantasy mostly, either high fantasy or historical fantasy. I often find this kind of magic to be more “real” than things in the “real” world, because it takes you to a higher level of existence. I also include some philosophy in my writing, which I am studying as a minor in university. As for historical fiction, past times seem more interesting and more unknown. The mystery of past ages with magic and sorcery and secret philosophies…I find all these things very exciting!
-Give us a fun or interesting fact you learned researching this book.
I learned some things about Renaissance magic and philosophy, because although my book is set in a later time period, it was influenced greatly by the Renaissance. One neat thing was talismans, which are magical objects that a magician infuses with some power to make them do a certain task. Although I didn’t use it in my book, I read that the famous painting Primavera by Botticelli was supposed to be a talisman to bring down the cosmic energy of Venus, which I found really interesting.
-Which of your characters would you go out for pizza with?
Paulo de la Costa Santamiguero! He’s a philosopher that Wolfdon, the main character, meets in Aizai. I didn’t say Wolfdon because he’s not particularly sociable. I’m not either, so I’m not sure if we would be a good mix. I picked Paulo because he has such neat ideas about magic and philosophy and has a very interesting personality.
-For aspiring writers, any tips?
Be inspired. Most writers say you just have to sit and force yourself to write, which is definitely true, but I find that you can’t get real inspiration by just forcing yourself through it. You have to dream about your story, look up in the clouds (literally!) and let your imagination take you on an adventure. I think if you love to write and you have fun with it, then anyone can write good stories, because if you love to do it, you’ll find the time and make it work, just as we find the time to do things like eating and sleeping because if we didn’t, we’d be miserable (or dead!). I think the key is to remember why you want to write, and to keep that in your mind and heart whenever you go to write or plan your stories.
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
There are a lot of genres I’ve never tried writing and that I don’t really want to. Such as romance, or chick-lit. I like old-fashioned books, and would not be good at capturing modern slang and dialogue. And I’d just get bored with it. I also wouldn’t ever write horror or thriller, because I’d probably be too scared! However, I do include elements from these genres, like romance or horror, though they are never the main element of the story. For me, one of the highlights of writing is to explore other places, which is one of the reasons why I like fantasy and historical fiction.
Mary-Jean Harris writes fantasy and historical fiction, both novels and short stories. She is currently a student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, studying theoretical physics with a minor in philosophy. She has an adorable poodle and a rabbit, and has travelled to England, Scotland, and Peru and hopes to travel to many other interesting places. Her novel Aizai the Forgotten is the first in the series The Soul Wanderers.
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