I am very excited to help promote the fourth book in Danika Dinsmore's Faerie Tales from the White Forest series. These are great middle-great adventures about a magical world full of fascinating creatures. Here are my reviews of Brigitta of the White Forest, The Ruins of Noe, and Ondelle of Grioth.
In Narine of Noe, Danika does one of my favourite things: she takes us back in time to to learn the truth about the Ancients and the devastating events that destroyed their world. Narine is a young fairy who thinks she knows her destiny, but when everything she knows is turned upside-down she is suddenly left on her own to figure out how to save the world.
Here's how Danika Dinsmore answered my questions about the book and about herself:
You’ve said that you have a six-book series planned out. Was a prequel always included in that plan? What made you decide to go back 1000 years and tell this story at this stage in Brigitta’s journey?
The prequel was not actually part of the original plan. The idea crept up on me as I was writing the first three books, because I had had to come up with so much back story for those books. As the back story became more and more vivid, I realized it, too, needed telling.
I honestly can’t say why I decided to write it in the middle of the series. I just knew it was the right time, and I tend to trust my intuition. I think it provides a lot of answers that are important before Brigitta's journey continues. It also helps us realize what great sacrifice the Ancients made and what's at stake if Brigitta should fail in reuniting Faweh.
Ruins are so cool and evocative. Brigitta visits the Ruins of Noe in book 2, and now in book 4 we get to see what Noe was like. Have you visited any real-life Earth ruins? If you had a time machine, is there a particular set of ruins you’d love to visit in the past to see what they were like?
Ruins are definitely evocative and I've seen my share. My first were the ruins of Ayutthaya in Thailand, which I absolutely loved. I've also visited Athens and Crete and the ruins there were mind-boggling, especially Knossos, Europe's oldest city (first settlement was 9,000 years ago). They made our North American concept of "old" appear so quaint. I also loved Tikal in Guatamala, and I've been to a few Anasazi ruins in Colorado and New Mexico. I'm sure there are more I'm forgetting. I'd love to travel back in time to Ayutthaya or another ancient South Asian culture.
How do you conceive of the differences between Narine's world and Brigitta’s? Narine's world has different magic (I saw it almost like different technology), different social structures, different architecture and fashion—what did you use as inspiration to create this precursor society?
I can't point to anything specific as an inspiration for the precursor society, other than I knew it had to be more advanced and more connected to the rest of the world. The Ancient Faeries were the keepers of the elements, the caretakers of Faweh. The White Forest faeries were "lesser" faeries who had been rescued by the Ancients during the Great World Cry (which I now refer to as the "faerie apocalypse") and placed in a protected realm. White Forest faeries do not have the magical abilities of the Ancients and are by no means worldly. They are still a young civilization - much more primitive.
Narine lived before and during the "apocalypse," and Brigitta lives in the "post-apocalyptic" world. It would be like if our own world experienced an apocalypse and everyone had to start over in these isolated communities. Since the White Forest Faeries had been cut off, I knew their society would have grown its own way rather than imitating the Ancients' ways. The fun of Brigitta's story is reconnecting all these ancient cultures that existed together in Narine's time.
Your settings are always so detailed and real, despite being completely fantastical. Did you use real-Earth settings as the basis for any of the locations in Narine’s world?
I actually try not to, lol. I have lived among forests for so long that I fear the forests in my stories will "dull" if I use my earthly ones for inspiration. I have to keep re-imagining them so that they appear fantastic in my mind. I guess my "uul trees" were partially inspired by banyan trees. And Lake Indago possibly by Lake Louise in Alberta.
Did you love fairies as a child? Is there a book or movie or painting or anything you remember sparking your fascination? Or did that happen as an adult?
The funny thing is that I had absolutely no fascination with fairies / faeries as a child. I loved stories and I loved fantasy books. I devoured all the Wizard of Oz and Chronicles of Narnia books. And I had no interest in faeries when the idea of the story popped into my head. Brigitta and Himalette just asked to be written. I didn't even consider myself that interested in faeries as I was writing the story itself! I was just interested in the characters and their world.
Have you tried to recreate any fairy food using Earth alternative ingredients?
I have! I've made two different versions of Pippet's pipberry juice and have also made batches of triple lyllium succlaid and gundlebean stew on occasion (I use lentils because gundlebeans are hard to come by)
Well I, for one, would love to see those recipes!
I've got an exciting look at Narine of Noe at the end of the post. (If you've read the other books, you will be intrigued by the character Narine meets in this scene!)
Anyone interested in writing a review for any of the White Forest books may contact Danika at firstname.lastname@example.org for free ebook copies. Mention you saw this posted on Kim’s site. :-)
You can connect with Danika in the following realms:
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/authordanikadinsmore
Facebook White Forest Series Page: https://www.facebook.com/whiteforestrealm
Facebook White Forest Series Page: https://www.facebook.com/whiteforestrealm
Meeting the Drutan Newling
As the two faeries dipped down toward the river, the newly sparkled forest dropped from sight. When they reached the valley proper, they pulled next to a cliff to stay out of the wind. Though Narine could no longer see the glowing section of forest, the sky shone brighter above it. Mesmerized by the peculiar light, Narine nearly missed the oddly-shaped silhouette standing at the top of one of the cliffs, but a howling from that direction caught her attention. She stopped and hovered in the air, watching the strange beast’s movements.
Shaped like a small gnarled tree, it shook in the moonslight, barky branch arms reaching out to the skies. At first Narine thought it was simply the wind shaking and howling behind it, but then she realized the keening came from the tree-like creature itself. It released one final low, haunting moan and pulled back into the forest.
In its place, a wee beast stood at the edge of the cliff, lurching in the wind. Far below it, the river cascaded over a series of slippery rocks. Narine gasped as the creature toppled toward the edge.
"Look out!" she cried, and Thorze turned around.
"On the cliff!" Narine called to her father, pointing to the top of the ridge where the small creature twisted and turned. "It’s going to fall!”
“Narine!" called Thorze, several wingbeats downriver, but she didn’t have time to stop and explain to him that the beast was in peril.
She sped up the cliffside until she reached the top and the strange creature snapped into view. She gasped as the little beast tumbled forward, and she extended her arms to catch it . . . but it didn’t fall.
Like a sapling rooted to the earth, even as it slumped forward it was anchored in place. Its two brown arms embraced its own body, limbs extending into fingers with protruding rootlets winding and tangling around its back. Within the twisted roots, its hard, ridged skin shone in the moonslight.
"There, there." She clasped its barky shoulders.
"No!" her father called to her from below. "Wait!"
But it was too late. As she straightened the beast up again, its eyes popped open. The little thing blinked several times into Narine’s face and then let out a cry. Its black eyes watered over, and Narine was pulled into their murky wetness. Something stirred inside them, and she drew forward . . .
. . . she was gazing down from a crumbling cliff, across a dark and choppy ocean . . . Under the water, a shadow headed toward her . . . No! Not a shadow . . . something solid, massive, and formidable . . .
“Narine!" a voice cut through the darkness, shaking her back to the present.
She swung her head around, not sure where she had just been.
"Are you all right?" Thorze pulled Narine’s face to his, examining her eyes.
"I… I… think so…" She looked back down. The creature was slumped sideways. "What happened?"
"I put her back to sleep," said Thorze gravely. "Come."
"But, what…why…" Narine tried to recall what had just transpired as her father turned her away.
"It’s a newling Drutan." He rubbed her arms. "We must leave her be.”
It took immense effort for Narine not to turn back around again; she felt such an ache for the beast. If she could only look into its eyes again. Maybe even hold it in her arms.
"What’s a Drutan?" she asked instead.
"A very rare creature." Thorze pulled his daughter closer and guided her back off the cliff. Her body, still stunned, let his sturdy one hold them both up. He gave her a squeeze. "Let us hope we have not disturbed her destiny."
"Her destiny!" Narine gasped, now fully awake.
She glanced down at her hands as if they had betrayed her all on their own. Some High Sage Mentee she was. How could she have just grasped the newling Drutan without even thinking?
Thorze stopped several wingbeats away and rotated his daughter around, holding her tightly across the shoulders. She didn’t know whether it was to comfort her or restrain her, but she accepted his warmth gratefully. They watched as a few of the creature’s roots unraveled and gathered themselves up again, twisting around and around and tucking themselves away inside her bound body.
“Drutan newlings soak in the moonslight energies to acquire a destiny," Thorze explained. "When a Drutan first opens its eyes to the moonslight, its initial tears transform to moonstones, which, over time, reveal its destiny."
"I disturbed her sleep!" Narine’s voice caught in her throat. "She opened her eyes!"
"You didn’t know," Thorze said.
She waited for her father to tell her everything would be fine, and her heart sank a little more when he did not.
"Where did her parents go? Maybe we can find them? Maybe they can help?”
He shook his head. "Both her father and mother have gone away. They are solitary beings. They will most likely never meet again."
"But what will happen to her?"
"She will live a very long time, and, as she grows older, her tree energy will emerge, and she will slowly transform, until one day, many season cycles from now, she will root into the earth, as tree-like as any in the forest before you.”
“But won’t she be lonely?" Narine asked. "Won’t she be scared?"
She could not imagine being born into a very long life without any parents or family or friends. What would the Drutan do by itself all day? Who would comfort her? Who would pass on Drutan knowledge and tell her Drutan stories?
"It is their way." Thorze gave her one last squeeze, but it was little solace. "Come, let us continue our journey to investigate this strange shimmering. I promise, Narine, there’s nothing else we can do. All she needs is her moonslight, and the rest will take care of itself. Drutans are born wise.”