Exploring the Storms Within, a guest post by Sunya Mara
I think we recognize something of ourselves in great storms.
I’ve been in a monsoon where heavy, warm rain poured, night and day, for weeks. I’ve been in a wildfire where flakes of white-gray ash fell from the sky, and through the smoke, the red sun was rimmed in black. I’ve stood at the edge of a wide field as a dark thunderstorm rolled over the hills, under the power of its own drumbeat, throwing great spears of lightning so powerful that all the sky and land was briefly awash in eerie light.
Before all that awe and turmoil, written on the massive scale unique to nature, I saw reflected things that we feel, but are hard to pin down, feelings that are too big to be captured adequately in words. There’s a reason storms have a starring role in many of our oldest parables, and why they’re one of our most common metaphors. I think we know what it’s like to have all that tumult and turbulence inside us, to feel a darkness and a rage and a terrible weeping.
I wrote The Darkening with that in mind: the connection between the storms outside and the ones we have inside. I love the fantasy genre so very much, because metaphors and ideas can be made tangible and turned into a setting and a world.
The Darkening takes place in a city surrounded by a magical storm. The storm stretches as far as the eye can see, curses anyone who touches it, and is home to shadowy beasts. The city exists in the calm eye of the storm—but that eye has been shrinking over the past several hundred years. Now only the inner five rings of the city remain.
As the story begins, our heroine, Vesper Vale, lives at the city’s edge in the fifth ring, under the shadow of the Storm. She dreams of where the sunlight reaches, of joining up with the Wardana—soldiers armed with magic—who protect the kingdom from the storm’s beasts. But she can’t take the risk—her parents led a failed revolution, and for their trouble, her mother was forced into the storm, and her father has evaded his death sentence by hiding in the fringes of society. Vesper is trapped not just by the choices her parents made, but by the love and loyalty she has for them, even as she dreams of escaping into a different life.
Prince Dalca knows the horrors that hide in sunlight. He’s soon to inherit the crown and the power that comes with it – and he fears nothing more. He’s the last in an unbroken line of royals who made a bargain to save their kingdom: in exchange for power great enough to hold back the storm, they became the vessel of a god. When the god wears through his mother’s body, Dalca will take the oath and become trapped in his own body till the end of his days.
He has one hope: the research of a disgraced revolutionary named Alcanar Vale, Vesper’s father. Dalca hunts her father down and throws him in a secret prison, determined to get the rest of his research by any means necessary. Vesper disguises herself and infiltrates the Wardana to get close to Dalca and find her father. But as she gets closer to him, she begins to see that no one, not even the golden prince, is untouched by the dark power of the storm.
Their story came to me in a dream. I dreamt of a girl and a boy fighting in the sands of an arena. They were kindred spirits, almost lovers, but they were kept on opposite sides because of leashes of their histories, their respective traditions, the paths they knew they should take, their own fears, their own hurts.
That is: their own internal storms.
In The Darkening, people’s inner storms and the external, world-ending magical storm are connected. And anyone seeking to face the external storm must also face the dark and unknowable parts of themselves. That’s what Vesper and Dalca must meet head on—and only then will they have a hope of saving their city and saving themselves.
I think it’s true for many of us, that the world changes once we face all that we fear to acknowledge. But saying it is always easier than the doing, and it’s the doing that I wanted to capture in The Darkening. Because there’s a reason why everyone doesn’t go on that journey—we fear might not survive it.
I wrote The Darkening for those who want to brave that journey, so they know that they’re not alone. That the immense things within us—the things that feel as tumultuous and terrible as nature’s great storms—they can be faced, they can be beaten, they can be healed.
Meet the author
Sunya Mara grew up in six different cities across five different states and now calls Los Angeles home. She studied film and business at the University of Southern California and went on to write and illustrate at Kobe Bryant’s Granity Studios. When not telling stories, she spends her time haunting old movie theaters and staring at museum walls.
About The Lightstruck
In this epic sequel and conclusion to the Darkening duology, which has been called “enchanting and wildly clever” (Ayana Gray, New York Times bestselling author of Beasts of Prey), Vesper Vale, once savior to a city plagued by cursed storms, finds herself facing an even more sinister threat when an ominous light summoned by the Great King seizes control of the city.
Vesper Vale sacrificed everything to save her city from the cursed storm. After becoming a vessel of The Great Queen, Vesper awakes from a slumber three years after her life altering choice.
What she finds isn’t a home freed from the terror of the storm, but one where its citizens are besieged by the even more sinister force of The Great King and his growing army of the lightstruck—once regular citizens who are now controlled by the ominous light encroaching on the city. And the people are all looking to Vesper, now revered as a goddess after her sacrifice, as their city’s only hope.
To save the rings from the Great King, Vesper must contend with the obligations of being a deity to her people and the growing chasm between her and Dalca, the prince she swore never to love. Haunted by the guilt of their past choices and faced with the pressures of a city near ruin, Vesper and Dalca find themselves torn between the growing factions within the city and the royal court.
But in order to save her city from the light, Vesper must face the power most outside of her control—the goddess within.
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/29/2023
Series: Darkening Duology #2
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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