About the BookBook: Of Sea and Smoke Author: Gillian Bronte Adams Genre: YA Epic Fantasy Release Date: November 21, 2023 He rides a seablood, a steed of salt and spray, born to challenge the tides. Six years ago, the wrong brother survived, and nothing will ever convince Rafi Tetrani otherwise. But he is done running from his past, and from the truth. As civil war threatens Ceridwen’s tenuous rule in Soldonia, Rafi vows to fight the usurper sitting on the imperial throne of Nadaar, even if it means shouldering his brother’s responsibilities as the empire’s lost heir. The stolen shipload of magical warhorses offers just the edge he needs. But the steeds have been demanded in ransom by the emperor’s ruthless assassin, and if Rafi hopes to raise a band of riders, he must first outwit his brother’s murderer. Yet when his best efforts end in disaster, and an audacious raid sparks an empire-wide manhunt, even forging an unexpected alliance might not be enough to help Rafi turn the tides, let alone outrace the wave of destruction intent on sweeping them all away.
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About the AuthorGillian Bronte Adams writes epic fantasy novels, including the award- winning Of Fire and Ash and The Songkeeper Chronicles. She loves strong coffee, desert hikes, and trying out new soup recipes on crisp fall nights. Her favorite books are the ones that make your heart ache and soar in turn. When she’s not creating vibrant new worlds or dreaming up stories that ring with the echoes of eternity, she can be found off chasing sunsets with her horse, or her dog, Took.
More from GillianOne of my favorite things about writing epic fantasy is not actually what you might expect. It’s not the fantastical elements, although I absolutely love creating worlds filled with magical warhorses, sosswyrm tangles, and stone-eye tigers who can paralyze their prey with a glance. It’s not the intensity of the action or the world altering stakes, although there’s nothing quite so thrilling as throwing your characters into a do-or-die situation, and the pulse-pounding, breathtaking, heart-aching battle sequences that follow. Instead, one of my favorite things about writing such wild and epic stories is the opportunity to ground them in very real, very human characters, with very real, very human emotions, and in the complexity of those characters’ relationships with others. Mentor relationships, deeply loyal friendships, and especially sibling relationships. I am the second-born of five siblings, and I love and admire each of my siblings. Each one encourages and inspires and awes me in his or her own unique way. But growing up, if you had told me that my older sister had hung the moon, I would have believed you. She was two and a half years older than me—and yes, that half year mattered to both of us, though for opposite reasons; she because it meant she was that much older, me because it meant we were that much closer. Somehow, everything she touched seemed golden, and I wanted to be a part of it too. She was a force of nature—a foaming ocean tide—and I was caught up in her wake. She took up horseback riding, and so did I. She picked up books, and I had to read them too, even if it meant sitting beside her in the car with my own book open on my lap, surreptitiously reading hers over her shoulder. (Needless to say, that drove her crazy, and older siblings everywhere can probably commiserate.) She dove into creative writing, and out of nowhere, I developed a passion for the written word. But always, within her, there was this spark of imagination and creativity that I felt I could only ever aspire to. Whatever I did, she had done first and better. And I could only hope to one day achieve her level of greatness. Rafi, one of the main characters in Of Sea and Smoke, also has an older sibling, a brother he has always looked up to. While Rafi and his relationship with his brother is not based on my relationship with my older sister—we’re all four of us wildly different people—there were some aspects of my experience as a second-born that I was able to draw upon. Rafi admires his brother’s strength and confidence. His assurance and rightness. His nobility and leadership. By the time we enter the story, his older brother is no longer around, but Rafi has spent his whole life setting his brother up on a pedestal and then trying to measure up to that ideal. Is it any wonder, then, that he has always found himself wanting? Now, Rafi finds himself having to step into the role that should have been his brother’s, and the only way he can contemplate facing that challenge is by stamping out the things he looks down upon in himself—many of them, the things that make him himself—and trying to be his brother instead. Growing up, I can’t tell you how many times I looked at my older sister and wished that I could be more like her and less like myself. More confident. More brilliant. More vibrant. More her. But it wasn’t until my older sister’s interests began to drift into new additional avenues, while mine stayed mostly the same (horses, books, writing), that I finally began to grow into myself. To recognize my strengths, my unique skills, the things that only I bring to the table, and to acknowledge that even when they are different from hers, they are still good. These days, my older sister and I are best friends. She was the first person I trusted to read Of Sea and Smoke before it went out into the world. I still look up to her in so many ways, and yes, I think I’ll always feel a bit like she hung the moon. But I have grown to appreciate the beauty of what I can learn from my sister’s strengths, while also recognizing the value of my own. And without revealing any spoilers, I think I can safely say that part of Rafi’s journey in Of Sea and Smoke wraps around learning that too, all while he’s raising a band of rebel fighters, trying to outwit an infamous assassin, and plotting to overthrow the empire’s oppressive rule. Wild, epic stories, grounded in real, human experiences, and honestly, can reading get any more fun than that? I hope you enjoy the ride! Gillian Bronte Adams
Interview with the Author
Do you read books in this genre? If so, who do you like to read?
Epic Fantasy has been my genre of choice almost my entire life. While I do try to read outside the genre to constantly expand my horizons, the majority of the books on my shelf are still epic fantasy. Some of my favorite epic fantasy authors include J.R.R. Tolkien, Brandon Sanderson, Robin Hobb, and so forth. My goal with this series was to write epic fantasy that felt as deep and rich and complex as their stories but geared toward a young adult audience, so with a faster pace and action that constantly pulls you toward the end.
What helps you to write? Do you eat snacks, listen to music?
Coffee. Coffee helps me to write. There’s something wonderfully comforting about settling in to write with a cup of hot coffee close to hand. But if I’m not curled up in my desk chair with a cup of coffee and my pup close by, I love to take my writing outdoors. Something about sitting outside with the wind in my hair and a beautiful movie soundtrack playing just unlocks my imagination, frees me from the distractions of everything else I could be doing, and allows the story to soar.
What is one thing readers would be surprised to learn about you?
I love to nerd out over historical research. Even though I write epic fantasy, I do a lot of research into different time periods, cultures, historical conflicts, battle plans, etc. Maybe that’s not actually surprising to any of my readers, but I can geek out over different types of historical weaponry with the best of them, and nothing makes me more excited than discovering a historical treatise or manual on whatever it is I’m researching. I can definitely nerd out over ancient battle reports or guidelines on how to provision a force on the march or how to set up a fortified camp. It’s all so ridiculously fascinating and provides the little details that you can sprinkle in to add an extra flavor of authenticity to a fantasy story.
What inspired you to write this book?
I started dreaming up ideas for this series over ten years ago! Of Sea and Smoke is the second book in The Fireborn Epic where warriors ride to battle on magical breeds of warhorses. I spent a number of years managing the horsemanship program at a youth camp where I got to teach kids to ride and see their eyes light up as they caught a glimpse at that beautiful bond of trust that can exist between horses and their riders, and it was there that the first ideas for the world of The Fireborn Epic started to spark in my mind.
I wanted to write a fantasy story with magical horses that felt like real horses who could bond with their riders in a way that felt rooted in reality. So, while the horses in The Fireborn Epic breathe fire, vanish into shadow, and summon waves from the heart of the sea, they react and move and “think” and sometimes do wildly goofy things like the horses in our world. They’re not more human or more intelligent than real world horses. They just have additional special abilities. I wanted to try and capture the beauty of that real relationship between horses and riders in the midst of an epic (and oftentimes intense) adventure story!
Share with me a few of your favorite things.
Oh, this is a fun question! Kayaking on lakes and rivers. Cooking up giant pots of soup in the fall. Putting together cheese plates. Going hiking in the mountains and in the desert. The long days of summer—I love having sunlight until 9 pm. Long holiday meals with family. Bookish inspired candles with muted, natural scents—nothing too overwhelming. Reading by the light of the Christmas tree and a fire in the hearth during the winter.
Thank you for letting us get to know you better!
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Blogging With Carol, December 10
Tell Tale Book Reviews, December 11 (Author Interview)
Simple Harvest Reads, December 12 (Guest Review from Mindy)
Library Lady’s Kid Lit, December 13 (Author Interview)
By The Book, December 14 (Author Interview)
The Lofty Pages, December 14
Fiction Book Lover, December 15 (Author Interview)
To celebrate her tour, Gillian is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card and hardcover copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.