Remember “St. George and the Dragon” – this is a gripping story about a girl in trouble. Then flip the script.
The myth of Saint George is the seed from which grew Samantha Shannon’s Orange Tree Priory. The book became a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, not to mention it became a favorite among book lovers on TikTok.
Now it’s a prequel, Day of the Fallen Night, grown out of the same tale.
But Samantha never wanted to write about girls – she wanted to write about dragons and the people who defeat them.
In the latest installment of her fantasy series Roots of Chaos, the characters Tunuva, Queen Sabran the Ambitious, Glorian and Think must find the strength within themselves to protect humanity from terror, violence and destruction when dormant dragon-like creatures, the snakes, awaken. .
It just so happens that they are all women.
It hits stores on February 28 and is a tribute to the diverse and wonderful powers of women, as well as an ode to choice.
“Strong female character” is an interesting term,” Samantha says as we chat on zoom on an overcast Tuesday morning.
Her early novels, such as Season of the Bones, were dystopian, and she believes that the dystopian genre often centers around main characters such as Katniss Everdeen (in The Hunger Games) and Beatrice Pryor (in Divergent), who become something of a blueprint for “strong female characters”.
“It was interesting because for a while we were just celebrating one type of woman who embodied traditionally masculine forms of power and demonized what we might call “traditional femininity,” says Samantha.
“And it’s great to see female characters that are good at combat and emotionally stoic, but there’s a risk of demonizing other types of women if we put too much emphasis on it.”
“I love giving roles to women with different powers,” she adds.
“So in the Roots of Chaos books, there are different women who can use swords and fight, and in that respect they have more traditionally masculine traits, but I also like to look at women who have power in other ways.
“For example, they are great politicians, or they can speak well, or they don’t know how to use swords at all.
When it comes to discussing power in Day of Fallen Night, motherhood is at the forefront of every character’s journey.
“It’s the exact opposite of being weak, being able to give birth is an incredible thing,” says Samantha.
“The whole theme of Day of the Fallen is about motherhood, which is interesting because I don’t want to have children. I’ve always felt the pressure on me to do it, and the feeling that people find it very unusual.
“Even from a very early age I knew that I didn’t want children, I was always quite firm in this belief and didn’t change my mind despite being told that I would.”
Each main character in Day of the Fallen Night has her own attitude towards motherhood.
Tanuva is a mother who lost her child, but now she is the mother of a child whom she treats as her own – and in some way her own.
Glorian is forced into motherhood but does not want to be a mother and also has a difficult relationship with her mother Sabran.
Then there’s Think, who doesn’t want kids and ends up not having kids.
“I think it’s important to celebrate motherhood for those who want to do so, and also to explore how the pressure of being a mother can be harmful. It’s about choice,” says Samantha.
But Day of the Fallen Night is also a fantasy eutopia, strange, free of ageism and patriarchy, yet openly confronting grief and loss.
“I think it’s important that we celebrate people of all ages, so there are two moments in the book where young women look at older women and feel that they are beautiful,” says Samantha.
Think notices that the Grand Empress has streaks of gray in her hair and says that she can’t wait for her hair to be the same.
“I think we women are being encouraged to desperately try to keep our youth, and ultimately that’s something we’re going to fail at because no one else can. I think it’s important to challenge ideas about what beauty is and why we’re all so afraid of getting old,” adds Samantha.
“I think it’s important to make connections between women of different generations, because women are very strong together, and I think patriarchy encourages us not to have these intergenerational connections.
“Older women are expected to envy women because of their looks, and young women should be afraid of getting old. I think this is what patriarchy requires of us.
“I think the resistance to this can be very strong. I tried to get women of all generations to work together to defeat a common threat.”
Masterfully portraying these tender bonds and heartfelt moments in a fiery landscape of devastation and war, Samantha is a book that will split your heart in two.
But, despite all the grief and loss, pain and betrayal, this is a kind of fantasy world that you want to enter. It’s safe to say that BookTok is already going crazy for the next installment in The Roots of Chaos series.
Yes, the Orange Tree Priory characters aren’t born yet, but the cast of Day of the Fallen Night will make you never want to leave them.
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Contact us at MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.
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