Incarn Saga Book 1
by Katharine Wibell Genre: YA Fantasy
“According to legend, when the world was young, the goddess Issaura appeared among men. Those who treated her with kindness received the gift of the gods—the ability to transform into an animal form. This was a great honor but one that separated this race from other humans. Before Issaura departed the mortal realm, she promised to return if her people were ever at the point of destruction.
“Now a threat is rising from a land across the mists of the ocean, a threat that will push this race to the brink of extinction. Responding to the call to war, seventeen-year-old Lluava heads off to find her destiny, one that will carve her name in history.”
The Kingdom of Elysia consists of two races: the dominant race of humans and the native race of Theriomorphs who can shift into animal form. Although law dictates equal treatment, they neither like nor trust each other. Now brutal and ruthless Raiders are approaching; there is only one chance to defeat them. An army must be raised and trained. An army where each human will be paired with a Theriomorph partner. An army that must fight as one to defeat their common enemy.
Women are not warriors. However, Lluava is not like other women – human or Theriomorph. Her animal form is a magnificent beast whose power and fury she must learn to control. Although Lluava endures intense physical training and strives to overcome the doubts of the male recruits, she faces an unexpected adversary in the commanding general who seeks to break both her spirit and her body.
At the paring ceremony, Lluava is humbled when presented with a unique and ancient weapon. Yet she becomes distraught and angry when her human partner is revealed. If they fail to trust each other, the consequences will be devastating. Death and destruction are on the horizon and time is running out.
The Incarn Saga is a young adult fantasy series inspired by ancient myths, filled with fast-paced action and adventure, and enriched by an understanding of animal behavior that defines the shape-shifting Theriomorphs.
‘…The man hobbled up to the first girl and measured from fingertip to fingertip. Then he measured the circumference of her chest and waist. Finally, he noted the girl’s height and length from waist to heel. Kentril then told the girl to step behind the wooden divider and shift into her dual form. When she reappeared, she had turned into a smoky kitten. The tailor marked on his piece of paper the kitten’s color and size measurements. He turned to the next girl and repeated the entire process. When he was finished, the girls were allowed to transform and dress.
When Rosalyn changed into an elegant swan, the tailor cooed, “Very pretty. Yes, very pretty.” She flew gracefully behind the wooden slats. All eyes watched as the beautiful girl emerged.
Lluava was next. She fidgeted when the tailor’s old fingers quickly moved around her body, making notes of her size. Walking behind the inch-thick wooden wall before transforming, she wished it were thicker. She removed her clothes and concentrated on shape shifting. It was not as easy for her as for the other girls, for she had not changed as often as they had. Her father had warned her of the dangers of her animal form, so she had avoided changing shape. She had been eleven years old the last time, running from a stampeding herd of cattle in a neighbor’s field.
Although the process would take only a few seconds, it always seemed to last much longer. Concentrating, she felt the heat build from inside her very soul, growing and growing until every part of her body burned. A sharp pain erupted from her spine; she heard cracking sounds, and her skin seemed to boil and bubble and ooze into a different shape. The sharp pains increased as her bones reformed and switched places; her gut twisted as her organs realigned in her new body. She tasted blood as sharp teeth erupted from her gums and the others dissolved. More cracking sounds occurred as her skull distorted and reformed. The pain was overwhelming, and she fell on all fours when her tail burst forth. Although pain blurred her vision, she could still make out the white and black fur sprouting from her skin. She lay still, panting, until the pain crept away.
Kentril heard the gasps of the girls and looked up as a large white tigress emerged from behind the divider. His jaw dropped. His eyes remained on Lluava as the tailor quickly scribbled notes. Rosalyn, too, caught her breath at the beast that slept above her bed.
Lluava saw the fear in the eyes of the girls and the men; she could taste the fear in the air. Her heart beat faster. An inner whispering encouraged her to run, but she did not understand and tried to ignore it. She approached the girls, but they backed away. Kentril was shouting at her. She tried to concentrate, tried to listen to what he was saying, but his words made no sense. She moved toward him, trying to figure out what he meant. She made out only a couple of words: change, away, help.
Was he in trouble? She wanted to help but did not know what was wrong. The tension in the air increased, which only agitated her further. She felt as if she were being smothered; she had to escape. A voice in her head began screaming, “Run, run!” She turned toward the door, but several officers ran in and closed the door behind them.
Lluava needed to flee, but her way out was blocked. Panic engulfed her; she had to be free. Leaping toward the drill sergeant, she tried to make him understand that she had to escape. The tall man grabbed the hilt of his sword, and she backed away, knowing, somehow, that he intended to hurt her. A roar emerged from her throat. Screams sounded throughout the room. Another pain erupted as small, sharp objects pierced her rump.
Lluava turned to defend herself. A sleek black panther faced her, one forepaw outstretched and claws extended. The dark beast snarled at her. She snarled back. Each tensed, waiting for the other to make a move. It was time to fight…’
Katharine Wibell’s lifelong interest in mythology includes epic poetry like the Odyssey, Ramayana, Beowulf, and the Nibelungenlied. In addition, she is interested in all things animal whether training dogs, apprenticing at a children’s zoo, or caring for injured animals as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. After receiving degrees from Mercer University in both art and psychology with an emphasis in animal behavior, Wibell moved to New Orleans with her dog, Alli, to kick start her career as an artist and a writer. Her first literary works blend her knowledge of the animal world with the world of high fantasy.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
Top Ten Books
1) The Odyssey by Homer 2)Ramayana
3) The Iliad by Homer
4) Harry Potter series by J K Rowling
5) A Song of Ice and Fire series by J R R Martin 6)The Nibelungenlied
7) The Aeneid by Virgil
8) Beowulf, the Seamus Heaney translation 9)The Saga of the Volsungs
10) Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee (Just a beautiful Illustrated book)
What inspired you to write this book?
Writing or, at the very least, storytelling is engrained in my DNA. I have always created characters with back-stories both good, bad, and the in-between. As a child, all my toys had names, personalities, and complex relationships with one another. Although I played less with those toys as I got older, I still needed to express my unhindered imagination. Fantasy writing was a natural next move. Thus, Issaura’s Claws and the Incarn Saga were born.
What can we expect from you in the future? Ullr’s Fangs, the sequel to Issaura’s Claws, will be published later this year. The final two sequels are written and incubating until it is time for them to be born. Currently, I am writing the first book of another Young Adult fantasy series.
Tell us about a favorite character from your book.
It is surprisingly tough to determine who is my favorite character. Personally, I would have to decide between two. Initially, Lluava is the most obvious choice. She is my main character, and I have a great attachment to her. On the other hand, as there is a good bit of myself in her, it might be like hanging out with a variant of myself. However, s her hot temper and her brash decision-making are traits that I hope I do not share with her.
My second choice is Varren. The prince is intelligent, cultured, and well-educated with an ability to think strategically. On the surface, he appears a calm and collected leader. However, his own flaws and insecurities contribute to internal conflicts and an inability to make decisions. Like all three-dimensional characters, Varren will change and grow as the book progresses, which makes him feel more real and thus relatable.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Outside of writing, I create art in a style known as reverse glass painting. Much of my art, like my writing, incorporates animals. My dog, Alli, serves as my artistic muse and appears in a variety of paintings playing with Mardi Gras beads or throwing a Crawfish Boil. Other than work, I love exercising, floating down the bayou in my chateau made of inflatables, and participating in sports leagues like kickball. Since I live in New Orleans, there is always a festival to attend or new cuisine to try. Overall, I would say I love to live life.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
My characters are almost entirely created from my imagination. Even though I feel a strong connection with Lluava, she is not based off of me. At least I hope I am not as hot-tempered and rash as she is! Yet, I have to admit, there are moments when each of my characters acts or thinks like a person I have known at a specific point in time. So, in the end, the answer is a bit muddled. My characters are not actual acquaintances or myself, yet they are often a composite of experiences from my own past.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
A number of personal experiences inspired me to write Issaura’s Claws and the Incarn Saga series. In college, I pursued a degree in animal psychology, aka animal behavior, in addition to pursuing a degree in art. I had always wanted to understand the sounds and body language of animals. In that same vein, I become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for the state of Georgia and worked directly with wild animals. Immediately after college, I apprenticed with a dog trainer. That was followed by an internship at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.
As a result of these experiences, I envisioned a race of people known as Theriomorphs that can transform into animal forms. Even when Theriomorphs are in humanoid form, various animal characteristics, both physical and psychological, are evident. For example, Yamir, a ruddy-skinned youth who spikes his hair and seems to get stuck in uncomfortable situations has an animal form of a porcupine. The protagonist, Lluava, has a dual form of a white tigress. Physically, she has platinum blond hair yet very black eyebrows. She is fierce, brave, strong, and more than a little hot-tempered.
The second major inspiration is my ongoing study of the Vikings. Being of Swedish descent, I am drawn to this historical people and enjoy researching Viking history, culture, weapons and warfare, even common misconceptions. The more I learn, the more I appreciate and respect their often-unacknowledged influence on the world. As a result, certain traits of the villainous Raiders who threaten to destroy the kingdom of Elysia are drawn from the Vikings.
The third important influence is mythology. As long as I can remember, I have collected anthologies of world legends and myths as well as encyclopedias of beasts and beings. A minor theme in Issaura’s Claws compares the human race’s monotheistic beliefs with the Theriomorph race’s polytheism. Ancient Egyptian religion along with the Greco-Roman pantheon inspired both my creation of the twelve Theriomorph gods and goddesses and their relationships with one another.
Finally, I feel strongly about unwarranted prejudice toward those different from oneself. Throughout the series, I point out how racism, religious persecution and sexism affect the relationships between the ruling human race and Theriomorph society. In Issaura’s Claws, Raiders attack the kingdom. If both humans and Theriomorphs cannot overcome their differences, learn to trust each other and work together, they will surely succumb to their shared enemy.
Do you have any advice to give aspiring writers?
To anyone writing their first book, be patient with the editing process. For me, writing the first draft was easy and relatively quick compared to all the subsequent rounds of editing. Though everything takes time, edting definitely demands the majority of it. Yet the gleaming, polished final work makes everything worthwhile. There might be tears and frustration along the way, so I suggest keeping some chocolate nearby whenever you need a pick-me-up.
What inspired Issaura's Claws?
This story was loosely inspired by a dream which involved a military camp where speaking animals were training and I was a white tiger. Strange but true! The rest of the story revealed itself to me as soon as I began typing. I will admit that I have studied animal behavior, apprenticed in dog training, worked at a zoo, and was a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. That knowledge helped make the Theriomorphs—a race that can transform into animals—more real and intriguing.
Can you tell us about your new book?
Answer: Issaura’s Claws is the first of a four-book series entitled the Incarn Saga. This young adult war fantasy takes place in the fictional kingdom of Elysia—home to two races of beings: the ruling humans and the Theriomorphs who can transform into an animal form at will. Though the two races distrust each other, they must unite when the Raiders, invaders from across the ocean, attack the Elysians. The protagonist, Lluava, is a seventeen-year-old Theriomorph who is drafted into the army. Through her eyes, you see how dire the situation really is and experience the many adventures she endures.
Where are you from? Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Answer: You could call me a Southern girl. I was born in Texas, grew up in Georgia, and live in New Orleans. Most of my childhood was spent in the country where I was blessed with opportunities to work with a wide range of animals as well as encouraged to play “make-believe” with my sister and friends. My imaginary childhood adventures helped further my ability to become a fantasy writer. Moreover, my experience with animals greatly influenced my first book series, the Incarn Saga. I am also an artist and specialize in reverse-glass paintings with a New Orleans theme. My dog, Alli, is often featured making gumbo or trying on Mardi Gras masks.
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