The Incarn Saga Book 1
by Katharine E. 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…’
The Incarn Saga Book 2
"According to legend, when the world was young, two gods of war — one male, one female — were destined for each other. Yet Ullr, forever unfaithful, lost the love of Issaura, his true match, and was forsworn. His violent anger and bitter rage grew and intensified, poisoning all creation and humanity.
Now that the Raiders’ long ships have faded from sight, the kingdom of Elysia is beginning to recover from the summer’s war with the brutal invaders from across the sea. Yet darker forces have taken root, forces that can alter the future of the land and its people in unthinkable ways. Seventeen-year-old Lluava must discover the means to prevent her world from collapsing. But in doing so, will she succumb to that darkness?"
In the failing light, Lluava sat her weary body down on one of the cut logs that served as benches around the ever-blazing cooking fires. She ached from an exhaustion that was more than physical. In her hand, she held a steaming bowl of clumping porridge, or maybe repurposed hash. Although its taste was barely better than its looks, this mysterious gruel was the only thing the town could provide to feed the army for their extended stay. Lluava had grown accustomed to its bland taste and grainy texture. It might not be ideal, but it kept everyone’s strength up when they needed it.
“May I sit next to you?” Varren’s formal upbringing emerged even when there was no need.
Nodding, Lluava shoveled down the sludge. Eating quickly was her trick to keep the so-called food from sticking to the back of her throat. In contrast, Varren sat down, whispered a prayer of thanks, and began to eat. They remained silent until Varren had finished.
Wiping his mouth, he said, “I would like to head back to the capital tomorrow. Since you are my military partner—no, that is not the reason.” Varren seemed flustered. He was not one to fumble with his choice of words. Eloquence had always come naturally to him, so why could he not state a clear thought now?
“Yes?” inquired Lluava, hoping to coax him to continue.
Varren stood up in his most formal manner and asked, “Lluava, would you come with me to the royal palace? I want to introduce you to Grandfather and the High Council and, well…I would like you to be with me when I return to court.”
Lluava understood his fear of what he was about to do, for altering an age-old law was all but unheard of. Nevertheless, excitement fluttered inside her like a newly fledged bird. Varren wanted her near him. This was his way of admitting how much he needed her at his side. This day had truly brought wonderful news.
She was about to say yes when a new thought crossed her mind. “How long do you expect to be at court?”
“I do not know. Why do you ask?”
Lluava fingered the carefully folded letter in her pants pocket. “Well, I had hoped to visit home. I haven’t seen my family since the draft.”
Thoughtfully, Varren said, “I will not force you to come. You can leave at any time. However, I would like you to be with me when—”
Lluava interrupted. “Don’t worry. I’ll be standing by your side from now until eternity.” She grinned at her pathetic attempt at poeticism.
“That is good. That is great!” Varren could not hide his relief. “Well, I will say good night to you now. Tomorrow will be a new and exciting day.”
With that, Varren gently took Lluava’s hand and kissed it, which sent a tingling sensation up her arm. As he left, Lluava thought, Oh, what am I getting myself into?
Next morning, Lluava ran to the shanty that served as Ymen’s dispatch headquarters. Since a large portion of the Southern army was stationed here, the king’s messengers came to the town every two weeks. Lluava had to hurry so as not to miss the chance to send off her own letter. She had forgotten to do this errand the day before, and with her departure imminent this was the only chance she would have before she left.
Attempting to catch her breath, Lluava retrieved the letter from her pocket. It was surprisingly unwrinkled. Perhaps the gods were watching over her. She handed the parchment to the small man loading full satchels onto his horse. Annoyed at the last-minute arrival, he began to lecture Lluava on the importance of punctuality. She in turn quietly reprimanded herself for her forgetfulness. Satisfied with his thorough scolding, the letter carrier asked Lluava in a disinterested manner, “Are you human or Theriomorph?”
This simplest of questions caught Lluava off guard. An inner heat coursed through her body as she growled out the formal reply.
“I am Lluava Kargen, daughter of Haliden Kargen, and I am Theriomorph.”
The Incarn Saga Book 3
“According to legend, when the world was young, Crocotta, Queen of the Gods, discovered her mate’s faithlessness. She vowed to prevent future threats to all matrimonial pacts henceforward, but for her it was too late. The child born from the illicit coupling was a warrior goddess—one whom Crocotta would seek to destroy throughout eternity.
Now that the Raiders’ elite army is threatening the kingdom of Elysia’s northern borders, seventeen-year-old Lluava must leave the familiarity and safety of her native land to venture into the wilderness. Her mission is to discover others like her who will come to Elysia’s aid; her hope is to unravel the secrets behind what it means to be Incarn. But what she finds could destroy everything.”
Lluava’s story continues in Crocotta’s Hackles, the third book in The Incarn Saga's award-winning new-adult series.
The priestess shouted above the din, “All females will remove themselves from the arena floor!” Etha gestured to a pair of double doors that were slid open by several men. As Lluava followed the girls, she looked over her shoulder at Apex. He was stretching his arms out before him. She suddenly knew that no contender would be able to defeat him.
Lluava missed some of the priestess’s speech as the group scrambled up an inner staircase to some vacant seats. However, she caught the very end: “May Crocotta bless you all.” As Etha stepped through the double doors, she shouted, “You may begin!”
Chaos erupted from below.
The stone orbs and the two stakes from the arena had been removed. The entire space was bare except for the multitude of young men wrestling among themselves. There seemed to be no rules, no semblance of order. Soon, animals began to appear as the Theriomorphs shifted into their dual forms. In seconds, one young man had transformed into a lynx, another into a water buffalo, and a third into a crocodile. Flecks of red streaked into the sky.
Were they going to kill each other? A whistle was heard; two adult men dressed in red ran onto the field, lifted an unconscious victim, and carried him out. Spectators throughout the coliseum cheered, shouted, and applauded the pandemonium. Another young man tried to crawl away from the melee, but a second figure grabbed his legs and pulled him back.
“Crocotta!” he screamed and was released. The double doors slid open, and he stumbled through them.
A safety word, Lluava realized. Competitors were given a way out when they could no longer continue. At least there was some mercy in this horrid display. All around her, the young women seemed enthralled by the brutal show. At first, Lluava was disgusted. Was the sight of all this pain entertaining? Then she remembered Leo’s words. This was all part of a matchmaking ceremony. These females were watching to see which males would prove the most powerful, the most elite, the most desirable.
More and more shouts of “Crocotta!” were heard as the fighters were whittled down. One scruffy fellow shifted into a maned wolf. His ruddy fur flashed around unprepared victims. A water buffalo charged at a limping puma. A coyote bit into a boar.
Apex had not shifted. Lluava thought she might know why. His dual form was unlike any she—and probably the others—had ever seen. Then again, it could be because--
Suddenly, as the large water buffalo turned its eyes toward the huntsman, Apex shifted. The bull skidded to a halt and then tentatively backed away, the whites of its eyes flashing. No wonder. Who could blame the buffalo from backing away from a wolverine that size? Apex’s bronze fur glistened, and a low growl slipped past his bared fangs.
Lurching forward, the wolverine grappled with the horned beast. In only a few movements, Apex had flung the buffalo onto its side. Just as the animal bellowed out “Crocotta!” the maned wolf leaped onto Apex’s back and bit into the wolverine’s neck. Blood spurted from the wound.
Then Apex faltered.
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.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born in Texas and raised in Georgia. This is why the main character in The Incarn Series, Lluava Kargen, is from a small village in the southern part of the kingdom with a similar feel to small southern towns in the rural United States. Both Lluava and I understand what it’s like to deal with a hot, humid, climate and are not great dealing with the cold.
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, working with my fitness trainer, and throwing axes. 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.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Imaginative, creative, empathetic, passionate, adventurous.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I first considered myself to be a writer when I began pursuing publishing my own book after I came up with the idea of Issaura’s Claws. It was only after I published my first book that I thought of myself as an author.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
Honestly, I would love all four books of The Incarn Saga projected on the big screen after Giahem’s Talons is published next year (2019). When I watch movies like Life of Pie and Disney’s live action The Jungle Book, I am amazed at the visual effects used to create the animals, especially the tigers. I would love that same technology used when my Theriomorphs transform to and from their animal forms.
Then with movies like The Lord of the Rings and TV series like Game of Thrones, I can imagine how some of the battle scenes in the books might look like. When I was younger, this sort of movie would not have been possible, but now I am excited to think about the possibility that one day The Incarn Saga might be a movie series.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I was very fortunate to visit Oxford, England, a year ago. While there, I was able to visit The Eagle and Child pub where the Inklings, an informal writer’s group, used to meet and discuss their work. This famous fellowship included J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams among others. The Inklings fascinate me with their wide breadth of interests, their lasting effects on modern fantasy, and their love of all things Norse.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Can I say the Dragon? For as long as I can remember, I have read, watched, admired, and researched everything that pertains to this wide-ranging group of mythical animals. From the fire-breathing, winged lizards of European lore to the levitating, water-controlling creatures in China, I love them all.
What inspired you to write this series?
Writing or, at the very least, storytelling is ingrained in my DNA. I have always created characters with back-stories—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. Using parts of a very vivid dream that included a white tiger training in a military setting, my imagination explored the possibilities for this scenario. Thus, Issaura’s Claws and The Incarn Saga were born. The three sequels were conceived after attending a writers’ conference where I was asked in a session to expand upon a minor character. I chose Lluava’s father, and through his backstory, I developed Ullr’s Fangs, Crocotta’s Hackles and Giahem’s Talons.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Next year I will publish the final book in The Incarn Saga series, Giahem’s Talons. I also have a Young Adult fantasy series in the works as well as an adult epic fantasy novella series. I hope that my readers will see multiple books emerge in 2019.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
I have a free short story that deals with the world of the Theriomorphs, my shape-shifting people from The Incarn Saga series, available on my website. I also have two possible spin-off books that I might write down the line, although I am happy to pursue other series in the meantime.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
Some of the names in The Incarn Saga are my personal creations, although as the series progressed, I began to draw from various world mythologies and legends as well as Nordic history.
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 human 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.
In the following books, these influences and issues still prevail. The dynamic of the later novels do take a darker turn and become more violent and gritty. Throughout the series, readers will clearly see how animals, Vikings, mythology, and of course the uphill battles against prejudice still take predominant roles.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book series?
Personally, I enjoyed finding my “voice” as an author. Every author has a specific style and sometimes multiple styles that they are recognized for. After finishing plotting out my fourth book, I now am comfortable with my own style, though I will continue to improve my writing. I think one should always strive to better oneself in whatever they do.
Tell us about a favorite character from your books.
It is surprisingly tough to determine who is my favorite character from my first book. 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, her hot temper and 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.
In the later series, I did enjoy creating characters such as Apex, the huntsman, and High Priestess Yena. Though I will not include spoilers, they were both fun to create since they are complex characters with twisted backgrounds that affect their personalities, the decisions they make, and how they view their world.
What did you editoutof this book?
Thankfully, I have not had to edit anything major out of the books, but I have added in minor characters and occasionally changed the opening and endings to make them more reader-friendly.
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, translation by Seamus Heaney 9)The Saga of the Volsungs
10) Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee (Just a beautiful Illustrated book)
What book do you think everyone should read?
Though I know many will balk at this choice, I believe that everyone should read both the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer. One literature teacher said that these two books encompass all literary themes and tropes and all subsequent written works result from authors taking those core themes, shifting them around and repackaging them in new stories. That idea fascinated me. Whether you would argue for or against that statement, I believe both epic poems are some of the greatest works that were first shared orally and then written down.
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.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
The only way for my worlds to be as vibrant and dimensional as they are, is for me to write about stories, characters, and themes that I am passionate about. So I would like to think that I am on the side of originality though I want to have my readers fall in love with my stories.
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