I had a lot of fun on Juliette Wade's "Dive Into WorldBuilding" hangout. It was great to have a chance to talk about The Seven-Petaled Shield...and a bit strange to see myself on video. Here I am!
We were very fortunate to be joined by author Deborah J. Ross, who came to talk to us about her wonderful trilogy, The Seven-Petaled Shield. She told us that it was inspired by an exhibit of Scythian art that she saw, and was a way for her to branch out beyond the tired tropes of pseudo-Celtic and Western European fantasy.
The Scythians were nomadic horse-riders in the central Asian steppe. They had shamans called enarees who, among other duties, would be asked to test the truthfulness of any charges brought against someone in their community. Enarees were men who wore woman's clothing and occupied a cultural niche in between the men's world and the women's world. One fascinating thing about them was that they kept the Romans at bay for hundreds of years.
Deborah began by writing four short stories set in a fantasy version of the Scythian world, known as Azkhantia. She wanted to write a novel, and found the right additional axis of tension when she realized she's referred to a place called Meklavar as "where witches dwell." She then expanded Meklavar into a society based on very ancient Judea. The Meklavarans have a very old written scripture, and literacy is very important to them, as is the knowledge of languages. Any given Meklavaran will typically know 3 or 4 modern languages and 2 extinct ones. Their magic is based in the scriptural stories.