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Sister, Healer, Soldier, Spy

Allegiance by Beth Bernobich

Written by Beth Bernobich

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the presence and roles of women in epic fantasy stories. Tansy Roberts wrote a sharp-edged take-down of the notion that women never did anything important in history in her article Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy: Let’s Unpack That. Kameron Hurley followed up a couple months later with ‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative.

Read both articles and follow the links for the whole discussion, but the short form is: women have played all kinds of roles and followed all kinds of careers throughout history, and to leave them out of epic fantasy is not historically accurate. You can choose to leave out women, but don’t use history as your excuse.

Much of this debate took place while I was writing Allegiance, the third book in my River of Souls trilogy. The books are epic fantasy, set in a world where souls are reborn from life to life. They’re about a young woman, Ilse Zhalina, and her journey toward independence and agency. And because these novels are epic fantasy, they have lots of characters, and a lot of them are women.

Ilse has changed a great deal since her story began in Passion Play. She’s older, stronger, and more capable. But she’s not the only woman in the book, and certainly not the only strong woman. I wanted to portray a world where the women lived lives as varied as the men did, and where those women are in the foreground of the story. Where they are villains or heroes, queens or merchants, poets or cooks. Sisters, soldiers, healers, or spies.

SISTER

Ilse’s beloved, Raul Kosenmark, has three sisters: “Three barbed and dangerous creatures,” as Raul describes them. Ilse meets all three of them for the first time in Allegiance:

“At last, our foolish brother chose someone with sense. And,” she added, “a very nice sword. My name is Heloïse.”

The rest gave their names rapidly. Marte, tall and slim and with eyebrows arcing over a strong face drawn in uncompromising angles. Olivia, a smaller, rounder version of the same. Terrible creatures, all of them, Ilse thought, with their laughter and smiles edged with sharp wit. She no longer wondered why Raul had absented himself from his home in Valentain. He and they were much alike, shielding their hearts beneath masks. It would be too painful, living with reflections of himself.

And yet, they are more than reflections of their brother. They act together, taking charge when they need to (and sometimes when they don’t). They have their own histories, their own strengths and flaws, their own loves, and their own futures.

HEALER

Not everyone in the story is a noble. Maryshka Rudny lives in the remote village of Ryz, in the far southwest of Károví. She and her mother, Ana, are healers for the village, which gives them a significant measure of authority. When Ilse arrives with a badly wounded companion, Maryshka takes control of the situation:

The young woman thrust back her hair and laid a hand on Bela’s forehead. Her mouth thinned. She touched two fingers to Bela’s throat and her lips moved rapidly. Not an invocation to the gods and magic, Ilse thought, not here in Duszranjo.

Maryshka glanced over her shoulder at the still-arguing men. “Jannik, she’s dying. Louka, if you insist, I can make the pledge myself to Lir, Toc, and your blessed honor, that she won’t hurt anyone or anything.”

“What about the other one?” Louka said.

The young woman’s gaze swung around to meet Ilse’s. “What do you say? Shall I pledge myself for you as well? Speak quickly.”

Maryshka appears only for a short segment of Allegiance, but it’s her skills that save Bela’s life and enable Ilse to continue her journey.

SOLDIER

The injured companion mentioned above is Bela Sovic, a captain in Duke Miro Karasek’s personal guard, skilled in magic as well as warfare. Shortly after they meet, she tells Ilse how she came to serve the Duke:

“It was his father who bought me from the prison. I had tried to fight the pirates on my own after they killed my sister and brother. I—I was less able to distinguish between the enemy and someone merely ignorant, or greedy, and I killed the wrong person. Several wrong persons. The king wished to punish me. I cannot say I disagree, but the old duke believed in mercy. He paid the blood price and took me from the prison. For what he—and his son—have done for me, I would do anything in return.”

And she does—facing exile, injury, and death with courage.

SPY

When Ilse first meets Nadine in Passion Play, Nadine is one of the courtesans in Lord Kosenmark’s pleasure house. Nadine has a complicated past, which she only hints at to Ilse. She also has a deeply ingrained sense of self-preservation because of that past:

Nadine had not shared any of the secrets she had uncovered for herself over the past six years. A little judicious spying. The practice of carelessly glancing over the envelopes the senior runner carried to Kosenmark or his secretary of the moment. All habits learned in previous houses, previous lives. And most effective, when she had discovered certain key listening devices scattered around the pleasure house. Nadine knew about Kosenmark’s political games. He might claim a higher cause for his actions, but in truth, they both wished to survive in a chance-riddled world.

In Allegiance, Nadine turns from courtesan to spy, using her skills in the much wider—and much more dangerous—world of the royal palace. In the end, it’s because of Nadine and her spying that events turn out as they do.

Six women, from different kingdoms and different classes, each of them strong in different ways.

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From the Tor/Forge October 21st newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.

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Not at San Diego Comic-Con Sweepstakes

Tor/Forge Blog

Tor Books is heading to San Diego Comic-Con!

Image Placeholder of - 3We hope to see many of you there. Stop by Booth #2707 to say hi or to participate in one of our many events and signings.

But for those of you who couldn’t make it out to California, we wanted to offer you the chance to grab some of the same amazing swag and books that we’re promoting at #SDCC. To enter for the chance to win one of these five prize bundles, leave a comment on this post telling us one fabulous thing that you’ll be doing this week while you are #NotAtComicCon. Whether you’re fighting a clone army, rescuing damsels in distress (or princelings in peril), zipping across galaxies at light speed, or just conquering your laundry pile, we hope that you have a great week.

Here’s a look at the prize:

Poster Placeholder of - 52

And here’s a list of what’s included in each prize bundle:

  • Wheel of Time backpack
  • Signed copy of Redshirts by John Scalzi
  • Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
  • The Battle of Blood and Ink written by Jared Axelrod and illustrated by Steve Walker
  • Dark Companion by Marta Acosta
  • Existence by David Brin
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
  • The Eye of the World: Graphic Novel: Volume 2 Based on the novel by Robert Jordan, written by Chuck Dixon, illustrated by Andie Tong
  • Eyes to See by Joseph Nassise
  • Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
  • Girl Genius Omnibus Volume 1 by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio
  • Halo: Cryptum by Greg Bear
  • Halo: Glasslands by Karen Traviss
  • Inside Straight edited by George R.R. Martin
  • Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All Hero written and illustrated by Fred Chao
  • Laddertop: Volume 1 written by Orson Scott Card and Emily Janice Card Art by Honoel A. Ibardolaza
  • Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber
  • The Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind
  • Passion Play by Beth Bernobich
  • Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
  • The Way of the Kings by Brandon Sanderson

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. You must be 18 or older and a legal resident of the 50 United States or D.C. to enter. Promotion begins July 12, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. ET. and ends July 16, 2012, 12:00 p.m. ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules go here. Sponsor: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

Tor Books announces the second of their monthly Twitter chat series!

Calling all Tweetgeeks: debut authors Peter Orullian, Beth Bernobich, and Rhiannon Frater talk about publishing their first novels in the second #Torchat this Wednesday, 3/16 at 4 PM EST

New York, NY – Monday, March 14, 2011 – Tor Books is excited to announce the second #TorChat, the new sf/f genre-themed, hour-long chat series hosted on Twitter. Guest authors will join fans in a lively, informative and entertaining discussions of all that’s hot in genre fiction (140 characters at a time) from 4 to 5 PM Eastern on the third Wednesday of every month. Each #TorChat will revolve around a different genre topic of interest, with new guest authors and exclusive fan giveaways from @Torbooks.

This Wednesday’s chat is about debut authors. Not just the question everyone wants to know (how did you get published?!) but also questions specific to debut novels in genre writing. Special guest authors Peter Orullian (@PeterOrullian), Beth Bernobich (@beth_bernobich), and Rhiannon Frater (@rhiannonfrater) will chat with fans on why they chose genre fiction, how they got published, and what comes after the contract.

The chat will be introduced and (loosely) moderated by Tor publicist Cassie Ammerman (@leanoir), with giveaways of advance copies of upcoming releases from @TorBooks following the 4 PM chat.

Our Author guests:

Place holder  of - 37Peter Orullian has worked in marketing at Xbox for nearly a decade, most recently leading the Music and Entertainment marketing strategy for Xbox LIVE, and has toured as a featured vocalist internationally at major music festivals. He has published several short stories. The Unremembered is his first novel. He lives in Seattle. www.orullian.com

Placeholder of  -55Beth Bernobich comes from a family of story tellers, artists, and engineers. She juggles her time between working with computer software, writing, family, and karate. Her short stories have appeared publications such as Asimov’s, Interzone, Postscripts, Strange Horizons, and Sex in the System. She lives with her husband and son in Connecticut. Passion Play is her first novel. https://www.beth-bernobich.com

Poster Placeholder of - 58Rhiannon Frater is the author of The First Days: As the World Dies and two sequels, Fighting to Survive and Siege, all originally self-published and soon to be published by Tor. She and her husband live in Austin, Texas. https://rhiannonfrater.blogspot.com/

Sweepstakes: 25 Fantasy Books from Tor

Sign up for the Tor/Forge Newsletter for a chance to win this prize pack of 25 fantasy novels from Tor Books!

Servant of a Dark God by John Brown Lamentation by Ken Scholes A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham Spirit Gate by Kate Elliot Passion Play by Beth Bernobich Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson Blood Song by Cat Adams Dreadnought by Cherie Priest Twilight Forever Rising by Lena Meydan Shadow Prowler by Aleksy Pehov Brooklyn Knight by C.J. Henderson Green by Jay LakeImager by L.E. Modesitt Jr. The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe A Star Shall Fall by Marie Brennan Spellwright by Blake Charlton Knight of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont Hawkmoon: The Jewel in the Skull by Michael Moorcock Libyrinth by Pearl North Prospero Lost by Jagi Lamplighter Elfland by Freda Warrington The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt The Immoral Prince by Jennifer Fallon Wizard's First Rule by Terry GoodkindThe Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Every issue of Tor’s monthly email newsletter features original writing by, and interviews with, Tor authors and editors about upcoming new titles from all Tor and Forge imprints. In addition, we occasionally send out “special edition” newsletters to highlight particularly exciting new projects, programs, or events.

If you’re already a newsletter subscriber, you can enter too. We do not automatically enter subscribers into giveaways. We promise we won’t send you duplicate copies of the newsletter if you sign up more than once.

Sign up for your chance to win today!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. You must be 18 or older and a legal resident of the 50 United States or D.C. to enter. Promotion begins October 25, 2010 at 12 a.m. ET. and ends November 22, 2010, 11:59 p.m. ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. For Official Rules and to enter, go to www.tor-forge.com/tor/promo/25bookprizepack. Sponsor: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

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How to Find Your Passion

How to Find Your Passion

Image Place holder  of - 28By Beth Bernobich

Which do you believe in, fate or free will?

My answer is both.

No, that’s not cheating. You don’t make choices in a bubble, separate from self or consequence. You make them from preference, beliefs, from the exigency of the moment, weighted by lingering shadows of your past.

Wait, that sounds as though we have no freedom to choose, that an outside (or inside) force predestines our future. So fate wins?

No, and no. We humans are more than set of binary answers, pre-programmed by culture and the past. We are creatures who can learn, who can change. Our own real-world history proves that. The operative word being can. No guarantee there, alas. But there is a particle of hope.

So what if–my favorite question–what if we were gifted with multiple lives? How would choice, and consequence, and our past, affect us? It’s not a new question. In Hinduism and many other religions, life doesn’t end with death. You die, you are reborn, and the choices you make in one life determine the next. You are free to spend eternity struggling with the same questions over and over, or you can rise toward enlightenment. Fate and free will rolled into one package.

Which is a hell of a lot more interesting to me than a single shot at Paradise.

So when I sat down to write the first book in the Passion Play universe, I gave my characters many lives. Each of them remembers what came before through dreams, some of them more vivid than others, and because the soul carries the imprint of that person, each is drawn to the same kinds of situations over and over. Ilse Zhalina has spent all her lives avoiding confrontation, choosing instead to run. Lord Raul Kosenmark has always taken the oblique path, the hidden role throughout history. Time and again, other characters also gave the decision to others in power. At first these choices are small ones, but the weight of each affects the rest. At the point where Passion Play begins, they are mountains.

These books are about how the mountains can fall down. And what comes next.

Passion Play (0-7653-2217-X; $24.99) is available from Tor this October.  Beth Bernobich can be found online at beth-bernobich.com.

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