Shape Shifting in Eolyn
By Karin Rita Gastreich
One of my favorite books growing up was T.H. White's The Once and Future King.
Years later -- [ahem] okay, decades later -- there are still scenes and passages from this book that remain vivid in my memory.
I especially liked Merlin's tutorship of Wart (young Arthur); the way Merlin turned him into different animals such as a fish, an ant, and a hawk.
I mean, how cool is that? As a child, I would have given anything to have a teacher like Merlin at my grade school.
When writing my own novel, I wanted Eolyn and Akmael to have a touch of Merlin’s school of magic. The witch Ghemena and the wizard Tzeremond both include shape shifting as part of their instruction, and once Eolyn and Akmael have mastered High Magic, they learn shape shift on their own.
Shape shifting, by the way, is not without risk in Eolyn’s world. A person who is not properly prepared can get lost in the animal form, and might never become human again. This limitation is not much of a problem in my first novel Eolyn¸ but it becomes very important for the companion novel High Maga.
In theory, a maga trained in High Magic can shape shift into any animal (or plant) with which she has had extensive contact. This gives Eolyn a wide range of options, because she grows up in the South Woods and interacts with all its creatures on a daily basis.
Even so, magas (and mages) tend to favor certain forms over others. Both Akmael and Eolyn prefer Wolf and Owl. This becomes an important expression of the affinity between them, even as they confront each other as enemies on opposite sides of a violent conflict.
I have a special love for wolves, though I have never had the privilege of seeing them in the wild. There are few animals that embody as well as Wolf the image of fierce independence coupled with the deep need for meaningful companionship – Eolyn and Akmael, through and through.
Owl, of course, is a creature of the night. Day creatures like us are crippled by darkness, but Owl is at home. When I do night walks with students in the woods, I always include a moment when we turn off our headlamps. The darkness is astounding -- a deep inky black that is hard to comprehend for those who live in urban environments. It makes you especially appreciative of what it means to be nocturnal.
If I could change into any animal -- just for a little while, because in truth I very much like being human -- I would be a mountain lion, or a puma. I've always been partial to the strength and ferocity of the wild cats, and the powerful sensuality that accompanies their every movement. The puma is a New World animal, so it doesn’t appear in Eolyn, but one of its cousins, Lynx, lives in the South Woods. Lynx is Eolyn’s guardian and friend.
How about you? If you could shapeshift into any animal, what would it be?
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Karin Rita Gastreich
Karin Rita Gastreich
Publisher: Hadley Rille Books
Number of pages: 325
Word Count: approximately 118,000
In a land ravaged by civil war, the Mage King Kedehen initiates a brutal purge of the Magas.
Fleeing his wrath, Eolyn, daughter of the last of the Magas and sole heiress to their forbidden tradition, seeks refuge in the South Woods. There she meets the mysterious boy Akmael, and forms a friendship that thrives on shared magic. Destiny leads them down a tortuous path of love, betrayal and war, until one day the Maga Eolyn takes up arms against the new Mage King.
Must Eolyn slay the man she loves in order to free herself and her people?
The answer lies in the extraordinary magic she commands, and in the hidden power of a Maga’s heart.
“Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes. . . with a romantic thread." – Publishers Weekly
About the Author
KARIN RITA GASTREICH was born near Kansas City, Missouri. After living and working for ten years as a tropical ecologist in Costa Rica, she recently returned to her home town and is now a Professor of Biology at Avila University. Her past times include camping, hiking, music and flamenco dance. Karin's fantasy novel EOLYN was released by Hadley Rille Books in May, 2011. The companion novel, HIGH MAGA, is scheduled for release in 2013. Karin’s short stories have appeared in Zahir, Adventures for the Average Woman, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, and A Visitor to Sandahl. She is a recipient of the Spring 2011 Andrews Forest Writer’s Residency.
Visit her at the blog for Eolyn, http://eolynchronicles.blogspot.com and at Heroines of Fantasy, co-authored with Terri-Lynne DeFino and Kim
Blog for Eolyn: http://eolynchronicles.blogspot.com
Blog Heroines of Fantasy: http://heroinesoffantasy.blogspot.com