A teenage boy has turned up in Snowdonia, barely conscious and babbling about beautiful women and fairy feasts. The authorities blame magic mushrooms. The wise women say different and they want dryad’s son Daniel Mackmain to investigate. He needs to watch his step in the mountains. Those who live in the hollow hills mask their secrets and intentions with sly half-truths.
Far from the woods he knows, Dan needs help from the allies he has made in past adventures. But he’s a loner at heart. As the true power of his adversary becomes clear, he must decide if he’s willing to see those he cares for put themselves in danger.
Published by Wizard’s Tower Press on 6th October 2022.
Dan Mackmain’s heading to North Wales in this particular story. It’s an area I’ve visited on holiday a few times over the years, but seeing it through Dan’s eyes gave me an interesting and different perspective. Driving through Snowdonia in particular offers such marked contrasts between remote, timeless, numinous landscapes, and sudden encounters with post-industrial landscapes and modern economic hardship. I already knew I’d be setting this new story there, so going on the Milford SF Writers retreat at the Trigonos centre in May 2022 was as much a research trip as a chance to get plenty of uninterrupted work done.
What else got me thinking about Wales? Well, I found a fair amount of overlap between Welsh myth and the stories of King Arthur which I was researching last year for The Cleaving, my standalone novel. Don’t worry, King Arthur has absolutely nothing to do with Dan’s new adventure, but those encounters prompted me to read more Welsh folklore and that reminded me of childhood reading like The Owl Service and The Chronicles of Prydain. As I started making notes, I began to see the shape of this story.
I also knew the people I’d be able to call on to make sure I got the fine detail right. Kari Sperring was generous with her time as I sought her perspectives on the Welsh landscape and language in the first instance, and Liz Williams may not realise how a few passing comments she made were useful too. Once the story was written, Toby Selwyn and Cheryl Morgan could offer further advice and amendments drawing on their own Welsh heritage which was much appreciated. I am very fortunate in my friends – and any errors or clangers that Dan drops are absolutely my responsibility.
It’s been an interesting story to write as I consider how the changes in Dan’s life over the past few years have affected him. We are the sum of our experiences, after all. We handle some of those experiences better than others…