The title for Under the Shadow comes from a song composed by a Gailfen woman named Ruvella, one of Mylinka’s friends. The motif of weaving and needlework is important throughout the series, because the major Gailfendic deity is Jairra, the sun goddess who weaves the tapestry of life. In “Loom Song,” there’s the idea that Jairra weaves both good and bad into one’s life. If you’ve ever seen a loom, you know there are fibers that are stretched vertically (I stretched them across cardboard as a kid) and these are called the weft. A new fiber is threaded through, over and under, these stretched threads. The pulled thread is called the weft (or, sometimes woof.) Like a life, the thread dips down and rises up, now overwhelmed, now overcoming, over and over.
So Ruvella sings:
“So these are our lives,
And so these are our lives,
And lo, these lives are ours,
And though these threads be tangled and worn,
The Weaver’s stitch is sound,
As under the shadow and over the light
Our lives are wrapped and bound.”
Under the Shadow tests Lycian and Mylinka. They find themselves in light; they find themselves in darkness. How they cope with the plunge into shadow reveals much about their temperaments and who they really are.
Mylinka is one of the heroes of the epic fantasy series, The Astralasphere Spiral. When we meet her in the first book, Another World’s Song, she is a mischievous Gailfen girl on the cusp of womanhood. She lives on the legendary island of Malyndor and is the daughter of the world’s most celebrated and powerful mage, Taven, the Guardian of the Astralasphere.
Mylinka wants to learn how to wield magic, but magery is, traditionally, a male pursuit. Although Taven is not a traditional mage, the Guardianship weighs heavily on him, and he doesn’t fully support his daughter’s dreams. The bulk of his thoughts are occupied by the Astralasphere–a great, magical orb from which mages can draw power. He believes the mages’ use of the Astralasphere is damaging the world, so he is engaged in a power struggle with Lord Mage Asfret. This struggle ends with Mylinka being taken far from her home.
This is where the second book, Under the Shadow, finds here. As the foster daughter of Lord Murdoth, she takes the name Teg N’guul. In this book, she is older, and her life has made her fiercer. She is pragmatic, doing whatever she believes needs to be done to accomplish her goals. In this sense, she is something of an antihero, like Han Solo from Star Wars. She is, at her core, a good person, but a difficult life has given her a hard outer shell.
Fearless, stubborn, and complicated, she is one of my favorite characters to write.
Lord Mage Asfret is one of the main characters of Under the Shadow. While Lycian and Mylinka are the book’s heroes, Asfret is one of its villains.
When we meet Asfret in the first book in the series, Another World’s Song, he is a dashing, leonine figure dressed in red velvet robes. He is angry and blustering, full of self-importance. As an adviser to Queen Livian of Khydgel, he has encouraged the criminalization of magic there–reserving its use for military purposes or in some other service of the crown.
Asfret looks a bit different when we first meet him in Under the Shadow. In the world of Cith Lor Mahl, as in our world, actions have consequences. I don’t have a picture of Asfret except in my mind. Although Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t look exactly like I imagined Asfret, I think he would play him well. So, here’s a photo of a blond Cumberbatch–he just needs horns and an entitled smirk.
Under the Shadow: Book Two of the Astralasphere Spiral, follows three main characters–the two protagonists (heroes) Lycian and Mylinka, and the antagonist (villain) Asfret. Today, we’ll meet Lycian.
Lycian’s story begins in Another World’s Song: Book One of the Astralasphere Spiral, when he is the young foundling of a mage named Jahern. Although Lycian has an ability for magic, Jahern has decided that he is a wyrm–one born to magic who isn’t allowed to use it because of some curse. Wyrms are often deformed or have some outward manifestation warning of their cursed status. One of Lycian’s horns is crooked. (All Gailfen have horns, but most are symmetrical.) He also has purple eyes. Unfortunately for Lycian, they are considered a bad omen, for the demons locked in the Void also are reported to have purple eyes.
Lycian is far from being a demon, however. He tends to be honest and kind, sometimes to his determent. He loves animals and champions the downtrodden. Always, he tries to look for the good in others.
In Another World’s Song, Lycian became fully aware of his power and began learning how to use it. In Under the Shadow, he must learn how it should not be used. To me, this seemed like an important part of growing up. It’s one of the struggles not just mages, but all young adults, have to face as they come into their own. We all have power, we have only to face it.