Introducing Marie Powell
Where did the idea for the story come from?
I was inspired during my first trip to North Wales. I knew my grandfather had been born there, so I planned a trip to find out more about my heritage. I rented a cottage on a working sheep farm in north Wales and went castle-hopping every day.
About five minutes away from the cottage was Dolwyddelan castle, one of the castles of the last Welsh princes. So one day I drove over, and found it completed deserted: no guides, no ticket-takers, no little museum shops like there had been in the bigger English castles. There were signs that had pictures of people falling off rocks: like, enter at your own risk. But it was beautiful and austere, so I did.
Inside, there were placards showing the history, and how losing a war in 1282 caused them to lose their language, law, and way of life. I started thinking about what it would be like to actually live through something like that. Looking around today, you can see the resurgence of the Welsh language and culture everywhere.
Welsh is first on signs, kids go to school in Welsh, and if you live and work there, you’re expected to learn the language. I was really struck by how people could hold onto their language and culture for 800 years after it had been outlawed. And that led to reading, and research, and eventually writing these novels.
Give a quote from the books, one that says little but speaks volumes.
“Hyw looked around him again. Then he crouched beside the fallen de Montfort and took the hilt of the knight’s sword. With a zing he pulled it from the stone and held it high. Instantly he found himself dressed in black like his prince, and under his legs was Aeron, his father’s warhorse. Hyw raised his sword, as Aeron rose with hoofs drawn, and found himself and the horse frozen in attack formation. Behind him, he heard the welcome sound of Llywelyn’s gruff laugh. ‘Have at us!’ Hyw yelled.”
Give a short summary of what the book is about.
Spirit Sight (Book 1): Warrior-in-training Hyw can control the minds of animals. His sister Catrin can see the future in a drop of water. When the Prince of Wales is murdered, Hyw melds with the prince’s soul to gain his help against the English invaders. Now Hyw and his sister must use their magical gifts to keep the prince’s brother from being captured by Longshanks’ ruthless army.
What genre is it?
Young Adult Medieval Fantasy
How many pages is it?
238 (plus map, character guide, historical note, glossary, and further reading list)
Why do you think the readers will want to read it?
I think there are more similarities between our time and the medieval world than we often want to admit. In this period, many people in Wales and England had ties of family and friendship, with conflicting allegiances and complicated feelings about life, just as we do today. But they found themselves embroiled in a deliberately genocidal war that created massive loss. This lack of understanding and acceptance is still going on, and we’re still trying to find ways to deal with it, and hopefully prevent it from infiltrating our future as it has our past. And more importantly, we’re trying to find a place for ourselves in a world that doesn’t often make sense to us, just as my characters must do in their coming of age story. Plus, there’s magic and mythology and castles, mixed with a little romance. Who can resist that?
Where are you located?
I am grateful to live and work on Treaty 4 Territory in Regina, Saskatchewan, ancestral lands of the Nêhiyawak (Cree), Anihšināpēk (Saulteaux), Dene, Lakota, Dakota, and Nakoda peoples, and the Homeland of the Métis.
Spirit Sight (Last of the Gifted, Book 1) – Two siblings pledge their magical gifts to protect their people from the invading English, with the help of the last true Prince of Wales—after his murder. This award-winning medieval fantasy combines magic, mythology, and historical legends with the realities of 13th Century Wales.
December 1282, Gwynedd, Cymru (North Wales)
He raised his arms, feeling bone and feather flatten against the wind, and knew himself tethered to air currents that smelled of salt and fish, somewhere off the horizon.
He ran below the bird, yet his mind and the hawk’s mind moved as one. He could feel the dry December grasses beneath his bare feet, but he saw as the hawk saw: a flash of grey fur in the stubble, the swaying pattern of a tree branch.
He tried to turn the hawk’s mind—his mind—to his will, and for a moment he succeeded. In the distance he could see the stone watchtower of his home at Garth Celyn, seat of the royal court of Wales. But the hawk’s need was powerful, turning him back to scan the ground they circled. If he squinted—just so—at the yellow and russet clumps, he could make out the leaves of each tree. A shadow flitted from branch to branch.
His talons ached for the soft flesh and his beak thrust forward—
No, not his. It was the hawk’s beak that longed to rip the flesh from bone and feather. Hyw grasped the bird’s thoughts again and turned its head toward Prince Llywelyn’s tower. There! A streak of movement across the grass. Was it some grotesque beast from the past? He urged the hawk to circle until he could see it more clearly. A single horse and rider galloped toward Garth Celyn.
A messenger! Fast horses in wartime never bring good news. Had the English broken the peace again? Hyw gasped, and his connection to the bird faltered.
The hawk gave a piercing shriek. Hyw felt himself falling, as if he’d dropped from its talons rather than its mind. His feet—the same feet that had seemed to barely skim the ground a moment ago—thudded against the earth. He stumbled and the momentum of his running threw him, over and down until he braced his hands against the mountainside…