I have a confession, fantasy is not a genre I usually chose to read, but I’m fast learning, thanks to some books, that I really could be missing out if I pass this type by! Dragon Daughter written by Liz Flanagan and published by David Fickling Books is a perfect example of what I risk missing out on.
The main protagonist of this story is sweet yet plucky Milla a young servant girl, who finds four dragon eggs after witnessing a terrible murder, and her whole life is turned upside down, revealing her true destiny, and changing things forever. Dragon’s Daughter takes this dragon fantasy genre and brings it up a notch for a slightly older audience. It’s a first introduction to politics, segregation in society and it’s just a fantastic fantasy, dragon filled romp. I was gripped from the moment I picked up this book, it’s really a truly wonderful tale, which promotes strong characters regardless of gender, friendship, kindness and adventure. Dragon Daughter has an immense amount of depth and interest with all the action and entertainment and a host of lovely and not-so-lovely characters that a book needs to keep its readers keen. A truly brilliant read that is an ideal next step from popular dragon related titles.
I’m absolutely thrilled today, to welcome onto the blog author, Liz Flanagan to tell us about the inspiration behind the fictional location of Dragon Daughter.
You have said that landscape is very important to you, and I know that you set your first novel in your hometown. But Dragon Daughter is fantasy, and its places don’t actually exist – so how did you approach the creation of an entirely made-up land?
Yes! I do love landscape. I am someone who likes to be outside a lot. I go walking or running every day with my dog, and love the woods and hills of my hometown Hebden Bridge, with all those beautiful locations that I described in my first novel Eden Summer. It’s true that Arcosi isn’t on the map – you won’t find it in any atlas in the world. But it definitely has its roots in real world places I’ve connected with.
Writers are always on the lookout for things they’d love to put in stories, and I’ve borrowed elements that caught my eye from many different places I’ve lived or visited. For example, if you walked up a steep packhorse route on a hillside in Hebden Bridge, or through the winding cobbled streets of Heptonstall, you might recognize the main road that circles the island of Arcosi like a snake.
I sometimes think that writing a story is a bit like baking: you combine lots of ingredients and they react together to make something new and different. So you could say the recipe for the magical island of Arcosi is something like this:
- A pinch of Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, with its steep cobbled streets
- Half a pound of Assisi, Italy, with its belltowers and stone stairways
- A spoonful of Valldemossa, Mallorca, with its sunbaked gardens and shady streets
- A twist of Lübeck, Germany, with its waterways and merchants’ houses
- A generous handful of Robin Hoods Bay, Yorkshire, with its twisting alleys overlooking the bay
I’d love to hear if you were reminded of anywhere else when you were reading Dragon Daughter – please do let me know if so!
Something else that I wanted to include in the story is my feeling that children have a special relationship to the places they live. I wanted to celebrate that detailed knowledge that a child has of their neighbourhood. They are the ones who know it best. They know all the shortcuts and snickets, the hidden ways that grown-ups are too busy to discover. As an adult, I still love shortcuts and circular routes – as my children will tell you! – I always prefer to take the cats’ way home wherever possible.
So Milla, and her friends Rosa and Thom, have this extraordinary knowledge of the island and its hidden ways, its smugglers’ stairs, its abandoned houses and hidey-holes. I love the idea of cobwebby secret places full of mystery and potential where the past might speak to us still.
Although I love the countryside, I also love my visits to cities. To me, it seems as if each one has its own atmosphere and character. Sometimes I even imagine what a city would be like if it were a person! So I hope Arcosi lives and breathes, almost like another character in the story. I chose an island city so that everything could be very concentrated, really focusing the atmosphere and the action and the identity of all the different groups who clash or unite together.
Arcosi is contrasted with the mainland, Sartola, both beautiful places that are ruled in very different ways. Although Arcosi has its problems, it’s Milla’s home and she feels very rooted there. This is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. On the one hand, I feel deeply rooted in my town. It’s where I grew up; it’s where I chose to live. I have a wonderful network of friends and family here, and I know the landscape better than I know anywhere else, with all its lovely hidden paths threading through the hills. On the other hand, in recent years my family has had to reflect on its identity and where we might belong, since I’m married to someone who isn’t currently a British citizen, and all the debates around Brexit have brought about many tough conversations on that subject, as they have for so many of us. You might not notice those undercurrents in the story, but they were certainly on mind, especially in the final editing stages.
So, I hope you enjoy your visit to the fictional island of Arcosi, with its echoes of real-world places I’ve loved. As ever, please do let me know your thoughts! I can be reached via my website www.lizflanagan.co.uk or on Twitter @lizziebooks.
Thank you Liz for that fascinating insight, I loved this fictional place and these photos have certainly brought it to life even more.
Please do grab yourself a copy of Dragon Daughter, available now from all good bookshops and libraries.
Thank you for reading this blog post and to the publisher for sending me a copy of Dragon Daughter for review and check out the other stops on the blog tour for more fascinating behind the scenes snippets about Dragon Daughter.