Featuring a review of YA epic historical fantasy The Undine’s Tear and an interview with Talena Winters
She’s destined to save the world . . . if she doesn’t destroy it first.
Calandra’s destiny is also her doom. As the most powerful healer since the woman who sank Atlantis, she’s been raised to restore the Heartstone that protects her island from humans . . . before she goes Mad like her mother and all the powerful undine healers before her. When she learns she needs both male and female magic to succeed, she becomes desperate—there hasn’t been an undine male born for over three thousand years. Instead, she’s being pressured to use the siren mind-bond to enslave her childhood friend, the one man she’s sworn to risk a death sentence to free.
When Calandra discovers a cryptic message that shows her exiled mother was not only sane but pregnant with a boy, she questions everything she’s been taught to believe. But revealing the horrifying truth of the bonds could tear her island apart—and concealing it could unleash the Earth’s oldest, most destructive enemy. With insanity looming, can Calandra find her brother and save the Heartstone, the man she loves, her people, and the world . . . before she loses control and destroys them all?
The Undine’s Tear is the first book in the mind-blowing young adult epic historical fantasy series Rise of the Grigori. Packed with complex characters, lush world-building, gritty action, and impossible odds, this intricately woven tale presents mermaids like you’ve never seen them before. Join Calandra in a search for redemption that will threaten the very fabric of the universe. Dive into the adventure today!
Excerpt from the Undine’s Tear
Osaze looked between them with fear in his eyes, then turned back to Calandra.
“Redeemed. That’s what the queen did to me before, right? Is that what you mean by ‘help’?” He clutched Calandra’s arm. “Please don’t do it again, Calandra. I—I think I would rather die than have that happen again.”
As soon as Osaze touched her, a wave of desperation and fear crashed through her. She put her hands to her ears as though she could physically block out the sudden onslaught of emotion. Is it happening already? Is this the Madness?
When Osaze’s hand fell from her arm, the emotions subsided. She slowly lowered her hands, staring at the boy. Those feelings . . . they had all come from him? Why had she felt them so strongly? Did it have something to do with the Heartstone?
“It’s okay, Osaze. It doesn’t hurt, does it?”
He shook his head and buried it in his hands. “That would be better. It’s worse than anything you can imagine.”
Calandra stared at him, stricken. As a rule, undines treated every living thing with respect. She had always been told that Redemption meant saving the men from themselves, cleansing them of impurities they could not purge on their own. But how could it be right to do something to these men that they hated so much?
My Review of the Undine’s Tear
This book came advertised as epic fantasy, and those are the facts, folks. I like big books, and I cannot lie…and this is, by all standards, a big book. With an expansive world, many characters, lots of tension, fantastic magic, historical/modern significance, and even a touch of romance. If you think nothing of diving headlong into a 400+ page story, this one’s for you.
I’m sure I’ve said before that Little Mermaid was my favorite movie as a child, so anything with mermaids/sirens tends to hook me. (Side Note: I’ve since gotten older and realized Ariel was basically a walking [swimming?] trainwreck, but I digress). I loved what this story did with sirens, and I love the author’s note at the end about “where are all the mermen?” I wrote a blog post about this, but stories just need one question to get going, and that’s a great question. Was it just me, or was King Triton the only male merperson in The Little Mermaid? How did that work exactly (I’ll stop before I make the leap to Lion King and how Mufasa was the only male lion…). Anyway, this book answered that question in a wonderfully complex and fantastic way, and it posed many more questions that I found myself wanting the answers to.
Long story short, I quite enjoyed this. The siren society was particularly interesting. I often see articles or posts on social media about how a matriarchal society wouldn’t face the problems the world does right now, to which I always sigh because, as this book aptly puts it, violence and hate are not bound by any gender or race. The female villains in this book absolutely reminded me of women (and non-women) I’ve known. I despised those characters, which means they were doing their jobs in terms of showing me how poorly people can act.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. This book is definitely worth reading. So, go do that. 😊
An Interview with Talena Winters
-What inspired you to become a writer?
In one sense, I’ve been writing my whole life. However, even though I wrote a few stories while I was in school, my true passion was songwriting. I went to college for composition and jazz piano. While there, I became besties with my roommate, a vocalist and fellow composer, and we wrote most of a full-length musical which we finished over the decade after college (between marriage and little kids and moving, etc.).
It wasn’t until after my kids were old enough that I could consider firing up my career again that I took a hard look at my goals and realized I no longer dreamed of being a songwriter, but that I wanted to tell stories another way—through fiction. There were many steps along the way to get to that point, and it took five years after getting the idea that made me want to learn to write fiction for me to publish anything. Four years after that, I published The Undine’s Tear, my third novel, which was the fruition of that idea that started it all. By then, I was all-in as an author.
Never say never as far as future career shifts, but I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out what I want to be when I grow up.
-If you could visit your book’s world for a day, what one thing would you do?
Go sight-seeing! The undines live on a gorgeous island filled with interesting architecture and scenery. While the landscape is based loosely on the island of Kauai (which I’d also like to visit), the architecture is mostly ancient Greek-inspired. I’d especially love to get a tour of the Opal Palace. In my head, it’s breathtaking.
-It’s two in the morning. What does your protagonist reveal in confidence? (Don’t worry, we won’t tell.)
My protagonist, Calandra, doesn’t have too many deep, dark secrets, at least at the beginning of the series. (To find out which ones she collects as she goes through, you’ll have to read the book. ;-D) She’s always striven to do her best and meet the expectations that have been placed on her. (A real goody two-shoes!) But she does have a certain rebellious streak, stemming in part from having insomnia and being a super-powerful healer (mage) from a young age, which means she’s developed a knack for tricking the palace guards so she can sneak by them and wander around the palace in the middle of the night. And yes, this does occasionally get her in trouble.
After the opening incident in the book, she repents of her troublesome ways for many years. But before that, she would usually rope her best friend, a siren cadet named Tanni, into her nighttime adventures. Since Calandra’s Tear (the broken opal pendant left behind for her by her mother) has a shielding effect against the siren guard’s sensate abilities, which they tend to depend on, she got away with a lot.
Once when she was twelve, she and Tanni, who was thirteen, sneaked into the douloi’s quarters (douloi are enslaved human men-servants) to hide from a passing palace guard. One of the douloi woke up—a boy of about fourteen who worked in the palace kitchens, and who had only been mind-enslaved (aka “Redeemed”) for two years.
Tanni wanted to just tell him to go back to sleep and never tell anyone they were there, then sneak back to their dormitories. Unless his bondmistress had questioned him directly, this would have been enough to ensure his silence. But Calandra, ever the curious one and looking for a little excitement, started asking him questions about his upbringing. Most men that young were born on Sirenia, but this young man had been brought in on a ship during the Harvest, and she wanted to know all about where he was from.
She and Tanni kept the doulos up talking for two hours before a very sleepy Tanni finally dragged Calandra away. They did order the boy not to tell anyone about them being there. The next day, Calandra went to the kitchens to check on him and saw the boy stumbling over his sandals in the kitchen, he was so tired. The cook—a human woman—got annoyed, but when she questioned him, of course, he couldn’t tell her why he was slow and clumsy. Calandra told the cook that he was ill, she could sense it. So the cook sent him to the physic, who couldn’t sense anything wrong with him. He was prescribed an afternoon nap and nothing more came of it.
But even though Calandra and Tanni shared a good giggle over it later, she always felt bad that she’d done that. It didn’t seem right to hurt someone who couldn’t do anything about it and wasn’t responsible for his own choices, just because she could. And she promised herself she’d never do it again.
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?
Many of the characters in this book are children or teenagers, so… yeah. But I would definitely love to have a conversation with Thea, the panacea healer and mentor who raised Calandra. She’s got a quiet strength that I admire, she doesn’t feel the need to flaunt her wisdom—though she’s wise enough to know when to speak up—and she quietly rebelled against her society’s highest taboo for forty-five years before anyone cottoned on, just because she knew it was the right thing to do.
Not only was she an amazing character to write, she’s the kind of woman I love to learn from in real life. I hope to be a tenth that wise someday.
-You’re in a tavern, and a dwarf challenges you to a duel. What do you do?
Start questioning my life choices. JThen I’d probably offer to buy him a drink so we could talk it out. I’m a lover, not a fighter. (At the bottom of my homepage, I’ve had this saying for many years, which sums up my conflict philosophy: Make tea, not war.)
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
There aren’t many, as I love exploring and writing in new genres. (I’ve already got four under my belt, and counting.) However, while I’ve come to have a certain appreciation for why people like slasher horror, I couldn’t write it. I hate gore for gore’s sake, and I have enough bad dreams as it is. I abstain to protect my sleep, essentially.
About Talena Winters
Talena Winters is addicted to stories, tea, chocolate, yarn, and silver linings. She writes page-turning fiction for teens and adults in multiple genres, coaches other writers, has written several award-winning songs, and designs knitting patterns under her label My Secret Wish. Master of the ironic GIF response. She currently resides on an acreage in the Peace Country of northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, three surviving boys, two dogs, and an assortment of farm cats. She would love to be a mermaid when she grows up.
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Talena Winters will be awarding a hardback copy of The Undine’s Tear (Rise of the Grigori Book 1) and also The Sphinx’s Heart (Rise of the Grigori Book 2) to a randomly drawn winner (International Giveaway) via rafflecopter during the tour.