The Changeling of Fenlen Forest blog tour




The Changeling of Fenlen Forest by Katherine Magyarody


Synopsis:

Elizabeth thinks she knows the gloomy Fenlen Forest. But when her treasured unicorn fawn, Sida, goes missing, Elizabeth tracks her into a strange land where the people think Elizabeth is a changeling, a malignant being who too closely resembles a missing girl. If Elizabeth can find her fawn and uncover the fate of her lost double, can she stop the fear from turning into hate? To solve the deepening mystery, Elizabeth befriends a handsome, skeptical young shepherd whose stories hint at a dark secret lurking at the forest’s edge, and follows a herd of wild unicorns with the ability to unlock the past.


Link to Goodreads

Giveaway Details:
• Two (2) winners will receive a physical copy of Changeling of Fenlen Forest by Katherine Magyarody (INT) a Rafflecopter giveaway


 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katherine Magyarody grew up in Toronto, Ontario. During graduate school, she researched the history of adolescence, taught children’s literature, and wrote fiction on the sly. Her debut short story, “Goldhawk,” is anthologized in PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2017. She currently lives in Connecticut, where she blogs about interesting and weird unicorns at https://offbeatunicorn.com/about-offbeat-unicorn/. Website | Twitter

Guest post from the author

Unicorns and Doppelgangers: The world of The Changeling of Fenlen Forest

The unicorn charging across the cover of The Changeling of Fenlen Forest clearly signals “fantasy,” but this book provides something new, something different from a usual princesses-and-swords set-up. Elizabeth and Sida, the heroine and her unicorn, have only their brains and their friendship to protect the people – and creatures – they love.

Building the world of The Changeling of Fenlen Forest came from two desires: one was to write about unicorns, and the other was to decenter fantasy from high politics. I love reading about kick-ass princesses and the toppling of empires, but what happens to all the other people? What does Fantasyland look like for someone living at the margins?  In The Changeling of Fenlen Forest, Elizabeth gets the chance to join the world of aristocrats and noblemen, but she chooses to stay at the edge of the Fenlen Forest. Elizabeth believes that the forest – and the unicorns who live there – have value beyond the rules of human society. This made me rethink how to build a world for the unicorns.

I wanted to create unicorns that smelled, felt, and acted like real animals. Even if they were supernatural, I didn’t want the unicorns to be anthropomorphic – that is, I didn’t want them to think, feel, or behave like humans. I researched the life cycles of deer and horses. I had to know unicorn-horn biology, unicorn herd dynamics, different things that could go wrong when unicorns gave birth. The unicorns also needed a place to live.

Because the unicorns were wild, they needed a habitat that wasn’t a “domesticated” natural world. In our present day, humans are a devastating force on nature, but for much of human history, humans were scared of “wild” spaces. Fenlen Forest gives them good reason. The forest isn’t safe for humans because it doesn’t work according to linear human time. One of my indirect inspirations for Elizabeth’s survival in Fenlen Forest is William Wordsworth’s line: “[t]here are in our existence spots of time” by which “our minds / Are nourished and invisibly repaired.” My imagination caught on the idea of “spots of time” that can overlap in one place. For Elizabeth and the unicorns, these overlapping spots of time are nourishing – but they aren’t for everyone!

Because Elizabeth spends a lot of time in a mysterious forest that doesn’t work according to human rules, she struggles with understanding human society. But she can’t stay in the forest forever.

We often read about main characters who start as “outsiders,” yet they often become central to the political struggles of their fantasy world (Lucy in Narnia, Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen). Because Elizabeth is not travelling to centers of imperial or monarchical power, the culture of the people she meets is different for the type we often see in Fantasyland, but it still provides lots of room for suspense! 

The Changeling of Fenlen Forest is about unicorns and it’s also about folklore and folk belief. Elizabeth encounters a village community reeling from the loss of a young woman named Bettina, who looks exactly like Elizabeth. The coincidence (is it a coincidence?) feeds into superstitions the villagers have about the forest and its magic; as a result, they behave in ways that are meant to defend themselves, yet are dangerous for forest-dwellers like Elizabeth and Sida. At the same time, the circumstances of Bettina’s disappearance causes some young people from within the community, like the heart-broken, skeptical shepherd Torun and ambitious apprentice-weaver Sarai to challenge certain traditions. They, like Elizabeth and Bettina, present their community with opportunities to grow – or to ossify.

The community Elizabeth discovers after she gets lost in the forest has a language and culture that is meant to sound and feel real. I based the customs of the culture on things I experienced while growing up in my diasporic Hungarian-Canadian community. Most, like learning embroidery and dance were fun, but others gave me pause. I remember going to a festival one year where a bunch of kids demonstrated a folk custom where girls in the village would make a life-sized doll, dress it up, sing to it…and then throw it in a river. I remember being pretty creeped out by that. Why would a ritual like that develop? While writing, I wanted to think through how people behave when their culture don’t have access to things like psychotherapy or grief counselling. The clothes and language draw on different regional Hungarian and Estonian traditions without being directly derivative of either culture. I could write at length about sheep-shearing and the evolution of weaving. Somehow none of that made it into the final version of the novel.

The culture that Elizabeth enters also determines the kind of romance plot she encounters. What happens when we have a romantic interest who’s not a prince or an army captain or somehow invested in hierarchical systems of power? Torun is a shepherd who is very rooted in the place where he has grown up. Like Elizabeth, he has grown up living among animals and he has a great ability to care for others. Like Elizabeth, Torun is challenged by how much he can understand or protect the beings he loves.

While writing, I had to navigate the tension between ideas of cultural tradition and cultural authenticity. When traditions are “alive” and performed by a community of insiders, they seldom stay the same, even if they use the same words and gestures, they are performed by different people at different times. Often, the words and gestures evolve. But there’s a tension. When people perform cultural rituals privately for themselves, when they’re not witnessed by an outsider, then they remain “invisible.” And when something is “invisible,” its existence can be denied by outsiders or mainstream culture. (Like the existence of unicorns.) And so, to prove that a culture exists, communities might feel compelled to speak to or perform with the intention of being witnessed by mainstream culture. But then they risk reducing their culture to something that is easily enjoyed and purchased by an outsider. For example, Elizabeth’s ability to see the unicorn herd puts them in danger – although her own intentions are pure, other people see her as an access point to unicorn horns they can sell. In The Changeling of Fenlen Forest, Elizabeth is an outsider to the cultures she enters (both human and unicorn). As a result, she can see how groups of people tell different stories and set rules for themselves. Because Torun’s grief has in some ways set him apart from his friends and family, he self-consciously recognizes his culture as a set of behaviours that can be helpful or hurtful depending on the context…but most people whom Elizabeth and Torun meet just see their traditions as “natural.”

 Elizabeth’s internal journey has to do with struggling to understand and respect the boundaries of the human and unicorn communities she encounters, while trying to figure out what she needs in her own life. The toughest part may be realizing that once she’s decoded the “rules,” the rules are about to change. But you’ll have to read The Changeling of Fenlen Forest to find out what happens next…

No comments:

Post a Comment