Penny White: More Whiskey, Vicar?

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Character: Penny White

Text: The Temptation of Dragons (Penny White) by Chrys Cymri

‘Vicar arrested for drunk driving’ is not the  sort of headline my bishop wants to read about his priests.

Penny White. Church of England Vicar. Fantasy and science fiction fan. Whiskey drinker. Life sounds good, eh? But Penny is also a widow, living alone with the memory of her late husband, and that hole in her life made bigger by the absence of her much younger brother, who she brought up herself after their parents death, plus the general weight of her calling. So she escapes with the made-up worlds of Joss Whedon or in splashes of Doctor Who, and just gets on with it. Problem is, she’s just given the last rites to a dragon on the side of a main road, and she has no idea what the hell is going on. She needs a drink.

Penny-White-and-the-Temptation-of-Dragons 2Her bishop, Nigel, explains all about this mystical otherworld and its connections to our own, and subsequently asks her if she’d like to interview for the position of Vicar General of Incursions, a sort of conduit between this world and the alternate of Lloegyr, inhabited by all manner of amazing creatures including most fantasy fan’s weakness: dragons. Obviously she’s going to say yes. But how deep does the rabbit hole go? Well, probably about as far as getting an associate who’s a sarcastic gryphon, partial himself to a drink now and again and holding some secrets of his own, then meeting dragon bishops, and dragon tacsis (did I mention they all speak Welsh in Lloegyr?), and vampires, and harpies in pubs, and snail sharks the size of labradors. And then her little brother turns up, fresh from New Zealand, ready to sponge off her again and get himself into some uber trouble. Penny White’s life? Yeah, never going to be the same.

‘It says “willies!” one girl was shouting excitedly. ‘Pack your “willies!”

‘Stupid autocorrect,’ I muttered. ‘Wellies. Bring your wellies because we’re going on a walk tomorrow.’

What’s great about Penny is that we’re shown a really normal person who drinks, binges on TV shows, is quite the workaholic, and is so very connected to humanity, its brightest gains and greatest losses, in a way most people are not. She’s not just dealing with her own life and her brother’s rather whimsical view of responsibility, but the trials and tribulations of her parish; births, marriages and deaths are all part of the package on a daily basis, raising church funds, increasing the congregation. Then with Lloegyr she’s introduced to something that would possibly throw any other person off the rails: fantasy come true. A means of escape. Another calling from God. She’s thrown into world which challenges so many perceptions in her own religion, and her colleagues and superiors, and must balance what she feels is right while trying to keep in line with the regulations of the church. It takes a complex character to handle morality of the self and of the belief system ones holds, especially when challenged with really far out experiences, and it’s fascinating seeing the struggle for a character based in a real world organisation like the CofE coping with relevance and sheer human ignorance from every angle, and then having bleedin’ dragon lore to get a hang of. Blimey!

‘Oh for a sonic screwdriver, I thought. Then I remembered that the sonic screwdriver didn’t work on wood. Once again I wondered whether this were actually reasonable, or simply a convenient plot device by the writers.’

Penny is strong, and not in that sword-wielding kind of way whilst handling the highs of fantasy battles and what-not (not that it might not be in her future, of course), but emotionally iron-clad, allowing herself to be the human buffer for everyone around her. But she’s a little too iron-clad for her health, as she cannot face her own burdens head-on. Under all that armour is a woman vying for some closure, but the armour is working both ways and keeping her from asking for help, for answers, as everyone else’s needs pile up. Penny’s walks a long road, through pain and loss, but she perseveres, she works towards what she thinks is right, and she risks herself for those she loves, bringing the family she didn’t realise she had together, and solving a disturbing crime in the process. With dragons.

‘Penny, if you want it to be anonymous you need to cut out the references to Doctor Who and whiskey.’


 

Read Chrys Cymri’s Author Spotlight interview!

Read my book review!

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Princess Fianna: An Onion Knight

Character: Princess Fianna

Text: The Dragon Throne & The Unicorn Throne (Four Kingdoms Trilogy) 

‘A ruler is no better or worse than those he rules.’

DT72dpi-1500x2000Fianna is going to be queen, keeper of the Dragon Throne. That’s what she’s been brought up to expect for her entire eleven years, and only through sheer luck was there no son born to her parents to supersede that right. But as a royal princess, confident of herself and somewhat insular in her opinions, Fianna must also learn humility and the bond of knightly code, to understand the people she will rule over and who will offer her protection. But tragedy strikes in the form of Lady Marissa, whose relationship with her father blooms behind Fianna’s back and incites the girl to stand up to him. This marriage is a threat to her right to rule if it bears a son, and also a dishonour to her mother who died but a year before. Fianna will not stand by and see that woman in her mother’s place and a baby boy in her own, so she abandons the kingdom.

The marriage is the catalyst of Fianna’s suppressed anger and frustration throughout her story. She believes herself to be cruelly and callously ejected from her birthright and is haunted by this throughout most of the series. Her own aunt, bitter and deceitful, tries to manipulate her. The young pig farmer Fianna meets offers her a pure and simple friendship, then love. The royal colonel, Pealla, gives support as a kind of surrogate mother for Fianna’s necessary growth into womanhood and knighthood, taking her on as squire. Fianna is moulded by not only her own beliefs and strengths, but by the others around her, be they good or bad voices, and she is on a rollercoaster of imbalance, relying on the strength of her already courageous stomach to guide her way.

“The Prancer stepped back and studied her for a moment. Then, with a gleam in his eye, he said, ‘All unicorns know the Land. Few humans do. But no unicorn knows how to brew ale.’

‘I’m glad humans have some use.’

‘Only those who can brew ale.”

When she meets the Prancer – a unicorn whose own mother died and unicorn twhose father is the leader of their herd – is when her life is turned upside down, and her natural loyalties (dragons, not unicorns) are shredded and challenged in equal measure. Some of the sweetest and most endearing moments – not to mention some of the funniest – of Fianna’s journey are the ones with the Prancer, and they’re the ones that convince the reader she is the right one for the job, it’s only herself holding her back.

Fianna is a brilliant onion of a character. You could easily despise her entitlement, extreme stubbornness and refusal to see reason, but absolutely understand how these things have come to be in her life, how much of a diamond in the rough she is and why she makes the choices she does. She acts from the good of her heart, and though her flaws sometimes override the good she accomplishes, you know she has that spark in her, you know she understands morality, and all she needs is that push to find the true greatness her potential hints at. You see her lose her way time and time again, but it makes her recovery all the more poignant.

‘I learned tonight that there are many things more important than pride. I’ve also learned that we can never assume that there will be time, enough time. That which must be said, that which must be done, cannot be allowed to wait for a right moment. That moment might never come.’


Read the Author Spotlight interview with indie author Chrys Cymri!

Esther Lanark: Prophesy Girl

Character: Esther Lanark

Text: The Witch of Glenaster (The Lanark Chronicles #1) by Jonathan Mills

*SPOILERS AHEAD* 

lyra

Lyra Belacqua from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series : another little girl who puts her strong will and intellect to good use.

After her village is razed to the ground by huge beasts called fire-drakes, Esther finds herself alone and stranded with her younger brother, Magnus, and nowhere to go. That is until she learns the fire-drakes are evil entities controlled by the Witch of Glenaster. Having previously made a pact to herself to destroy the witch when she was older and stronger, this catalyst causes her to instead embark upon the journey well before her intended time. And in her beautifully realised story, this is what makes her interesting and important.

“‘A couple of years and you’ll be wrestling the boys, I shouldn’t wonder…’

‘I can wrestle them now!’ I replied, and the men laughed again, though my father frowned, and I knew some joke had been made at my expense.”

She’s not taken particularly seriously by the people around her initially, but what I love about this character is that no matter the amount of people who tell her the intentions she bears cannot be done she does not bow to it. Nor does she expect anyone to follow her and bear the burden. Esther is fully prepared to take the journey alone, one of my absolute favourite traits in characters, and the key one in Esther whose own stubbornness raises the stakes in her journey, but also keeps you pumped up to the fact she might actually do it.

‘You did not bring us this way. We would have come anyway. If it is me the Witch wants, then I will continue my journey alone, and you will all be safer without me.”

lucy

In Narnia, as the youngest Pevensie sibling, Lucy is usually underestimated due to her age.

Esther’s story wouldn’t be complete if she didn’t have obstacles in her way. Apart from the witch’s servants, strange ghoulish men of the woods, the fire-drakes and fiery apparitions that manage to find her on the way, she has her younger brother, runny-nosed and heavily distraught, to take care of. Their relationship tumbles through sweetness, and bitterness, broken promises and rare delight. She can’t abandon him, they have no family, it’s up to her to be sure he is taken to safety. She manages to maintain a level head and doting perseverance through his mood swings which would have already gotten the better of me as a grown adult…

Then there is Thomas Taper – a mysterious traveller who offers to accompany the children on their mission to the Citadel. Where many characters could have been ruined by the adult coming to the rescue in a sticky situation, and allowed them to take the lead, Esther never loses her drive, ensuring him she will carry out her intentions when she has delivered her brother to safety. Her pure spirit and honest intentions claim Thomas’ respect and also his loyalty.

naughty

Enid Blyton’s Naughtiest Girl, Elizabeth Allen, was always headstrong, wilful and up for adventure.

But Esther’s obsession with the witch explodes when she discovers she might actually be the the key to defeating her, to the point she puts herself and her brother in danger, and pushes Thomas to fury. Every time she insists she must carry out her duty she stands corrected, but fate ties Esther’s future inexplicably with the witch, and her journey continues. Esther’s growth from carefree, ridiculed nobody in the middle of nowhere to strong, independent and respected freedom fighter, who never believes what she intends to do is impossible, is an inspiring journey worth following.

“There is fear where we are going, and horror. I know you would not flinch from it, for you are stronger in heart and mind than most grown men…”

Esther Lanark encompasses the most innocent kind of bravery. She knows right and wrong, but she is too young to fully comprehend the dangers and complexities of the path she chooses, and how it will affect everyone around her. She sees the bigger picture only, the singular problem in her life that has caused so much grief – removing it will fix everything. And this is why her journey is important; through the eyes of this twelve-year-old girl there is only one true determination, and it is little tarnished by the thoughts and will of the adults around her – instead it is her own will that changes their perspectives.