Sisters of Icarus
~ Icarus Child #1 ~
Once there was an island, and on that island there lived a boy, but before that boy there was another child. And before that child there were three sisters.
Those sisters had a brother.
His name was Icarus.
Britain 163 BC
On a small island just off the south coast, three sisters are determined to survive against nature’s unmerciful odds, but their brother is mad, everyone thinks they are strange and old voices cry on the wind.
Battling against love, grief, selkies and ghosts, middle sister Raccanta will face many tests of her strength if she intends to keep her sisters safe – and her promises intact. For on the mainland there lives a man who walks the woods and shows Raccanta a world that could tempt her far away.
Except the island keeps what it takes and it has no intentions of letting any of its sisters go.
Sisters of Icarus in Brief
What’s in it?: A 101,000 word novel
When is it set?: 163-158 BC
Where is it set?: Iron Age Britain, pre-Roman.
What kind of story is it?: A family drama with a bit of romance, a lot of domesticity, broken hearts, selkies, jealous spirits and general island creepiness.
What’s the genre?: Historical Fantasy.
Any age restrictions?: Not really. Although it is more geared towards adult themes, such as childbirth, allusions to an abusive relationship and general ghostly gore.
Behind the Story
The original Icarus Child was one novel split into three sections, detailing the life of Shaiel, the first Aekhartain (which is actually Demero, since Shaiel is… different. As I discovered when I wrote this book eleven years ago). The first part – Sisters of Icarus – was supposed to be a chapter or two introducing Icarus and the women who became Shaiel’s ancestors. I’ve always been drawn to the story of Icarus and there’s something about the word that I really, really like, so I couldn’t resist borrowing a bit of the legend for my book. Which fits in quite neatly with my winged Aekhartain.
Of course the original story ran away with me, mostly thanks to the middle sister, Raccanta/Cana, and the way her life twists and turns. What was supposed to be around five thousand words of backstory turned into a fifty thousand word romance and definitely took on a life of its own.
Because, as I often do, I grew rather attached to my throwaway characters (Cana and Fox this time around) I desperately wanted to find a way to bring them back into the Aekhartain story. In the past I simply made it work because *magic!*, but this time around I needed to find an honest way for how that would happen. Which also meant I needed to work out why a man would have a very Greek name in Iron Age Britain. The latter I solved by marooning a Greek traveller on the isolated island, after his exploratory trip went wrong, but the former involved changing a few things.
None of which I can go into here for spoiler reasons ;)
In the end I tweaked the plot here and there, coloured in the details and tried to make it fit into a true time period for the first time, but in essence much of the original is still here. It just grew even bigger this time around – and I actually knew what was supposed to happen. I just wish the other two were going to be as straight forward.
Read on for the opening chapter of Sisters of Icarus!
ONCE THERE WAS an island and for many seasons and many suns it was empty and abandoned; an isolated place that squatted in the sea. Little more than an overgrown rock, it sat low on the horizon, just visible from the mainland shore. None lived there; none quite dared. They said it was the home of the sea goddess, the Hungry One, who gnawed at the land day and night, never sating her furious hunger. They said spirits haunted its shores, devouring all men who dared to walk there.
They said a lot of things. They always did.
Nothing they said could stop the stranger, though. A man from distant lands, with hair as dark as a pine marten’s pelt and skin as brown as weathered wood. He spoke strange words that none could understand and came with items to trade. They had met others like him before, of course, but he was the only one who stayed. He settled on the island and the people were curious at first, waiting to see what the sea goddess would do. Would she eat him? Gnaw at him day and night until he was half a man, then quarter, then nothing.
Nothing is all that happened. Or nothing is all they saw.
Instead the stranger settled on the island and seemed to make himself at home. How he came to be there none quite knew, for he had no great ship to carry him over the Hungry One’s waters. Instead he had a little boat, one made up from driftwood and scraps of what few trees grew on the island. He came to the mainland shore, he smiled and bartered and took away food and tools and stone. People were always curious about the stone.
Then one day he took away a wife. Not the prettiest girl on the shore, but likely the boldest. She wanted adventure and got it with her stranger. He took her back to the island and from that day forward the people never saw him again. Instead she came to shore for food and tools and stone. At first she smiled, but over time her face grew harder, her smiles rarer. She would not speak of the man or the island or the stone. She came, she traded with shellfish and driftwood, and she returned to the island.
The people were curious, though never so much as to visit. Perhaps the Hungry One was at work after all. Perhaps she was gnawing gently on her captives, wearing them away the tiniest bit at a time.
A strange place with stranger people, yet after a while the mystery faded. Perhaps he was just a bad husband. Perhaps she was destined to be unhappy, bold as she had always been. No one thought much of it for a time.
Until the fishermen told stories and the traders carried tales. The island was changing shape. Not by much, but on the south-western point, the highest place on the island, something was growing. It wasn’t a tree, for it was made of stone and it pointed straight at the sky like a fat finger. And soon the woman stopped coming to the mainland, stopped trading shellfish and driftwood for food and tools and stone.
And the people never did find out what the finger was for.