by H. L. Burke
Book 1: Lands of Ash
What remains when the world burns?
After decades of Elemental Invasions, the once flourishing Kingdom of Forra has been reduced to ruins. A band of survivors pulls together in one last attempt to defend their homes and families as the Elementals make a push to wipe them out completely.
Stoic Militia Captain Karvir and his ardent brother, Ketyl, lead a skeleton force against the Fiery Horde. Everything–their families, their home, their very world–hangs on their success against impossible odds. Meanwhile across the wilderness, young Brode and his pregnant stepmother flee, hoping to find safety near the sea.
As the Elementals pour through the portals, a sacrificial act gives hope for peace, but is it sustainable? Can the human race fight back from the edge of extinction? And could the key to their survival lie in a child?
“All the protagonists were interesting, nuanced, flawed, and understandable yet not predictable. I got really attached to all the characters, and there were some moments where I audibly squeaked as I was reading because the suspense was so high for them!”
“I read this book in one sitting, forgoing sleep in order to finish it. This book is THAT good!”
“All in all, I’m left on the edge of my seat, looking forward to the next in the series.”
Book 2: Call of the Water
After decades of Elemental War, humans are rebuilding their civilization from the ground up. Empathic healer, Quill, lives on an isolated farm, hiding from her family’s turbulent, war torn past. However, when the voices of Water Elementals force their way into her thoughts, Quill fears she will bring destruction upon those she loves.
Help arrives from an unlikely source, her mother’s estranged father. Eanan hasn’t seen his daughter since she eloped with Quill’s dad. Now, in spite of the inherent danger of Elementals, Eanan seeks the Evermirror, a mythical gateway to the Water Realm. Quill’s only hope for safety and sanity may be casting her lot with her grandfather. Running away will break her mother’s heart, but unless Quill learns to commune peacefully with the Elementals, their powers may tear her apart from the inside.
Call of Water is a great follow-up to Lands of Ash. Burke expands the scope of her world, introducing us to the Water and Earth Elementals and illuminating the history of her world. It is a fast-paced story with plenty of action and youthful romance.
“A compelling continuation in a dystopian world. I enjoyed staying with the characters from the first book.”
CIR: What was the hardest part of writing this series?
BURKE: Length. This is the longest thing I’ve ever written. There were times I thought I’d NEVER get done. I started it for National Novel Writing Month (50,000 words in one month) and I hit my 50k word goal and thought, “Dang, I have a LOT of plot left…” Two months later I finally had the whole 100k beast done. Then another several months of revisions … I lived this book for like six months. It was the only project I was working on in any capacity. My brain was all Lands of Ash, all the time.
CIR: What would you compare this book to?
BURKE: I personally like to call it Lord of the Rings meets Avatar: The Last Airbender. There’s a sense of epic “save the world” high stakes and strong heroes, but very much driven by the characters and their relationships. Plus each book has an Elemental theme, so that also fights in with Avatar … Though I actually hadn’t seen that show yet when I started writing the book. I had the outline all written out, and I said, “I need to get my daughter a new and exciting cartoon to buy me some more writing time.” I picked Avatar, and a few episodes in I’m like, “Dang, this has a lot of similar themes to my book…” But it’s a great show, so I’ll roll with that.
CIR: What inspired this story?
BURKE: The book is devoted to military spouses. My husband is in the US Marine Corp, and having him be overseas when our first daughter was born or even when we were just dating and knowing he was in combat … sometimes it was so frightening, trying to go about my day, not knowing if he was safe in that moment or when I’d hear from him again. Then to have him come home and there are still emotional scars that sometimes I didn’t know how to deal with. I remember him waking up in starts after he got back, and just knowing he was carrying things I couldn’t even imagine in my head, I wanted to help him but didn’t know how. I remember telling him, “I wish I could reach into your brain and push all the bad things out” and he told me that he wouldn’t want me anywhere near my brain, that he wanted to keep me as far away from the things he saw in Iraq as possible. He wanted to protect me from that, and I gave that sense of “I’m doing this to protect the people I love, to keep the bad away from them” to Karvir, and then I made Willa, his wife, empathic with magical healing abilities to help him as sort of wish fulfillment for myself, to do for Karvir what part of me still longs to do for Matt even if it isn’t possible.
CIR: Are any of the characters based on people you know?
BURKE: Not so much “know” but I have this thing where I write parts for actor, Nathan Fillion, into my books now in hopes that when they are made into movies, he’ll accept the role and we can hang out a bunch … Captain Draven was designed specifically with Nathan Fillion in mind … and my husband tends to sneak into all my stories in some capacity. Karvir, the heroic militia leader, is kind of an older, wiser version of my husband. Not that my husband isn’t wise and all, but Karvir is what I imagine Matt would be like in a decade.
CIR: Is there any content that some readers might find questionable despite the overall “clean” feel of the book?
BURKE: There is a little bit of violence due to the “world at war” nature of the book, but nothing I consider graphic. Still, it has some dark themes including jealousy, betrayal, and survivor’s guilt. There are also two instances of mild swearing. There’s also a married couple that has an emotional scene together that concludes with them headed into the other room for implied sex and some hints at other characters having off screen involvements and a subplot that involves a man coveting a woman who he can’t have.