Hi guys, we have Annabelle Jay stopping by today with her upcoming release Starsong, we have a brilliant guest post and a great excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
The inhabitants of Earth thought they evaded the enemy robots by fleeing to another planet, Balu, under Merlin’s leadership… but they were wrong.
Meanwhile, on the nearby planet Draman, the half-human, half-dragon people celebrate a Naming Ceremony. On that day, the children pick between colored robes that represent the choice to become male or female.
After Sara Lee, maid and best friend to Princess Nimue, escapes the ceremony with a child who refuses to select a robe, she resigns herself to a life without the princess in order to fight an oppressive tradition. However, an attack by a robot spaceship looking for Merlin forces both women to seek help from the sorcerer, and princess and maid are reunited. Unable to protect them during the battle, Merlin sends them back in time, where the women must find Allanah, defeat the creator of the robot army, and decide whether the gender norms of their society are strong enough to keep them from falling in love.
Bone Dragons: A New Species
by Annabelle Jay
In The Sun Dragon and Merlin’s Moon, readers were introduced to many species of dragons: sun dragons, earth dragons, and ice dragons, and one moon dragon. In Starsong, however, a new dragon species emerges: bone dragons who are half-human inhabitants of the planet Draman. In the first chapter we hear about the human side of Dramanian society through Princess Nimue’s perspective as she describes her maid, Sara Lee:
My only close friend, she had grown up with me, and, since the time we could speak, had been my only confidant. She was androgynous, like many Dramanians, and her black hair was shaved on the sides and longer on top in the popular style. Sara Lee had the sharp features of a girl, but the skinny body of a boy. Her attire was that of the lower classes, a plain red robe with a dragon midflight sewn across her back. She had chosen to be a girl at our naming ceremony, had chosen the red robe instead of the black, but I often wondered if she regretted that choice. Not that our names mattered much on Draman, since underneath our clothes, we were all the same, but like humans, even dragons needed labels. We needed a father and mother, “boy” and “girl,” king and queen—or at least that’s what our leaders told us.
It is not until we move to the point of view of a third character, Skelly, and their memories as a child being forced to pick a gender during the naming ceremony that we hear about the specifics of bone dragon transformations:
The shoulder bones came first; stretching and angling upward, they ripped holes in the sleeves and then stretched through them to create large gaps. My chest expanded, forcing out the stitches of the constricting bodice. As an adult I would learn to wear a loose robe that I could transition with, but at that moment, all I wanted to do was tear my dress apart. And I did, bone by bone, until the gory red velvet mess lay abandoned on the floor.
Bone Dragons differ from the other dragon types because they fly from magic, not their wings (which have no skin or muscle on them, seeing as their forms are made of bones). They are also intersex (though they do not use that term until they learn it on Earth), which is what makes their naming ceremony the optimal example of gender as a social construct. Their society is reminiscent of our Middle Ages, and they are discouraged from ever transforming into their bone dragon forms, as well as participating in any same-gender relationships.
Needless to say, theirs is a society ripe for revolt. Here is the moment in Chapter Two when Skelly brings all of this tension to a head:
Soon, the last child took the floor. Nothing about the shoes, the shape of the clothing beneath, or even the facial features gave him or her away, and after years of ceremonies, I was an expert. Finally challenged, I sat up in my seat and watched this one with interest. Their eyes were an intense green, extremely rare for the darker complexion of Dramanians. There was a focus in every movement of the limbs, a calculation not often found in children, though the limbs of this child were much smaller and daintier than their age would suggest.
“Red or black, dear?” the master of ceremonies prompted. The hour was late, and our guests had not yet had dessert. After that there would be dancing, and I was sure Aduerto would insist on parading me around the room on his arm.
Add, on top of this revolt, the new fact that Sara Lee has feelings for Nimue and the second fact that the robots from Merlin’s Moon have stopped on Draman on their hunt for Merlin, and Starsong is full of internal and external conflicts. The bone dragons have lived without societal clashes for as long as they can remember, but as Sara Lee, Nimue, and Skelly prove, perhaps their lives have not been as perfect as they previously thought.
“Nimue,” my father called from his place at the head of the table, “come sit beside me.”
“Very well, Father.”
I took the place to his right, across from Mayor Nemo, the mayor of the largest province besides ours. His son, Aduerto, sat to his father’s left. Both father and son took their roles as “men” very seriously, and they insisted on eating their chicken with their bare hands. Oil slicked the skin around their mouths, and some of the bird’s juice dripped onto the royal tablecloth. I stifled a gag.
“Mayor Nemo was just telling me about Aduerto’s latest accomplishments,” my father added.
“Oh?” I looked to Aduerto, whose bulky shoulders straightened at the sound of his name.
“Three hundred push-ups,” Aduerto said proudly. He ran his greasy hand through his half-shaved, half-long black hair. “Some of them were one-handed.”
“Fascinating.” No one caught the sarcasm in my voice, but that was typical, since sarcasm and humor were rarely practiced on Draman. Only Sara Lee understood my jokes, and could volley back with her own jabs. “Tell me more about your exercise routine.”
While Aduerto rambled on about the special protein shakes he made from ground chicken bones, a pinch of sea salt, and a bunch of herbs from his mother’s garden, I caught Sara Lee’s eye across the room. She clutched her arms around her sides to keep from laughing, but eventually bowed her head so she could grin without anyone else noticing.
“Maybe you should start drinking those,” my father told me with a nudge, breaking my stare. “Perhaps then you’ll find the energy to attend to your public duties.”
“It’s not energy, Father,” I said as I laid my napkin on my plate to indicate I had finished my meal. With the two hulking men across from me, the desire to eat had fled. “It’s willpower.”
He stared at me blankly.
“Didn’t you mention we might be able to experience a royal Naming Ceremony while we were here?” asked Aduerto as he sucked the marrow from a gnawed bone.
“Quite right,” my father said. I noticed that he too had finished his meal early. “Nimue, why don’t we go track down the master of ceremonies. Gentlemen, if you’ll excuse us.”
I followed my father to the small room behind the throne. Abruptly, my father turned and held me with one hand on each arm.
“What do you think of him?” he asked me eagerly.
“Aduerto,” he said, as though the answer should have been obvious.
“Oh. Him. He’s… quite manly.”
“You couldn’t get much manlier.” My father released my arms and began to primp his vest and royal crown. “I knew he would be the perfect match for my precious, pretty girl.”
The few bites of chicken I’d managed to eat threatened to come back up. Suddenly the corset my maids had stuffed me into that morning to hide my curves felt claustrophobic, and I fanned myself with my hand to keep from fainting.
“You can’t mean—”
“Exactly, Poppet! The princess and the son of the most influential mayor on the planet. A royal wedding is just what this planet needs to cheer the people up. Think of it: feather hats atop groomed heads, velvet gowns for all attendees, a new crown forged—”
At first, I thought the word had slipped from my lips, but then I saw Sara Lee approaching from the other door.
“What is the meaning of this intrusion?” my father asked.
“Oh… well… I… the children are here, Sire.”
“For the Naming Ceremony.”
“Of course, the children!” my father said gleefully. Forgetting all about our conversation, at least for a while, he turned and left through the throne door.
Once I knew he was definitely gone, I sank into my mother’s throne chair, which had been removed once it was evident she would never return to her seat. Sara Lee placed her hand on my head and stroked my hair, which made me feel better, at least temporarily.
“I could never marry that monster,” I cried, though my breathing slowed to the pace of her hand. “Not even if the entire kingdom depended on it.”
“I know. Your father will understand that, eventually.”
“Sometimes, I feel like my father doesn’t understand anything about me. Not why I became the princess, not why I avoid the royal ceremonies, not even why I spend so much time with mother. It’s too painful for him, and he wants to pretend that she’s already gone.”
Sara Lee bent so that she rested on her knees and could look up into my eyes.
“Everything is going to be okay. But listen, I need to tell you something—”
“And that horrid slurping. Can you imagine living all day and all night with that noise, the crunching of bones between teeth? We might be half dragons, but that doesn’t mean we have to be monsters.”
“I agree. Listen, Nimue, I need to explain—”
“Nimue?” my father’s voice called from the other side of the door. “The children are here.”
“Coming, Father.” I turned to Sara Lee. “Can we talk about this after the ceremony?”
“Sure,” she said, but something seemed off about her voice. If only I had stayed and listened to her… but my father’s festive mood was infectious, and now that I was already in the throne room, I was looking forward to the event. Before she could say anything more, I slipped out the door and took my place on my golden throne before the children and their parents.
If there’s one thing author Annabelle Jay believes with all her heart, it’s that there is no such thing as too many dragons in a book. As fantasy writer with few other hobbies—does being bribed to run with her partner or dancing awkwardly in the kitchen count?—she spends every day following her imagination wherever it leads her.
A hippie born in the wrong decade, Annabelle has a peace sign tattoo and a penchant for hugging trees. Occasionally she takes breaks from her novels to play with her pets: Jon Snow, the albino rabbit who is constantly trying to escape; Stevie, the crested gecko that climbs glass with the hairs on its toes; and Luigi, the green tree python that lives at the foot of her bed despite her best efforts to talk her partner out of the idea.
During her day job as a professor of English, Annabelle is often assumed to be a fellow student playing a prank on the class—that is, until she hands out the syllabus. When people stop mistaking her for a recent high school graduate, she will probably be very sad.