What inspired me to write The Halfling Saga is a hard thing to narrow down but at the core of it I would say that I wanted to craft a fantasy romance that centered the Indigenous experience. I still wanted the characters to have magic, and blades at their throats, and vile enemies—all the things I love as a reader of the genre—but I didn’t want it to shy away from the typical colonial nature of these stories, I wanted that to be the focal point, the driving force behind my main character, Keera.
The world of The Halfling Saga is a cruel one. Elverath is a place that has been impacted by the genocide of their people and extractive colonialism that continues to drain their magical resources. These foundational elements to the world were heavily inspired by the continued colonization of my own people, the Anishinaabe, who are Indigenous to Turtle Island (North America).
But those themes were already set in the first book, A Broken Blade. We see Keera struggling with her role of maintaining the systems actively oppressing her people. Sometimes it even requires her to do so herself. The first book is very much a story of someone coming to realize that they can’t assimilate any longer and Keera makes the choice to do everything she can to overthrow the Crown. Not to claim it for herself, or anyone else, but to destroy it completely.
For the second installment, A Shadow Crown, I wanted to explore emotions that come after a choice like that. Keera is no longer alone and has access to her people for the first time. It’s staggering, it’s complicated, and it’s real for many Indigenous people across the world today.
I wanted the sequel to explore the questioning that happens when a person raised outside of their community comes home. Questions about what identity means in a world that has forced you to ignore the very foundations of who you are—but mostly, I wanted to see what it meant for my main character to find community after spending so many decades without it.
Reconnection is a powerful force for any Indigenous person. It comes with immense joys and wonder, a sense of pride for a collective rather than just yourself. But it also comes with many sharper, harder emotions to sort through. The embarrassment of not knowing cultural practices, perhaps even one’s own language. The shame of having not done enough to help your people or of having lived a life that the oppressors built for you. It can take years of hard work to reconnect and I wanted to show that. The long journey that can be.
And I hope as the series continues, I can explore just how worth it a journey like that is.
Melissa Blair – A Shadow Crown – Union Square & Co. – Out Now