In order to explain how things are the same, but different in my world, I need to go a bit farther back in time than the 19th century.
What difference does magic make in Irish history? In some respects, very little. This is a world where magic is everywhere, in everything. Not everyone has enough magical ability to cast spells, but those who do are relatively prevalent and come from every race, culture, and ethnicity. So just because the native Gaels (and the later Norse settlers in the port cities on the west coast) had magic, that would not be a huge deterrent against an invading force who also had it.
And that’s what happened during the Norman Invasion in the 12th century. In the real world, the invaders were better organized, built castles, and had the backing (money and supplies) of the Catholic church. In my world, shared magic brought the Gaelic clans under High King Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair (anglicized as Rory O’Connor) together in a more tightly-knit society than the somewhat antagonistic and shifting relationship the Irish kingdoms had in reality. So they were also better able to hold and maintain the lines between Gael and English.
There is no Catholic church in my world, but there is a magic-governing body called the Magisterium that promotes a particular way of using magic and relationship to the magical world, eschewing all other ways as less worthy. Their patron god is an all-father type, militaristic and jealous of his followers’ praise. He is not an exact equivalent with the Old Testament God, but he’s pretty close. Opposed to the Magisterium is the Academe, who follow a more relaxed view of magic. Their patron god and goddess are more compassionate and empathetic, but still strong-willed and not easily cowed. But the Gaels and Norse followed neither of those paths. Instead, they followed their own gods (roughly equivalent to our real-world Celtic and Norse mythology), and their own ways of doing magic. So there is a similar element of the Magisterium wishing to gain a strong foothold in Ireland in my world’s Norman Invasion.
Which they did, just as the Roman Catholic church did. In fact, in my world, the Magisterium leaders were the true “winners” in the conflict over the invasion. They converted many of the Gaels away from their gods and goddesses and naturalistic ways of doing magic, and established hundreds of magic schools, building Conclaves (great buildings, similar to cathedrals, for casting magic) over the most powerful leylines and restricting access to those who swore fealty to the Magisterium and their god.
Then came the Tudor Conquest in the 16th century, and everything changed again. The fragile peace between the now-primarily Magisterium-following Gaels and the English degraded as the English claimed not just the southeast but the whole country, imposing their language, magical practices, and law on everyone. Even the “Old English” who had been in the country for several hundred years were often against the Tudors, who—despite a brief period following the Magisterium under Mary I—were primarily in favor of the Academe.
The Irish rose up against the “New English,” but eventually they were overwhelmed by settlers, laws restricting their ability to keep arms, and policies that surrendered clan land to the Crown, which was then re-granted with English titles. The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 (“Remember, remember, the 5th of November”) was, in my world, a mix of magic and explosives, and although it failed, it had lasting repercussions for anyone who followed the Magisterium in Britain and Ireland. They could no longer vote or hold public office, though those in power retained their lands.
In the mid-17th century, the Irish, both Gael and Old English, rose up against the New English with the support of the Spanish and the Magisterium. This, along with several other factors including the Stuart monarchy’s refusal to follow the Academe, caused the Civil War, Cromwell’s rule, and later the reinstatement of the monarchy and finally the Glorious Revolution in 1688 that brought Danish William and Mary to the throne of England.
**That’s an important point in history that will be a big deal in the next book, so don’t forget it!**
But for Ireland, it meant that almost all of those who were Gaelic, Norse, or English from the original Norman Invasion, were supplanted by new lords and settlers from England, Scotland, and Wales.
Unrest continued throughout the 18th century, with land acts, oppression, heavy taxation, and high rents forcing many to immigrate to the colonies. Then the potato blight caused the country to implode. Masses of Irish left for America and Australia and elsewhere, and millions starved and died.
This is the point at which I began yesterday’s blog, although I felt like I needed to jump back quite a bit farther today.
Just as in the real world, a revolt was staged in the 1840s that failed, and its leaders also escaped and formed the Irish Republicans. This is a change from the Irish Republican Brotherhood, because in my world, women, especially witches, are often as powerful or more powerful than men. So the Irish Republicans accept both men and women into their ranks, and some of their leaders are witches.
But they follow a similar cell-organizational structure, with an “Alpha” leading each circle. Under him or her are several Betas, and under the Betas are anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen Gammas.
Ronan McCarrick starts as a Beta under his mentor, Donn, who is an Alpha already when they meet in 1884. This is soon after the dynamiting/magic attacks in London, promulgated almost entirely by the Fenians from America. The entire organization is at risk because of a new police force out of Scotland Yard commissioned entirely to track them down. So they turn to even more clandestine practices and secrecy. Ronan runs cons, a ring of thieves and pickpockets, and helps spy on the English in Dublin. He helps find blackmail material and enforces retribution on those who refuse to help the Cause—sometimes lethally.
By 1896, the Irish Republicans are beginning to fracture. Some want Home Rule, and some are staunchly nationalistic. Some want a violent uprising. Some want a peaceful negotiation. Ronan hasn’t been in the thick of things for a while. He has been an Alpha of his own cell for several years, and primarily works in shipping and smuggling, raising funds and ferrying goods for the Cause. When A Theft of Magic begins, he has accepted a lucrative courier commission from the Duchess of Fay to retrieve several objects secretly from her Clan Seat on the Isle of Skye.
He thinks it will be easy money, barely a wave in the calm sea of his life.
So he isn’t prepared when he steps into Sorcha Fay’s trap, not for the magic, or the woman. What happens next will make him question everything about his life, and everything he wants for the future.
To find out what happens when Ronan meets Sorcha, get your copy of A Theft of Magic from any of these fine retailers:
And if you haven’t started the series yet, Essential Magic is on sale until the end of this month (October 2016) for $0.99 on Amazon!
It’s release day for A Theft of Magic! The hero, Ronan McCarrick, is an Irish Republican, so I’m going to share a little about the real history of Irish Republicanism in the 19th century.
Most of what I’m about to be write can be summed up as this: Over the course of almost four hundred years (seven hundred if you count the Anglo-Normans forcing the native Gaelic-speakers from the southeast/east), the English slowly and systematically removed Irish rights, land, and cultural identity. At the turn of the 19th century, they removed Irish sovereignty and self-governance completely by dissolving the Irish Parliament. This was accomplished by means of bribery, coercion, and promises which were later reneged upon.
So it’s no surprise that there is also a long history of unrest and rebellion in Ireland against the English. In this post, I’m going to focus primarily on the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the fictional version of which is what Ronan belongs to.
The Irish Republican Brotherhood was born from the ashes of the Young Ireland movement, who rose up in 1848-1849 in response to the Great Famine. Not only did the British Government generally ignore any requests for relief while millions were starving and dying, but they also required that the Irish continue exporting goods—often under duress. This caused massive unrest and anger, which resulted in violence and uprising.
The rebellion failed because the people were weak and starving, and they did not have the resources to succeed against the well-trained army. Several of the leaders of the rebellion escaped and fled to Paris, where they learned about secret societies and revolution. They developed a system of cells (called circles) with a single leader, several junior officers, and more soldiers. In theory, few people should ever know much about the others above them in the cell except whomever they reported to. They should also not know who was in other cells. That way, members would be protected against retaliation.
On 17 March 1858, the Irish Republican Brotherhood was officially born. They attempted risings in the 1860s, and—with the assistance of the American branch, the Fenians—a dynamite campaign in the 1880s. But most of their efforts were stymied, due to loyalist informants, mismanagement, and the fact that many of their supporters were across the Atlantic in America. Although the cell system was wonderful in theory, in practice, secrecy was not well-maintained. In 1883, a special branch of police were formed for the sole purpose of keeping an eye on the IRB.
A Theft of Magic takes place in 1896. There was a change in British government in 1895 over the issue of Irish Home Rule, but at that time in the real world, the IRB had lost some of its steam. In fact, in 1896, several Fenians who had long been imprisoned were released because of a shift in public opinion and a supposed lack of danger from the organization. If Home Rule had passed, things might look very different in our world today.
But it didn’t pass, and the next generation of IRB members were staunchly against it, feeling that it would actually strengthen the ties to England. Instead, they fought for a free and democratic republic of Ireland, and championed their own language, folklore, and culture. These tides are beginning to change at the point where my story begins.
In tomorrow’s post, I’ll talk about what’s different between the real history and my alternate universe, and what role Ronan McCarrick and his crew have in the IRB as it exists in the world of the Fay of Skye. Stay tuned!
To get your copy of A Theft of Magic, visit any of these fine retailers:
And if you haven’t started the series yet, Essential Magic is on sale until the end of this month (October 2016) for $0.99 on Amazon!
One of the most interesting parts of the process of creating an alternate history is the research. I’ve already written a post with a list of my research materials for the Fay of Skye series (and I’ve pinned some of my visual research on my boards over at Pinterest), but this entry will be about how I’m using the information I found.
Essential Magic begins in 1895. I considered many different eras and historical events around which to shape this series, including the Regency because that’s such a popular period for historical romance. But the mix of innovation and repressed social mores during the Late Victorian period fascinated me, and the more I read about the turn of the century and the years leading up to the First World War, the more I knew this was the right time for my story.
Most of the Victoriana you will find in fiction at the moment is steampunk-oriented. I enjoy reading steampunk, but I’m a fantasy girl, so instead of extrapolating about inventions and technology, I’m adding magic.
ETA: While browsing Goodreads today, I found an anthology called Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy. I have read many of the authors in this anthology, and never knew that this subgenre I am writing in has a name! So I can officially say that I am writing Gaslamp Fantasy Romance.
I chose 1895 in particular for a few reasons. First, because I needed a certain number of generations to have passed between the Napoleonic Wars (in which the Fay Clan matriarch, Lilias, played a large role) and my current hero and heroine. Second, because it is in a relative lull in British history. There were many things happening behind the scenes and in the far reaches of the Empire, but the United Kingdom was not officially at war with anyone until 1899 (Boer War). Because this is the first book of the series, a time of peace is an ideal period to illustrate the existing status quo at the end of the 19th century. As the series progresses, I will show some of the events that led to the Great War, and the final books will take place during the war. Essential Magic represents the antebellum Empire, before things fall apart.
So what, exactly, have I changed from real history?
Not much. I want this world to feel familiar and for the broad strokes of history to remain in place. The only difference is that some things now have magical causes (or were facilitated by magic) rather than mundane ones.
For example, the power position filled in our world by the Catholic Church is filled by the Magisterium – headed by the magister, who is the equivalent of the pope. They function as a kind of magic council for Europe. Instead of churches and cathedrals, they built magic schools and beautiful buildings on leylines so they would always have a source of power. There was a schism, led by my world’s Martin Luther, about the uses of magical energy and the treatment of magical creatures. Luther’s schools are called academies, and their council is the Academe. This world’s Henry VIII broke with the Magisterium for the same reasons as the real Henry from the Catholic Church – he wanted to marry Anne Boleyn. But in my world, Anne was a wild talent not affiliated with the Magisterium. They wanted Henry to stay married to Catherine, who was a good Magisterium student and a moderately powerful sorceress.
Because of Henry, my world also has the fallout between the Magisterium and the Academe in England, which led to the Stuarts being removed from the succession and the various Risings against the House of Hanover. Victoria is the last monarch of the House of Hanover, and her son will be the first of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which his son will later rename the House of Windsor.
In the world of the Fay Clan, magical abilities are typically concentrated among the noble class. I am not making a statement that a noble is somehow intrinsically better than others, merely recognizing that magical abilities would give a family more power than its neighbors. Historically, that family would be able to hold its land and enforce its will over others, and would end up with privileges and titles. Also, magical talent runs in families (passed most strongly through matrilineal descent), so they would be able to maintain that power over time.
In our world, that kind of power came from various places (military expertise, land ownership, nepotism, etc.), and that exists in this alternate world, too. Magic does have limits, and those without power seek ways to obtain it. So the Renaissance and expansions in science and technology that led to the Industrial Revolution happened very similarly to our world.
But most of these changes will never show up in the story, or will only be referenced obliquely. I’m sharing this blog because it’s fun to know more about worldbuilding than what fits into the strictly defined structure of a novel. I don’t want to overwhelm my readers with history lessons – I only want to give what is needed to understand the story I’m telling.
That’s one of the reasons why I decided to tell Etta’s story first. She’s an American witch from the south, who isn’t allowed to do magic because of severe laws of attrition following the Civil War. The choice of an outsider heroine allows me to explore how magic works in this world in an organic way. Etta learns about it along with the reader, and her process of discovery builds her character.
There is one big change to history that forms an undercurrent of conflict in Essential Magic, and will become the overriding series goal for the Fay Clan. But I won’t tell you what it is – you’ll have to read the book to find out!
Essential Magic releases in just three weeks, on June 23, 2016.