Please give a warm welcome to author Annabelle Jay. She’s joining us to day to celebrate the release of Merlin’s Moon, book two in the series The Sun Dragon.
(Or Why I Rewrote Merlin as a Gay Half-Dragon)
When people ask me to tell them about the Sun Dragon Series, I have trouble summing up all five books into a perfect package. More of a universe than a traditional series, each book focuses on the generation after the previous book, with not just a new main character but a new cast of minor characters every single time. Sure, old characters make tons of appearances (for example, the main character in book one, Allanah, is the main character of book two’s mother and a huge part of book three because of time travel), but for the most part, the perimeter of this magical world expands drastically with every book.
However, though the books are very different, one thing always remains constant: all of the main characters are LGBTQ.
And I didn’t stop there. After I started writing LGBTQ YA, I decided I didn’t want to just put LGBTQ characters into mainstream stories; I wanted to put them into classical stories, too. Thus, I selected Merlin (and, by extension, a lot of other characters from Arthurian legend) as the focus of my second book.
My main character, named Mani, is not just magical; he’s a half-human, half-dragon who develops a crush on a half-wolf named Lup. There are a lot of unfamiliar plot points (for example, Mani is also a part of the wizarding community and breathes fire on the regular), but there are also a lot of details from the traditional Merlin tales worked in. Nimue makes an appearance, as well as Morgana and Guinevere. The ancient runes Mani writes are charm words found in real inscriptions. Excaliber makes an appearance later on in the series, as do the various iterations of the name “Nimue” as separate sisters who make a lot of trouble for the main characters in book three.
Though some people don’t like the idea of rewriting these traditional characters, I genuinely believe that LGBTQ young adults need these retellings, and that after reading books in school and out that have only straight characters as the protagonists, they deserve them. They deserve to have characters they identify with, not just in coming out stories but in all genres, from fantasy to mystery to thriller.
If you agree, I invite you to write a comment below about the traditional character or story that you’d like to see rewritten with an LGBTQ protagonist.
In the meantime, here’s an exclusive excerpt from Merlin’s Moon where Mani encounters Morgana for the second time.
Night was coming, so after setting up camp, I slipped into the woods. I was early by at least ten minutes, but I wanted time to think without the observations of Professor Green or the crazed ramblings of Sergeant Major.
Easily I found the runes. Their charred remains crunched under my feet like dried cornhusks after a bountiful fall, and every step blew new black dust into the wind.
Auju. There they were on the ground, the same letters as back in the Mansion’s forest, only this time written in a dark black scroll that stretched across the sea of black underbrush. I followed the path of the letters with my feet, noticing the intersecting lines that reminded me of a toddler’s way of drawing stars in the sand with a blunt stick. And yet the letters were not elementary; they emitted a certain strength, a purposefulness in their simplicity. We would need to find the new runes in order to get to our next destination.
“Beautiful, aren’t they?”
Morgana appeared on the boulder, her long legs crossed and her manicured hands perfectly placed in her lap. She might have been in a board meeting, or watching the opera. She had changed her dress, now a long black gown covered in black raven feathers that trailed down the rock to the forest floor.
“You got what you wanted. Why are you here?”
Her red lips smiled, perhaps at my insolence, but her eyes did not. They remained, intent as a bird’s eye on a dropped crumb, on me.
“You’re not like the others.” She disappeared from the rock and reappeared by my side. The train of her dress encircled me, like the grip of a cobra. “What are you?”
“Mani the Wizard, or so they tell me,” I said, trying to keep a light tone, but on the inside I had begun to panic. Only a few minutes left before my transformation, and I didn’t want someone like Morgana watching. Who knew what she might do with a dragon forced to do her bidding?
“No.” She cast aside my name. “You are something else entirely. Not wizard; not cursed boy. Something runs in you that is old—as old as these runes—and I want to know what it is.”
“Then cast a spell and make me tell you.”
“I can’t.” She spit the words out like they were an unpleasant bite of escargot. “Trust me, I tried a few minutes ago—unlike wizards, we sorceresses can keep our moves a secret. No muttering and no theatrics, unless grand gestures are required. Your magical skin is thick, boy, and not like any I have ever encountered. Why do you travel with these basic beasts?”
“You’re the one who made them so,” I countered.
“I don’t mean their animal sides—those are the most interesting things about them. I mean these Council wizards, these men with a little magic up their sleeve. They make a Level Five seem grand, when in our time, a Level Five would wipe the floor where a greater wizard had stepped. The world is falling into disarray, all technology and personal success and pleasure, and the wizards sit in their Council chambers and debate whether they should hire an Igreefee expert to redo the gardens.”
She clutched her hands into fists, pressed into the sides of her feathery gown so that they seemed like broken wings. Her face had grown red and furious. In a weird way, she reminded me of Allanah—small matters like the gardens had been exactly why she left the Council and changed the system from an Egg-based nomination to a democratic one.
“So you aim to destroy them?” I asked. “You are the lion, and they are the innocent antelope?”
“Destroy them?” Her fists relaxed. “We will—”
Growling came from the woods, and then Lup was there, baring his teeth at the amused Morgana. His muscles quivered, as though about to pounce on her legs at the slightest movement.
“Your guard dog?” she asked me, but she stepped away all the same. In a second she had disappeared.
Had Lup heard everything we’d said? He looked at the place where Morgana had been, but did not seem to direct that anger toward me. His nose explored her footprints, and followed her scent to the boulder where she had sat just minutes before.
Before he could trail her, the moon appeared. I rose in imitation, while Lup grew farther and farther away below me.
“Find the next runes,” he called up before I took off in flight. “Find the passage to Ganieda.”
I looked down at the charred ground, and a sudden stab of fear made me pause midflap. The world is falling into disarray. Something big was coming, and that darkness was not the sorceresses, or at least not just them. Something bigger. Something terrible.
About the Book
Series: The Sun Dragon: Book Two
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Length: 180 Pages
Category: High Fantasy, Teen Fiction
Release Date: 28 July 2016
Purchase Links: Dreamspinner Press || Amazon || ARe || Kobo
Blurb: Mani doesn’t know much about his powers except that he turns into a blue dragon every night. His adopted mother Allanah has told him he hatched from an egg. He’s half-human, half-dragon, and she found him after his dragon mother died.
When his best friend and crush witnesses his transformation, Mani flees to the wizard Mansion, where he finds a group of fellow creatures called the Animal Guard. They assume that Mani has also been transformed by the sorceresses, and they enlist him in their quest to find the evil women and bribe them to turn the Animal Guard back into their human forms. Mani decides to help after he falls for one of the Animal Guard’s members, a wolf-boy named Lup, but little does he know that his own blossoming powers will soon come between them. Mani must keep the sorceresses from using their greatest weapon, the North Star, while struggling to find out where he belongs in the rapidly changing world of magic.
Back Cover Blurb: Half-human, half-dragon Mani hatched from an egg and was adopted by Allanah, a human woman who discovered him after the death of his dragon mother. He possesses abilities he’s only beginning to understand, and every night he takes the form of a blue dragon.
When Mani’s secret is revealed, he takes refuge at the wizard Mansion. There, he encounters the Animal Guard, a group of people who share his affliction. But the members of the Animal Guard are under a curse by the sorceresses, and they need Mani’s aid to break the spell and resume their human forms. Growing romantic feelings for the wolf-boy Lup convince Mani to offer his help, but Mani’s own developing powers might destroy any chance at a relationship. The world of magic is changing, and as Mani and his friends fight to stop the evil sorceresses from using the deadly North Star, they must figure out what places they will hold when the battle is over.
About the Author
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.
Links: Author’s Website || Twitter @AnnabelleAuthor || Instagram @AnnabelleAuthor || Publisher’s book page || Goodreads author page || Facebook page