Out of the Shadows: Catching up with Melissa Blair About A Shadow CrownBooks Features Melissa Blair
In last summer’s BookTok phenomenon, A Broken Blade, readers were introduced to the world of Elverath as they followed Keera, the King’s Blade, as she began her journey to overthrow the crown that claims to own her and all other Halflings—children of mixed Elven and Mortal heritage. Now, Keera has returned and launched readers back into her quest the moment that we left it. And that opening page, dear readers, is a delicious treat. There are far too few instances of just desserts that happen on page one of a sequel, but this is an excellent one of them.
While this interview will contain no spoilers for the sequel A Shadow Crown, which hit shelves earlier this May, it’s clear very early on in this sequel just how much Keera has grown from a firmly independent assassin who refused to need anyone else to a woman who is more prone to forgive those she knows care about her.
Although that framing doesn’t give Keera in A Broken Blade quite enough credit: In the first book she claims her heart has been turned to stone, it’s clear that the reason she’s broken is because she feels too deeply, rather than not enough. That someone else saw the truth of her emotions is part of what allows her to start off A Shadow Crown on firmer, more confident footing. While she’s still not quick to trust, and she won’t ignore feelings of betrayal, she’s also learned that some people are worth relying on, even against all the odds.
With A Shadow Crown, Blair also spends more time expanding the world of her story, with new gorgeous locations and new magic that makes it feel even richer and more delightful. As in A Broken Blade, Blair makes gorgeous use of trees, including as features of specific locations, as homes and palaces, and even as emotional hints (the smell of birch, for example). The connection of the Fae to the forests—and the criticism of Mortals who have turned forest creatures and landscapes into their enemies—is always present without being fully overt. It’s simply part of the larger narrative rather than something Blair ever needs to tell the audience explicitly. For Keera, who has been raised without that connection to her heritage and people, realizing what she and other Halflings have lost only increases the righteous anger she has already embraced.
When readers left off in A Broken Blade, Keera had just discovered that the rebellion she had gotten tangled up in was actually a greater plot governed over by one of the princes—the better of the two, to be sure, but still someone who stood to lose a lot if the crown itself should be overthrown. She has every reason to doubt the prince’s intentions, and after the events in the first book, she herself now has so much more on the line.
We caught up with Melissa Blair to find out how writing A Shadow Crown was different from her debut, and what readers should be looking for as they read.
Paste Magazine: Last year when we talked, we discussed the TikTok secret author campaign. Now that you’re a known writer, what changed? What was the TikTok experience like this time around?
Melissa Blair: The experience went from being all about TikTok to trying to find the time for it! Writing under contract was such a dream come true, but it came with a steep learning curve of how to manage my full-time job, writing, and socials all at once in a way I never had to before. Honestly, I’m still learning how to do it all.
But one thing that is super fun is I can talk about the process with my followers in a way I never could with the first book. I can give updates on my progress, talk about characters, answer questions, tease events that will take place in upcoming books. That has been so much fun and is honestly my favorite part about being accessible online now.
Paste: While you’ve been going on your author journey, Keera’s been on her own. She’s formed a community around her, but she has to risk them—something doubly hard because she tried so hard not to have anything/anyone to lose. What has it been like to move forward with Keera and to guide her character growth?
Blair: I relate to Keera a lot in that way. So much of my late teens and early twenties were slowly coming to the realization that I didn’t need to be wholly self-sufficient—that trying to be was actually harmful to myself and my relationships. Of course, for Keera the stakes are much higher, but the journey is the same. It starts with small realizations, small comforts, but when big issues come up it’s easy for her to fall back into her old ways and she must be present enough to push against it.
It’s very fun to write. Keera’s character growth is not a straight linear path but has many peaks and valleys that she feels so piercingly. It creates a lot of conflict and turmoil that is intriguing to write in the moment and makes me excited to watch her progress as the books continue.
Paste: Do you have any Easter Eggs hidden in A Shadow Crown that readers should be watching out for?
Blair: There are Easter Eggs! For anyone who knows about the soup, you should keep your eye out for a soup scene in A Shadow Crown. I couldn’t help myself.
Also, for observant readers, colors may be something you want to take note of, but that’s all I can say.
A Shadow Crown is available now.
Alana Joli Abbott is a reviewer and game writer, whose multiple-choice novels, including Choice of the Pirate and Blackstone Academy for Magical Beginners, are published by Choice of Games. She is the author of three novels, several short stories, and many role-playing game supplements. She also edits fantasy anthologies for Outland Entertainment, including Bridge to Elsewhere and Never Too Old to Save the World. You can find her online at VirgilandBeatrice.com.