Greta Kelly on Witches, Magic, and the Complexities of Power in Her New Book
In Conversation with Gabrielle Mathieu on the New Books Network
The Seventh Queen (HarperCollins, 2021) is the second book in the Warrior Witch Duology, so the following review and questions for author Greta Kelly assume you’ve read the first one. If not, go get yourself a copy before listening to the podcast, so you don’t encounter any spoilers.
The Frozen Crown ends with a cliffhanger. Princess Askia had travelled to Vishir in the hopes of convincing Emperor Armaan of Vishir to help her liberate her own kingdom of Seravesh. Seravesh, like many other countries, fell to the Roven Empire, ruled by Radovan. Radovan magnanimously offered to marry Askia himself and restore peace to her country. The biggest problem with his offer was that none of his wives survived more than six months. And then, of course, he dealt with dissent by ordering his fire witch to burn down entire towns along with the inhabitants.
By the end of The Frozen Crown, Askia has a promising protector for her besieged country in the person of her husband-to-be, the polygamous but noble and charismatic Emperor Armaan of Vishir. The wedding and consummation of their union is disrupted when Radovan, a powerful witch, kills Armaan and his chief wife and kidnaps Askia.
In The Seventh Queen we learn the secret to Radovan’s power. He steals the magic from his wives through the means of a magic stone, and he only needs Askia, a rare death witch, to complete his mastery over all forms of magic. Askia learns she has about a month before the stone fastened around her neck drains her completely of her power. In the meantime, the stone prevents her from using her magic , and lets Radovan to control her. Bereft of her magic and without her guards or sympathetic allies at court, Askia has to rely on her wits to exploit Radovan’s weaknesses, and make a plan to best him—no matter what it costs her personally.
Gabrielle Mathieu: Witches have a hard time of it in your novels. The Shazir, religious zealots in Vishir, are determined to eradicate them. Radovan wants to possess their power, leaving them to die. But are all the witches in your novel admirable?
Greta Kelly: Oh, certainly not. You know, I think if there’s any kind of unifying theme in these books, it’s about how power can be used both for good and bad. Whether it’s physical power or political power or magical power like we’re talking about with the witches. And it didn’t make sense for me to have a world in which magic exists and yet have all the magic users be good and decent people, you know, bad people exist. That’s just reality, right?
And so when I was coming up with the history of Robin. I realize that after so long and so much expansion, I mean, at some point you’re going to run out of middle management, you’re going to need to take people in from those conquered lands and incorporate them into your kingdom, basically. I started thinking about why those people might be swayed to write up on Clive, and I really became that argument. Kazaa was one of the northern kingdoms that fell to Radovan, and it was ruled kind of by the polar opposite of the Shahzia. It was ruled by a theocratic sect of witches who believe that it was their God given right to rule and that non-medical people were no better than animals.
The terrible, terrible place for normal people to live in and many, many people benefited from Kazaa falling, including the character of Caden, who was Radovan SDcard, captain. And I love her character because she and Askia. They’re so alike in so many ways, they’ve both been formed and scarred by loss and struggle and by loyalty to a cause. And it was really just a lack of faith that put them at odds with one another. Yes, I mean, I think for me, it just all comes back to that question of power and Ryka corrupting allure of placing absolute power in the hands of a few people or in the hands of one person. And I don’t think that that’s something anyone is entirely immune to, including Askia. Oh, it’s an interesting question.
Greta Kelly is (probably) not a witch, death or otherwise, but she can still be summoned with offerings of too-beautiful-to-use journals and Butterfinger candy. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her husband, EJ, daughter, Lorelei, and a cat who may, or may not, control the weather.
Gabrielle Mathieu is fantasy author, with a a Master’s in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She lives in Switzerland where she maintains an acupuncture practice, tries to save her lettuce seedlings from ravenous slugs, and hikes over mountain passes for fun. Check out her out on YouTube where she features nature inspired spoken word pieces as Gabrielle Mathieu.