The Prince or the Bard? is an MFM, “must choose” romance set in Ireland hundreds of years before the events of Revel at the Court of Claws. During this era, there is a high king ruling over all earthen fae from a court in central Ireland.
Main character Laoise (pronounced LEE-shuh) has two possible love interests in the story, the high fae Prince Ruairi (Rory) and the sky fae bard Cillian called Cloudtongue.
The castle is inspired by the Rock of Cashel.
The undersea court was inspired by the xianxia drama I was watching at the time, Till the End of the Moon. One of the characters is a demon clam, and before I knew it I was writing a beautiful giant clam into the story. There is also some undisclosed drama happening in the undersea Moonray Court that is not delved into in this story. Basically, none of the sea fae go out after night fall (but I think something else does!).
If I write more about the undersea courts, it will probably be in a story related to A Court of Swords and Sugar Plums first, though I won’t rule out the adventures of Niamh some day!
Laoise – How often do we see a servant character who knows she has better options? Laoise is the rare exception, and she brings her fiery attitude (and ample homesickness) to her narration. As a puca, she also has to deal with court politics. Since the sea fae don’t swear fealty to the high kings, there is mistrust of these shifters who straddle both the earthen and sea fae realms.
Cillian – The bard is inspired by my love of Irish artist Hozier (particularly the live video of him performing an ethereal rendition Shrike in a Dublin studio, which you can find here on YouTube). When a friend of mine told me she sees folks online saying he must be fae, it was a natural step forward from there.
High King Tadhg – The Connor kings of Ireland are named after the Connor clan, which ruled over Ulster, in what is now Northern Ireland, at one time. If memory serves, they were the most powerful clan for a good stretch of Irish history.
High King Tadhg is unusual for a fae, described as barrel chested and having thick forearms. As the ruler of all earthen fae, he must have the physique to back it up (and ample magic skills, though we don’t see this in the story). He’s also soft-hearted, having fallen for a puca girl almost at first sight.
Prince Ruairi – Prince Ruairi is based on every rakish, bed-headed, dark-haired male love interest ever! No, really, I’m a sucker for those wise-cracking, slightly disheveled love interests in books, and Ruairi (the Irish language equivalent of the name Rory) is no exception. As the “spare” to the throne, he doesn’t have any particular responsibilities, and he has taken to that role with gusto. But is there more to him than meets the eye?
I included migraines in the story, described only as “headaches,” sometimes with blinding auras, because I have chronic migraine myself, and I always want to see more chronic illness representation in stories. At a certain point in the story, we also see the benefits of less stress and seasonal changes on Laoise’s migraines, though of course they aren’t cured.
As sea fae, I thought it made sense that Laoise and Queen Fiadh would be susceptible to migraines from weather change, as they navigate air pressure and the pressure of the undersea realms in their forms. At some point, I also decided this would take a more central role in the story, rather than just being a fact of life for both the characters with migraines.
Pucai (the plural form of puca) seem to get a bad rap in stories! In legends, these water horses drown lost travelers, and don’t seem to depart from that role much in modern fantasy novels. My first puca heroine was Tessaline, in the (as of writing) ongoing Vella A Court of Swords and Sugar Plums. Since The Prince or the Bard? was written for an anthology called Shift of the Seasons, I knew I needed to write a shifter character.
So why not make the shifter the female lead? And why not write about the puca, fae of both earth and sea?
Could this have been avoided if I’d gone to the beach this year? Perhaps! We’ll never know. But I have sea fae on the brain. Since the pucai are evidently comfortable both undersea and on land, it made for the perfect political turmoil when a “kin of the sea fae” queen took the throne alongside her High Fae mate.