When her employer and only confidante decides to elope, Oriana agrees to accompany her to Paris. But before they can depart, the two women are abducted and left to drown. Trapped beneath the waves, Oriana survives because of her heritage, but she is forced to watch her only friend die.
Vowing vengeance, Oriana crosses paths with Duilio Ferreira—a police consultant who has been investigating the disappearance of a string of servants from the city’s wealthiest homes. Duilio also has a secret: He is a seer and his gifts have led him to Oriana.
Bound by their secrets, not trusting each other completely yet having no choice but to work together, Oriana and Duilio must expose a twisted plot of magic so dark that it could cause the very fabric of history to come undone….
“J.K. Cheney’s alternate Portugal, a society of delicate manners, gaslights, and under-the-sea artworks, provides a lush backdrop for an intricate mystery of murder, spies, selkies, and very dark magic. A most enjoyable debut.” –Carol Berg, author of the Novels of the Collegia Magica
“[P]ulls readers in right off the bat…Oriana’s ‘extra’ abilities are thoroughly intriguing and readers will love the crackling banter and working relationship between Oriana and Duilio.” –Romantic Times
“An ambitious debut from Cheney: part fantasy, part romance, part police procedural and part love letter to Lisbon in the early 1900s…[the author] does a lovely job connecting magical, historical and romantic elements.” –Kirkus Reviews
Historical Fantasy, or Why I Altered Your History
One of the basic truths about fiction is that it’s all fantasy to some extent. If the writer isn’t injecting some made-up aspect, we would just have a history, not fiction. Writers of Historical Fiction and Historical Mystery play their cards pretty close to the vest. They interject their new characters and new interpretations of set historical events, but otherwise keep history the same. Yet each one of those alterations draws the reader farther away from that dry history textbook that wasn’t nearly as fun to read.
In the world of Historical Fantasy, our characters and events are, by their very nature, much farther away from the world of History Fact.
I write in a world where the epic poem by Camões, The Lusiads–which is a Historical Fantasy itself–is reality. In the poem, the sailors of Vasco da Gama, en route from India to their home port in Portugal, find an amazing island where sea nypmhs await them, compelled by Cupid’s arrows to succumb to the sailors’ charms. (We can discuss elsewhere the ‘charms’ of a man who’s been at sea for several months, likely without the luxury of regular bathing.)
In my world, those sea nymphs or sirens exist.
That alone is going to make for changes in history. How would humans put those sirens to use? How would they take advantage of them? In turn, what might those sirens do to keep the humans at bay? And how would such people adapt to a changing world like my 1902 setting?
Dealing with this sort of question is what makes Historical Fantasy fun! But each of those questions will spin off answers that will change history. It’s the writer’s job–and the reader’s–to decide how far those changes would logically go. For my story, it’s created a world where the ruling prince is terrified that a siren might take his life.
But there are so many other ways that this could have changed the world, and I’m sure there are writers out there at this moment writing every last variation on that.