QSFer Heather Rose Jones has a new FF fantasy book out:
All her life, Serafina Talarico has searched in vain for a place where she and her mystical talents belong. She never found it in Rome—the city of her birth—where her family’s Ethiopian origins marked them as immigrants. After traveling halfway across Europe to study with Alpennia’s Royal Thaumaturgist, her hopes of finding a home among Margerit Sovitre’s circle of scholars are dashed, for Serafina can perceive, but not evoke, the mystical forces of the Mysteries of the Saints and even Margerit can’t awaken her talents.
When Serafina takes lodgings with Luzie Valorin, widowed music teacher and aspiring composer, both their lives are changed forever. Luzie’s music holds a power to rival the Mysteries, and Serafina alone has the vision to guide her talents. For sorcery threatens the fate of Alpennia—indeed of all of Europe—locking the mountains in a malevolent storm meant to change the course of history. Alpennia’s mystic protections are under attack and the key to survival may lie in the unlikeliest of places: Luzie’s ambition to write an opera on the life of the medieval philosopher Tanfrit.
Return to the enchanted realm of Alpennia for the eagerly awaited sequel to Daughter of Mystery and The Mystic Marriage.
Heather is giving away an eBook copy of Mother of Souls – comment below for a chance to win.
Serafina was tired. With her things unpacked and put away, she thought briefly of going down to the parlor where she could hear the strains of the fortepiano as Maisetra Valorin played, seemingly for her own enjoyment. But the bed called more strongly and it was a pleasant enough lullaby to sleep to.
Who was the composer? She could put names to some sacred music, but the rest she’d learned only in scraps. There—that was a piece Jeanne had played for them during the summer. Beethoven, she had said carelessly, assuming everyone would know. Now a more lively tune, one that Costanza had played for her once in a quiet moment, but she didn’t recall who she’d said had written it.
Sleep had nearly claimed her when the music changed. No, not only the music. The walls themselves were vibrating. There was a glow like moonlight, except that moonlight didn’t curl across the floor like mist, like swirling water. She could still hear the tinkling of the keys, but it flowed through her blood. In wonder, she rose and drew on her dressing gown to creep down the stairs toward the source of that music.
She stepped quietly so as not to disturb the player. Had Jeanne known? Was this one of her little jokes? There had been none of her arch humor in the suggestion of Maisetra Valorin’s place. And Jeanne wasn’t sensitive to this sort of working. A music teacher, she’d said, as if the woman were nothing more. But surely a talent such as this would be common knowledge?
Serafina paused in the doorway, enough in shadow so as not to attract attention. In the glow of the lamps, Maisetra Valorin sat bent over her keyboard in the same dark gray dress she had worn earlier. The room held nothing but her and the music. The lines of worry that had marked her face earlier were smoothed away and softened. Something in her expression struck Serafina like a blow. The woman didn’t know. It was like the way you recognized a man was blind when you saw that he was tracking sound, not movement. Maisetra Valorin was hearing only the music itself.
The outlines of the parlor blurred in Serafina’s vision and she let out a sigh that was close to a sob. With a startled exclamation, the tune stopped. Earthly sights and sounds alike faded, but the currents that underlay them still swirled around her, slowly dissipating even as she dashed the tears from her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Maisetra Talarico. Did I disturb you?” Maisetra Valorin rose from the bench before the keyboard. “What’s wrong?”
Serafina shook her head. How could she explain her sudden jealousy? “It’s only that the music was so beautiful,” she said. And that was no lie.
“Oh, that was nothing really. Just a few scribblings.”
“Your own composition?”
She saw the woman nod hesitantly.
Of course it was. There had been no magic in the more familiar works. “Do you perform your compositions?” Serafina asked.
Maisetra Valorin shook her head with a little shrug. “Just little studies for my students and my own amusement. They’re not really that good.”
And that would explain her obscurity. Not everyone would have the ability to discern the effects of her music, but surely in a concert hall at least a few listeners would have some sensitivity. But if she’d never performed them publicly…
“Who told you they weren’t good?” Serafina wondered. Was her own judgment clouded by the visions? She knew so little about music.
Maisetra Valorin sat again on the bench and looked down at her hands. “I’ve shown a few pieces to Maistir Fizeir—our great composer, you know. He did me the favor to listen because I do some copy-work on his scores. He said my talents are sound but I have nothing of genius.”
Perhaps he was right. Or perhaps… A spark of mischief took flame as she sat down in one of the chairs beside the instrument. “Have you ever tried your hand at setting verses?” she asked. “I have a friend—” That was stretching the word considerably, but no need to frighten her with Baroness Saveze’s title for the moment. “A friend who’s interested in commissioning some settings of one of your poets. I think the name was Pertolf?”
“Pertulif?” Maisetra Valorin interjected. “Oh, I couldn’t do that. Fizeir has already set his works.”
“All of them? And no one else is allowed to touch them?” Serafina added a touch of wide-eyed surprise to soften the question. “Which one is your favorite of his poems?”
The other immediately launched into a series of couplets, too rapidly for Serafina to catch more than a word here and there of the Alpennian, but the rhythm of the poetry was clear enough and drew her in.
“That one,” she urged. “Try a setting of that one. If my friend likes it, there might be a commission in it.” She had seen enough of the woman’s circumstances to know that money might be a draw if vanity failed.
The uncertain look on Maisetra Valorin’s face turned thoughtful and she picked out the beginnings of a phrase. There were no explosions of song and color this time, just the wisps of fluctus weaving around her hands, fading in and out with the hesitant notes. Serafina bit her lip. To have such talent that it leaked from your very fingers, even in idle experiment! She rose, feeling the tears starting again.
“I won’t disturb you?” Maisetra Valorin asked.
“No,” she managed. No, it wouldn’t disturb her in that way.
Heather Rose Jones is writing a historic fantasy series with swordswomen and magic set in the alternate-Regency-era country of Alpennia. She blogs about research into lesbian-like motifs in history and literature at the Lesbian Historic Motif Project [http://alpennia.com/lhmp/about] and writes both historical and fantasy fiction based on that research. She has a PhD in linguistics, studying metaphor theory and the semantics of Medieval Welsh prepositions, and works as an industrial failure investigator in biotech.
Facebook (author page): https://www.facebook.com/Heather-Rose-Jones-490950014312292/