by Michael Haddad
YOUNG ADULT FICTION / Fantasy / General
The Frostborn—the one destined to end the war, the one blessed by the magic of Aether—was supposedly nothing more than a hopeless fairytale, a myth lost to time. But as the centuries-long war between the kingdoms of Eljud and Surtrol forces Elias Jökull to evacuate his village, a run-in with the fearsome Gjallarhorn army awakens within him a dormant power long since forgotten by the people—a power signaling the existence of the Frostborn.
With such critical news, hope of victory against Surtrol becomes contagious, yet Elias's former life of slavery leaves him apprehensive about lending a hand to his own flawed kingdom. Even still, knowing the world will soon be in search of him, the newfound Frostborn must choose his allegiances quickly. And after encountering a ranked Surt captain, he does just that.
But while acting as a double agent, feeding intel to Eljud's southern enemy and working both sides of the same border, his conflicted self struggles to anchor his loyalty to a single kingdom as buried secrets begin to unearth.
The incessant clash between the north and south is soon coming to an end and Elias will have to find a side to stand on. The hard question is: which side? Everyone wants the Frostborn for themselves, but for how long can Elias let the world string him along?
She moves in front of him. “You’re going to get us in trouble.”
“I’ll be sneaky, don’t you worry,” he says, placing a hand on her narrow shoulders to move her aside.
She would argue more if he was not already treading up the path, slipping past the tight groups of travellers while May is engaged in a discussion with another merchant. He shakes his jacket off, folds his arms close to his chest, and lets the coat cover the bindings on each of his wrists. Elias scans the moving sea of people, lifting onto his toes to peek over them. There is no sign of the praised soldiers anywhere, but he perseveres regardless.
He gathers up a pace just quick enough to gain ground, though slow enough to avoid unnecessary attention. Every few steps, he looks to either side and up ahead. Each look yields no promising results, and when the third time comes for Elias to straighten himself out to see, his body knocks against an arm.
A hulking man wheels around, the furrows around his mouth deepening in rage. “By Kaldr, watch where you’re going!”
“Won’t happen again.” Elias eases away discreetly before his foot catches a slick patch of mud, threatening to trip him over.
He slams a hand against the nearest cart to steady his weight, but the jacket drops in the jolting movement.
The enormous man—who Elias now recognizes as a local fisherman named Eero—dives to grab the chains. “Looks like we have a slave on the run.”
He dips under Eero’s arm and the brawny hand snags air. Elias then pushes off the mud, readying his body for a sprint.
Without time to properly register, a jab strikes at the nape of his neck and another sinks into his gut. A foot then blurs at the corner of his eye, hooking behind Elias’s knee and bringing his body down to the mud, his back flattening over the ground. Pain bursts through his muscles, but he has no air to scream. He blinks through the swarm of black dots clouding his vision and heaves a ragged breath. His lungs are a brutal furnace of agony.
“Stop the convoy.” The command comes from a different voice, one too laced with poison to be Eero’s.
About the Author:
Hardworking university student and recent John Abbott College graduate, Michael Haddad doubles as a fiction author of the fantastic who throws himself into his own writing—who can't stop imagining new worlds, new ideas, new characters. His passion for roleplaying games has earned him his fair share of teasing, but he'd be lying if he said it didn't open his imagination. When not at his computer, typing away, Michael is often with his friends and family, losing terribly at tennis, hunkering down for movie marathons, and trying to get a good night's sleep. As someone born and raised in Montreal, he is no stranger to having ice rinks for streets and snow up to the knee—but that's nothing a warm cup of coffee can't beat.
Q&A With the Author:
Are you a Plotter (one who plans or plots out every detail of the writing process) or Pantser (one who writes by the seat of his/her pants)?
As much as I would love to call myself a Plotter, that would be an insult to all the amazing Plotters out there! I wish I were that meticulous and thorough when it comes to outlining, but truth be told, I’m undoubtedly a Pantser. My outlines are mainly used to keep track of the details I incorporate into the novel as to avoid future inconsistencies in the plot. However, when it comes to the events that will transpire, most of that is pulled straight from my head, not from a previously formulated synopsis. For me, I would rather spend time working on the manuscript than pouring as much content as I can into a preliminary outline. That’s just how I keep things entertaining. When inspiration strikes, I let it flow into the manuscript and I edit later. It’s easy to subsequently make mistakes this way, but to compensate for my lack of prior organization, I jot down details as I push through the first draft. This way, I can keep those inconsistencies to a minimum and go back if needed. Before I began writing novels, I was into a lot of roleplaying games, and that conditioned me to favor improvising over scrupulous plotting. That may explain my Pantser mentality. I think a lot of authors would frown at my method, but different approaches work for different people and that’s perfectly fine!
What advice do you have for a new writer?
If you love what you’re doing, don’t stop and don’t change for other people. Writing and publishing is an intimidating task. There’s a lot of self-doubt involved and even more criticism coming from all directions. Personally, I had a lot of questions: What if it doesn’t work? What if no one wants to read my writing? Am I good enough? Is it worth the risk? Should I wait? How do I even begin publishing?
It can be overwhelming, but from what I’ve learned, take it step by step and keep climbing to that goal. I waited quite a while before having the confidence to publish. I thought I was too young, too inexperienced, and just not good enough. But we all start somewhere. So I said to myself: why can’t I start now—why not today? To the new writers, just start and keep writing. It doesn’t matter if you’re not perfect, no author is. It’s just a matter of how much effort you put into creating something you’re proud of. Success isn’t about how many copies you sold or how many people read what you wrote (although it’s safe to say we all like it much better when people DO read our stories). At the end of the day, you’re writing for yourself, for your enjoyment and your entertainment. Sharing it with the world is just a bonus.
To keep your self-esteem high, you need to redefine what success means to you. Measure it based on the pride you have in your finished product, not on the numbers of copies sold.
What is the easiest part of the writing process for you?
The easiest part for me is what a lot of authors find the most challenging: world building. I love using inspiration from other novels and even old folklore or mythologies to help manufacture the framework of my developing fantasy world. And, most of all, I love that I can set the terms of this new realm to whatever I desire. As the author, I can decide what’s normal and what isn’t—from societal prejudices to cities built in towering mountains to the practice of magic. That’s why fantasy as a genre is so enjoyable for me. My characters are actors on this stage I’ve created for them and it’s just so satisfying to see it all play out before me. And, when they’re finished, who’s to say I can’t use that stage again? A well-built fantasy world has enough versatility to host more than just one epic adventure!
What is your favorite part of this story?
If you hate spoilers, I suggest stop reading the answer to this question because my favourite part is at the story’s climax. Elias spent the better part of his life being played by people in power. He was pumped with false truths and became the victim in a scheme far larger than he had ever imagined. At the end, even though he already had a sickening idea of who killed his mother and why, when his theory was confirmed true, he snapped. It was never just about his mother’s death. He snapped because he was fed up with it all. Those years of physical and emotional torture were cracking his soul, and in that final moment, it broke. So, in a fit of divine rage, he struck the very pride of his homeland and brought down the wall that divided the city from the rest of the world. It’s my favourite part because it’s both a turning point for Elias’ character and also a symbolic blow to the entire kingdom. It signaled both destruction and renewal. More importantly, it can be considered a hyperbole for what’s to come if corrupted authorities continue to reign unchecked. I felt it was a great and justifiably appropriate reaction by someone who was born with near bottomless magic.
Which Character was the most fun to write about? Why?
Throughout Frostborn, the perspectives tend to alternate between Elias and Katerina. I developed Katerina as a foil to Elias and the result was more than I expected. She was a fantastic addition to the plot and provided a fresh take on the existing political system in Eljud. Katerina’s character was someone readers can get behind, someone who, unlike Elias, was determined and had the willpower to make decisions for herself. Like mentioned in the story, she was the scalding flame to his frostbitten cold. I really enjoyed switching up Elias’ rather gloomy take on the world with Katerina’s fiery passion. (Spoiler alert!!!) Although not the biggest twist of the novel, later in the narrative it’s revealed that they are in fact fraternal twins and I think that’s an interesting detail to take into account because they couldn’t be any different from one another. Even though Katerina isn’t blessed by Aether the way the Frostborn is, for some reason she holds herself to a higher standard regardless. It goes to show how impactful the environment of one’s upbringing can be. Overall, I’d say she was one of my favourite characters and one of the easiest to write about. Her blatant sarcasm and hilarious personality quirks made her all the more relatable too.
Which Character was the hardest to write about? Why?
My main character, Elias, was perhaps the most challenging to write. He was one of the most complicated characters to understand and even appreciate. he had a lot of faces to wear as opposing sides in the narrative struggled to secure his loyalty. He had to be brave, he had to submit, he had to play the slave, he had to hide his power, he had to be a spy, he had to be a monster, and, most importantly, he had to know the truth. Trying to tie all these roles together to a logical reasoning was indeed difficult. At times, his actions seemed uncharacteristic, but it was all intentionally carried out, it just took some time to properly illustrate my intentions. I wanted readers to realize and feel all that conflict inside him. For years, my main character had to play the puppet for multiple puppet masters. Very rarely was he allowed to become what he was born to be. At some points throughout their journey, Elias showed glimpses of his true character, but only at the end was he decisive enough to abandon that disingenuousness charade.
CONNECT WITH MICHAEL HADDAD
Michael Haddad will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.