Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing author H.L. Burke and her brand new release, Ashen! Ashen is a fantasy Cinderella retelling inspired by Iceland, and, well… I’m sure you can see how I would be interested in that!
But if you’re new here, I write some fairy tale retellings of my own, and about two and a half years ago, my husband and I took our honeymoon in Iceland!
I fell in love with it then, and I honestly cannot get enough of it (we may or may not be slowly planning our next trip there… once it’s safe to travel again). At the time, I was dying for fiction set in Iceland, and now I finally have something!
(BTW, if you have other suggestions for fiction-preferably fantasy!-set in Iceland, please send them my way in the comments!)
And in other Selina catnip, today’s guest post by the author herself talks all about the role rood played in the worldbuilding! You may recall I even talked about food in worldbuilding a while back.
So without further ado and such, let’s get right on with this awesome glimpse into the world of Ashen!
Guest Post by H.L. Burke
Lizbete, the main character of Ashen, wouldn’t describe herself as artistic or creative. However, whenever I put her in a scene when she had to cook something, she was REALLY into it. Like, really, really, really into it. Food is Lizbete’s calling, and it plays a major part in the story and world of Ashen.
Lizbete’s home is an isolated fishing village in a cold northern country which I based on Iceland. The green interior is home to many shepherds, but the majority of commerce in town is from fishing. They eat berries they gather and vegetables they grow in their gardens and cliff pigeons … which are a bird I made up because traditionally people in Iceland sometimes eat puffins, but … I couldn’t stand to put one of those adorable things on a plate, even for authenticity.
Lizbete is a foundling with a strange secret curse. Unable to create her own body heat, she has to draw warmth from external sources. Unfortunately, this means whenever she touches another human being, she pulls heat from them, and if their contact is lengthy, her uncontrollable heat-draw can injure or even kill.
Because of this she needs to stay near heat sources, which usually means you can find her hiding in the kitchen of her adopted guardian’s tavern. Auntie Katryn taught Lizbete everything she knows about how to feed a crowd. Lizbete can make delightful soups out of scraps and bones. She roasts savory potatoes. Her sweet squash pie is fantastic, and her fish fry second only to Auntie’s.
In designing the food that I had Lizbete cook in the book I drew from three sources:
- What was native to the country and climate I had chosen as a template (Iceland).
- What would suit an isolated fishing village in a culture where most people have to work hard in the cold.
- Wish fulfilment.
First off, I spent a lot of time looking into Icelandic food … by which I mean I found out that they had licorice flavored spirits that sounded amazing and looked seriously into whether I could get them imported before I realized that this was YA book and cocktails probably weren’t the research route I should go … and then I read up a bit on Icelandic cuisine. As I kind of expected, there was a decent amount of fish involved as well as lamb.
This also fit with my idea of an isolated village that had to be self-sufficient, fishing for most of their protein while shepherds treasured their flocks. I wanted the food to be hearty for people putting in a hard day’s work, and warm to chase away the cold wind coming off the frozen seas.
And finally, wish fulfilment.
From what I can tell apples are not historically a big part of Icelandic cuisine, but I had a great scene in mind where Lizbete and Brynar (her love interest and my prince stand in for this Cinderella tale) bond over peeling apples … so yeah, those are in there. Also something called “firewine” because it goes with my hot and cold theming.
So yeah, food is a big part of how Lizbete relates to the world around her, and I hope the descriptions of it help draw you into her world a little deeper.
(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the purchase link on this page. However, I am sharing this book because I have enjoyed her work before, and I am truly excited for this release!)
You can purchase Ashen here or add it to Goodreads here.
Thank you so much, Heidi, for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at this world! I can’t wait to dive in (it’s already loaded on my ereader!).
Also, be sure to keep an eye on the blog for my upcoming review. It may be another month or so, but I plan to write a full review of the book as soon as I finish it!
And in one more bit of news, this month I released a prequel novella to my This Curse series! I’ve been trying to price match it everywhere free, but that’s taking a while. But you can get it for free just by signing up to my newsletter! (Don’t worry, you’re free to unsubscribe at any time.)
Sign up to get a free copy of This Cursed Light, This Curse #0.5!
Until next time, happy reading, my friends!