Allyson S. Barkley read an excerpt from her new book A memory of light at the Mudhouse on October 2, sponsored by the Bluebird Pop-Up Bookstop. She also visited Kelly Burnette’s Creative Writing course at WAHS on October 4.
In this wild fantasy adventure—Book #1 in the planned four-book series, Until the stars are dead -Barkley creates a richly imaginative world filled with fairies, wizards, unicorns, mermaids, nymphs and magic – even a map. As the civil war between the Malavi and the rebels of Zaeran devastates the country, the tough and skilled thief Ari accepts a dangerous mission that will allow her to pay off a large debt. In this heroine’s quest, we learn that Ari was raised and taught combat and survival skills by her brother Dav after their parents were killed by the military. Setting out across the country with her unwanted male companion Ely, the pair fight their way out of several tight brushwoods with death and capture. As they learn to trust each other and share important revelations, we realize that neither of them knows the true power of the stone they’ve been tasked with stealing. In the tradition of Philip Pullman The golden compass (1996), Ari has an “anima” – an animal soulmate in the form of a bobcat named Jagger, who travels with her and protects her. “Jagger is basically Ari in cat form,” Barkley explained during the Q&A session following his reading.
A 2014 graduate of Western Albemarle High School (WAHS), Barkley studied international affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is currently pursuing graduate studies in public policy and law at Duke. The fact that she grew up as an avid rider is reflected in the book’s detailed and authentic horse passages. “The germ of the idea for the book came to me while I was studying abroad in Spain between my junior and senior years at university,” she said. “While hiking alone through Switzerland, the dramatic landscapes and exotic folklore – full of dragons, fairies, etc. – led me to imagine a quest story based on a journey. I wrote the first draft in a year, but I spent four more years editing and revising before an editor accepted it.
In this impressive debut, Barkley crafts well-developed, psychologically authentic characters that are close to our hearts, and an enthralling plot that keeps us turning pages. The narrative is refreshingly linear – without the constant changes in time and characters that are so all the rage in today’s fiction – and leads to a surprise, cliffhanger ending. The second book in the series will be released in the spring of 2022. To follow the author or receive updates, visit asbarkleybooks.com.