Friday, August 3, 2012

The Altai Princess

              The Salon is proud to welcome Irina Lopatina

When creating a fantasy reality, the authors of fantasy books tend to be very careful. They harmoniously blend fiction with elements of real life for the purpose of bringing the most incredible miracles as close to the readers as possible. But the intelligent and sensible reader knows that these characters and their magical abilities and characteristics were invented by the author! Indeed, there are no any magi in the world; nobody knows how to control the elements, how to turn into animals or how to turn ordinary stones into gold. That is the belief that modern civilization stands on, what science asserts, and what every child understands. But the fact is that there are people who are firmly convinced otherwise.

When I was a student-historian and our group went to the Altai Mountains to participate in archaeological excavations, we all had only one wish. We were literally dreaming at night about the recent success of our colleagues who had discovered an ancient high-altitude burial place of exceptional value. A perfectly preserved burial chamber of a young woman had been found at a height of 3000 meters above sea level on the Ukok Plateau. The contents of the chamber had been kept, as if in a refrigerator, in an ice lens (many highland plateaus are in the permafrost), and the archaeologists had to melt the ice using warm water to extract the findings.

The woman seemed to simply be asleep, lying on her right side. Her clothes – a skirt, a silk blouse, and a fur coat – looked absolutely new. According to the most conservative estimates, this lady was two and a half thousand years old. But further discoveries forced the archaeologists to freeze in anticipation of a sensation. A huge tattoo of a griffin – a keeper of treasures and supernatural knowledge – was on the shoulder of the stranger. In her hand she squeezed tightly a stick made of larch (it is a pre-Buddhist symbol believed to have been somehow used in the creation of the world), and her clothes were girded by the red belt of the initiate. Moreover, four red horses were buried together with the woman. These horses, according to legends, embodied the earthly image of the griffin and were able to deliver a person to the next world. So, the scientists had no doubts – they had found a burial place of an ancient high priestess, and even a lady of royal blood.

However, the euphoria quickly gave way to nervousness for some reason, and the same day the expedition was brought to a close, the findings were loaded onto a helicopter and sent to the institute that had financed the excavation. No one knows what prompted the archaeologists to do this so quickly, but Altaians (indigenous people of Altai Mountains) immediately raised the alarm. They argued that something terrible had happened. The restless scientists had unearthed the Altai Princess – the keeper of the local land – who had been buried at the border between our world and the next.

“Bring the princess back, otherwise there will be a disaster!”, Altai shamans begged of the scientists.

“Oh, please, eliminate your prejudice,” the scientists answered them. “We simply try to explore the history of your land.” This dialogue continued for several years, and then earthquakes began.

This is unbelievable, but true – our region, which had never before been distinguished by seismic activity, was shaking with amazing regularity. Entire villages fell in the gaps of the mountains, and grade 6 earthquakes reached even the central city of the region. I remember very well the moment when a multi-story building was bouncing beneath me during such an earthquake. It is an unforgettable feeling.

“It’s the Princess’ revenge, she cannot wait any more!” the Altaians tried to convince.

“Nonsense! You might blame us for the tsunami as well!” the archaeologists answered back.

Each side still has its own truth and its own faith. Everyone looks at the world from a different point of view, and the world continues to give us new food for thought. Maybe, the point is that we still don’t know everything about the world, and perhaps not every “fiction” is absolutely unreal.

White Raven: Sword of Northern Ancestors
By Irina Lopatina

Genre: Fantasy

The fate of Areya rests with the lost sword Urart. Will White Raven retrieve it before it's too late?

In the kingdom of Areya, humans, animals, and the magical creatures that inhabit the Eternal Forest have long coexisted peacefully, but now something is horribly wrong. A terrifying stream of monstrous creatures has begun to emerge from the secret depths of the earth, terrorizing all of Areya's native inhabitants. From the tiny, wise drevalyankas to the bellicose cave-dwelling gnomes to the devious kikimoras who gather roots and herbs in the marsh, everyone is in danger.

With the aid of Urart, the magical sword that has been passed down from the time of the ancient northern ancestors, Grand Duke Vlady can offer temporary protection to his people. But Prince Vraigo, Vlady's nephew, who is endowed with magical power himself, understands that the source of the evil monsters must be found if there's any hope of survival. Along with a motley crew of his forest-dwelling friends, Vraigo sets off on a perilous quest in search of the koschei, the powerful, corrupt Archmagus whose mission is the destruction not just of Areya, but of the entire world.

As if this weren't bad enough, Urart disappears from the duke's stronghold. Without it, Areya is doomed, and only Vraigo, the White Raven, can possibly get the sword back. This journey requires Vraigo to use all of his keen wits and magical abilities, as well as to ally himself to dangerous creatures like yagas and werewolves, natural enemies of man, and precipitates the young prince into the most bewildering, complex challenge he has faced yet: life in the twenty-first century.

About the Author: 

Irina Lopatina lives and works in Siberia, Russia, but her homeland has an even more wonderful and exotic name: Altai. It is a unique place where old Altai Mountains rise high up to the sky, centuries-old forests stretch out as in ages past, and mighty Siberian rivers flow along the plains. Altai is one of the few places in the world where huge, densely populated cities coexist with pristine wild places. Moreover, this is an area of the earliest human civilizations, through which the great migration of people from eastern lands to Europe once took place.

While studying at the Altai State University, Irina devoted much attention to the past of her native land. As a student, she went to the archaeological sites of ancient settlements located on the mountain plateau, where it was only possible to arrive on foot. She remembers moments when it was quite easy to imagine how the ancient people had lived, what creatures neighbored them, and what adventures took place in these vast spaces. Irina needed take only a small leap from there to White Raven, his friends, and his enemies who were ready to begin a journey through the Eternal Forest of Areya.

Of course, it would have been much more difficult for her to create her stories if Irina had not been inspired early on by the works of many excellent fantasy and science fiction writers such as J.R. Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin, the Russian authors Nick Perumov and Svyatoslav Loginov, as well as the wonderfully charming Russian fairy tales where a brave prince, his faithful grey wolf and the evil koschei always live. And so it happens that Irina's novels are the stories of a distant, semi-fantastic land which, who knows, may still exist next door to us.

Orders placed through the Light Messages will be 30% off up to 14 days after this post. Just mention the post from Speculative Salon  in the notes field and also receive this special blog tour offer: a PERSONALIZED, signed post card from author Irina Lopatina. Postcards feature landscapes from Altai, Siberia––the inspiration for White Raven's Kingdom of Areya.

Visit Light Messages to order and receive the special offer.  


Irina Lopatina said...

Thank you so much, Marilyn, for the opportunity to talk to your readers.

Ella Gray said...

This is such a fascinating story, Irina. I love fantasy stories that are inspired by real myths and beliefs. Thanks for sharing with us!

widdershins said...

Different truths create different realities ... that's the beauty of our world.

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