Today kicks off the month-long Blogging from A to Z challenge. As I said in the theme reveal last month, I’ll be focusing on connections and how we connect with each other. “A” took me a while to figure out. Then I realized–yes, of course! Azra, the advisor to Queen Vina in Taliasman. How can we connect with each other if we don’t have the guidance of good counsel?
Without giving away spoilers, let me say that Azra is the unsung hero of Taliasman. Queen Vina, with her sheltered life of wealth and nobility, would be unable to connect with Talia if Azra didn’t step in.
“My lady.” Azra looks up in alarm as I enter my chambers, and the sweet smell of lavender greets me. Try as I might to convince her not to use the precious oil on something as trivial as bedclothes, she insists that my mother slept on lavender-scented sheets, as well as my grandmother and great-grandmother. Azra says the lavender is spelled for protection and healing rest, and I admit I never sleep well on the rare occasions she leaves my side. She will tolerate no lowering of standards, not on her watch. I hid the bottle from her once in an attempt to save her from spending the household budget we could use to repair poor people’s roofs damaged in the latest storm. She clucked and found the vial on the first try. Her tongue-lashing scalded my ears more effectively than any of my mother’s lectures, and I apologized for my error. Since then, I breathe in the lavender with guilt and gratitude. I am the Queen Mother, the Lady, and the figurehead of the land. I am as flawed as any other woman, but my advisor insists I sleep on sheets scented with oil. (from Taliasman, all rights reserved)
We all need an Azra who will care for us and look after our best interest. Failing that, we need to be an Azra to ourselves. When was the last time you allowed yourself the rest and healing of lavender scented sheets, whatever they might be? Perhaps you need a few minutes of alone time, or the resolve to say, “No, I can’t take on more unpaid obligations.”
I find, as women, that often our lavender scented sheets mean the courage to say, “What I think, want, and feel, are both valid and important.” We are taught to put everyone else’s needs first.
Born to a destitute woodworker who wanted a son to carry on the family business, Talia grew up with one phrase on her lips: “If I had been born a boy.” If she had been born a boy, she would have been cherished, supported, and launched into the world with her father’s legacy. As only a worthless girl, she toils all day long to earn her handful of inferior grain.
Far away in the heavenly palace, Queen Vina receives a mysterious coin necklace from Nicodemus, teller of stories. Compelled by the throbbing heartbeat, she scours the earth to come across Talia, enslaved to a family who never wanted her. Rather than admit her motives, Vina purchases the girl with a sack full of gold. Furious, betrayed, and homesick, Talia endeavors to share her misery with the entire palace. Vina, afraid to confess her love, allows herself to become trapped in the role of brutal slave owner.
Talia, bred to expect nothing but misery, faces the first choice of her life. Will she accept love, even if it comes from an unlikely source? Or will she reject the one who offers her everything?
A Beyond Fairytales Adaptation of Our Lady’s Child
If you would like to be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of Taliasman (in exchange for leaving an honest review), please comment below with an email address, Twitter handle, or Facebook link where you can be reached. I will draw randomly from all commenters today here and on my Facebook post. You can also tweet @AnastasiaVitsky with the hashtag #Taliasman.
Winner(s) will be announced on tomorrow’s post!