Welcome to stop number twenty six in the #exploreleira tour blog tour where we’re celebrating the (almost) one year book birthday for Songkeeper! It is the second book in the Songkeeper Chronicles, which tells the story of a girl who can hear the song that created the world.
If this is your first encounter with the blog tour, we are continuing a series of alphabet posts looking at the world and characters and magical creatures of the Songkeeper Chronicles … and we have an awesome giveaway that you can enter below! You can find a list of the stops and dates here: #exploreleira tour. (Links will be updated once each post becomes live.)
Today, we’re looking at the letter …
Z is for Zahar
Can you believe it? We are already at the end of the #exploreleira tour! I hope you have enjoyed our little rambling trek through the world of Leira. I know that I certainly have. If you have read the books and enjoyed them, consider spreading the word through writing up a quick review online or telling a friend about the series.
In the meantime, we have one more #exploreleira post to enjoy.
Over the past few weeks, I have been working on a short story that delves further into Zahar’s tragic tale. I hoped to be able to share it here as the culmination of the tour, but true to form, the short story has grown beyond what I expected, so a blog post is no longer the best medium for sharing. (And I am not quite finished yet. Almost. But not quite.)
For now, we will simply discuss the formation of Zahar’s character and how she fell into her role in the story, and I will save her full tale for another time. Zahar first appears toward the end of Songkeeper, so I shall endeavor to share her backstory without revealing too many spoilers about her role in the book.
For those of you who have read the book, here’s a fun bit of trivia. In the first draft, Zahar’s role was originally filled by Auna, Birdie’s grandmother and the previous Songkeeper. In that version of the story, Auna had survived her initial run in with the Khelari (seen at the beginning of Orphan’s Song) and wound up being led astray by the lies of the Takhran over years of captivity in the Pit.
There was a fair bit more to it than that, and it was tied into several character development ideas and plotlines. But my editor wasn’t a fan of that storyline and encouraged me to try something different, so I went back to the drawing board, sketched out an idea for a new character, and voila, Zahar appeared on the page. And honestly, I’m so grateful for my editor’s suggestions there, because the book became so much stronger through the changes made.
As soon as I began developing this new character, I immediately went for a name that began with the letter Z. I searched on various naming websites and wound up with a long list of Z names, but as soon as I said the name “Zahar” out loud, I knew that it sounded right. Naming characters is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. It usually takes me a little while, but once I settle on a character’s name, I very rarely change it.
Certain names just feel right.
But I digress.
Who is Zahar?
Well, we first hear portions of her story from Gundhrold when he, Amos, and Birdie are in Serrin Vroi. Originally a daughter of the Nordlands, Zahar lived a nomadic life with her brother, Rav, after the untimely death of their stepfather. By all accounts, she was a beautiful woman, but hers was the beauty of a frail, wind-shorn leaf.
“ … robed in the blue of the Shantren, with hair like autumn leaves that hung in long, silver-banded braids to her waist. A red crystal dangled from a chain about her neck. Save for the dark hollows beneath her eyes and cheekbones, neither age nor worry had yet lined her forehead or marred her skin.”
At a young age, she discovered her ability to hear faint strands of melody, but the ability never fully developed. Even so, her brother, Rav, became convinced that she was the next Songkeeper. He dragged her to the desert, insisted that the council of griffins recognize her gifting, and became almost violent when they labeled her a Songling and not a Songkeeper. (For more on Songlings and Songkeepers, check out this post!) For the next year, Rav and Zahar vanished from the desert. Little is known of what befell them during that time. None can say why they returned to the north, nor how they wound up wandering the lightless paths below Mount Eiphyr …
But into the Pit they went.
A year later, they marched ragged and sand-blasted to stand before the council of griffins, and once again, Rav demanded that his sister be recognized. When they refused yet again, he unleashed an ambush. A group of chimera lurked in the shadows beyond the meeting place of the Protectors. To Zahar’s horror, they fell upon the griffins with flame and fang, and in the sudden onslaught, the Protectors were slaughtered.
Alone of the griffins, Gundhrold escaped, with Auna at his side.
“But as we fled, I saw her. Zahar. Standing on the brink of the fight. Then she plunged in after her brother only to fall at the feet of one of the beasts. Dead. I am convinced of it.”
I did warn you that hers was a tragic story, yes?
Unfortunately, I’m afraid we’ll have to end the post there in order to avoid too many more spoilers from Songkeeper. In the meantime, I am enjoying wordcrafting on Zahar and Rav’s short story. Sibling tales offer so many fascinating dynamics.
I always get ridiculously excited about the telling of a new tale, so I am loving every facet of developing this new short story, drawing from the strengths and weaknesses of this established character and following them back like footprints to determine who she was at the beginning. It is fascinating … and oh so much fun.
Hope to be able to share it with you all at some point too!
Want to find out more about Zahar? Check out the links below to purchase the books:
And before you leave, don’t forget to enter the giveaway! One lucky winner will take home a copy of Orphan’s Song, Songkeeper, and a gorgeous handmade mug. Two lucky winners will take home copies of Songkeeper! Open to international entries. Enter through the Rafflecopter below and be sure to continue following the blog tour. You can earn new entries for each post that you visit along the way. Winners will be announced after April 15th.