Saturday, 8 September 2012

A Left-Handed Warrior

One of the lovely things about writing books for younger readers is seeing someone dressed up as one of your characters. (If you want the truth, my author is still a big kid herself and can sometimes to be found at science fiction and fantasy conventions where there's an excuse to dress up as Queen Guinevere… but more of that later!) Today I wanted to show you this great snap of Cecily inspired by the heroine of my new series, Rhianna Pendragon:

Cecily Pendragon
(photo used by kind permission of Cecily's mum)

You’ll note the Pendragon shield, complete with red dragon, based on King Arthur’s shield from "Sword of Light", which is rather battered since the king was using it in battle when the dark knight Mordred killed him. After the battle, Merlin takes Arthur's body through the enchanted mists to Avalon, where he gives the shield to Rhianna, who has been growing up in hiding with Lord Avallach's fairy people. But a shield isn't much use on its own, so she sets out on a quest for her father’s sword Excalibur, which his knights threw into a lake after the battle to stop Mordred getting hold of it... and as you can see from the picture, she soon succeeds in getting it back from the Lady of the Lake.

Did you spot the unusual thing in this photo? (apart from the fact Cecily's a girl-knight, and not a boy-knight, of course). She must have read the book closely, because she’s got the shield on her right arm, which means she must be holding her sword in her left hand, which Rhianna naturally does when she first trains with wooden blades against the squires who have been teasing her:

   "Ow!" yelled Gareth, as she struck him on the elbow, making him drop his replacement weapon. "Not fair, sir! She changed hands."
   Sir Bors smiled. "Left-handed, eh? That can be an advantage in a battle. The enemy don't expect it. Stop whining, boy, and let that be a lesson to you. Saxons have left hands too, you know. And when you meet them, they won't be using wooden blades. Now then, again!"

If you're very eagle-eyed, you'll notice the cover artist wasn’t quite so accurate:

spot the deliberate mistake

It wasn’t his fault! Neither I nor my editor thought to tell him Rhianna is left-handed, and so he assumed (like the majority of people) that she would carry Excalibur in her right-hand, whereas I (being left-handed myself) naturally assumed he would paint her left-handed… so here’s a bit of unicorn-magic to show you what the "Sword of Light" cover might look like in a left-handed world:

left-handed Rhianna.

I had to do a bit of hasty writing for Book 2 to explain… I decided that the knights of Camelot would have a chivalrous code, which says they must fight at tournaments with their wepons in their right hands to make the duels and jousts fair. So after training with the squires, Rhianna learns how to fight with Excalibur in either hand - which gives her an advantage in battle over her evil cousin Mordred, who lost his sword hand when King Arthur chopped it off in their final duel.

I first came across left-handed warriors in Susan Price’s "The Sterkarm Handshake", a brilliant time travel story about a 16th century border clan, who were genetically inclined to be left-handed and built their tower strongholds with the spiral staircases winding the opposite way to normal so they could defend them more easily against raiders. They also had a reputation for being dangerous people to make a bargan with – the “Sterkarm Handshake” of the title being a dagger, slipped quietly between your ribs as you shake a Sterkarm’s (empty) right hand. Rhianna Pendragon, of course, being brought up with her father’s knightly code, would do nothing of the sort to her friends! But she soon learns not to worry about which hand she uses to hold her sword when a dragon attacks, which keeps her alive to continue her quest for the other three magical Lights - the Lance of Truth, the Crown of Dreams, and the Grail of Stars.

Thank you, Cecily, for inspiring this blog post!

***

"Sword of Light", Book 1 of the Pendragon Legacy, is available now in hardback and also for preorder in paperback.

Book 2 "Lance of Truth" will be published on 1st October and is now available for preorder in hardback.

Join Rhianna Pendragon and Katherine Roberts over at the History Girls on 6th October for a special Dark Age Breakfast to launch Lance of Truth!

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