Ruby Prince Book Club Wrap Up

Spoiler Alert! There are questions/answers below that will give away a few plot points. I would encourage you to read The Ruby Prince before reading this post.

Pitch blackness lay before them. There was no moon to light the waves of the desert. But Zarbadast shone out of the darkness—a living, breathing creature—with lights tucked among the shadows, looking like coals from a fire that had once covered the world... It made Zarbadast look like a mystery, a mesmerizing mystery...
This was a mighty city, unbroken and strong. If it had seemed imposing in the daylight, at night it was a tale that you’d heard and never could believe to be true. Eleanor gripped Basaal’s arm—Zarbadast was a dragon sleeping in its own embers.

Okay. If you've just finished The Ruby Prince, well, things are really uncertain right now. But before you dive head-long into The Wanderer's Mark (unless you already have)(and hopefully you have!) I have answers to a few questions!

1) Where did you get the names from?

Well, Aemogen leans more towards the Celtic and Anglo Saxon in sound and feel. Usually people are referring to the Imirillian names. The Imirillian names lean towards the Persian. One interesting thing to note is that in Aemogen, the slight emphasis is usually on the first syllable. Eleanor. Aedon. Crispin. And you may have also noticed that the older generation is usually called by two names, i.e., Gualter Alden, Thistle Black. Pretty straight forward. 

In Imirillia, the names usually have their emphasis on the last syllable. Basaal, Emir, Arsalaan, Ammar, Shammil... Now this is a soft emphasis. Certainly not hard or harsh, but more of a lean. Leaitha is different because it is a female expression of the Imirillian language, and in the feminine it is not uncommon for the middle syllable to claim the slightly stronger sound. Thus Imirillia, which is feminine, also has the emphasis in the middle.

Did I know any of those things before writing the books? Nope. I just spend time in the fens of Aemogen and the streets of Zarbadast, and listened. Those were the names, those were the accents. I figured it out later.  Which was kind of cool. 

I did take a few Persian words to influence a few names. Zarbadast being one of them. It's derived from two words meaning might and power.

Now, I have been begged for a pronunciation guide, which I will do! But not tonight. And so, let us make sure you are saying Prince Basaal's name correctly. I have had a few readers think it sounded like the British name Basil (Bae-Zil). (Do you see how I totally made up my own break downs there? I know, Webster's dictionary is going to hire me any second.) But Basil is incorrect. Rather, it's Basaal (Ba-s-all). The Ba is like the beginning of the word bun. The aal sounds like the word all. And the s in the middle just sounds like an s. The Ba being shorter, the aal being slightly longer. Basaal. Prince Basaal, seventh son of Emperor Shaamil. If I were super nifty, I would record me saying the names and and put them on my website. Which, thinking about it, I could actually do. Hmmm. Should I?

Eleanor nodded. ‘Would you mind telling me how long I’ve been Ill?’ Eleanor’s tongue stumbled over that last word.

‘Only a small nymber of days.’ The physician entered and sat on an ornate chair with cushions of bright colors. ‘My name is Ammar and I am the court physician,’ he explained. ‘You have been treated by myself and my assistant, Tameez.’

‘Yes, I remember.’ She brushed her hair away from the side of her face and looked at the physician. “I admit, I thought you were a prince.’

‘I am.’ Ammar’s smile was kind, but it was not engaging. ‘Third son.’

2) Were you envisioning Turkey and ancient Istanbul for Zarbadast?

Not specifically, but clearly the middle eastern cultures and Imirillia have MUCH in common. I have always been drawn to that part of the world and so I was ABSOLUTELY CHUFFED when I realized the Imirilian Empire was similar. I was thrilled to spend time there. No matter how treacherous. The religion, the architecture, the culture, was so beautiful to me.

Basaal took a deep breath and bent his head again, though his eyes were lifted, studying her face. Eleanor’s eyes, in turn, were asking for a promise that he couldn’t give.

3) Who wrote The Seven Scrolls?

A number of Imirillian prophets over the course of a several centuries. Zarbadast hosts the greatest library of such writings, but most places have what is known as The Seven Scrolls. They are the accepted cannon. There are many other writings kept by scholars, holy men, and the royal family, but some of them are considered apocryphal by certain sects. There are elements inside the Imirillian religion that are more extreme, and others who are more cultural rather than practicing, and a wide swath in between. There are four or five schools of interpreting the holy writings inside Imirillia. Basaal leans towards two in particular. 

‘The world moves, and we with it; and I see now what I did not before I was taken from my place and cast upon a stranger’s shore,’ he said, quoting a line from the Third Scroll.

Eleanor thought for a moment before responding. ‘Or, in other words,’ she said, ‘you realize now that you might have been wrong.’

‘I realize that there were some things I did not understand,’ Basaal countered, his tone indicating he did not see this as the same thing.

4) What influenced Basaal to be more devout in his religion than his brothers and father?

I have never had a conversation with Basaal specifically on this subject. There has usually been too much going on for such conversations. But, from observation, I can make my best guess. When Shaamil was a younger man he was more devout. Not terribly. Let's be honest. He was always more in the cultural rather than practicing camp. But. He did honor the traditions and the rituals, and his role in holding them up. Edith of Marion, upon marrying Shaamil, was quite moved by the Imirillian religion, and she encouraged her son not only to study but to understand what he was studying. So, of the princes, Basaal would have received the most religious training outside what was already expected. Also, Dantib is very faithful. He never went for the extreme interpretations of The Seven Scrolls, but rather a faithful interpretation, and he lived the principles. As Basaal grew up, his relationship with Dantib grew stronger, especially after the death of his mother. And seeing Dantib's diligence and devotion would have certainly encouraged him to take religion seriously as well. Once Basaal was old enough to stand on his own feet, as it were, his own studies, meditations, prayers, cemented his devotions. Ammar has never understood this. And Basaal has never understood Ammar's distance. But they are still very close.  

‘Forget the scrolls,’ Emir interrupted. ‘Forget the Safeeraah. This is life we speak of, not religion.’

‘Religion is my life!’ Basaal turned on Emir fiercely.

5) Who sent the assassin?

Hee hee. This is one of the most common questions I am asked. Grin. Here's the thing. I don't know. I was never told. And no matter how I poked around Zarbadast, I couldn't find any clarifying information. I have my suspicions and theories. Oh boy, do I have my theories. BUT. There has never been a definitive answer. Who do YOU think sent the assassin?

A Few Fun Facts:

* In more than one of my books there are items that exist both in the story and my house. It's kind of an easter egg between me and the characters, and ALWAYS fun to see what they pick, for it's always the characters who choose what they like, and then when I'm spending time in their world, I walk into a room or see them somewhere and I say, "Hey! I recognize that!" In The Ruby Prince the shared object is Basaal's golden horse. If you remember, the first time Eleanor enters his bedchamber, she notices a statue of a golden horse in full armor on his table. Well. I also have such a horse in my library. Anyway. Kind of fun. 

I wasn't certain how the challenge was going to end. And when things got desperate there at the end...well, when Basaal pulled his knife on a particular individual (ahem) I gasped and started laughing. That was a gutsy thing to do, young prince. There were multiple things that surprised me during my time in Zarbadast. What about you?

Kiarash twisted his wrist and caught the blade up my the handle. The crowd applauded, and he responded with a charming smile.

‘Exhibitionist,’ Ammar said under his breath. ‘He is trying to emotionally sway the audience to his side.’

‘Will it work?’ she asked. Eleanor looked back at Basaal, who was now standing still, his eyes closed, muttering a prayer, the blades crossed in front of him.

‘No,’ Ammar replied. ‘Basaal has had Zarbadast on his side since the day he was born.’

Eleanor made an unsurprised sound, and Ammar smiled.

* I love desert based books. But before writing The Ruby Prince, I had read very few. The one that I remember the most from when I was a child is A Horse and His Boy from the Chronicles of Narnia. But I avoided most books set in the desert...not knowing why. Then, after I wrote The Ruby Prince, I read through several! And adored them! One of my favorites post-Ruby Prince reads would have to be The Blue Sword, by her majesty Robin McKinley. It's just...the best.

* There are several moments I could consider a favorite, but one in particular was when Basaal recounts the story of the Seraagh and the desert hare.

* And finally, The Ruby Prince is the book that readers report having read the fastest of all my books. Which is fun.