Book Blurb:

In this final book of the Shanhasson trilogy, Shannari dal’Dainari has won the Rose Crown. She has her beloved Khul at her side. Yet shadows crowd closer than ever. Political machinations and assassination attempts have crippled her ability to protect the land and the people. When her children are endangered, she has no choice but to send them to safety.

Away from her.

Surrounded by grief, danger, and turmoil on all sides, the last thing she needs is another enemy threatening to destroy all she holds dear. Yet a Black Dragon stirs in the deserts of Keldar. He haunts her dreams, while a Keldari army amasses on her border. When he soars over the Shining Walls of Shanhasson, will she put a knife in his heart…or will Shadow devour her at last with dragon jaws?

The following are three topics I asked Joely to comment on:

Revisiting the phrase: “Love; the greatest Gift of all and the greatest Sacrifice” and how it ties the trilogy together in this final book. 

I admit it – there’s a significant, heart-rending blow in Return, the final book of the Shanhasson trilogy, after Shannari already suffered a major loss in Road.  It’s a grim time.  Shadow grows all around her, swallowing her in grief and rage.  She’s so weary of the constant sacrifices required of her and the ones she loves.

Some days, she just wishes it was all over.  When she’s sinking fast, lost and dark and cold, it’s love that saves her.  As it has always saved her.  It’s her great gift from Our Blessed Lady, but those whom She blesses well also suffer for their love.  Sometimes they must pay the greatest sacrifice of all.  Yet as Gregar says,

I would die a thousand times to know your love once.

The significance of parallels or double entendres.

The underlying parallels that carry through the Shanhasson series are based on the Trinity in the mythology.  Each book begins as follows:

The gods have many faces and many names, yet no matter their guise, one eternal truth remains. Love is the greatest gift of all, and the greatest sacrifice. In every age and every country, they consign their Chosen to manifest their heart’s desire in the world, that all people may bear witness.
Love’s sacrifice conquers even the blackest Shadow of evil.  

The Trinity is made up of a god of fire, a lady of light, and the dark god of shadow.  Red, white, and black, over and over.  Each country has their own intepretation of the mythology, but the gods are the same, whether they’re Vulkar the Great Wind Stallion and His Dark Mare facing the Endless Night or Agni, the Red Dragon, He Who Burns, and Somma, She Who Hung the Moon, facing Yama, He Who Breathes Despair. 

In each generation and each country, “avatars” are born to play out the Trinity’s message over and over.  The chosen avatars have complete free will.  They may love as they wish… or not.  As Kae’Shaman, the great holy man says, For generations, others have walked as the Trinity. They’ve lived in the flesh, loved whom they chose, suffered for that choice whether right or wrong, and the world continued to slip farther into Shadow day by day. Many times, the end has come, only to be averted by the greatest sacrifice of all.

Shannari is the Last Daughter, the last living blood of Our Blessed Lady.  If she dies, Shadow will swallow the world.

What you wanted the reader to walk away with after completing this series.

Oh, my, so much.  So many problems in this world can be resolved with love.  So many great evils are completely helpless against such a weapon.  So many lives could be brighter.  So many hearts lightened with hope.  Darkness hangs all around, Shadows creeping ever closer, but love shines brighter in the darkness.

Shine with love.  Run to your beloved Evening Stars that shine in your eyes.  Run!

Excerpt from THE RETURN TO SHANHASSON:

“I’m sure you’re very pleased,” she said aloud, letting her wry smile sharpen her words. “As High Queen of the Green Lands, I now claim Shanhasson as my permanent home. What business would you lay before me this day, gentlemen?”

King Challon settled back in his chair and smiled, his hands steepled before him. “Our first recommendation is that you select a new husband. One who’s more acceptable to the nobility and can provide royals heirs more—”

Jorah clamped his hand on hers, keeping the rahke in its sheath. Dharman vibrated against her back, and she was pretty sure Sal was snarling at the man. Her rage, or theirs? Did it matter?

She held her breath and mentally counted to ten, twenty, deliberately relaxing each and every muscle in her body until she slumped in the formal and rigid chair in which her Council insisted she sit, a sign of royalty despite their schemes to dethrone her. Jorah’s fierce grip on her hand eased, but he didn’t release her. Sal crouched beside her, muscles bunching down his back as though he would leap upon the man and rip his throat out with his teeth.

Dropping her hand on his head, she said lightly, “Interesting. Do you have anyone to put forward as a candidate?”

Shock sliced through the Blood bonds and Dharman’s fingers dug into her so hard she worried he might have dented her armor. :Trust me.:

He relaxed his grip on her slightly, but his bond still rang like drawn steel in her mind.

Challon glanced around the table, as if he were mentally running through which man was married and whom she might consider. He himself was too old, as was the King of Taza. Her father was obviously out of the question. Benton, the Steward of Far Illione, had been married for twenty or more years and had at least two sons. Which left young Royce, the new Duke of Pella, or King Phillip of Maston.

Phillip knew exactly what sort of desires she had. He was so pale she feared he might faint. He leaned toward Challon and whispered urgently. One curt word from the older man and Phillip flushed and jerked away. She stared at him with a small smile on her face, waiting for him to look at her.

Hands trembling on the table, he bowed his head. He couldn’t.

“I must admit, Your Majesty, that I’m rather surprised at how amendable you appear to be to this suggestion,” King Challon said. “By all accounts, you loved the barbarian. You wed him against any and all custom of our lands, and the rumors…” He shrugged and spread his hands out apologetically.

Her smile sharpened, her mouth aching with strain. The nobles at court had gossiped endlessly about her barbarian horde of lovers. Most likely, she could lay blame for those rumors at this man’s feet. “Why would I object to a reasonable request made by my Council?”

:You would let one of these…these…curs touch you?: Dharman growled incredulously in her mind.

She didn’t have a hand left to touch him, but she kept her mind and bond open to him in reassurance.

“There are, however, a few requirements these candidates must fulfill before I’d even begin to consider them as my king.”

Deliberately, she settled more fully against the back of the chair, rubbing her cheek on Dharman’s hand on her shoulder until he slid his forearm around her neck in as much an embrace as the chair allowed. He still bristled with fury like an indignant herd stallion, and Sal bared his teeth like a caged tiger. Jorah was silent, but he shone brighter, his golden hair and skin catching the light and reflecting it back until Royce, who sat nearest on the edge, winced and shielded his eyes. He hid his hands beneath the table, but not before she noted how much they shook.

“Any man who desires to sit at my right hand as my king must first come to my bed.” Through the bond, she asked Sal to look up at her. She ran her fingers through his hair, lifting the heavy red pelt and letting it spill through her hand like silk. Then she traced the bite mark on his neck. Old and white it might be, but Phillip remembered how the red-haired warrior had gained that scar years ago. The King of Maston made a sound very much like a whimper and fled the room.

“This man must come to my bed and survive.” Laughing softly, she twisted her hand in Sal’s hair and gave him a jerk that pulled his head sharply to the side. He moaned deep in his throat and melted against her, burying his face in her lap perilously close to the junction of her thighs. “This man must come through each of my Blood and meet with their approval. And then, he must satisfy my First Blood’s challenge.”

“Challenge?” King Challon asked in a shaky voice.

Dharman smiled so widely the other man recoiled. “No man comes to na’lanna Qwen’s bed except through me. Any man desiring to lay with her must challenge me for the honor of touching one hair on her head.”

Sal retorted, “And I,” followed by sharp ayes from each of her Blood.

Letting her eyes smolder, she rubbed the back of her head against Dharman’s stomach. “Surely the servants have spread the tales, yes? Two of my Blood sleep in my bed each and every night. That will never change.” Never mind that nothing had actually happened. Yet.

King Challon spluttered, his face pale but splotched with red. “Your Majesty, you can’t honestly expect your king to…that is…”

Sal lifted his head and licked his mouth thoroughly. A rush of heat flooded her, even though he hadn’t actually done anything. “If she desires another man, he would have to fight each and every one of us first. And then, if he still has blood remaining in his body enough to rise for her challenge, he would have to watch me and her First Blood nag her from sundown to sunrise, for we have first claim on her heart. And then, if she still desires this man, he may crawl into her bed with her First Blood at her back and my rahke at his throat to ensure he does it right.”

Murmuring their apologies, the nobles made a rapid escape. She couldn’t laugh, not with Sal’s promise blazing through her mind. Dharman released her but remained at her back, his bond crackling with heat.

Lady help her, she couldn’t think and plot her strategies with them burning up like wildfire in her mind. She tried in vain to lighten their mood. :Sundown to sunrise?:

:Sal must have been mistaken.: Dharman’s bond oozed through her like warm, gooey honey. :For that is not nearly long enough.:
: Days, at least,: Sal agreed. :Yet I didn’t want to scare them off completely.:

 

 

Want more?? Here’s another excerpt from THE RETURN TO SHANHASSON: http://joelysueburkhart.com/the-writing/friday-snippet-return-to-shanhasson/



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