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Rachel Gillig Books In Order

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Publication Order of The Shepherd King Books

One Dark Window (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon
Two Twisted Crowns (2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

Rachel Gillig
Rachel Gillig was born and grew up on the California coast. She is an author and teacher, with a BA in Literary Theory and Criticism from UC Davis.

If she is not ensconced in blankets dreaming her next novel up, she is walking with her son, husband, and Wally (their poodle), or in her garden.

The monster/maiden has been a favorite trope of Rachel’s since she was five when she watched “Beauty and the Beast”.

For “One Dark Window”, her monster was the first character she created. He’s called the Nightmare, and he’s an amalgamation of two inspirations. The first is the yew tree from Patrick Ness’ “A Monster Calls”, and the second is his namesake, the creature in Henry Fuseli’s 1781 painting “The Nightmare”. Both of these monsters are horrifying and captivating entities. They aren’t “good” but they are not necessarily villains either. For Rachel, they stir up feelings of dread and wonder. They keep their own rules. Without the constraints of beauty or morality, they hold enviable power.

It is just that sort of power (monstrous and without constraint) that she wanted for Elspeth, her maiden character. Because, buried deep within the monster/maiden trope, maidens are much more constrained than their counterparts. As the monster gets released from the expectation of goodness, the maiden’s tethered by morality. She has to be good. Or beautiful. Should she have righteous anger, she has to swallow it, or figure out a way to let it out which does not make her any less lovable or lovely. She’s allowed one or two flaws, however often shoulders the morality and beauty of the story.

Since she writes flawed and layered women, she had a strong impulse to correct, or simply erase entirely all of the expectations foisted onto the maiden. Instead, she tried to explore them more.

Since women do have expectations put on them. Elspeth does try conforming to the expectations and rules foisted on her. She is cautious, taking care to keep her magic and power hidden, to present herself as nonthreatening. She swallows her rage, keeps secrets out of fear because if anybody knew who she really was, they’d think her monstrous and unworthy of love.

This is the crux of the issue, for Rachel. The maiden’s lovely not solely out of virtue, but fear. Because the desire to be lovable and to be loved and to be accepted without judgment, in an unsafe world, is a safety mechanism. Take it away, and the world’s a dangerous place.

However she couldn’t stop herself from wondering: what would happen if the maiden no longer needed to be lovable or loved in order to be safe? Who would she then be? Would we even call her a maiden anymore? She needs to find some safety in her own inner power. And when she doesn’t know what inner power without rules of constraints feels like, she needs somebody or something to show her. Some monster, creature of dread and wonder which never has had to be lovely. A monster that exists outside of restrictions forged out of fear. A monster that helps the maiden break stuff.

It’s one reason that she loves the fantasy genre. It is escapism, but with some roots that touch upon reality. Because everybody has been the maiden at some point, had constricting rule that wear the guise of safety and had expectations foisted upon us. Everybody’s felt righteous anger and searched to find our power and wanted to break things.

“One Dark Window” is the first novel in the “Shepherd King” series and was released in 2022. For fans of “For the Wolf” and “Uprooted” comes a lushly Gothic and dark fantasy novel about a maiden that has to unleash the monster within in order to save her kingdom. However the monster in her mind is not the only threat that’s lurking.

Elspeth needs a monster. The monster just may be her. Elspeth Spindle needs more than merely luck to stay safe in the mist locked and eerie kingdom of Blunder. She needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, a mercurial and ancient spirit that is trapped in her head. He keeps her safe and holds her secrets. However nothing comes free, particularly magic.

When Elspeth meets this mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Having been thrust into a world of deception and shadow, she joins this dangerous quest to cure Blunder from the dark magic that is infecting it. And the highwayman? He just so happens to be the King’s nephew, Captain of the most dangerous men in all of blunder. Not to mention guilty of high treason.

Together they have to gather twelve Providence Cards, the keys to the cure. However while their undeniable attraction intensifies and the stakes heighten, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly taking her mind over. And she just may not be able to stop him.

The book is an easy read with some characters you really do care about and a plot you’re invested in. Rachel’s writing is atmospheric, undeniably beautiful, and the world building and explanations of the magical structures is well done. Readers found themselves intrigued by the idea of Providence Cards and truly enjoyed learning more about them through the ornate chapter headers and Rachel’s lush prose.

“Two Twisted Crowns” is the second novel in the “Shepherd King” series and was released in 2023. In this dark and luscious sequel to “Dark Window”, Elspeth has to face the consequences of what she has wrought.

Ravyn and Elspeth have gathered together most of the twelve Providence Cards, however the last, and most important one has yet to be found: The Twin Alders. If they are going to find it before the Solstice and cure the kingdom of the dark magic which infects it, they will have to journey beyond the dangerous mist cloaked forest which surrounds their kingdom.

And the only one that can possibly lead them there is the monster which shares Elspeth’s head. The Nightmare. And he is not all that eager to continue sharing any longer.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Rachel Gillig

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