Guest Post By Author Claire Bartlett!

Hey everyone! Today on the blog, we have something exciting for you -- author Claire Barlett is here to talk about her latest book, The Winter Duke! So without further ado, let's get into it!

About Claire

Claire Eliza Bartlett

Claire Bartlett lives in an enchanted forest apartment in Copenhagen with too many board games and too few cats.

Claire Barlett Discussing the Setting of The Winter Duke

The setting of THE WINTER DUKE was my favorite part of building the novel. In fact, the setting was one of the first things I had nailed down. Some years ago, when I was still working on my debut novel WE RULE THE NIGHT, I had the idea of a city above, and a city below. A city that sat atop a frozen lake, and a city that thrived beneath it, connected and bound and incapable of complete independence from each other.

I didn't have characters, inciting incidents, a plot, or anything else. I just had these two cities. The setting stuck around in my mind for years, until WE RULE THE NIGHT was done and my publisher was asking, "What else have you got?" So I smashed these cities together with a bit of fairy tale and a bit of history, and I put it all to work. Here are a few things about the duchy Above and the duchy Below:

The duchy of Kylma Above is a frozen kingdom atop a lake. Everything is ice, from the palace bedrooms to the boulevards to the outer fortifications. Nestled up against the mountains, its only weak point is the plains that stretch out to one side - assuming an army can march through the wild winters to get there. And when they do, they still have to content with the moat, chopped right through the lake's center and protected by guards from both Above and Below.

Beneath the thick ice sheet, the duchy Below is populated by fishmen and fishwives, who can sometimes be seen by people strolling along the ice roads Above. The people Below hunt, farm and trade, and their own Grand Duke ensures that they have what they need.

Until recently, relations between the duchies were cordial. Now they're more complicated, thanks to Ekata's father. When she inherits the throne she doesn't just get the chance to study Below up close - she also gets the responsibility of seeing them as they are, a valuable trading partner and a people in need.

The duchy Above is tiny...

Like, Vatican City terms of tiny. The whole thing fits on a lake. You could walk from one end to the other in about forty minutes. This size means, of course, that the duchy has to rely on its neighbors and allies for a lot of things, and it trades magic, fish, and reindeer products in exchange.

...And everything's manufactured to work with ice.

I had a lot of fun thinking about how buildings would have been constructed, how their fireplaces would be insulated to keep their chimneys from melting, what kind of food service people had so that their lips didn't freeze to their of my favorite parts of worldbuilding is going through and asking how a decision I've made will affect my world in terms of details, and freezing my setting definitely gave me a lot to think about!

The duchy Below is both human and other...

Legends go that the people who live under the ice used to be human, too - until a jealous god pulled them Below and turned them into his supplicants. Ekata sees buildings, roads and even streetlamps in her visits to the duchy Below, but she also sees carnivorous algae, and the people Below speak to her without vocal cords. Their world is, to an extent, a mirror of the world Above, but they've had to make some adjustments to live underwater, surrounded by monsters.

...And it provides the magic that the duchy Above so desperately needs.

Two things tie these places together: first, the duchy Above is the only point of contact that the duchy Below has with the outside world. Second, the duchy Below is the only place in the world that provides magic, in the form of little pearls that get harvested from flowers at the bottom of the lake. This magic is what keeps the duchy Above financially independent from its neighbors, and both duchies rely on each other for prosperity (and survival). And that means, whenever one party starts taking the other for granted, things are bound to get difficult...

About The Winter Duke


Title: The Winter Duke
Author: Claire Eliza Bartlett
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 432 Pages
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2020

Summary: When Ekata's brother is finally named heir, there will be nothing to keep her at home in Kylma Above with her murderous family. Not her books or science experiments, not her family's icy castle atop a frozen lake, not even the tantalizingly close Kylma Below, a mesmerizing underwater kingdom that provides her family with magic. But just as escape is within reach, her parents and twelve siblings fall under a strange sleeping sickness. In the space of a single night, Ekata inherits the title of duke, her brother's warrior bride, and ever-encroaching challengers from without—and within—her own ministry. Nothing has prepared Ekata for diplomacy, for war, for love...or for a crown she has never wanted. If Kylma Above is to survive, Ekata must seize her family's power. And if Ekata is to survive, she must quickly decide how she will wield it.

We'd like to thank Claire for being awesome enough to stop by the blog today and for writing this fabulous guest post. If you're interested in learning more about her or The Winter Duke, we made sure to include tons of links to the Goodreads page and also to Claire's own social media -- so don't miss out on your opportunity to discover an amazing author and story!

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