How does Rise of the Shadow Dragons follow on from Dragon Daughter?
When I wrote Dragon Daughter, I only had one book in my head, rather than a series. It wasn’t till a few months after its publication that I saw a TV documentary about the tunnels beneath the city of Naples. This is what gave me the idea that Arcosi should have some long-forgotten tunnels too, the first spark for Rise of the Shadow Dragons.
That meant I had some challenges when creating a new story: whatever I had left open or resolved at the end of Dragon Daughter couldn’t be changed – the book was printed and in the hands of readers already!
That’s one of the reasons I decided to jump ahead in time, to give the original story a bit of breathing space. Also, the characters of Dragon Daughter were already fourteen and fifteen years old by the end, so I needed a new cast of middle-grade characters for Rise of the Shadow Dragons, and I needed them to have different personalities and problems.
One reviewer described Dragon Daughter as a Cinderella story with dragons – which I love! – and Milla’s story is definitely one of rags to riches. So this time, I created a very different arc for my main character Jowan Thornsen.
At the start of Rise of the Shadow Dragons, it’s ten years on from the first story, and all the young people of Joe’s family have bonded with dragons. So when he attends his first Hatching Ceremony – on his twelfth birthday too! – he’s feeling pretty lucky. Of course, things don’t go to plan.
I’m afraid Joe doesn’t handle disappointment very well. He’s only human, and we all get angry and behave badly sometimes. (I know I certainly do!) I wanted to have a character who starts off in a fortunate place, but who wrecks things quite early on. Then the story is about him coming to terms with who he really is and having to work hard to redeem himself – he definitely does this by the end! I think it’s important for us to see lots of different kinds of people in the stories we read, and for fictional characters to be flawed, not impossibly perfect. Joe was great fun to write, as was his new friend Winter, who has experienced unimaginable loss in her short life. I enjoyed writing their dynamic as they get to know each other and change each other as the story unfolds.
There’s also a new kind of dragon – the shadow dragon – which was definitely inspired by reading about some amazing real-world creatures who transform and react to environmental changes: from the humble dragonfly to pyrophytic plants whose growth can be triggered by fire.
I love it when writers create generations of characters within story worlds, so you get to see how fictional people turn out when they grow up. Some of my favourite fantasy writers, including Garth Nix and Tamora Pierce, do this brilliantly. So I decided to challenge myself by having my original cast of characters as the grown-ups in this second book. Milla, the protagonist of Dragon Daughter, is now Joe’s older cousin, who helps him and advises him from the start of Rise of the Shadow Dragons. I hope readers who liked Dragon Daughter will be happy to see Milla again, even if she’s not the main character any more.
Now this time when I wrote the ending of Rise of the Shadow Dragons, I made sure to leave a few threads hanging… just in case I felt like picking them up in a third book. This has been a wonderful springboard into writing the next installment. It’s very early days, but I am hopeful that you haven’t seen the end of these characters yet!
Thank you so much for hosting this post on your wonderful blog! I hope readers enjoy Rise of the Shadow Dragons. Please see lizflanagan.co.uk for more information – and readers’ artwork! – or feel free to follow me on Twitter: @lizziebooks.