The publication of Sarah Mussi's Here be Wizards marks an end to the Snowdonia Chronicles, a Young Adult series that has captured the imagination of readers young and old alike.
Set in the Welsh mountains and steeped in mythological history, Here be Wizards concludes the modern-day adventures of Ellie Morgan, a teenager raised on the slopes of Mount Snowdon. When Ellie becomes embroiled in an ancient battle between the Red Dragon of Wales and the evil White Dragon of Wessex, she and her friends must undergo a series of perilous quests to save Snowdon and Ellie's one true love, Henry.
To celebrate, we talked to the award-winning author about her inspirations for the series, Welsh mythology, and her plans for her next novel.
Most of the story's action takes place on Midsummer's Eve, why is this day so special?
Throughout the trilogy, the adventures have been set around key dates in the mythological and astronomical calendars of the year. Book Three year is centred around the Summer Solstice and Midsummer Eve, when it is well known that magic is afoot; the walls between the fairy world and our realm are very thin, and can be easily breached. This made it possible for Ellie and her friends to cross over into Annwyn (and also for the fae fire to cross over into our Mortal realm).
A Midsummer Night's Dream is referenced throughout. Did you always have the play in the back of your mind when you were writing the series, particularly the love triangle between three of the main characters and Rhiannon's unrequited love for George?
Yes! I am so inspired by some of Shakespeare’s characters! In Book Two, Here Be Witches, the opening scene was inspired by Macbeth. I particularly love the way Shakespeare weaves magic into the everyday, and of course love triangles are always a winner.
Is the Merlin character you've created how you always pictured him in Arthurian legend – insecure, futuristic and a bit silly?
Wizards in general can be very unpredictable. I grew up with the very serious long-bearded ones: Gandalf (The Hobbit) and Cadellin Silverbrow (The Weirdstone of Brisingamen). Prospero (The Tempest) was vengeful, yet also forgiving, but later wizards are more fun. Dumbledore (Harry Potter series) can be very silly and for a middle grade plus title I though a fun-loving, scatty Merlin would offer some light relief from my protagonist's scary quest. After all, if you shut yourself up in a cave or tree (or allow it to happen, without using your wizardry powers) then you are probably a bit insecure and looking forward to some R&R in self-isolation!
In the book, Ellie has a shard of magic mirror that allows her to visit Henry. If you had a magic mirror that could transport you anywhere, where would you go?
If I had a magic mirror, I’d go to Narnia. Ever since I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe I’ve been investigating the backs of every sizeable wardrobe determined to find a way through. I’ve got a fur coat – so I’d put it on, look into my mirror and be off to see Aslan.
Are there any other characters from Welsh mythology that you would have liked to include but couldn't fit into the story?
YES! So many. There are more giants ... but best of all there are the Tylwyth Teg – the fair folk of Annwyn. I’d have liked to include them, but they need a story all to themselves.
We don't want to spoil the ending but it's both happy and sad. Did you always know how the story would end or did you toy with different possibilities?
I wasn’t sure for a long time, because I didn't know what Ellie would do, if she ever had to choose between George and Henry. But then, one night I woke up in the darkness and I knew!
What are you working on now the series has finished?
I am working on a new story – I can’t tell you about it yet, as I like to keep stories close to me for a long time so they can sprout and grow – telling about a new story is a bit like this. You plant a seed, then you dig it up to show everyone that its growing, and every time you tell about a new story you unearth the idea. But I’ll give you a hint – it has golems ...
The complete Snowdonia Chronicles trilogy is available to buy now: