We love doing cover reveals at The Quiet Pond, and we are thrilled to be able to host one today! We are incredibly excited to share with you all the cover reveal for The Boy With Fire by Aparna Verma, a dark Indian-inspired fantasy about an assassin, an heir to the throne, and a tyrant in a story about war, prophecies, and betrayal. Sound awesome? We think so too!
As well as the cover reveal for The Boy With Fire, I also got the chance to interview Aparna! When you read Aparna’s thoughtful answers and learn more about The Boy With Fire, you will feel your excitement for this book increase tenfold. Vengeful and imperfect gods, lore inspired by Hindu goddesses, and ferocious female warriors! What’s not to love?
Here is the summary for The Boy With Fire:
A VENGEFUL GOD WILL SOON AWAKEN…
Yassen Knight was the Arohassin’s most notorious assassin until a horrible accident. Now, he’s on the run from both the authorities and his former employer. But when Yassen seeks refuge with an old friend, he’s offered an irresistible deal: defend the heir of Ravence from the Arohassin, and earn his freedom.
Elena Ravence prepares to ascend the throne. Trained since birth in statecraft, warfare, and the desert ways, Elena knows she is ready. She only lacks one thing: the ability to hold Fire. With the coronation only weeks away, she must learn quickly or lose her kingdom.
Leo Ravence is not yet ready to give up the crown. There’s still too much work to be done, too many battles to be won. But when an ancient prophecy threatens to undo his lifetime of work, Leo wages war on the heavens themselves to protect his legacy.
The first of The Ravence Trilogy, The Boy With Fire is the tale of a world teetering on the edge of war and prophecy, of fate and betrayal, of man’s irrevocable greed for power — and the sacrifices that must come with it.
… AND THE WORLD WILL BURN.
The Boy With Fire by Aparna Verma
Cover design: Mario Jeric
PRE-ORDER THE BOY WITH FIRE ON:
Author Interview: Aparna Verma
CW: Hello Aparna! Congratulations on your amazing cover reveal for The Boy With Fire! What is your favourite thing about the book cover?
Aparna: Everything! It’s so striking and immediately grabs your attention which, as a Leo, I’m very pleased with. Also, I love the silhouette! I’m a sucker for illustrative metaphors, and Mario captured my vision perfectly.
I’m a strong believer that we carry our home inside of us: whether it’s a place, a person, or a longing for something. Yassen Knight, the protagonist, longs for his home, the desert Kingdom of Ravence. I was largely inspired by my own upbringing in Rajasthan, India, when creating Ravence; you can see Mughal-inspired architecture in the skyline, as well as long, sloping dunes. Yet a lot of epic fantasy, no matter the region, is set in the past. Why? Why do these magical worlds have to be limited to ancient history? I wanted to write about a futuristic, magical world, where the past mixes with the future. In the Kingdom of Ravence, there are hovertrains, sandscrapers, gamesuits, but also decaying temples, ritualistic traditions, etc. It is a blend of marching modernity and the stubborn past. You can see that in the skyline captured within the silhouette on the cover.
CW: Let’s talk a little bit about your debut, The Boy With Fire! The Boy With Fire is the first of The Ravence Trilogy. It is heavily influenced by Asian mythology, specifically Indian mythology, which is really exciting! What were your influences, and what do these influences mean to you personally?
Aparna: I grew up with the stories of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. There were earth-shattering battles, intense prophecies and a lot of twists and turns that make a heart-stopping epic. Although the gods were strong, they were not perfect. They fell to whims of jealousy, much like humans. That really compelled me. It made me think: what would happen if you worshipped a vengeful god? Enter the Phoenix in The Boy With Fire. Like all gods, the Phoenix is powerful, but She is fickle. You never know what She will do with you.
But I think the biggest inspiration to me were the Hindu goddesses, particularly Durga and Kali. Durga is the warrior goddess. She is fierce, unforgiving, and later creates Kali, the demon-slaying goddess who is often depicted with a necklace of decapitated heads. I can go on and on about the duality of good and evil of these two goddesses but ultimately, for me, Durga and Kali represent the ferocity within women. We are warriors. We will fight fiercely for the ones we love, and will protect our families or homes when push comes to shove. You’ll see this world-defying ferocity in all of the characters in The Boy With Fire, particularly in Elena and Ferma.
Ultimately, Indian mythology inspired my world-building, but the book is not a reinterpretation of these myths. Nor is it an accurate depiction of Indian history. My roots inform my storytelling, and I take the creative liberty to create magic out of what I was given.
CW: You’ve pitched your book to be Dune meets The Poppy War with Indian mythology! Can you walk us through those comps?
Aparna: As a reader and as a writer, I’m compelled by morally ambiguous characters. Heroes inspire us to do better, but I believe villains are more realistic. They show our flaws, the things that make us human. The characters in The Boy With Fire, much like Rin in The Poppy War, balance moral integrity with the desire for revenge. They battle against the fickle gods.
The atmosphere in Dune, from the desert planet of Arrakis to the religion of the Freemen, inspired some of the landscapes and religious obsession in The Boy With Fire. The Ravani people follow the Phoenix, who has set forth a prophecy declaring that a prophet will rise and burn the land of its sinners. I think what makes my characters relatable (especially Leo), is this struggle between individualism and fate. When a prophecy threatens the world you know, what do you do? Would you pray for salvation and accept the whims of the gods? Or would you fight back — even if it means that you’ll be eternally damned?
CW: What can readers expect from your story? Who are you most excited for readers to meet?
Aparna: The Boy With Fire is, at its heart, a story about madness. It shows a world teetering on the edge of war, and the people who push it over. The book is DARK. It’s written in three character POVs, and each character must make cruel decisions. There’s genocide, terrorism, vengeful gods, and man’s battle against fate. In short, the book is not for the faint of heart.
But, there are lighter moments! There is a subtle romance subplot, fast-paced dojo scenes, and an amazing BIPOC cast. Elena, the heir to the throne, is perhaps the most relatable character; Leo, the tyrant, is a secret favorite; and Yassen, the assassin, will break your heart. Some of the side characters like Ferma, the ferocious Yumi whose hair can cut through steel, have already become favorites of my early beta readers. I also can’t wait for the readers to meet Samson, the militant who hires Yassen for one last mission. He’s dashing, smart, but harbors a secret that will keep you on your toes.
I often tell people that I didn’t choose this story, but that this story chose me. I have lived and breathed these characters for years. They pop up in my head throughout the day, when I’m writing or boxing or even washing the dishes. Mostly, I felt as if they were friends who had come by, made themselves at home, and told me their story. And I, the simple scribe, wrote it all down.
These characters have taken my heart. Hopefully, they’ll take yours too.
About the Author
Aparna Verma was born in India and immigrated to the United States when she was two-years-old. She graduated from Stanford University with Honors in the Arts and a B.A. in English. THE BOY WITH FIRE is her first novel. When she is not writing, Aparna likes to ride horses, dance to Bollywood music, and find old cafes to read myths about forgotten worlds. You can connect with Aparna on Twitter and Instagram at @spirited_gal.