Driven, talented, and determined to live up to her family’s fame, Sasha Nikolayeva is ballet’s crown princess. But just when Sasha lands her most prestigious role yet, she falls prey to a host of disturbing neurological symptoms that threaten to end her career and her very life. As her mind and body deteriorate, Sasha spirals into a nightmare world where beauty and cruelty exist in the same breath and villains rule from the shadows.
In the glittering, sharp-edged City of Roses, Sasha is no princess. She’s a thrall, a slave. Thousands like her suffer in cursed silence while citizens enjoy the splendor of the City, blissfully unaware that their servants are anything more than living dolls enchanted to do their bidding. But the City’s slavers know the truth, and they are always watching. One misstep could cost Sasha her life—or her soul.
Even as she endures the violence and indignity of captivity, Sasha can’t help being drawn to the beauty of her nightmare world and the underground rebels who offer her friendship, shelter, even love. Before Sasha can break her chains for good, she’ll need to choose between the life waiting for her at home and the countless lives she could save if she stays. To choose a nightmare over her real life, her future, would be madness…but maybe a little madness is just what it takes to change the fate of a city built on lies.
Although full of magic and love and beautiful things, this work also contains depictions of violence, assault, slavery, family and animal death, and references to sexual and physical abuse. The first half in particular is quite dark.
Kassandra Flamouri holds a degree in Music from the Sunderman Conservatory of Gettysburg College, which she uses to moonlight as a folk musician while juggling writing, teaching, and earning a second degree. Her past works include The Fruit of Our Thorns: A Collection and The Roots of Our Magic: 6 Stories Inspired by the Folklore of Greece (a bilingual collection), both available on Amazon, as well as her recent debut novel, The Chalice and the Crown, available at most online retailers. More information about her past and upcoming work can be found on her website at www.flamourifiction.com.
I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Kassandra Flamouri. This book came across my radar for several reasons, the first being that I’d seen it before back when it first came out and a friend of mine was raving about it. Another thing that really grabbed my attention is that Adi Rule, the author of Strange Sweet Song blurbed it on Amazon and the book has been compared to Strange Sweet Song, which I really loved. When Kassandra reached out to me she said that I might love her book because I’m a huge fan of Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer duology, so obviously that was a huge selling point as well.
The main reason that I want to read this is because the main character struggles with nightmares and nightmares are a huge part of the plot. As someone who struggles with PTSD nightmares on a nightly basis I love reading fantasy books about dreams and nightmares, partly because I can relate to them, but I also love seeing fantasy authors incorporate something so fantastical already into a fantasy book. This is a dark book and I expect that I will really relate to the main character Sasha. I was really excited to have the chance to ask Sasha some questions I had about her writing experience and her book! Now onto the interview!
The story grew out of a recurring nightmare I used to have when I was little. It was very spooky with misty woods and wolves and imminent threat to both myself and my stuffed dog, Pongo. In very early drafts, Sasha had that same nightmare, but it eventually got pruned out. All that stayed was the spooky misty woods.
So. Dang. Much. This is my first novel, and it was a steep learning curve. It was rewritten entirely a couple times, and each of those versions went through countless revisions with huge chunks getting rearranged, deleted, rewritten, etc.
Honestly? She’s not for everyone. Some absolutely love her, and some find her hard to like. Sasha is focused, hardworking, determined, and loyal to those she loves. But those same qualities, especially her focus and drive, leave little leftover for anyone or anything beyond her career and a dancer and her immediate family. She’s extremely strong, but her strength is largely directed inward and manifests as perfect discipline and self-control, which is both a blessing and a curse. In the “real world,” she is somewhat unforgiving of imperfection in others, and she doesn’t have much interest in people outside her family. In the magical land of Kingsgarden, her discipline and resilience keep her alive in horrific circumstances, but they also make it difficult to trust those who want to help her, leaving her with a tendency to lash out when she feels threatened or betrayed. But at her core are deep wells of courage and self-sacrifice, and it always comes through in the end.
I wish! I’m a classically trained musician, but not a dancer. Sasha became a dancer after I had stopped and started drafting several times. I had decided her background was going to be Russian, and I think it was when I stumbled across the Bolshoi Theater in my research that I knew she should be a dancer.
I think my early influences are mostly Robin McKinley, Julliet Marillier, and Anne McCaffrey. More recently, I think I’m influenced a lot by Laini Taylor, Leigh Bardugo, and Holly Black.
I think Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule is a good one if you’re looking for a music/arts bent in fantasy.
Two things!1. I have a book coming out in September 2022 from Parliament House Press. This one is a contemporary fantasy set in the mountains of Greece, perfect for fans of Holly Black and Katherine Arden.2. I’m currently working on a companion novel to Chalice, tentatively titled The Fox and the Flame. It’s not a sequel but a story that follows a side character from Chalice during roughly the same time period that Chalice covers.If anyone out there is interested in updates about either or both of these (and the occasional snapshot of my adorable dog, Skye), you can sign up for my newsletter below: