Top 5 Things You Should Know About the Sweet Black Waves Series

August 25, 2020 | 5:23 PM

Top 5 Things You Should Know About the Sweet Black Waves Series

By Team Fierce Reads

Are you ready to say farewell to the Sweet Black Waves trilogy (AKA our most beloved romantic fantasy series)?

We know we're not! So we've asked author Kristina Pérez to put together a list of the top 5 things you should know about this lush and magical series.

1. The Wooing of Emer

Fans of the series will remember that at the beginning of Sweet Black Waves, when Branwen first rescues Tristan on the beach, she tells him her name is Emer, which is the name of her favorite heroine from Ivernic folklore. Later, Tristan serenades Branwen with a ballad about the wooing of Emer by the Hound of Uladztir. I included these details in my world building as a nod to the real Old Irish legend Tochmarc Emire (“The Wooing of Emer”), which may have served as the source material for the development of Tristan and Iseult’s doomed love affair.

The tenth-century tale forms part of the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology, which recounts the hero Cú Chulainn’s attempts to win the hand of Emer after training with the warrior woman Scáthach. Cú Chulainn’s name translates as Culann’s Hound, and he is widely known as the Hound of Ulster–which became Uladztir in my world. Also, outtake alert, Skathak is the name of Branwen’s mare in Iveriu, although the line ended up getting cut for length–but now you know!

2. Poldark &The Pirates of Penzance

The menacing of Ivernic shores by pirates from the kingdom of Kernyv across the sea is a driving force of the plot. Kerynv is based on the region of Cornwall in the southwest of Great Britain, which has long been famed for its pirates and smuggling operations. A non-medieval source of inspiration for their depiction includes Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta The Pirates of Penzance, which I absolutely adored as a little girl.

Readers of Winston Graham’s Poldark series as well as viewers of the Poldark TV show based on these historical novels will be familiar with the pitfalls of both smuggling and mining along the Cornish coast. In Wild Savage Stars, we see firsthand the dangers of mining “white lead” (otherwise known as tin) in Kernyv, and the mining techniques are loosely based on those used in the actual Roman gold mines in neighboring Wales.

3. “The Highwayman”

The title Sweet Black Waves has its origins in a poem I’ve loved since I was a teenager. “The Highwayman” is a romantic ballad by English poet Alfred Noyes, first published in 1906 but set in the eighteenth century, that narrates the tragic love between an innkeeper’s daughter—named Bess—and a highway robber. In an attempt to capture the infamous highwayman, King George’s redcoats take Bess hostage on a night they have a tryst planned. The soldiers gag Bess, tie her to a bed, and secure the muzzle of the musket against her chest––placing her finger on the trigger.

Bess is forced to choose between shooting herself to alert her lover of the danger or allowing him to walk into a trap that will lead to his arrest and execution. This conflict became the seed of Branwen’s character, and I gave her the same long dark hair as Bess, which the poet describes as “sweet black waves in the moonlight.”

4. The Stone of Waiting

When Branwen arrives in Kernyv at the start of Wild Savage Stars, she has much to learn about Kernyvak history and folklore. Early on, Prince Ruan points out a huge standing stone that he calls the Stone of Waiting, saying that the Kernyveu believe if you wait there on a full moon night, you will see the face of your true love. The superstition is my own whimsy, although many such folk beliefs abound, but the long-stone itself is based on the Men Gurta, the largest standing stone in Cornwall (16 feet, or 4.9 meters, tall!). The Men Gurta was erected around 4,500 years ago on what is now the St. Breock Downs.

Ruan tells Branwen that no one really knows what the true purpose of the Stone of Waiting is, which reflects the fact that by the early medieval period, these Neolithic stone circles and long-stones were already just as mysterious as they are today. Nevertheless, the Men Gurta remained a meeting place into the Middle Ages. The Neolithic people who raised it had also formed a little bed of white quartz pebbles around its base, and those white pebbles inspired the Kernyvak funeral custom that readers may recognize.

5. Castles, Castles, Castles

I have an obsession with castles of all kinds, and one of my life goals is to have a turret to call my very own. So it should come as no surprise that I took great care when constructing my virtual castles for the Sweet Black Waves series––right down to the names. When we first meet Branwen, she is living at Castle Rigani, which takes its name from rīganī––the reconstructed Proto-Celtic word for “queen”––because sovereignty is bestowed by the goddess of the Land in Iveriu (as in Old Irish legend). Branwen’s family castle is called Castle Bodwa, since bodwā is translated from Proto-Celtic as “fight,” and “The Right Fight” is her family motto.

Readers may also remember that the self-satisfied Lord Diarmuid hails from Talamu Castle in northern Iveriu, talamū meaning “earth” or “soil” in Proto-Celtic, while Tristan’s grandmother Queen Verica lives at Castle Wragh in southernmost Kernyv, and her castle takes its name from a Cornish hamlet known as Krows an Wragh (“the witch’s cross”). Both the early medieval Tintagel Castle and Iron Age hill fort of Castle Dore in Cornwall are associated with the legend of Tristan and Iseult, but I patterned my island citadel of Monwiku after St. Michael’s Mount, also in Cornwall, which may have been inhabited as early as the Neolithic period. The name Monwiku is something I invented by combining the Proto-Celtic words for “village” (wīku) and “mountain” (moniyos).

Bright Raven Skies by Kristina Peréz

Bright Raven Skies is the thrilling conclusion to the lush and heart-wrenching romantic fantasy trilogy about ancient magic, warring families, and star-crossed lovers by Kristina Pérez.

To save the kingdom, Branwen embraced the darkest aspects of her magic. But she may have lost herself—and the two people she loves most.

Tristan and Eseult are missing. As Branwen searches for them, she must hide the truth surrounding their disappearance from both the king and her lover. Above all, she must find the Queen and her Champion first.

New and old enemies circle Branwen, clamoring for power and revenge, and threatening to destroy the fragile peace that she has sacrificed everything to secure.