Venom is deeper, darker, faster, harder and tricksier than Viper, and sets us up beautifully aching for the resolution in the finale Vulture (out 2021), but it also takes us further into the Western Isles and throughout we get a sense of the world that has shaped these magical, creative, lyrical islands different from the more practical, commerce focused East. But of course, power and corruption can grow anywhere and danger is everywhere for Marianne for the two halves of who she is, the Heir to the Western Kingdom and the Viper.
I’m so pleased to host the Creation Story for the Twelfth Isle, the political seat of the Western Isles and the setting for some of the action in Venom, and as we can see from its Creation Story that whilst forgiveness and hope are more fruitful than vengeance and anger, and how from suffering the bad side of things the will to make the world better can blossom, it also underlines how it is true that nothing, not even the most beautiful and hopeful things, come without some price.
The Creation Stories by Bex Hogan
The Twelfth Isle
An orphan boy lived in the murkiest part of the island, which was saying something considering how wretched a place it was. The poorest of all the islands, it was a forgotten, abandoned cesspit, where danger and death were never far from sight. The boy survived against the odds, stealing scraps from the dirt to fill his aching, empty belly. He shared what little he had with the other starving street children, trying to prevent as many as possible from fading before his eyes, though more often than not he failed.
One day as he lurked around the market, searching for some fallen crumb, the boy saw an old woman being beaten by a guard, for she had stolen a rotten firefruit from a stall. The boy ran to her and put himself between her and the seller’s fist. The guard did not care who endured the punishment and beat the boy black and blue. When it was over, the old woman wrapped the unconscious boy in her shawl and carried him to the dark alley where she lived.
When he came to, the old woman asked him why he had helped her and the boy explained that he was tired of seeing pain and suffering. He wanted more than anything to live in peace. He told her of his dreams, that one day this island would no longer be forgotten, but celebrated. Not the lowest, but the highest. That the instead of mud and filth, there would be flowers and trees. Instead of dead bodies piled before mass graves, there would be herds of wild animals roaming as far as the eye could see. That the island would provide for all that lived there, not just those who trampled others to raise themselves. That it would be the jewel of the west.
She noticed how he coughed between words, how his skin was pale beneath the dirt, how his cheeks had hollowed. And even before the cough brought forth blood, she knew the plague would claim him, that his little life would end before it had truly begun.
She thought of her own life, of her long, tortured quest for vengeance against those who had been responsible for the death of her own son. She blamed the rich who lived in the walled city beyond the slums, for hoarding their wealth and bounty beyond the reach of those desperately in need. She had devoted years to learning the magic she required, sought the aid of mages as she travelled until finally she was prepared. One rotten firefruit was all she needed to fulfil her plan. Enchant it with her vengeful magic, to curse them, punish them, kill them. Once thrown into their midst, the evil encased within would spread and devour them all, their deaths as pain and slow as the one her son suffered.
It would not bring him back. It would not save the boy dying before her now. It would not save her. And at last she understood the path she should choose. Taking the firefruit she held the image of the isle the boy had described and willed it with all the magic she possessed. Holding the picture tight in her mind, she crushed the firefruit into the earth, its seeds now carrying the magic down into the island’s core. It took everything from her, including her life, and the woman and boy died together in the alley. But she had done enough, her magic channelling through the land, until the ocean rose and tidal waves crashed over, washing away the evil it had known. When the sea retreated, where once was dirt, green shoots burst forth. Where once were slums, woodlands emerged. And animals of every kind came to graze upon the land. Soon the island was the most beautiful of all, lush and vibrant, prosperous and fair. And deep within, the spirit of the young boy lived on, bound by the old woman’s magic, so that no matter what happened, there would always be hope for the island and its people.
WOW! What a powerful origin story for the Jewel of the West! Thank you so much Bex for this amazing insight into the world of Marianne and the Isles of Storm and Sorrow and for letting me help celebrate Venom’s launch into the world.
Make sure you check out all the other stops on the tour for further creation stories of the islands and insights!
Venom by Bex Hogan (Book Two of Isles of Storm and Sorrow) is published by Orion.
Thank you so much to Becci Mansell and Emily Thomas at Hachette Childrens Group for my copy and inviting me on the Blog Tour.