In 2019, Martineau began an epic trilogy in a world of mythical beasts, dark magic, assassins, and oaths. It was impressive as a fantasy romance series whose first instalment was even praised by the New York Times as “lush and sweeping”. Now four years later and after an end to the trilogy, the author who has been vocal about bi erasure and self-discovery is bringing a queer epic fantasy set in the same world and with the previous books’ side characters as the focus. Needless to say, it’s a pleasure to have Maxym M. Martineau, author of Shadows of the Lost, elaborate on the the series, its fantastical and romantic elements, and the beasts that make up its exciting world. To view more such posts by SFF authors, make sure to check out this collaboration, Spring for SFF, spanning over April 2023. This blog post may contain affiliate links. To know more about them, please read my disclaimer.
Q/A with Maxym M. Martineau on creating a world of magical beasts, writing a fantasy romance filled with angst and heartache, and telling a story of queer characters.
Starting with the introductions, would you like to help our readers know more about your debut novel, yourself and the weather where you are?
Of course! Hi, I’m Maxym, and I like long, moonlit walks by beach… Just kidding. (Though I do like beaches!) I’m the fantasy author of the Beast Charmer Series—Kingdom of Exiles, The Frozen Prince, and The Shattered Crown—and the Guild of Night Series, which is a spin-off featuring the secondary characters from the Beast Charmer series. Book one, Shadows of the Lost, comes out this June! Basically, the Beast Charmer world is like an adult dark Pokémon meets Assassin’s Creed with Final Fantasy elements and a dash of romance. (Maybe more than a dash!)
I love all things fantasy and kissing, so yeah. Lots of that. And I’m a gamer, so lots of influence comes from there, too! And as far as the weather goes? Um. Hot. Lol. Always hot.
After a stunning trilogy unravels in the land of Lendria, Shadows of the Lost is all set to bring back three characters, demons of their past, and old secrets of the assassins guild. How close yet far is this spin-off from the Beast Chamber series?
It’s super close! In fact, the events of Shadows of the Lost occur shortly after those in The Shattered Crown, so there’s not much of a time gap between the storylines, either. While you can pick up Shadows without having read any of the books from the Beast Charmer series, there is a lot of character development and world building that goes into those three books that help enrich the background for Shadows. And, while the plot largely focuses on the secondary characters (now the main characters, I guess!), we still get cameos from the main characters (Noc and Leena) of the previous books. If you’re new to the world of Lendria and want to start with Shadows, totally doable. If you’re game for a deeper dive, read the Beast Charmer series first!
A once-Charmer is now an immortal assassin, darker and dangerous, after the leader of assassins (and his lover) chooses to raise him after his demise. Desperation evidently plays a part in this event, and that makes one wonder: is anguish an inevitable driving force of the fantasy romance sphere? Or would you say something else is?
What a great question. Anguish most definitely plays a role in Kost (undead assassin leader) and Gaige’s (undead beast charmer) relationship. They have a whole lifetime (and then some, since they’re undead, haha) of baggage and hurt, and that plays a major role in not only how they interact with each other, but the world around them. The heartache they feel is unique to their situation, and without revealing too much, largely steeped in the concept of overcoming past trauma (Kost) and learning how to be comfortable with your whole self (Gaige).
I would have to say, the amount of anguish present in Shadows is much higher than any of my other books. So to directly answer your question, I’m not sure. Ha. I think anguish isn’t necessarily inevitable in fantasy romance, but certainly some degree of strife. There is always something major that directly opposes the MC’s desires, and often times I feel like opposition of the MC’s internal conflicts are the strongest. Think: emotional challenges and subsequent growth. External conflicts are great for moving the plot forward, but the true driving force, at least for me, will always be internal character growth (and I am a mean author, so yeah, probably a lot of heartbreak for my characters, haha).
The world building is intense in the Beast Chamber series and by extension, in Shadows of the Lost. The magical beasts are impressive in not just details but in numbers too —no wonder a bestiary appendix was included in Kingdom of Exiles. How were these beasts born for you?
Thank you! I’ve always, always, loved animals, so creating a world full of mythical creatures was such a fun exercise. I originally went to school for Animal Behavior with the dream of studying large cats (it’s any wonder the legendary felines were, well, felines), so I do pull small bits and pieces of inspiration from the animals in our own world. And then I just let my imagination run absolutely wild. I grew up playing Pokémon (and still do on occasion), so there’s a bit of that influence there, too.
I also just wanted to make sure there was some sort of checks-and-balance in terms of power and ability when it came to the beasts. Coming up with the taming processes were sometimes tricky, though. A lot of them you don’t even see in the story, but I wanted the bestiary to be a fully fleshed out thing. Honestly, there were moments where writing the bestiary was harder than writing the story itself!
Shakdows of the Lost by Maxym M. Martineau
An LGBTQIA+ epic romantic fantasy for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Scarlett St. Clair.
Gaige is a Charmer, able to form lasting bonds with the magical beasts of his world. At least, he used to be a Charmer…until he died and was brought back something darker.
He knows he shouldn’t blame Kost for raising him from death, but he’s not sure he can ever forgive him. Yet when Gaige is lost to the shadow realm, Kost is the only one with any chance of bringing him back: if they can learn to trust (and perhaps love) each other again.
Buy now: Amazon US | Bookshop UK
Fantasy romance as a sub-genre is on the rise and Shadows of the Lost seems to be bringing the right amount of heat and angst for hungry readers. As an author, what comes to you first: the fantastical elements or the love story?
For me, these two things go hand-in-hand. I’ve never been able to write a contemporary romance, for example. I get like two-thirds of the way through, and then I’m suddenly bored because there’s no magic. Ha. But, at the same time, all of my books are character driven. In fact, Kingdom of Exiles and the whole Beast Charmer world was born because I had an incredibly vivid dream where I simply sat and listened to Noc tell me his (love) story.
There’s always magic, because I want to live in a world where that kind of stuff is real, but I would say the relationships themselves always come to me first, before I even start drafting. In the case of Shadows, I had a bit of a leg-up on the romance aspect because of the relationship building that happened throughout the Beast Charmer series, but I knew it was still going to be a hard road for Kost and Gaige.
Since this tale of once-lovers tests the pain of a growing disquiet, it seems important to ask what matters the most in creating an angst-y romance. Is it the suffocation of not sharing everything anymore, the strict boundaries of physical touch, or the subtle reactions that brought back memories?
I think it largely depends on the characters, but any and all of these ring true. Angst can come in many fashions, and for Kost and Gaige, it was important for me to consider their own unique histories and perspectives to understand what would trigger that angst most. For Kost, it’s the idea of burying his past because he doesn’t want to live with that pain, and he defaults to pretending that it simply doesn’t exist anymore.
Without being too spoiler-y, I mean the guy willingly puts himself in a position to fall for someone who he knows can’t love him back, because that’s easier than actually loving someone fully (read the Beast Charmer series to understand this tidbit, heh). And that’s all before he even meets Gaige. And then just as Gaige starts to soften Kost’s defenses, Gaige’s life gets upturned and he feels the ultimate sense of betrayal—at Kost’s hand. Gaige doesn’t know who he is anymore, struggles with the idea of trust, and the memories of what he and Kost almost had—as well as what he lost as an individual when he died—only fuel his angst.
Shadows of the Lost unravels a queer romance in a high fantasy setting. Do you think LGBT+ characters in fantastical worlds are finally being given more space to tell their own stories? Any recommendations are welcomed!
Oh, I certainly hope so! For me, it was EXTREMELY important to create a world where being a member of the LGBTQ+ community isn’t questioned, it just is. You can be who you are, love who you want, and simply exist without people attacking you. This has always been my stance and is something that I find incredibly important, and I’m actually in the process of finalizing a pre-order campaign where a portion of the proceeds for Shadows of the Lost will be donated to The Trevor Project.
Currently, if you pre-order a book from my local bookstore, The Poison Pen, not only will you get a signed copy, but they will donate $2 for each copy of Shadows of the Lost ordered through or purchased at the Poisoned Pen up through the first 100 copies. I will also be donating based off a portion of my pre-orders, and that information will be announced shortly once I’ve finalized some details with my publisher.
As for recommendations, holy cow yes! In the adult space (with heavy, HEAVY spice) basically anything by Katee Robert. One of my favorite YA fantasies that features a bi female MC is Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust. All around an absolute fantastic read. And of course, who can resist Jesper and Wylan in Six of Crows? Not a romance, per se, but still a great YA fantasy with relationship building to keep us romance lovers happy. Reverie by Ryan La Sala has some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever seen. There are others I know I’m forgetting, but those come to mind immediately!
With the release so near, how excited are you to share Shadows of the Lost (June 2023) with the world? What do you hope readers take away from this story?
I can honestly say that Shadows of the Lost was one of the hardest books I’ve ever written, which I was not expecting since I had a whole three books to develop a backstory for these characters. But the amount of angst and the challenges they faced not only externally but within themselves… It was such a journey to go on that emotional ride with Kost and Gaige, and when I finally got to the end, it was such a bliss moment for me. I’m so, so excited for readers to experience that same thing, and I hope Gaige and Kost live in their hearts rent free forever.
As far as takeaways go, I hope readers just get to enjoy themselves. At the end of the day, these stories are for them. If you can escape the real world for a few hours and enjoy yourself alongside Kost and Gaige, then I’ve succeeded.
This was a great chat! But before letting you go, would you like to share what you’re currently working on? Or maybe something you enjoyed reading recently?
Thank you so much for having me! I’m currently working on book two in the Guild of Night series, which is a direct continuation of the events in Shadows but featuring two different characters as the primary perspectives (hint: Calem is one of them). You’ll find all the same cast as they continue on their journey, as well as get a deeper dive into these two characters heads and their own developing love story.
As far as a recent read, I’m actually way behind on that because I tend not to read when I draft (and right now, I feel like I’m always drafting!). But some of my favorite recent reads were the Folk of Air books by Holly Black. There can never be enough Cardan.
Maxym M. Martineau
Maxym M. Martineau is an associate creative director by day and a fantasy author by night. When she’s not getting heated over broken hearts, she enjoys playing video games, binge-watching television shows, competing in just about any sport, and of course, reading. Following her passion, Maxym earned her bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. She is represented by Cate Hart of Harvey Klinger Literary Agency. Her first three books, Kingdom of Exiles, The Frozen Prince, and The Shattered Crown are out now. You can find her at maxymmartineau.com or on Instagram @maxymmckay
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Everything stated in this post is independent of any compensation, and the author’s answers and thoughts are solely their opinion; the formatting was done by the blogger but no changes were made in text.