Unpacking Fateful Fantasy: Heart of Mist by Helen Scheuerer
Our first box, Fateful Fantasy, is out in the world! It found its way to many doorsteps the past fortnight, and we’re so stoked to see the gorgeous photos and this beautiful unboxing video by the lovely Kyra Thomsen on our social media. The response has been amazing and we can’t thank our supporters enough for the lovely reviews!
So now we’ve officially announced the contents we FINALLY get to gush about the amazing Australian creators who contributed to Fateful Fantasy. We have been bursting at the seams to talk about this amazing book and the gorgeous handmade treats that were featured!
First things first, our featured book:
Heart of Mist by Helen Scheuerer
How do we love thee? Let us count the ways.
As a fantasy fan for most of my life, I was really looking forward to reading Heart of Mist, and once I got my hands on in, I read it in two days. Can’t resist a nice big fantasy you can really sink your teeth into. Since we were on the hunt for a book that we wanted to curate a box from, we were keeping an eye out for themes, items and ideas that we felt were worth sharing. Here’s a quick run down of the thing that really stood out to me- the flawed but fascinating heroine, Bleak:
With lots of hints at further depths to be revealed, you can take none of the characters at face value to begin with. Scheuerer is always revealing little snippets of the past and secret motives for the characters. None of the characters, including the protagonist, Bleak, are perfectly moral, or without flaws. In all honesty it takes a little while to like them. I found this refreshing and brave.
It’s very rare for authors to take the chance on creating a main character with seemingly little to redeem them- especially a female main character. You see unlikeable male protagonists far more frequently than female, and I love the fact that Bleak isn’t necessarily a “strong” female character because she certainly doesn’t have her shit together, but she is an interesting, complex, and multifaceted one.
I think at times female writers overcompensate a little against the weak-willed damsel in distress trope and feel the need to show female characters that are badass, independent to the point of aggressive, and overflowing with unique skills and neat tricks. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE these characters as much as the next person, but I also love to see the nuance of a female protagonist who never manages to say the right thing, has unhealthy coping mechanisms and relatable weaknesses that she succumbs to.
Representation is such an important topic at the moment, and I think people forget that we don’t only need examples of strong women that show us that we can overcome anything, we also need examples of women who sometimes can’t bring themselves to do or say the right thing, the strong thing. Examples of women making mistakes and moving forward sort of give us permission to have failings ourselves. It shows us that even if we don’t always stand tall as icons of moral and inner strength, we’ll survive it, and it’s okay to screw up. Because we’re human, and humans are imperfect creatures plagued by anger, resentment, and fear. Women are allowed to feel those things too. I love Bleak for that. She’s not perfect but she’s a survivor, and she doesn’t pretend otherwise.
I too have read fantasy all my life (re: harry potter obsessed blog posts) and love a good YA - the combination of both is just pure magic! I couldn’t wait to dive in and begin reading Heart of Mist (even if it took me a while to get my life together before I could).
I read it in a weekend in between shifts. I stayed up until 3am to finish it off! I couldn’t put it down! And I have SO MANY THEORIES. My favourite thing about finishing a book is being left speculating about characters, events and ‘what will happen next?’ but only if there’s more books coming to fill in these theories. (And yes, Helen has two more installments of this series lined up!).
So, what is the book about? I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED! The book is about Bleak, a troubled young woman who is hiding a secret behind alcohol. Her secret? The ability to read minds. Magic users are persecuted in this world as magic is illegal. Bleak finds herself kidnapped and thrown into a political game between two forces - the King, and Henri, Queen of these badass warrior woman found in the forest living within treetops and waterfalls. (Note, Mel’s beautiful artwork of this scenery in our Fateful Fantasy box). What unfolds is a tale of epic proportions. There are many characters, events and the ever looming mist closing in around our protagonist which pulls her, and the people around her, on a fateful and dangerous journey to find out the truth about herself and her powers.
EVERYTHING. Hahaha, but seriously!
The plot: it’s fast-moving, captivating and highly interesting. What is the cause of the mysterious mist? What does Bleak, or any of the other characters have to do with it? And it’s not just the mist, the characters themselves are revealing tiny snippets that lead to more questions, some which are answered now, and some create more questions.
The characters: dynamic, flawed, real. There isn’t a single character who isn’t given a great backstory. Throughout the novel Helen drops tiny bits of new information about the characters which morph the way you originally thought about them. They aren’t cut and dry, they are shrouded in deep pasts that have shaped them, and continue to shape them as the story goes on. I cannot wait to see where the story takes them and how they develop.
The themes: alcoholism, persecution of magic users, politics, LGBT, love, and many more are seeping through the pages. Helen has crafted a world which speaks (often without speaking) about these issues and is another voice adding to the growing number of authors and artists speaking out about, and seeking change, in our society around these issues.
The world: the world-building is fantastic! What makes it better is it is told through multiple points of view from characters all around the land. You get to see how the world is for a variety of people with wildly different ages, genders and backgrounds.
What’s less good?
Waiting for the next book!
Having many theories/thoughts but still being unable to share them with you because spoilers!
Sidenote: cannot wait for Bookcase Bookclub to go live. I seriously need to chat to everyone who has read this book! (If you’ve read the book but haven’t bought the box, you can join by signing up to our newsletter and receiving the password!)
I highly recommend this book for any fantasy lover, YA lover and anyone who enjoys world building, romance and troubled heroines! 10/10. But don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself! You can grab yourself a copy from Talem Press for a hardcopy version (Australian residents only) or from Amazon.
Working with Aussie Women
After we both finished the book, it didn't take us long to make the decision. We were so excited to work with Helen! As a graduate from the same university course we took, a few years ahead of us, her hard work and success has always inspired us.
Not only did we have a great time discussing box contents, it was also incredibly helpful for us to have such a generous mentor in the online marketing and publishing arena. Her work with the Writer’s Edit and as an independent author is incredible, and her belief in our vision and her excitement at each development we make has been so very encouraging and we will always be grateful, and so glad to have made our first box featuring her debut novel. We got to share a lot of exciting (and terrifying) firsts.
She was generous enough to allow us to print the first Heart of Mist prequel, Break, and include it in the box. We love this addition, and the other prequels, as they show us a little more about how Bleak lived before the events of the novel. They give us insight into what she valued, and how much she lost.
The Golden Yarn Co. - Charlotte Verral
We sent out a call of action on Facebook in a couple Aussie artist and creator pages, and we’re so glad that Charlotte quickly showed interest in the opportunity to work with us. She was wonderfully easy to collaborate with, creating varied samples so we could decide on the design we loved most to represent Bleak’s rope, an item of sentiment and significance, and that helped her maintain a level of stability despite the difficult events of her life. Charlotte’s style was perfect for the item, and we know she worked tirelessly, and even gave herself blisters creating every single key-ring attachment lovingly by hand.
Lather and Frisk - Cate Hart
We found Lather & Frisk, run by Cate Hart, on Etsy. Operating out of Canberra, she makes all of her delicious smelling products by hand. We were immediately drawn to her Cedar & Amber soap, as the colours were reminiscent of mist on the ocean, and scented with the smells of the forest, both standout scenes in Heart of Mist. Cate was so accommodating, trying different ingredients until the colour was just like we wanted, and getting the items to us very quickly. The soaps aired in Mel’s bedroom for a couple of weeks before being packed up into boxes and she adored how fresh her room smelled!
The other items were all drawn and painted in watercolour and ink by our own Creative Director, Melissa Coates. She had a lot of fun deciding which scenes and images she would create, and then bringing them to life.
The poster depicts the moment a small ship is engulfed by the toxic mist, as Bleak watches from the shore. It was fun to have the chance to make an eerie moment beautiful, and Mel loves painting the ocean and the night sky. The mist and the ship were new and tricky for her however, and she’s glad that they turned out alright.
The A5 print depicts an awe inspiring cliffside waterfall in the forest, which is Mel’s favourite setting in the book. She loves being up close to waterfalls and hearing the roaring water- and also the view of them from afar, which makes them look like gentle ribbons of water, when they are anything but. She also loves creating pine trees in watercolour, as their dark silhouettes are so evocative.
The A6 print is a representation of Bleak, in a rare moment of calm meditation, enveloped by misty tendrils. She chose to use a predominantly grey palette, as Bleak belongs to a world of grey stormy seas and misty forests.
The bookmark shows a tower, representing the castle her journey takes her towards. Mel found the tower a fun challenge, though painting so many tiny bricks tried her patience just a little.
We got them printed at Kaligraphic Print, our favourite local printer (and Mel’s 9-5) and were so pleased with how beautifully they all came out.
To check out more of Mel's work you can find her etsy store here at The Little Inkery
Putting this box together was such a rewarding and creative experience, and we’d like to take a moment to thank and appreciate all the people who helped us bring it to life! Thank you so much Helen, Charlotte, Cate, and Kaligraphic Print for all of the beautiful items, and the wonderful collaboration. Your creations and beautiful souls made the process of our very first box fun, and the outcome spectacular. It wouldn’t have been so special without you.