MUST READ OF THE WEEK: THE QUEEN OF MONSTERS BY ARIA MOSSI
Get ready to step into a vivid and magical world of pleasures and peril like no other in the new sci-fi fantasy romance The Queen of Monsters by Aria Mossi, book two of The Tarrassian Saga. Reading like a fusion of Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Beauty and the Beast, you’ll soon fall head over heels in love with this unique novel.
By Gwyneth Rees
They say that love makes the world go round, but what about the wider universe?
Based on the new novel The Queen of Monsters, the answer is that passion is just as fundamental a force in a galaxy far, far away as it is on our planet.
The second and latest instalment of a five-part epic series entitled The Tarrassian Saga is a shining example in the growing genre of sci-fi fantasy romance and perhaps the first such entry from a British author.
While the science-fiction, high fantasy and romance blending genre, is popular in America, it has yet to establish itself on our shores.
The Queen of Monsters, however, will, no doubt, go a long way to changing that, being a spellbinding read that is vividly told, creatively dazzling, and sizzling hot.
Unlike most fantasy characters who embark on epic journeys of self-discovery, Natalia already knows who she is. Her journey is all about the beings which no one else can see. The ones who are even invisible to themselves.
It doesn't matter if they are aliens, monsters, mythical creatures or humans. Natalia can see behind their labels, their protective walls and behind their scars. This is her greatest gift.
This unforgettable heroine comes wrapped up in a hilarious, whinny, giggly, scheming, tiny package, confusing aliens, sphinxes and humans alike.
Natalia was born in a remote part of Siberia. Her older sisters, her mother and all the other women in her family were nothing but the property of a human trafficking gang. Natalia pretended the grown-ups were “Monsters” to survive her crude reality, and she had special invisibility powers. ‘Monsters cannot see me, and they cannot hear me’, becomes her mantra.
The fearless little girl taught herself to read and write, learned how to stay off the radar and brought her jailors down by the age of six. After her rescue, she was taken to Nevada, USA, as part of a witness protection program for victims of human trafficking.
By age 19, Natalia becomes a well-known commercial model, famous for her hair adverts and cute girl's next-door appeal.
Once again, fate seems determined to shred Natalia's life when alien slavers take her from Earth. Another alien race, called Tarrassians, rescue her, but as it turns out, the word ‘rescue’ means a different thing to aliens.
The Tarrassians are an elitist, snobbish species with a strong hero syndrome and outdated, rigid laws. In time, their narrow-minded way of life affected their fertility and took away their precious mating marks they call “The Sign”.
They are a dying species, and their Healing Elder's research proves the humans are the only compatible species. What is more, the Tarrassians soon find out the strange humans can bring back their lost mating marks.
This is why they rescued Natalia and the other humans she was taken with. She joins Sia, the protagonist of The Ice Queen—the first novel in The Tarrassian Saga—and the first to develop the Sign, in a poorly organised escape, only to find herself stranded on a hostile planet. One that looks like the perfect habitat for her worst nightmare: monsters.
Tannon, the alien protagonist, is the only half-blood Tarrassian. He is a tormented soul who can't adhere to his people's standards of perfection or their outdated laws. His family’s traumatic history, the shame of his birth, and his scarred monster-like appearance keep him running from anything familiar, but most of all, from himself.
To his people, he is the Great Warrior, a made-up title since he refused to take his rightful one. He is the male responsible for the empty sacred throne in the Council, the male who can single-handedly win a battle, the one who hardly ever talks and everyone fears.
In reality, nothing is as it seems. Not Tannon's past, not the story of his birth and especially not who he pretends to be.
He is content with living a life on the run from himself and the perfection of the Tarrassian society. That is until the confusing alien female turns his life upside down.
She is scared of everything, yet nothing stops her; she is fragile and breakable, yet she can tame Sphinxes; she never stops talking, laughing, or crying, and most times, she does it all at once.
Her emotions change in the blink of an eye, and her curious mind will leave no stone unturned, and no mystery unravelled. She is genuine, intensely alive, and those around her have no choice but to surrender to her light.
Together, they embark on a journey that will free Tarrassia of its outdated laws, give power to those who need it and rein in those who abuse it.
Natalia will soon find out when you run from your monsters; you will likely find your angels.
With sex a key part of the book, and the series as a whole, it must be stated that the author does not shy away from graphic, erotic scenes.
As such, those who enjoy adult romances but have previously considered sci-fi or fantasy to be for ‘nerds’ will be pleasantly surprised by what they find.
Here is a mild example of what’s in store:
“I move on to cleaning his broad chest, and I am happy it is dark. It feels strange and intimate to touch a man like this. Not even a man, a Monster… I think…It’s not easy to clean the vast expanse of muscle. His body hair or fur—not sure what it is—is a lot denser on his chest than on his upper arms and shoulders. It makes cleaning so much more difficult, as dried blood is caked up in it. Even though I am tired and my fingers feel like icicles, I keep rubbing the fur against his chest and lower to his abdomen….”
It should be said, though, that these scenes never seem gratuitous; rather, being integral to the story being told, for it is this unlikely romance that propels the narrative forward.
And, it must be said that Natalia and Tannon make for a great couple, learning and growing in each other’s company.
I found particularly touching how Tannon is in awe of her, wondering how a puny little human has been able to turn his entire life around.
To him, she is the very definition of perplexity. Afraid of everything yet dauntless; a confusing mess of emotions yet able to unravel deep mysteries; fragile yet powerful to bring those around her to will.
Indeed, this exploration and celebration of the human condition and the intense power of the human spirit, in contrast to alien rigidity (despite their physical prowess and technological wonders), is a key motif of the series thus far.
So, here we have a (literal) power couple whom we rapidly become as attached to as they are to each other, thanks to lively, sensuous writing and author Aria Mossi’s decision to relay the story in first person, from both Natalia’s and Tannon’s point of view.
This gives us readers a real sense of intimacy with the characters; we know what is happening in their heads and hearts, allowing us to empathise with them.
At times fast-paced, at others slower and lingering, the story explores the themes of emotional pain and trauma in a highly original way.
We sense, for instance, Natalia’s damaged soul, how lonely and cut-off she is, and how she is using physical intimacy as a method of finding true connection and certainty, even if with someone she initially considers a monster.
And Tannon, in turn, is healed by Natalia’s love, giving up his life on the run to reconnect with the people he had shunned.
The author’s sparkling prose, vivid descriptions, and fertile imaginings in describing the other-worldly environment are the icing on this delicious comfort cake.
Each novel can be read as a stand-alone work, so you do not necessarily need to know Sia’s back story, told in the first novel, The Ice Queen, published earlier this year, to appreciate The Queen of Monsters. However, for the best enjoyment and appreciation of the saga as a whole, this is recommended.
It must be said that if your tastes veer more towards writers such as Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke, then Mossi’s emotive, expressive and passionate take on the sci-fi genre will probably not be your cup of tea.
But if you like writing that pulsates and bristles with the electricity of a lover’s touch and where sentiment can conquer even the steeliest foe, then you’ll lap The Tarrassian Saga up.
Bold and clever, Aria Mossi is, without doubt, Britain’s best sci-fi fantasy romance author, taking relatable human issues and thrusting them into outer space.
In doing so, she has created a gripping and original alien universe to get lost in. This truly is thrilling, sizzling escapist fiction at its finest.
The Queen of Monsters: The Tarrassian Saga by Aria Mossi (Troubador Publishing) is out now on Amazon. in paperback, priced £9.99, and eBook priced at £3.99 The first book in the series, The Ice Queen: The Tarrassian Saga, is also out now. For more information, visit www.ariamossi.com. The next three books in the series, The Warrior Queen, The Protector King and The Queen of Light, are coming soon.
EXCLUSIVE Q&A INTERVIEW WITH ARIA MOSSI
We speak to author Aria Mossi about her latest book, The Queen of Monsters, The Tarrassian Saga, and about the growing genre of sci-fi fantasy romance, among other things.
Q. How would you sum up The Tarrassian Saga to a new reader?
A. The Tarrassian Saga follows the epic journey of five humans taken from Earth by alien slavers. In a world obsessed with ancient legends, myths and power, the most unassuming traits of humanity will come together to solve a puzzle that holds the answer to the survival of all sentient species in the universe.
The five humans have no special powers; they cannot self-heal; they have short life spans; their bodies are fragile, and their intelligence is lacking. They find themselves in a world where they are either seen as a primitive species or prey. Faced with inevitable destruction, the five humans do what humans do best: SURVIVE.
Q. What inspired you to become an author?
A. My most vivid childhood memories are all about stories. The ones my grandmothers used to tell me, the books I was devouring from a very young age, and the lives of the people around me. All those inspiring stories gave me strength and hope when I needed it most. I became an author hoping my own stories would do the same for others.
Q. You are quickly making your name as a leading author of sci-fi fantasy romance. Can you explain this genre and why you settled upon it?
A. The sci-fi fantasy romance genre was born out of necessity, more or less. A few American female writers passionate about sci-fi and fantasy got fed up with their manuscripts being rejected just because of their gender. As soon as they added romance to it, suddenly their manuscripts were suitable. Some may call it a compromise; I call it adapting. A wise choice if we think about it.
The most popular and best-selling genre of our time is romance—sci-fi and fantasy, my favourites, rate either number four or five, depending on the country. Mixing three hugely popular genres was a stroke of genius. I would say the American market is saturated with this genre at the moment, and its commercial viability has inevitably led to a lack of quality. It only makes it harder to establish yourself as a serious writer.
As for me, I settled on this genre for the same reason as the original female writers. I consider myself a sci-fi and fantasy writer. However, adding romance for commercial purposes wasn’t a struggle. Some of the greatest books of all time, including memoirs, feature a love story, regardless of their genre.
Each time I describe my choice of genre, I remember Stephenie Meyer, a passionate horror genre author, who labelled her first Twilight Saga book as “suspense romance horror comedy, but mainly romance”. One can almost hear the ironic ‘whatever’ in there! She knew a book in her favourite genre, with a female name on the cover, would not reach the shelves.
Q. Your novels present a vivid universe quite different from anything we’ve seen before. Where do you get your ideas from?
A. Our planet’s wonders inspire all my alien habitats, fauna and flora. It can be something growing in my garden or something I see on a drive through the beautiful British landscape. Online groups like The Cloud Appreciation Society, the Mushroom Society, or Britain’s Sacred Trees Alliance are a great source of inspiration. I promise they are not secret cults! Yes, there are such things, and I am a proud member.
Q. A celebration of the human spirit connects your novels. Why did you feel it was important to incorporate this theme?
A. It is more than a theme. Everything I write is inspired and dedicated to the human spirit. I love people, and I believe in humanity. What better way to point out how unique our species is than viewed from an alien perspective?
A. I think it’s the same secret as with any enjoyable writing:
* Write the kind of books you enjoy reading
* Research and know your readers
* Know your genre and follow its rules
* Humour can always save the day
(If you escape in your book while writing it, so will your readers)
Q. Your book features many alien species and concepts. Which is your personal favourite, and why?
A. I should probably say the Tarrassians since it is The Tarrassian Saga and all that. However, my wild imagination came up with his unique species in The Queen of Monsters. I fell in love with them! They are called ‘Rianni’, which means ‘night sky’ in Tarrassian. They are a small tribe, the last of their kind, saved from slavery by the Tarrassians. They are a non-verbal species, and no one knows where they came from or their real name. They were allowed to live on Tarrassia, and they are now the keepers of the sacred Oria birds. The Rianni’s quietness and shy personalities are most suitable for the skittish birds.
The Tarrassians nicknamed them ‘Rianni’ because their skin is as dark as the night sky, and they have golden spots all over their bodies, resembling the stars. It takes a human to notice that they use their spots to communicate.
They are my favourite species because they were inspired by my little boy, who is profoundly autistic and non-verbal. Just because he cannot talk, it doesn’t mean he cannot communicate. Those willing to make an effort can reach him behind his silence.
Q. What do you hope readers will gain most by reading your novels?
A. This is the beauty of three genres in one. There is something for everyone. Some will get lost in the fantasy and the fast-paced action, some will enjoy the dramatic alien habitats and exotic species, some will find the intense and unconventional love stories compelling, and most will feel empowered by my resilient humans. And last but not least, absolutely everyone will fall in love with my Sphinx. I hardly ever get a review or an email from my readers without a mention of his character.
Q. Writing seems to run in your family, as your daughter is also an author. Tell us more …
A. My daughter wrote her first book when she was only ten and became one of Britain’s youngest authors. She is an inspiring young lady who has just launched a nationwide campaign for Autism Anglia. She is donating 20% of her royalties to the charity that helps children like her little brother.
She had a very busy October, as many schools and libraries invited her to talk about her writing, charity campaign and celebrate Black History Month.
Q. So far, you have published the first two novels in The Tarrassian Saga. What can we expect in the next novel in the series?
A. The next novel in the series, The Warrior Queen, has already made its way to the publisher. I cannot disclose much but, once again, I wanted to challenge clichés and remind people that warriors come in many forms.
Also, as I mentioned before, as a writer, you must know your readers. I didn’t start The Tarrassian Saga with the young adult or the LGTBQ+ audiences in mind. However, they seem to be my most fervent fans, so I wrote The Warrior Queen for them.