Jane Routley and “Mage Heart”

Kitten Avignon

Fantasy Vogue interviews one of the main characters in Jane Routley’s Mage Heart.

It’s just past midday in a quiet quarter of Gallia and I’m sitting in a comfortable green velvet and gilt armchair in a pale green salon. Across from me sits a very beautiful woman in a gown with a tight high-necked bodice that rises from huge swirling skirts of aqua green silk.  Her collar and neck are trimmed with just a hint of extremely expensive Morian lace, but other than the huge diamond ring on her finger, she is dressed with surprising plainness.

The fascinating Kitten Avignon, actress, courtesan, painter’s muse, fashion icon and paramour of Gallian ruler Duke Leon Saar, rarely grants interviews but today she’s made an exception for Fantasy Vogue.

Vogue – There are so many rumours of your early life, Madame Avignon. Everyone knows you come from the great Western Empire of Aramaya. Most people say you were born on the streets of Akieva, yet there are persistent rumours that you are somehow related to the Aramayan Ambassador, Prince Deserov.

Madame A – I have heard those rumours.  I doubt the Prince would thank you for spreading them.  I am a person of quite humble birth, although not a street urchin.

Vogue – How humble?

Madame A – Twinkling smile.  Humble enough to want to keep it to myself, darling. I was forced to go into the theatre at quite a young age to keep the wolf from the door.

Vogue – So why was it that the Ambassador’s wife Princess Deserov fainted when she first saw you?

Madame A – Laughter  Mere coincidence. The poor lady was simply taken ill.

Madame A is an expert fencer and not just with words.

Vogue – Rumour also has it that you are an accomplished swordswoman.

Madame A – I could not say as to my abilities, but I do follow the discipline. A wonderful way to stay fit. I was very well taught by a Soprian Assassin. They have a special technique of swordplay for women and children, a way of keeping those they love safe.

Vogue – So your teacher was an “admirer” then?

Madame A More laughter  Now would be telling wouldn’t it? And I never kiss and tell. But many gentlemen have been very kind to me. The theatre has always been my first love, but if gentlemen are kind enough to give one gifts and take one to supper, why it would be churlish to decline them, wouldn’t it?

Although many call Madame Avignon a courtesan, and far worse names, she did indeed first come to popular attention in lead roles in plays such as The Countess of Faro and To Have and To Hold.  But since she has become involved with the Duke of Gallia she has retired from the theatre.

Does she miss it?

Madame A – A little at first, but my life has become very busy of late organising my Green Salon afternoon soirees, where clever and entertaining people are able to meet the Duke, and fund raising for the women’s charity hospital at St Belkis.

When first Vogue learned of the project we were startled that a great fashionista like Madame Avignon, a lady with the ear of the Duke, should bother herself with the poor.

Madame A -Back in Aramaya the great families always took an interest in the poor and the work of the Church. It was a way of showing their piety. Being from a very humble background as I am, I have a great deal to thank nuns for.

Style icon all the way, many of the great families of Gallia have begun to take an interest in the charitable activities of St Belkis nunnery. Perhaps they are encouraged by the way the common people cheer Kitten Avignon when she rides through the streets.  Perhaps they just want to curry favour with the Duke.

The women of the great families also copy Madame A rich unfussy elegance and far less flashy jewelery is now worn in Gallia since her ascendency.

Vogue – So Madame Avignon, the important question. Shoes or bags?  Which do you dote on more?

Madame A – Oh darling they’re both lovely but for me it’s always hats.  The bigger and more befeathered the better.  A theatrical person like me likes to make a little splash when she enters a room and nothing says glamorous like a really marvelous hat.

But rumour has it that her world is not all wonderful clothes and lovely parties. There are whispers that the lovely Kitten is in danger and that the Duke has insisted that she take on a magical bodyguard, Mademoiselle Dion, a plain quiet little thing, whom I glimpsed in the hallway when I cam in.

Madame A – Oh Mademoiselle Dion, yes she’s a sweet young creature and yet such a powerful mage.  Truly I think she may be one of the greatest mages on the peninsula.  Yet she was moldering away at the College of Mages because Gallians cannot believe a woman can be a powerful mage and they can find no proper position for her. Such a waste. I expressed my concern to the Duke and he agreed with me. He decided to place her with me, since I live so quietly now. She is learning the ways of society and in a while we shall see if we can find her a position really worthy of her talents, even if it is back in Aramaya.

Something in this story does not ring true. Hard to believe that a position in Kitten Avignon’s household would recommend Mademoiselle Dion to any respectable family. 

Vogue – Some say that you are in magical danger from a necromancer you offended back in Aramaya.  They say that’s why you came to Gallia in the first place.

She’s still smiling but I sense I’ve hit a nerve.  The laughter has gone out of her eyes.

Madame A – Oh they say, they say. The things they say. I mean they say I have breasts like watermelons. I mean, do these (She gestures at her chest) look like watermelons to you. Watermelons, I ask you. How uncomfortable would that be?  Now I fear you must excuse me.  Duke Leon is expecting me at the Palace soon and I must get ready. Thank you so much for a lovely interview.

She rings a little bell and a neatly dressed maid comes to lead me to the door. 

It is only as I am stepping down the graceful front steps that I realise that amidst all the humour over watermelons, she has not actually denied the rumours of a necromancer.   

About Mage Heart

Ticonderoga Publications and Clan Destine Press are very happy to announce the re-release of Jane Routley’s Chronicles of Dion trilogy.

mageheartFirst published between 1996 and 1999,  Ticonderoga and Clan Destine Press have brought these books back into print in 2011 as quality trade paperbacks and ebooks.

The trilogy comprises Mage Heart, Fire Angels and Aramaya. Fire Angels and Aramaya won the Aurealis Awards for Best Fantasy Novel in 1998 and 1999 respectively.

The Chronicles of Dion tell the story of Dion Holyhands. Provincial and naive—and the most powerful mage in the realm—young Dion is an innocent adrift in a world of intrigues and treacheries; a world where foul, hungry demons lurk just beyond the borders.

In Mage Heart, she has been called upon to serve her Duke’s favourite mistress: the extraordinary Kitten Avignon, Our Lady of Roses. The mesmerizing courtesan is a woman in dire jeopardy, stalked by a fearsome necromancer, who will not sleep until his beautiful prey suffers horribly and is destroyed.

And with Evil’s night approaching, shielding the Lady and herself from harm will require every ounce of a power Dion is only beginning to recognize and fear; a great gift suddenly imperiled by blossoming womanhood and dangerous desire.

Publishers Weekly: One of the genres bright new stars… Routley produces a fantasy that can be read for more than myth or pyrotechnics… While many fantasists simply add magic to political intrigue, Routley’s are noteworthy for the natural and inevitable intertwining of the two.  Well drawn backgrounds and characters add to the appeal.”

Ticonderoga Editor Russell B Farr: Jane Routley’s trilogy make for gripping reading, full of wonder, intrigue, romance and magic. I picked up Mage Heart and didn’t come up for air until I’d finished Fire Angels—we were visiting friends at the time and I wasn’t a very sociable guest, but I was very happy.

Print edition from Ticonderoga Publications through Indie Books Online

Ebook edition :

About the Author

CD46Jane was born in Melbourne, Australia, went to Preshil, Strathcona, and Monash University where she studied history, and RMIT where she became a Librarian.

Jane has had a variety of careers, including Fruit Picker and Occult Librarian and she lived in Germany and Denmark for a decade.

Now back in her beloved Melbourne, working on the railways and living in a garden full of birds, Jane is the author of four books: Mage Heart, Fire Angels and Aramaya—as Jane Routley; and The Three Sisters as Rebecca Locksley.

Clan Destine Press is releasing Mage Heart, Fire Angels and Aramaya as the eBook trilogy: The Dion Chronicles.

Fire Angels and Aramaya won the 1998 and 1999 Aurealis Awards for Best Fantasy novels.

Her short stories have been widely anthologised, appeared in Meanjin and have been read on the ABC.

Jane also writes under the pseudonym SoftSenta for the Church of the Immaculate Confection chocolate site.

Her favorite writers are Jane Austen, Angela Carter, Sara Douglass, and Janet Evanovich and Jane’s current life ambition is to see an erupting volcano. (Everyone at Clan Destine fervently hopes she means from a safe distance!)