Amena Jamali lives a life animated by the coolness of shrewd logic, the vibrancy of ambitious passion, and the exaltedness of deep morals and philosophy. Her lenses of choice for viewing the world are faith, gratitude, empathy, love, and clear-sighted rationale and strategy. She is many things: devout Muslim, dutiful daughter, patriotic American, thoughtful political activist in the making, blossoming cybersecurity professional, and—not least of all—a writer of epic fantasy.
That last, her epic fantasy writings, holds the essence of all of her hopes, ponderings, and dreams, the substance of her musings about philosophy, and the explorations of her ideas about politics. As her writing evidences, she cares deeply about the power of truth, respectful and reverent discourse, and the formation of a truly inclusive and empowering society that values free choice and the pursuit of virtue for all.
Because of what this story means to her, it is her wish that her books are found to be a source of hope and enlightenment. She prays that every reader falls in love with her characters, as she has, and that their story sets her readers free.
Before the rise of the Quest of Freedom, their mothers and their fathers witnessed the darkening of the skies…
Riqeta, Princess of Zahacim, is the most powerful warrior to stalk across eastern and southern Icilia. Both her skill and her honor in war are legendary, and her defection to her new husband’s nation is an upheaval of their world’s political balance. Yet beneath her fierce veneer is a woman unsure of how to love.
Naman, Prince of Koroma, is renowned for his compassion and good heart, and his wedding to Riqeta renders him a political force to behold. Yet there is one flaw to his happiness — he cannot be sure whether Riqeta loves him.
Not long after their wedding, the king gives Riqeta and Naman a mission of dire importance: resolve the growing insurgency in the south before it poses a true threat to the crown. Riqeta’s martial prowess and Naman’s benevolent voice surely can resolve anything. So they set out, thinking success will not be too difficult to achieve.
But the evil festering in the south is unlike anything they could ever imagine… Will they even be able to see it to survive it?
I exhaled a charming laugh even as my fingers twitched toward the hilt of my sword.
Fooled by the pleasantness of my expression, Count Flirien continued, “His Royal Highness’ lack of eloquence is a major concern, your Highness. I know spouses tend to believe only praise of each other — I certainly think my countess is the most brilliant woman imaginable — did you know she discovered a solution to the blights plaguing my village’s cornfields for two generations within a single year of our wedding? — but it is always wise to be prepared. His Royal Highness will not hold the rank for long. He is a poor choice, and I do not know how we will be able to follow him.” By the tone of his voice and the look on his face, he presumed my agreement to his slickly delivered words alongside the approval of all six nobles who stood with us.
Curling my lips into a sweet smile, I answered, “My husband is not fond of court, yes, but that does not matter, Count Flirien.”
He blinked. “No?”
I let a hint of the bloodlust for which my birth-family and -nation were so infamous emerge in the cast of my gaze. “I will be present at his back to ensure every fool knows his place.”
The nobles winced, unable to entirely control their expressions, while Count Flirien stared, pale skin blanching as horror mixed with the shock in his eyes.
I raised a brow.
He visibly swallowed and dipped a reverence, understanding what point I had made.
Retaining that ruthless expression, I inclined my head and walked away, easily ignoring the pressure of the nobles’ gazes. Instead, my eyes caught on the approving smile worn by my mother-by-marriage as she and her elder son dealt with another group.
Beneath the façade of my unshakable confidence, the little girl desperate for parental affection that I still was squealed with joy. Particularly since the memory of Queen Edana’s disapproval of me as her son’s consort remained all too vivid. She had only begrudgingly agreed to let me marry him when she realized my skill in sorcery and weapons-craft compensated well for my being of a different kind.
It was not kindist sentiment, not entirely at least. Because magic was matrilineal, the identity of a person’s mother determined what type of magic her children were likely to possess — whether wish or arms or no magic at all, and often the degree of strength as well. Queen Edana preferred her sons to marry from among the Mutharrim because such women were more likely to bequeath powerful wish magic to the next generation of Koroma’s heirs, like she herself had. That was why only the news of my own powerful magic, and less so my prowess in battle, had placated her.
And now, it seemed, my defense of her son, though hardly Koromic in its execution, added to my prestige in her eyes.
I would always defend him. Always. For what he had done for me, there was no recompense.
Shifting my stride into a walk reminiscent of a lioness’ prowl, I approached the next cluster of courtiers. Even as my mind dwelled, as it so often had these last months, on how blessed I was that he had chosen me.
My birth-nation held two reputations: the first, our war-craving nature, as seen in how we had incited half of all conflicts since the Quest of Light’s founding, and the second, the fierce sisterhood of our ruling family. The matriarchal Shehenzahak house treasured their daughters over jewels, wind, rain, harvests, and the crimson drops of their rivals’ blood. Even the daughters of the few sons born in the family were prized, like stars bestowed by the divine.
Or so was their renown. For, since my birth, that sisterhood had changed.
I have always loved writing, and, since I was ten years old, my story has been the story of Icilia. That story has comforted me through my difficulties, celebrated with me in my joys, and helped me be true to myself. I have also always wanted to be an author, but I put aside the dream in college. Yet, when the pandemic hit and I found my life lacked the direction it once had, this same dream gave me purpose until I found work and continues to give me hope in all parts of life.
I have two components: first, the initial outlining, which usually consists of themes, events and perspectives per chapter, and major plot-points. I also like to talk through my book before even beginning to write. The same process is repeated for each chapter – outlining and talking through. Additionally, I play a list of music that helps me feel attuned to the character whose perspective I am writing. I write at odd times, often at night, and in long bursts. I am also a slow writer because I edit as I go and try to make sure my first draft is really, really polished – it works for me!
I watch crime shows and read a lot! Lots and lots of reading!
I eat some ice cream or chocolate, and I might also bake a pie or apple crisp. I also watch a favorite movie, like Lord of the Rings, read a good book, and tell all my best friends!
Same as when I finish writing a book – I also usually end up starting the next one!
The Lord of Freedom began as a daydream about a powerful girl and a mountain where shiny snow grew on trees. Over the years, that little seed blossomed into a whole world and expanded to include discussions on faith, politics, leadership, feminism, and, of course, the meaning of freedom.
There are some elements I draw from my parents, my friends, and my own personality. But most of the inspiration comes from the history of my background culture in the Middle-East, Africa, and India.
I find switching from one character’s voice to another is especially difficult.
I enjoyed writing the duel and the epilogue! Read it to find out!
Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Eragon, Plato’s Republic, Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War – for all of my books. For this one specifically, I was also thinking about bits and pieces of the various fairytale retellings I have read over the years.
The duel in Chapter 8! Also the Epilogue! Hahaha!
I would love to meet Riqeta, and I would love to tell her how inspiring she is as a woman!