Guest Post + ARC Review | From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris

The moment I heard From Unseen Fire compared to Kushiel’s Dart, it immediately went on my must read list! I walked away from the book curious to see who inspired Cass Morris’ writing, and she was gracious enough to share that information with Books & Beauty Are My Bag. Luckily I found some new books to add to my to be read pile. I hope you find some, too!

* Guest Post *

There’s a lot of advice out there for writers, and most of it takes Your-Mileage-May-Vary to a whole new level. The one bit that I think is true no matter who you are, though? If you want to be a writer, you must be a reader.

And I have been, since I was tiny. I learned to read so young that I honestly don’t remember the process, and I’ve pretty much never gone anywhere in my life without something to read. These days it’s as likely to be a library-loaned e-book downloaded to my phone as a mass market paperback stuffed in my purse, but I’ve still always got something. And all of these millions and millions of words I’ve consumed in my lifetime have fed my writing.

Here are just a few of the authors whose words and styles have seeped into my brain over the years — and who most influenced my debut, From Unseen Fire!

Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

Put together, these two have likely informed more of my theological and thaumaturgical thought processes than any other force. The idea that belief creates power, particularly, is something that’s infused not just my writing but my own personal metaphysical considerations. From the Endless in Sandman to the Witches of Lancre in the Discworld series, Gaiman and Pratchett have both given me wonderful vehicles for thinking about magic, belief, and the world-behind-the-world. While my writing isn’t stylistically super-similar to either of theirs, I like to think I’ve cultivated a touch of the wry humor each has wielded to great effect.

Jacqueline Carey

I’ve been told not to use Kushiel’s Legacy as a comp title for From Unseen Fire, because the Aven Cycle doesn’t have the same erotic focus, nor is it written in first-person, but it was definitely a huge influence on my overall style as a writer. It’s the sort of thing I just eat up with a spoon: a complex pseudo-historical world, a massive cast, sprawling maps, and lush prose. I fell in love with these books back in college, and I revisit them occasionally just because of how much I enjoy spending time in them. I still remember the first time, though, opening up to that huge dramatis personae and that map that was recognizably Europe and yet not. Before I even started reading, I spent a few minutes just gazing at that map, imagining what stories might wander across it — and that’s a lot of how From Unseen Fire got started, too! I had the world before I had the plot, and there are still many stories left to pull out of it. But I also enjoy the unabashed luxury of Carey’s words: she is not sparing with her descriptions, and the effect is wonderfully indulgent. I’ve reached for a little of that as I place readers inside the world of Aven.

Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray, and Colleen McCullough

From Unseen Fire is not just epic fantasy — it’s historical fantasy, and history, whether nonfiction, straight historical fiction, historical romance, or historical fantasy, has formed a lot of my reading. These are the three authors that leap to mind the most when I think about who influenced my sense of telling historical stories. Kate Quinn and Stephanie Dray are magnificent at displaying history through the eyes of its women rather than the men whose names dominate the annals. Kate Quinn’s Roman series and Stephanie Dray’s books on Cleopatra Selene are some of my favorites, and I highly recommend them to anyone who’d like to spend some time with the women whose lives were inextricably twined with the famous dudes from the history books. Colleen McCullough, most famous for Thorn Birds, also wrote the Masters of Rome series chronicling the collapse of the Roman Republic. The research informing those books was beyond meticulous; she draws out every nuance, about-face, back-stabbing, and front-stabbing from Gaius Marius down to Mark Antony. The Masters of Rome books are dense, and I love them for it. (The maps in them are also the ones adorning my walls, which I use as reference when writing — I’ve scribbled my own adjustments on top, but many of the places are where they are on that map. Y’all have no idea how hard it is to find maps of pre-Imperial Rome!)

William Shakespeare

I am, in addition to writing SFF fiction, a Shakespeare scholar. I have a Master’s degree in it, and I spent seven years working at the American Shakespeare Center in Virginia, so his words are, at this point, so deeply ingrained that they’re just part of my reflexive pattern of thought. On a two-hour drive last week, I was listening to the audiobook of From Unseen Fire (it was helping me to think about Book Two), and I think I counted seven Shakespeare references in those two hours. Tiny ones — one or two words, most of them, or sometimes even not the words themselves, but a rhetorical flourish I borrowed. If you’re looking for easter eggs in From Unseen Fire, they’re, like, ultra-challenge mode. But they’re there. His rhetoric and his poetic sensibilities have indelibly stained my own verbal tendencies.

I could go on and on, and if you’d like to read some more books that were, in some fashion, behind From Unseen Fire, check out this suggested reading list on Goodreads! []

From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris * Aven Cycle #1
Publication Date * April 17th, 2018




Book Blurb:

The Dictator is dead; long live the Republic.

But whose Republic will it be? Senators, generals, and elemental mages vie for the power to shape the future of the city of Aven. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. Now that the Dictator who threatened her family is gone, she may have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the people — if only she can find the courage to try.

Her siblings—a widow who conceals a canny political mind in the guise of a frivolous socialite, a young prophetess learning to navigate a treacherous world, and a military tribune leading a dangerous expedition in the province of Iberia—will be her allies as she builds a place for herself in this new world, against the objections of their father, her husband, and the strictures of Aventan society.

Latona’s path intersects with that of Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious senator harboring a dangerous secret. Sacred law dictates that no mage may hold high office, but Sempronius, a Shadow mage who has kept his abilities a life-long secret, intends to do just that. As rebellion brews in the provinces, Sempronius must outwit the ruthless leader of the opposing Senate faction to claim the political and military power he needs to secure a glorious future for Aven and his own place in history.

As politics draw them together and romance blossoms between them, Latona and Sempronius will use wit, charm, and magic to shape Aven’s fate. But when their foes resort to brutal violence and foul sorcery, will their efforts be enough to save the Republic they love?

* Review *

I’ve been reading Young Adult Fantasy for a while, but for some reason, dipping my toes into an Adult full on Fantasy (as in not of the Urban Fantasy persuasion) has always intimidated me. With From Unseen Fire, I was drawn to it from the moment I saw the gorgeous cover. And once I read the blurb, I knew I had to read it. It certainly had my attention from the get-go with what Ocello did, and I loathed him as much as some of the citizens of Aven did. His death (not a spoiler – this is part of the blurb,) leads to a power struggle, and it’s not long before Latona is drawn into it. I really enjoyed the world building in this book. I found the descriptions from everything of the surroundings to the little things like clothing to be lush. But it was the sisters in this book that I really loved. I loved their devotion and the way they played off each other, especially between Latona and Aula and the way they were always teasingly upping the ante with each other. I liked Latona; she was candid with her thoughts, and I found her magic to be interesting as she struggled to master it. She was also fiercely loyal to her family, and from the first page, doing whatever she needed to do to keep them safe. I also found it interesting that early on, the person I expected would be a ‘villain’ was actually an ally and recognized Latona’s talents.

I really enjoyed From Unseen Fire and will be checking out the next in the series. If you like stories about strong women and doing what you know is right even when it doesn’t come easy, I think you will enjoy it, too!

* Rating *

* about the author *

Cass Morris lives and works in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with the companionship of two royal felines, Princess and Ptolemy. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart. Find out more about Cass Morris online at

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