- The Kiesha'ra Series
The Kiesha'ra Series is a set of five fantasy novels written by the young adult author, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, which focus on several races of shapeshifters, including the avians (bird people), the serpiente (snake people), and the shm'Ahnmik (falcon people).
The series title, which is in a language from the series called ha'Shmla, translates as "Children of Kiesha." Kiesha is the first cobra serpiente, from whom the royal line of the Cobriana descends.
Narrated by Danica Shardae, heir to the Tuuli Thea. Danica Shardae is an avian shapeshifter, and the golden hawk's form in which she takes to the sky is as natural to her as the human one that graces her on land. The only thing more familiar to her is war: It has raged between her people and the serpiente for so long, no one can remember how the fighting began. All they know is hatred, fear, and endless years of bloodshed. And Danica is tired of it. As heir to the avian throne she'll do anything in her power to stop this war-even accept Zane Cobriana, the terrifying leader of her kind's greatest enemy, as her pair bond and make the two royal families one. Now Danica must convince her people that Zane is just as committed to peace as she is-though she can't help fearing that, despite his word, he will strike as swiftly and lethally as the cobra that is his second form. Among the serpient, she'll have to pretend to be in love, though when they're alone, her reserve threatens to keep her and Zane worlds apart. And in their midst are dissenters who will do whatever it takes to destroy this union. Trust. It is all Zane ask of Danica-and all they ask of their people-but it may be more than she can give.
The book is narrated by Zane Cobriana, Diente and alastair to the Tuuli Thea. Zane and Danica's new peace is interrupted by the arrival of one of the original falcons, Syfka, who has come to flush out a falcon runaway and bring him back home. As the couple learn they are with child they begin to feel the pressure of each side of the court on the best way to raise their future heir. The title refers to a dancer's charm nickname, which usually is pressed into a coin and worn about a dancer's neck for safe-passage.
Narrated by Nicias Silvermead, Wyvern of Honor, and Heir to the Falcon Throne. Nicias is a peregrine falcon born and raised in Wyvern's Court. When his falcon magic awakens, he travels to the falcon island of Ahnmik to learn to control his power. His trip to Ahnmik uncovers a falcon plot to overthrow the Empress Cjarsa as well as an as-of-then-unknown Cobriana heir. Half-gyrfalcon, half-Cobriana, Hai is the daughter of Zane's older brother Anjay. She is also slightly insane because of her falcon magic, which hurts mixed-bloods. The title refers to a falcon's sky dance, where the falcons grow wings on their back and perform acrobatic flights around narrow archways and weave spells.
Narrated by Oliza Shardae Cobriana, heir to the Tuuli Thea and Arami of the serpiente. While Wyvern's Court is still trapped in turmoil. Oliza is kidnapped by mercenaries who take her far from home. Her journey back will help her decide which path to walk that will see Wyvern's Court still standing in the future.
Narrated by em'Ecl'la'Hai, mongrel falcon, child of Anjay Cobriana and shm'Ahnmik'la'Darien. The book begins only moments after the end of Wolfcry.When Oliza abdicates the throne of Wyverns Court all Hai sees in her sakkri'a'she('vision of the future' in the ancient language) is fire and destruction of Wyvern's Court. In this final book, Hai has to fight to preserve peace and protect people of Wyvern's Court.
The three lines of shapeshifters are either direct or indirect descendants of the Dasi, an ancient Egyptian cult. The Dasi worshipped the dual powers of Ahnmik and Anhamirak. Ahnmik is the god of control, power, manipulation, cold, sleep, silence, and peace. His gifts to the world included bondage and mastery. He is still worshipped by the falcons. Anhamirak is the goddess of fire, love, life, beauty, passion, chaos, and destruction but above all, freedom. She is worshipped by the serpiente. The head of the Dasi was Maeve, and it was her task to maintain balance between the two sides. The high priestess of Anhamirak was Kiesha, opposite her was Cjarsa the high priestess of Ahnmik. The lesser priests and priestesses of the Dasi were known as the Rsh, they spoke to the people whereas the thirteen Dasi leaders spoke to the gods.
One day a creature named Leben approached Maeve and asked her to worship him. She knew that doing so would destroy the balance but she was afraid to refuse as Leben was very powerful. So she seduced him and he gave her the second form of a white viper. She also begged him grant her people of the Dasi second forms. Kiesha and her followers were given forms of snakes while falcon forms were given to Cjarsa and the other worshippers of Ahnmik. Eventually Anhamirak's followers drove the falcons out thus the balance was destroyed. Eventually a rift between Maeve and the other serpents developed, and she was driven out for practicing black magic. The reasons for this are discussed more closely in Wolfcry.
Kiesha rose to power of the new serpiente people and Maeve was taken in by the Rsh. Kiesha's son, Diente, became the first of the royal Cobriana line and the serpent title for king comes from his name. Maeve also had children who survived as the Obsidian Guild. The four original falcons are all still alive though their situation is slightly changed in Falcondance. They inhabit an island that shares its name with their god and which they rarely leave.
It is revealed throughout the books that the Falcons began the war between the serpiente and the avians. After Maeve left, Kiesha's power became too great, and it was said that she could kill just by looking at another, and her dance, which once brought rains to fertilize the crops, would instead cause floods and kill hundreds of people. The falcons then decided that to protect their people her magic must be split. So they found a small girl named Alasdair and gave her the form of a hawk. Then they split Kiesha's power and gave half of it to Alasdair. They then raised Alasdair to be the ruler of the avians. Later on, she was introduced to a serpiente, and through falcon magic, the serpiented murdered Alasdair. The hawk's people were so distraught that they began the centuries-long war between the two species. All this was put in place so that the magic of the two people could not be united, and again bring about unimagineable destruction akin to that of Kiesha in the days of the Dasi.
Avians possess extremely efficient respiratory systems, with body temperatures much higher than those of ordinary humans. Most have either dark hair and eyes, and possess the second form of ravens, crows, and sparrows. The exception is the royal family, which take the forms of hawks. Their human forms have golden hair and eyes. All Avians are capable of assuming a Demi form where they retain human shape while sprouting their Avian wings.
The monarchy is descended through the maternal line, or through the Queen, who is known as the "Tuuli Thea". Customarily the reign of the Tuuli Thea ends when her eldest daughter becomes pregnant, thus ensuring continuation of the line. The Tuuli Thea's consort does not receive a title; all avian husbands are referred to as "Alistair" (meaning "protector"). Although the Avian society is matriarchal, men are expected to protect and honor their female counterparts. Couples are irrevocably promised to each other as children; the male, or Alistair, is a constant protective presence in his betrothed's life.
As seen in the traditional betrothal system, Avian culture is quite conservative. Everything is dictated by tradition, with an emphasis on respect to one's elders. Socially, Avians severely repress their emotions, neither laughing nor crying publicly. This control is dubbed "avian reserve", a term coined by other shapeshifter tribes. Couples grow to be close, but refrain from sexual activity until formally wed. Avians cherish music, art, and storytelling.
The Avians and Serpiente have warred for thousands of years. At the start of the series in Hawksong, the royal families of both sides have been nearly decimated while their respective societies and cultures slip further and further into decay.
The serpiente could not be more different from the avians. They wear their emotions openly, even in some situations where a little control might be appropriate, and are much more free-thinking than the avians. Pretty much anything is allowed in serpiente society as long as it doesn't harm anyone. As worshippers of Anhamirak, the serpiente value free choice above virtually everything else. Ordinary serpiente who follow the Cobriana line consist of emerald boas, pythons, vipers, black rats, red rats, taipans, and mambas. Though the white vipers are also serpiente, they are descendants of Maeve, the high priestess who originally stood above Kiesha, and they refuse to acknowledge a cobra as their ruler. The royal line of the serpiente are the Cobriana, cobra shapeshifters and the descendants of Kiesha. The ruler is called the Diente and their husband or wife (referred to as "mate" in serpiente society) is called Nag (male) or Naga (female). Unlike avians, serpiente frequently have relationships before getting married and when they do marry they choose their own mate. Serpiente culture highly values dancing as well as music and art. The dancer's guilds are a land of their own and though they are loyal to the Cobriana, the Diente's power over them is only minimal. Serpiente are very social and are always surrounded by other children while growing up, even when sleeping. This need for company continues throughout their adult lives.
Serpiente are cold-blooded even in human form and as such their body temperature is usually near room temperature. Ordinary serpents have hair in various shades of anything varying from light, honey brown to black. Their eye color can consist of varying jewel tones including amber, sapphire, and emerald. The Cobriana family are known for their black hair and garnet colored eyes, which can hypnotise with a glance while the white vipers are known for white-blonde hair and varying eye colors. All serpents can assume a Demi form which consists of their eyes becoming more brightly colored and the pupils turning into slits. They also grow fangs and snake skin. Their demi-form is less poisonous than their second form, so if bitten, the victim dies slower and more painfully.
The serpentine have been at war with the avians for thousands of years and the two sides have been slaughtering each other frequently and very efficiently. Nobody, save the original falcons of the Dasi, remembers how or why the fighting began
The falcons are introduced in the second book of the series, Snakecharm and are discussed in detail in the third book, Falcondance. Unlike the avians and the serpiente, who have forgotten much of their origins and all of their magic, the falcon culture has changed very little since the days after the Dasi split. The falcons inhabit an island, which is called Ahnmik. They have their own city, which is every bit as magical as the falcons themselves. Falcon society has a strict hierarchy with even more rules than the avians. Cjarsa is the Empress and together with her heir Araceli she holds complete control of all the falcons. Implying that the royal family is anything but just, flawless, and merciful is treason and punished with death by torture. As saying that the royal family tortures anyone would be implying that they are cruel, any torture is referred to as the Empress' or the Heir's mercy. The Mercy is also the name of the local police force, which does anything the royal family orders them to, be it helping a child in need or torturing someone to death. Falcons are deadly fighters, both physically and magically, and resistance to their rules or sentences will almost certainly result in death. But in spite of their strict social hierarchy, falcons act much more like serpiente than avians because of their similar origins. Falcons value dance and music and every single thing they build is a work of art. Though most falcons have a free choice of mate, they are confined to falcons of the same type as they are. Falcon children are rare, and precious, and each falcon when born causes a shift in their magic, which all falcons can feel. Children between falcons and other species are forbidden as the resulting child will have unbalanced magic. Falcon-serpent cross-breeds in particular are said to be unbalanced because the volatile nature of serpent magic 'burns' the calm falcon half.
Falcons begin studying combat as soon as they are able to walk. They usually begin studying their magic before they are nine years old. This is mostly done in an effort to control their magic. Falcon hierarchy divides them up into several classes with strict bordering lines between them. The classes are usually defined by a person's ability to control their magic or by their origin. There are four types of falcons, each of them is led from one member of the royal family: Gyrfalcon (Cjarsa), Peregrine (Araceli), Aplomado (Syfka), and Merlin (Servos). Cjarsa and Araceli rule the island, Syfka is the falcon's representative to the mainland, and Servos is in charge of the shm'Ecl. The Pure Diamond falcon among their society is a falcon born with magic very strong, but they cannot disobey or lie to members of the royal family.
Falcons usually have fair skin and blonde hair. Their eyes can be any shade of sapphire to blue-green, as well as silver and sometimes violet. Their hair usually develops blue, or violet streaks as they get more familiar with their magic. The customs concerning appearance on Ahnmik are strict, and the un-dyed strands are pinned back. It is also customary on Ahnmik for citizens to appear in Demi-form and not human form, like the serpiente and avians. Only mongrels, criminals, and falcons with unstable magic are forbidden to wear their wings openly. The vast majority of the falcon population wear their wings as a rule.
shm-Ecl The shm'ecl is known to all falcons and is feared by many. It is sometimes referred to as The Void or the endless void, or some variation. It is somewhat akin to the dreamworld, and it can show those who 'ride' the ecl the past, the present, and possible futures. However, it is risky to 'ride' the ecl, because it is seducitive and can lure falcons into trance-like states and usually they do not recover.
The Guild consists mainly of white vipers, Maeve's descendants, and is first described in detail in Wolfcry. They live as exiles from serpiente society, surviving in the forests through hunting and trading with the local wolf pack. Occasionally exiled serpents join them, if the serpent was exiled for crimes they either reform or are sent away to survive in the wilderness, if all they did was refuse to fight in the avian-serpiente war the Guild takes them in. The members of the Guild follow the ways of the Rsh, the lower priests and priestesses of the Dasi cult. The Rsh believed that everyone was connected on a basic level and thus when calling another by name you were really speaking your own name, hence members of the guild did not usually share their names except with their closest friends and family.
The rift between the guild and serpiente society dates back to the days of the Dasi, and they are wary of the Cobriana line. In the past there have been many occasions were amnesties were offered and mass executions were delivered. Though the Guild was pardoned two generations ago, and allowed back into serpiente society, only two members of the guild took up on the offer. Though there are no longer hostilities between the two groups, the guild prefers its wandering ways to the strict laws of Wyvern's Court.
This tribe is briefly mentioned in Hawksong. They are tiger shapeshifters who originally lived in Asia but were forced out by humans. They are considered to be very wise and other tribes often come to them for advice in desperate situations. When Zane Cobriana chooses to finally arrange a meeting of the leaders of the Serpiente and Avians after his brother's death, the meeting was arranged to be held in Mistari lands. The Mistari's female leader, the Disa, was the one who suggested the union of the two peoples by the joining of the royal families. They are the oldest of all the shapeshifters. They are mentioned again in Persistence of Memory (a novel by Atwater-Rhodes outside the Kiesha'ra series).
The wolves were first mentioned in Snakecharm, and explored indepth in Wolfcry. The wolf shapeshifters live in packs led by an alpha, who can be either male or female. Their society values honor, duty, hunting skills, and strength. Leadership of a pack is determined by brute strength, anyone can challenge an alpha for their position. Each pack lives individually, and there appears to be no unified leadership. The characteristics of each pack varies from pack to pack, though this is mostly determined by the climate in which each pack lives. The packs in the south appear friendly, while those in the north are much harsher.
These shapeshifters were first introduced in Wolfcry. They have no kingdom or unified leadership, instead they are nomadic prides. They work primarily as mercenaries, traveling from marketplace to marketplace and to where ever their jobs take them.
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