Well, it got below freezing last night here, suggesting that winter is finally on its way. The leaves are even starting to change a little, although they still look more like early October than November.
All this fall weather and changing of the seasons makes it seem like a great time to talk a bit more about The City of Shadows, book 3 in the Giaco & Luca series.
You can get a free Advance Review Copy of The City of Shadows, plus many more free fantasy mysteries, in the There’s Magic Afoot Fantasy/Mystery book giveaway.
The City of Shadows is set in late fall, following a seasonal progression from The Shadowy Man (probably early summer; I didn’t define it when I wrote it) and Half a Dream (high summer). The seasonal progression mirrors the progression of the characters and their journey into shadow: the further we go into the year, the deeper the characters go into shadow.
Making that seasonal movement intentional was fun, but perhaps the thing I had the most fun with in writing the series was coming up with the fortunetelling and card reading used in it.
I was surprised to find it so engrossing, since I’m not that into fortunetelling. Okay, so I might check my horoscope religiously, but I don’t actually believe in it. Maybe that’s why the fortunetelling has been so fun to write.
I started off with bone-casting and water-scrying in The Shadowy Man. In Half a Dream I introduced the character of Amanda l’Interpretrice, who quickly turned into one of my favorites.
Amanda is the best card reader in Prado, Giaco’s hometown. In Half a Dream she uses a kind of Tarot deck that is loosely based on the real Tarot deck, but that largely the fruit of my imagination. There are no numbers and no suites of swords, pentacles, cups, or wands. Instead, the deck consists solely of cards similar to the Major Arcana in a regular Tarot deck, but with different suites, such as soldiers, women, and magic-workers, and different figures, such as the Violet Maiden (who represents Amanda), the Bride, and the Mother. The only card it shares with the regular Tarot deck is Death, which shows up during a particularly exciting reading.
In The City of Shadows, I decided to move away from the Fiori version of Tarot and bring in another Italian card game instead. After a little research, I settled on Sette e mezzo, or “seven and a half,” a game similar to blackjack. This time, I stuck as close as I could to the “real” rules as I understood them, but worked the symbolic meanings of the cards into the action. So The City of Shadows takes place seven years after Half a Dream, and sevens keep coming up in the narrative, as do halves. The characters spend less time reading cards than in Half a Dream, but minor characters are frequently playing Sette e mezzo in the background–and at one crucial moment, they draw a couple of key wild cards.
Have any of you ever played Sette e mezzo? After doing all this research and writing about it, I confess I half want to try it out myself!