The Queen of Monsters by Aria Mossi

The second novel in The Tarrassian Saga, The Queen of Monsters, finds sci-fi fantasy romance author Aria Mossi spoiling readers with a stunningly written adventure packed with peril and passion out in the depths of space.

By Timothy Arden

For those looking for a new spin on the romance novel, look no further than The Queen of Monsters.

Britain’s leading sci-fi fantasy romance author Aria Mossi has taken the adult romance genre and merged it with science fiction and fantasy to create a potent blend of the best from each genre.

The second book in a planned five-part epic, with the overall series title of The Tarrassian Saga, offers thrilling and uplifting fiction that celebrates the human spirit while pressing all the right buttons for readers.

At the centre of the novel is the human protagonist Natalia. She is quite unlike most fantasy characters you find embarking on an epic journey of self-discovery. Natalia, by contrast, already knows who she is.

Her journey concerns beings that are invisible to others and even to themselves. It makes no difference if these beings are aliens, monsters, mythical creatures or fellow humans. Natalia has the uncanny ability to see behind their labels, the protective walls they erect and the scars that mark their bodies. This is, indeed, her greatest gift.

Our unforgettable heroine is many things—sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, occasionally fretful. Prone to giggling, she belies a sharp, scheming mind and her seemingly mercurial temperament puts aliens, monsters and humans alike on the back-foot, unsure about what she’ll do next. 

As we learn, Natalia was born in a remote part of Siberia where her older sisters, mother, and other women in her family were reduced to the ‘property’ of a human trafficking gang.

To survive in this cruel environment, she pretended the adults were “Monsters” and that she, and she alone, had the magical ability to become invisible. Her mantra is, essentially, ‘Monsters cannot see me nor hear me’.

Despite her situation, she taught herself to read and write and developed a cunning which enabled her to keep a low profile and, ultimately, be the cause of her captors ruin—all by the age of six. After being rescued, she relocated to Nevada, USA, as part of a witness protection program for victims of human trafficking.

By the time we meet her, Natalia has grown up and is now a famed commercial model, noted for her hair adverts and cute girl’s next-door image.

The Queen of Monsters by Aria Mossi is the latest release in  The Tarrassian Saga and offers a scorching-hot sci-fi fantasy romance underpinned by a celebration of the human spirit.

Once again, fate seems hell-bent on shattering her life, this time at the hands of alien slavers. They abduct her from Earth, where another alien race, the Tarrassians, rescue her from the slavers’ ship. There is, though, a catch because the word ‘rescue’ means something very different to her liberators.

The Viking-look-alike Tarrassians are an elitist, aloof species driven by superiority ideals. Their stuffy ethic of heroism is coupled with rigid and outdated laws. Over time, their narrow-minded outlook has seriously impacted their fertility, leading to the loss of their precious mating marks called “The Sign”.

When Natalia meets them, they are a dying race desperate to find an answer to their existential crisis. Their Healing Elder's research has shown that humans are the only compatible species; furthermore, they can restore the Tarrassians’ lost mating marks.

This is why they rescued Natalia in the first place and the other abducted humans snatched by the alien slavers.

Learning this, she joins Sia, the protagonist of The Ice Queen—Mossi’s debut novel and the first entry in The Tarrassian Saga—who was the first human to develop the Sign. Together, they execute a poorly organised escape, leading to them both being stranded on a hostile planet. One that seems to be the ideal habitat for her worst nightmare: monsters. 

Tannon, the alien protagonist, is the only half-blood Tarrassian. He is a tormented soul who does not align to the exacting, unrealistic totem of perfection enshrined by his people, no their outmoded laws. His family's traumatic history, the lingering shame of his birth, and his scarred, monster-like aspect have kept him from turning to anything familiar. Most of all, he has been running from himself all these years.

He is respected as the Great Warrior among his own kind—a fictive title since Tannon has refused to take his rightful one. He is the Tarrassian male responsible for the empty sacred throne in the Council, the one who can single-handedly win a battle, and the one they all fear.

In reality, however, things are not as they appear concerning Tannon, neither his past, the story of his birth or the mantle he has assumed for himself.

While previously content to live on the run from himself and the perfect Tarrassian society, the sudden arrival of Natalia upends all of this.

This strange little human seems to be scared of everything, but at the same time, nothing daunts her; she is puny and fragile, yet she can tame sphinxes; she never stops chatting, laughing or sobbing, and often she does it all at once.

Her emotions seem to be all over the place, yet her inquisitive mind never leaves any stone unturned or mystery unexposed. Beneath the storms of her moods lies a genuine, lively soul and confronted by her, others have no option but to succumb to her brilliant light.

Brought together by destiny, Natalia and Tannon set out on an epic journey that will liberate Tarrassia of its suffocating laws and traditions, bestow power to those who need it and rein in all those who abuse it.

Natalia will come to learn that when you flee from monsters, you are likely to discover your angels.

The Queen of Monsters features a reappearance of Sia, the protagonist of The Ice Queen, the first book in Aria Mossi’s The Tarrassian Saga series.

Each novel in the series works similarly well as a stand-alone story or part of the wider saga. The second novel further underlines why the series’ equally famous and infamous Sphinx is set to go down as one of the great characters of contemporary genre literature.

Presented in the first person, with chapters from both Natalia and Tannon’s point of view, The Queen of Monsters is beautifully written, at times becoming quite poetic and dreamy. By contrast, the dark themes, the steamy scenes and the gory violence propel the story forward as necessary and keep readers on their toes.

Topped off with stunning cover art by acclaimed British fantasy artist Dave Hill, the work of Aria Mossi is a match made in heaven for sci-fi fantasy romance fans – and I urge you to read it.

The Queen of Monsters: The Tarrassian Saga by Aria Mossi (Troubador Publishing) is out now on Amazon.  in paperback, priced £9.99, and eBook priced at £3.99 The first book in the series, The Ice Queen: The Tarrassian Saga, is also available on Amazon. For more information, visit www.ariamossi.com. The following three books in the series, The Warrior Queen, The Protector King and The Queen of Light, are coming soon.

EXCLUSIVE Q&A INTERVIEW WITH ARIA MOSSI

Author Aria Mossi tells us more about sci-fi fantasy romance and why she chooses to write in this genre, as well as about her books, the importance of cover art, and what lies in store next for the next instalment of The Tarrassian Saga.

Q. What drew you to the sci-fi fantasy romance genre?

A. As a child, I devoured every episode of Star Trek and Jules Verne’s books. It was the beginning of a lifelong passion. As a creative writing and English teacher, it is needless to say I am a bookworm. I enjoy most genres, but nothing compares to sci-fi and fantasy. Adding romance to the mix was a commercial necessity. This genre was born in the ‘70s, mainly out of frustration. Its genesis came about when a few American female authors enthusiastic for sci-fi and fantasy tired of having their manuscripts rejected for no other reason than their gender. So, they added romance to it (apparently, considered a suitable genre for women!) and lo and behold, their manuscripts were suddenly favoured for publication. I would like to say things have changed since, but that is not the case.

I consider myself a sci-fi and fantasy writer. However, adding romance for commercial reasons wasn’t a challenge. After all, love stories feature in some of the greatest books of all time, irrespective of genre.

Q. How does this genre differ from straight sci-fi or fantasy?

A. To be fair, it is not that different. In romance, the story must have its primary focus on a relationship and romantic interest. Star Wars is a space-opera fantasy, just a fancy name for sci-fi fantasy. Now, can anyone imagine Star Wars without Han and Leah’s love story? In my opinion, this relatively new genre doesn’t differ from sci-fi fantasy. It’s the classic story of the duck and the quack. Call it as it is.

Q. Who is your favourite character in the two novels, and why?

A. I love all my characters, but just like my readers, I have favourites. My favourite character is Natalia, the heroine of the second novel, The Queen of Monsters. One of my reviewers said that despite hugely enjoying the atmosphere and the fantasy part of The Ice Queen, she couldn’t connect with Sia, the female heroine. Well, that makes two of us. Characters are no different from real-life people. We can’t connect with everyone we meet. Even though Natalia is my complete opposite, she is the type of character everybody loves—mainly because she is hilarious without trying to be.

Q. The human characters in your novels stand apart from the aliens in their essential human qualities. Why did you think it important to include this contrast?

A. The human characters in my books don’t have any special powers. For example, they cannot self-heal; they do not have superhuman strength, their bodies are fragile, and they have, relatively speaking, short life spans. With all these apparent disadvantages, they are thrown into a world where they are either perceived as primitive or simply prey. Yet despite facing almost certain destruction, the five human characters who will appear in my books will do what our species does best: survive.

We take for granted all the wonderful things that make us unique: resilience, kindness, willpower, the carry-on spirit and our beautiful diversity. In times of need, all these traits come together and define what we call “Human Spirit”. I understood its meaning when I read my first book on the Holocaust. Later on, I got to experience these incredible traits myself.  There is nothing better than aliens to remind us that the Human Spirit is a super-power!

Q. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about writing fiction?

A. As long as you know your basic grammar and creative writing rules, anyone can write fiction. You are the master puppeteer; anything you say goes. So what if it’s far-fetched? It’s fiction. I can let my imagination run wild and get stuck in my head, escaping the world as I write.

Q. Your novels have been very well received. What feedback from readers are you most proud of?

A. I am a new author, writing in a less prevalent genre in the UK. It is, therefore, understandable that readers are cautious, and I don’t have a huge number of reviews out there. However, the ones I have received have one thing in common: passion. For some reason, people get excited about my Sphinx, the Sign—which is a fated mate mark—and the strangeness of my alien worlds. Some of my fans are pretty intense, and such passion is humbling to a new author. My most favourite reviews are those complementing my descriptive writing. Even though I label myself as a narrative writer, I always remember my English professor describing my style as heavily illustrative. It goes to show how educated my readers are.

Q. Each novel’s human protagonist is based on a real-life person. Can you tell us more about the real-life figures who have inspired your first two books and why you selected them?

A. I have lived a very intense life, and my circumstances haven’t always been favourable. But it is in such times that one gets to meet extraordinary people. A real-life story, or at least an element of it, has inspired each one of my characters. One of the five books in the series is based on my own experience.

The heroines of my first two novels are the product of a traumatic past. Even though the complete opposite of each other, they both hide behind a persona, a mask meant to help them survive.

Sia, the Ice Queen, lives behind self-built walls of ice. She spent a lifetime training herself to become better, smarter, colder than anyone else. Her defences kept her alive until she realised the protective walls had become a prison one day.

The Queen of Monsters, Natalia hides her grown-up self behind a child-like persona. Humans and aliens alike question her sanity, but she knows something they don’t: children can hide better. Born into a sex trafficking ring, she learned that truth very young.

The next book in The Tarrassian Saga, The Warrior Queen, is due for release in April 2022. Epic Fantasy writer Aria Mossi is already hard at work on the fourth novel, The Protector King.

Q. You secured the services of one of Britain’s leading fantasy illustrators to create the jackets for your books. Why was this important to you, and what has the response to these covers been?

A. The old saying  “You can’t judge a book by its cover” should never apply to books. Not only can the cover make someone buy your book, but if it’s correctly done, it can also tell the story of your book.

 I find most covers disappointing these days. We see a lot of Photoshopped images using models in various stages of undress. I don’t know what that means, as the story inside hardly ever has anything to do with the cover.

And then there is the other trend that took over the romance genre. There is this cartoon-like representation of a couple. There is usually a ladder between them, and let’s not forget the bench or the keyhole. The truth is, these are the sort of covers one can buy from the internet. They assure you it is an original but so are the other five identical ones out there. Yes, they are cheap and budget-friendly, but they put out of business our book illustrators. As a member of the British Society of Authors, I was aware of the challenges illustrators and translators encounter in the digital era.

When I hired Dave Hill to do the covers, I knew the end product would be amazing. I was impressed with the entire process. He wanted to know everything about my characters and what makes them tick before designing any first sketches. Every detail was carefully discussed, and huge labour of love and talent went into those final covers. The result is a high-quality representation of the genre and a window into my story. And the best part, the images are painted by hand.

I am delighted with the results, and many of my reviewers said they chose the books because of the covers.

Q.  It can’t be easy creating a completely original universe. How do you get your inspiration for the strange alien creatures, practices, and worlds?

A. All of the alien habitats, fauna and flora found in my books have been inspired by the natural wonders of our planet. Inspiration can come from anywhere; it could be from something growing in my garden or something I spot while enjoying the beautiful British landscape. I also frequent online communities such as The Cloud Appreciation Society, the Mushroom Society, or Britain’s Sacred Trees Alliance, which are fantastic sources of inspiration.

Q. What can you tell us about the next novel in The Tarrassian Saga series?

A. The next novel in the series is titled The Warrior Queen. I can’t reveal much about it at this stage, but like with my other books, I tried to avoid the genre's usual clichés. The story is a reminder that warriors can come in many guises. My readers are my driving force, and I always listen to their feedback. I didn’t start my saga with a young adult or LGTBQ+ audience in mind; it has since come to my attention that these seem to be my biggest fans, so as a thank-you, I wrote The Warrior Queen for them.

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