Today I’m thrilled to welcome back A. J. Vrana as we kick off the The Echoed Realm Book Tour presented by Storytellers On Tour! I originally hosted an interview with A. J. for an installment of the Whispers & Wonder Ladies of Grimdark series, where I also read and reviewed her dark and folklore-heavy The Hollow Gods. I loved this book, and was beyond lucky to get my pre-order of The Echoed Realm early! If you’re a fan of Dark Fantasy melded with Magical Realism and Horror, with a focus on the psychological aspects of both, then The Chaos Cycle Duology may just be the series you’re looking for. Oh, and add in a foul-mouthed, spiteful, brooding MC for good measure!
This upcoming week we’ll be showcasing the epic conclusion of A. J.’s The Chaos Cycle Duology, and can’t wait to hear what people think of it! (I will, however, be staying away from many reviews, because this is a book I desperately need to read – and soon.) Stay tuned for some fantastic features from our Roadies across blogs and social media – it’s going to be a great week.
A. J. stopped by for a chat about how The Echoed Realm differs from The Hollow Gods, what she hopes readers take away from this beautiful, arching story she’s written, what we can expect of these beloved characters, what lies ahead, and more! So, keep scrolling to learn more about the book and author, check out the awesome interview, and enter to win a poster inspired by The Echoed Realm!
We’ve enlisted a group of wonderful and talented bloggers and Bookstagrammers to help us feature The Echoed Realm. This is what we have going on, so make sure to check out each and every one throughout the week for some brilliant content, including reviews and more.
AUGUST 8TH – THE KICKOFF
Whispers & Wonder (IG: @whispersandwonder)
OneReading Nurse (IG: @onereadingnurse)
Betwixt The Sheets (IG: @theink.slinger)
Bookish Equestrian (IG: @bookish_equestrian_)
Fantasy Book Critic
Ashweereads (IG: @ashlieholecekwriter)
Sadie’s Spotlight (IG: @sadiesspotlight)
AUGUST 14TH – THE ENCORE
Queen’s Book Asylum
For more info, visit the official tour page at Storytellers On Tour.
The Echoed Realm by A. J. Vrana
SERIES: The Chaos Cycle Duology (#2)
PUBLISHED: August 10, 2021 by The Parliament House Press
GENRE: Contemporary Dark Fantasy-Horror
Miya’s world ended in Black Hollow.
It’s been three years since the Dreamwalker upended her life and left her with a heavy burden. A fledgling to the ethereal realm, Miya stumbles into the nightmares of those haunted by spectres. Little does she know, one of them is coming for her, clutching a dark secret abreast.
Kai has found a new purpose with his companion, but the price is his freedom. Bound and beholden to Miya, he struggles to adjust to his new role as her vanguard.
Meanwhile, Mason discovers he may be a pawn trapped in a web of schemes. Was his time in Black Hollow an accident, or was it only the beginning of some greater machination?
As Black Hollow’s bloody stain spreads beyond its wooded borders, Miya fights to evade a past she barely understands. The Dreamwalker’s legacy is a vise grip, and it isn’t letting go. Primordial horrors draw near, fables come alive, and long-buried histories rise from the grave, ready to hunt.
Sharpen your claws and bloody your teeth. There’s fear to be sown.
Meet The Author
A. J. Vrana is a Serbian-Canadian academic and writer from Toronto, Canada. She lives with her two rescue cats, Moonstone and Peanut Butter, who nest in her window-side bookshelf and cast judgmental stares at nearby pigeons. Her doctoral research examines the supernatural in modern Japanese and former-Yugoslavian literature and its relationship to violence. When not toiling away at caffeine-fueled, scholarly pursuits, she enjoys jewelry-making, cupcakes, and concocting dark tales to unleash upon the world.
Welcome back to Whispers & Wonder, A. J.! Since we already have your official bio, can we have each of your MCs describe you in one sentence?
Oof, that’s a toughie. Okay, let’s give this a go…
Miya: Oversized Maine Coon meets diabolical mastermind with a soft spot for furry critters and a love of the macabre.
Kai: Wine-guzzling hellion. Would still beat her in a drinking contest. (Two sentences for spite)
Mason: PhD candidate with an oddly specific research topic and fewer books than one might expect from a professional scholar.
Does The Echoed Realm differ much from its predecessor, The Hollow Gods? Without spoilers, what can we expect?
I think there are some significant differences. While you can still expect a lot of the same folk horror, ambiguity, and dream-like elements, The Echoed Realm is a lot more action-packed and intense (or so I’ve been told). I think The Hollow Gods builds slowly; what starts off as slight pressure increases steadily until the tension culminates into full-blown maddening chaos. However, The Echoed Realm starts off with a bang and just runs with it. The Hollow Gods did a lot of work setting things up so The Echoed Realm could really shine and be what it is. The Echoed Realm is where the characters really have to face their demons, and so I’d say you can expect them to go through much heavier journeys than they did in The Hollow Gods—especially Kai. So far, people have been saying The Echoed Realm is darker and more intense, and that was definitely my intention.
Can you share with us something about The Echoed Realm that isn’t in the blurb?
The Hollow Gods ends with a big revelation about the Dreamwalker’s identity, but it also doesn’t give you any clear answers about the origin of the Dreamwalker fable. At best, you’re only given a clear narrative of the myth itself. However, The Echoed Realm dives straight into the history of the myth, so expect all your questions about the Dreamwalker fable to be answered in this book.
What do you hope your readers take away from The Chaos Cycle Duology?
One of the most touching comments I get about these books is the emotional impact they’ve had on some readers. There’s nothing like being told, “Hey, this made me feel seen.” I mean, what a powerful thing that is! I love when readers—particularly young women—tell me that Miya’s journey hit home for them. When I wrote these books, I wanted to write a vulnerable female character more than I wanted to write a strong one, because I really believe that strength is most meaningful when we are vulnerable, and not when we are pretending to be made of Teflon. I think there’s a lot of messaging out there that tells young women they need to manifest confidence out of thin air, to just know their self-worth and never doubt it. But, you know, doubt is natural. Uncertainty is inevitable. And if there’s one thing I want people to learn from these characters’ journeys (especially Miya’s), it’s that confidence doesn’t develop out of nowhere. It takes years of grappling with trauma—both personal and social—and it’s an ongoing project full of setbacks and bumps in the road.
Besides that, I would love for readers to really let themselves sit with all the ambiguity presented in these books. People love clear, definitive answers, but life isn’t like that. There isn’t always an easy answer or an easy explanation to everything, and that’s something this duology has really tried to play up. A lot of folks came out of book 1 wondering if the events had a supernatural or rational explanation, and the answer I always give is that the two aren’t mutually exclusive! And frankly, there is no way to know! The narrative is intentionally ambiguous about these things, and the best thing a reader can do is engage with the text on its own terms. Don’t go in with expectations about what you think it ought to be, and let the story take you for a ride!
Which was more difficult, writing your debut or its sequel?
For me, personally, it was the debut. I rewrote that book so many times, and it took nearly a decade to get it published. The Echoed Realm by comparison was a breeze. I actually spent more than twice as long writing the first draft (about 2 years vs 8 months for THG), but that first draft was really strong. It only took me a few months to whip it into its final form, whereas THG took years of editing and rewriting.
Will we see more of Miya, Kai, and Mason in the future?
I think you can definitely expect to see more of Miya and Kai. I am planning to write a stand-alone spinoff with them. In particular, I want to give readers more about Kai’s past. There’s so much mystery around his heritage! People who’ve read the books will know that he lost his parents quite young and has very little knowledge about his life before that traumatic moment. Aside from a handful of personal memories, his family history is quite obscure, so I do want to bring that back in a future work and shed some light both for him and the readers!
Have you read anything awesome lately?
I’m an embarrassingly slow reader, but I’ve read some amazing books this year. I had the pleasure of reading Kim Smejkal’s Ink in the Blood and Curse of the Divine. They’re mature YA with wonderful world-building, grey morality, and TATTOO MAGIC! Honestly, these books are so dark and complex in all the best ways, and they really deserve more attention!
Thank you again for taking the time have a chat, A. J. Tell us what lies ahead for you!
Thank you for having me! I’m currently working on a stand-alone horror novel, though it has been very slow progress because, well, the last two years have been kind of crazy, you know? The whole world has shifted on its axis, and the creative process just isn’t quite the same anymore. That said, I’m looking forward to finishing this book and sharing it with the world. It’s quite different from my previous books—definitely more on the literary side—but you can expect some similar themes and symbols to make it into the story.
Enter to win yourself a poster of choice inspired by The Echoed Realm by A. J. Vrana!
Ends 8/15 • International
That’s all I got for ya! Be sure to keep an eye on the official The Echoed Realm tour page over at Storytellers On Tour to see what the other bloggers and Bookstagrammers have to share!