One of my favorite stories to tell is about the formation of Central America. I’ve given this lecture for many different audiences at multiple academic levels over the course of about fifteen years. Still, I never tire of retelling the story, rolling through about 250 million years of history in just over an hour.
Central America is one of the most geologically dynamic places on the planet, surpassed only, perhaps, by Indonesia (the home of the great volcano Krakatoa). The oldest pieces of the Central American isthmus date back about 65 million years. According to our best estimates, the land bridge was completed about 3-5 million years ago, connecting two continents, North and South America, that had been separated since the break-up of Pangaea.
Today the land bridge continues to grow and change. The Cocos plate, which underlies the Pacific Ocean in this part of the world, is rear-ending the Caribbean plate. This collision creates a subduction zone, where one plate sinks below the other. As the Cocos plate sinks, the Caribbean plate buckles and pushes upward, creating the mountain ranges of Central America. Because of this violent collision, a string of active and dormant volcanoes stretches across Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.
Just a couple weeks ago, Turrialba Volcano in Costa Rica had a major eruption, spreading ash across the Central Valley of Costa Rica. At our home in Heredia, we got a relatively light dusting, but it was visible and messy and best of all, a brand new experience for me.
Volcanoes are cool. From a distance, that is. They inspire awe and embody the majesty of nature unleashed; they are at once beautiful and terrible. There’s nothing we can do to avoid the destructive power of a volcano, except of course, get out of the way before it’s too late.
The devastation caused by a volcano may seem absolute, but life has recovered from volcanic eruptions time and again. Plants, animals, and their cohorts always manage to recolonize areas devastated by ash, lava, and pyroclastic gases.
Indeed, volcanoes feed life by fertilizing the earth. All that amazing coffee you drink in your local cafe is almost certainly grown on volcanic soils. Most recently, small volcanic eruptions have been credited with slowing global warming. And who can forget all those wonderful therapeutic hot springs made possible by volcanoes?
The magic of volcanoes provided the primary inspiration for one of the important cultures of Eolyn’s world, the People of Galia. Galians share a certain heritage with Moisehén. They consider themselves followers of Dragon and descendents of Aithne and Caradoc. However, their magical traditions are unique, shaped in part by the spectacular landscape in which they dwell.
The Galian wizards and their love for magas receives its first mention in the novel Eolyn. The Kingdom of Galia supported the magas in their struggle against Akmael’s father Kedehen. When the magas lost the war and the purges started, Galia provided refuge to fleeing magas and cut off all relations with the Mage Kings of Moisehén.
In High Maga, Eolyn inherits the sword Kel’barú,infused with the mysterious magic of Galia. One of the untold back stories of Eolyn’s journey is that this sword once belonged to the family of her father Eoghan, a Galian warrior who fell in love with her mother Kaie. Kel’barú speaks to Eolyn because of the magic that binds it to anyone of her father’s blood line. It’s name, Kel’barú, was inspired by the real-world Barú Volcano in Panama.
Despite Eolyn’s heritage and the importance of Kel’barú, the Galians have had a tangential role in her story. For two novels, I’ve been wanting to find a way to bring the Galians more center stage. Daughter of Aithne gave me that opportunity. When the Galians align with the Kingdom of Roenfyn against Moisehen, we get to meet them in all their color and glory. They are a vibrant people, boisterous and bold like the fiery mountains that paint their home. Their prince, Savegre, has become one of my favorite romantic heroes of the series.
I’ll be talking more about the Galians and all the other players of Daughter of Aithne in the months to come, as we approach the release of Eolyn’s next great adventure. In the mean time, stay tuned & dream deep of fiery volcanoes and fearsome magic.
A closing video: Villarrica Volcano in Chile erupted this year on my birthday. Here’s some spectacular footage of that event: