Rise of Ahrik is a story about love and fate in the face of violence and war. It has been thousands of years since The War, and civilization has endured a slow rebirth under the rule of women, but war threatens once again. Zharla, the young scioness of a powerful mining clan, must choose between two brothers to marry: Ahrik, a petulant military officer soon to be sent off to war, or Shahl, an aspiring scholar and the one she loves. She is forced to marry Ahrik, but when Shahl is accused of a vicious crime, the three begin to discover that the accusation, the war, and the secret clones that fight it are bound together in an awful triad that seeks to rob them of their agency and destroy women’s rule. Civilization once again hangs by a thread.
Nathan Toronto loves stories about war, and has been known to stay up until three o’clock in the morning reading military history and science fiction. His debut novel, Rise of Ahrik, tells of a love triangle in a matriarchal society thrust into a worldwide war. He is currently writing the sequel, Revenge of the Emerald Moon, as well as an academic book, How Militaries Learn. When he is not writing, he likes to run, play the piano, and eat waffles by pouring syrup in every hole then raising the waffle to let the excess drain off.
This is the moment when the main character, Zharla, decides that she will no longer be governed by the choices of others. This all comes crashing down as the story progresses, but I like how this scene shows Zharla's feistiness in the face of her conservative, overbearing mother. Would that all of us could maintain this exuberant, youthful zest for autonomy.
How life's experiences shape and mold us into the adults we become! Some of us never lose this healthy disrespect for authority, some of us let life squish us into vacuous shells of obsequiousness, and most of us just sit in the middle. The question is, are we pawns in someone else's game, or do we set the rules?
Rise of Ahrik
Zharla held up her hand. Her insides churned with tension, and she fought to keep the tremor out of her voice. This was her moment of freedom. If a gaggle of crones from the clan council thought they could decide her fate, they had another think coming. “My place is here, Mother, with Shahl, not with Ahrik.”
Just then, Ahrik strode through the door to the social hall, superciliousness leaking from every step. His uniform gleamed, and his blade dangled from his hip; he also wore the smirk that Zharla had grown to hate.
Zharla pointed at Ahrik and glared at her mother. “I want nothing to do with him.”
“Yes, good morning to you, too, Zharla,” Ahrik said, sounding almost amused. He raised his hands in surrender, then motioned at Shahl. “I’m not here to fight. I’m here for him.”
“Zharla.” Her mother’s voice had a menacing quality. She reached out to place a hand on Zharla’s arm. Her touch was light, but Zharla felt her mother’s fingers coil, ready to spring and snatch like the fangs of a snake.
Zharla gripped her mother’s wrist and wrenched her arm free. Shooting her mother a defiant glance, she turned to Shahl. “I will choose Shahl for my husband today. He will be father to my children.”
Zharla sneered at Ahrik, then leaned toward Shahl, held his shoulders, and kissed him. The kiss was not salacious, a mere peck on the cheek, but Zharla had broken social norms, had shredded them apart, in fact. No unmarried woman could display affection toward a man in public, especially a woman of Zharla’s standing, heiress to the largest mining conglomerate in the western Eshel. But if this was to be her moment of truth, she would make it one to remember.
Zharla risked a scandal, and loved every second of it.