Keeper of Light and Dust…in 60 Seconds

Fantasy author Natasha Mostert told Tor.com that her latest novel, Keeper of Light and Dust, is about the strongest desire of all: to live forever.

“It opens in the famous catacombs of Palermo, where Adrian Ashton, a quantum physicist and chronobiologist, is a young man at the beginning of his journey,” Mostert said in an interview. “As he stands surrounded by eight thousand mummies, he takes a decision that will take him into the heart of darkness. Calling himself Dragonfly he decides to prey on fighters and martial artists who are blessed with strong chi, draining them of their life force and making it his own. But the hunter becomes the hunted when my heroine enters his life. A martial artist herself, she belongs to a long line of Keepers: women who are warriors, healers and protectors. When Dragonfly targets the man she loves, the stage is set for a violent confrontation. But Mia is conflicted: she is strongly attracted to Ashton, which blunts her skills and puts both herself and her beloved at risk. It becomes a fight to the death in which love is both the greatest weakness and the greatest prize.”

Mostert has always wanted to write a book about the concept of chi—the vital energy that flows through our bodies and which forms the basis of traditional Chinese medicine. “In Keeper of Light and Dust, I created a villain who has devoted his life to the study of chi and who has found a way to capture this mysterious life force in others and make it his own,” Mostert said. “I had fun adding a twist to the vampire concept. My villain is not interested in blood, he is interested in energy!”

The other source of inspiration came from legend. “I have long been fascinated by the many myths and legends of battle-scarred men who are protected—or cursed—by beautiful, powerful women,” Mostert said. “And so I created the concept of the Keeper: women who, through the ages, have been healers and protectors of men engaged in hand-to-hand combat. I thought it was quite a sexy concept: a fragile woman protecting a strong fighter. Such a set-up also offered good possibilities for physical and mental conflict.”

Keeper of Light and Dust is set in the world of martial arts and fighting; it’s a world Mostert knows well: she herself is a kickboxer. “It was important to me to keep the environment in my book real,” she said. “Very often in martial arts fiction, the protagonist can run up perpendicular walls, float above the ground while engaging in mystical sword play and manages to pull off all kinds of incredible physical and mental feats. I did not want to go that route. My characters are composites of fighters I know and they are real people. I’m their biggest fan—for almost seven years I’ve been following these men and women from fight to fight. I know the problems and injuries they face when training. I know what it smells like in a fighter’s dojo! I understand the rivalries and camaraderie of their world and I hope I have managed to portray this environment accurately. There are of course, mystical elements in Keeper, and my heroine is in possession of a pretty cool skill, but I worked very hard not to turn my characters into super heroes.”

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