For this post I will be discussing magical creatures from Shami Stovall’s Frith Chronicles. In this series, magical creatures are stuck in their youth until they bond with a suitable human being. The bonding allows the creatures–now called eldrin–to grow and become more powerful. This also gives the human the ability to use magic based on the creature’s abilities, and that human becomes an arcanist. Arcanists have great power as well as massively prolonged lives. But I want to touch on a specific aspect of Eldrins, which is the introduction of “true forms.”
Eldrin and True Forms in The Frith Chronicles
Introduced as a concept in the first book and finally established as a reality in the second book, the Frith Chronicles have presented the idea of a “true form” for eldrin. A true form is essentially the most powerful evolution an eldrin can taken on. They grow to their fullest size, attain their greatest powers, and make their arcanist strong beyond belief. Two true form eldrin are specifically mentioned in the course of the book: an atlas turtle and a manticore. An additional marker of reaching true form is that the arcanist’s mark–the symbol that distinguishes them as an arcanist and identifies their eldrin–elongates and takes on a glow.
In their true form, eldrin can reach immense sizes–the atlas turtle becomes the size of an entire island–and gain legendary abilities. The concept of a true form is finally explained in the second book as being the accomplishment of the arcanist. An arcanist must uphold the values of the eldrin they are bonded to, and exemplify what the eldrin would expect their arcanist to aspire to. For an atlas turtle, this would be attaining a position of leadership to protect and nurture others. For the manticore, it would be a mark of personal ambition and obtaining power.
Why is this cool?
I like the idea that magical creatures have to grow and gain power at a slower rate, just like humans. Having read a lot of dragon-rider type stories growing up, one of the themes I noticed was that the dragons were older, more mature, and generally grew faster and gained more power than the people they paired with. It was a trope, in a way, that the creatures in the bond were like wise siblings or family members giving advice to their bonded person. In Frith Chronicles we get a bit of that considering Volke is second-bonded (meaning his eldrin was bonded to a previous arcanist and is thus fully grown when they meet). But to read about other eldrin that had to grow and learn and became fully fledged in size and strength because of the fulfillment of their arcanist? That’s pretty cool!
It also sets up some really interesting goals for the characters in the series. From a narrative standpoint, we’ve now had the groundwork laid for a goal beyond just moving forward from apprentice to full fledged arcanist. Most magical creatures have Trials of Worth that are required for arcanists to become bonded. Then, the arcanists must try out for guilds if they hope to be apprenticed to a master arcanist. But once one has joined a guild and fulfills their requirements and learns, then they just go into the workforce it seems. To have this idea of true forms laid out and explained as the arcanist’s final fulfillment of the ideals of their eldrin is a really cool far away goal for the whole series.
I really enjoy when fantasy novels introduce new concepts to an older trope. Bonding magical creatures to humans for magical purposes is a common enough fantasy theme, but I think Stovall has really been adding her own unique twists to it here and there. In the first book, the idea of being second bonded was a really interesting one for me. Now we have the introduction of the true forms–which I think is absolutely a set up for Volke achieving such a thing and I’m so excited to see that happen.
What do you think of this concept for a fantasy novel? Does it sound interesting to you?