The Assassin' Apprentice, the third book of The Aurora Chronicles, takes a drastically darker turn as the story shifts focus to Jia who is a young assassin. At first glance, Jia is spiteful and full of hate; she distrusts and values caution above all. However, as the story progresses, an intricate layer of betrayal, misjudgment, and fear is pulled back, revealing to readers the protagonist’s vulnerabilities and her enduring identity crisis.
I began writing The Assassin's Apprentice with a single theme – betrayal. Pulling from my own life experiences at the time, I wove those hardships into the story. I knew from the beginning who was going to die (or not) and how I needed to build their relationships to make the pain of defeat and betrayal poignant.
Jia, who is lauded as one of the best assassins within the clan, views herself as a tool. Her past with her mentor and subsequent perception of reality forms the basis for who she thinks she is which inevitably comes into question.
Unlike its predecessor, The Assassin's Apprentice is dark and exposes raw themes such as bitter hatred, self-loathing, and utter restlessness. While the novel is dark, the harshness of these themes is balanced by opposing motifs like enduring friendship, platonic love, bonded loyalty, eventual acceptance, and sacrifice.
Jia was meant to be an embodiment of identity conflict, of teenage mistakes. Because she became an assassin, she is rebuked and berated, hated and despised. But, her decision to become a killer was born out of desperation, confusion, and loneliness. Jia makes mistakes, ones with consequences that extend well beyond her teenage years and follow her for the rest of her life. She is plagued by regret and steeped in shame.
Jia's Fighting Style
I did extensive research into martial arts while writing The Assassin's Apprentice and The Emperor's Raven. Drawing on both Japanese (Kendo, Aikido) and Chinese (Wushu spear techniques, Baji Quan) martial arts, I developed a detailed fighting style for Jia and her mentor, Dasiel.
After countless hours of watching tournaments, real fights, and technique videos, I felt confident that I could accurately and concisely convey the movements of the new fighting style.
I used Wushu spear techniques to lay the foundation and then began layering in the others. I added Aikido to the mixture because Jia, being relatively small in comparison to her male counterparts, needed a way to even the playing field. Dasiel worked hard to hammer into her working memory throwing and evasive techniques.
Interested to know what each of these looks like? Follow the links below to sample videos:
USA Wushu Team Trials 2011
International Baji Quan Festival 2016 - Demo
Originally, The Aurora Chronicles was comprised of two books. The idea to split them into four came from a publisher who thought that because they were geared toward young adults, a shorter adventure would garner more attention.
Of course, determining where to split the story was a difficult one. Separating the book when it was meant to be read as a single entity seemed like a daunting task. Splitting the book to create two pieces each with a title, introduction, new book cover, and entirely new feel was intimidating. Nevertheless, it was completed and a full quartet was born!