After a year of researching the history and folk tales of Croatian regions Istria and Kvarner, I finally drafted a plot for my first historical fantasy novel. (To be sincere, with all the things I decided to leave out from it, it was obvious from the start that it was going to grow into a trilogy.)
I was definitely drawn to the character of krsnik, a person from our local tales, born with special powers that he uses in order to protect his village – its people, domestic animals, and crops. Krsnik is often put on the first line of defense not only in the event of hails, draughts, cattle sickness or human injuries and ailments but also in cases of dealing with malevolent creatures, such as kudlaks (vampires), shtrigas and sthriguns (female and male witches), moras (nightmare demons), orkos (magical beasts) and other supernatural beings, the stories of which circulated vividly in our society deep into the 20th century.
“One of the most intriguing debut works of recent Croatian literature, and not only within the genre.”
Historical period that attracted my writing interest was early 17th century which was, in Croatia, marked by the open war between Habsburg Monarchy and Venetian Republic, both struggling to dominate strategic routes along Adriatic coast and the borderline territory. Covering this period, Croatian national history focuses mostly on the legendary uskoks, fierce domestic pirates who’ve become a symbol of the national pride. Digging deeper into the books of modern historians, behind the glory and the heroism, we find those years to be quite dark and remembered for the great number of death tolls caused by war, hunger and diseases. “Years of death and destitution”, as one historian put it.
This bleak world, caught in warfare and inhabited by the creatures from folklore superstitions, seemed like a perfect blend of history and fantasy. Since Austrian symbol at that time was the two-headed eagle and the Venetian crest was a winged lion, this insignia inspired the name of the trilogy: Between the Eagle and the Lion.
The first novel – Krsnik – won The Best Unpublished Historical Novel Award in Croatia in 2019. and was published as a part of the award. Soon after it won the Artefakt – the best fantasy novel award.
“It’s amazing how in this novel the supernatural elements of authentic Istrian mysticism intermingle with historical ambient.”
Book #1 – KRSNIK
Krsto of Kastav is a local krsnik in a small village of Veprinac. Leading the chain of smugglers who help uskok pirates, his wife, Maria Lazarina, is captured in the Venetian attack and taken hostage on the galley. Determined to find her, Krsto decides to cross the mountain of Učka and go to Istria, a war-torn country. On the way, he encounters different characters: peasants come to him for healing, mystery-solving, and protection from the creatures of the night and the local lords want to win him over to their side. Krsto tries to answer the pleads that come his way, remaining uninvolved in the conflict. But his past, much less innocent than he would like it to be, is inevitably catching up with him. And Maria’s trail is getting ever colder…
Publisher: Naklada Bošković
Editor: Renata Dobrić
Proofreading: Mario Blagić
Cover art: Karin Bogdanić
Two months have passed since Krsto found himself on board officer Venier’s infamous galley. Powered by a hundred rows, Concordia is on her way to the city of Pula. Despite the torments filling his days, the desire to see his Maria once more gives him the strength to live until their next meeting. And, while he struggles to endure the inferno of the galley, stories about a tired and war-torn country beyond the walls of Pula, keep coming his way…
Publisher: Shtriga Books
Editor: Antonija Mežnarić
Proofreading: Vesna Kurilić
Cover: Karin Bogdanić
Sponsors: The City of Rijeka, The City of Pula, The Town of Opatija, and Istria County.