Snazzy Snippets: Arabic Food and Rebel Judges

So in case you didn't hear last week, Snazzy Snippets co-hosted by myself and Emily @ Loony Literate is back! Snazzy Snippets is a chance for writers to share snapshots of their writing around certain themes. You can find out more and link up with us here!

Today I'm sharing more snippets from Matryoshka. Without further ado:

A snippet with food

The sitting room was polished to a bronze shimmer. The singers fluttered behind the screen in the corner, and Thomas personally tasted the sweet and spiced teas. The kitchens were still working, but the tables were laden with food already. Flatbread with a side of mashed lentils and cumin seeds, duck and chicken roasted with mint, figs rolled in honey and cinnamon, a basket of mangoes and peaches shipped from the south.

Thomas estimated how much of a dent tonight made in their funds. They couldn’t shame the Mexrenne name by being a poor host, but Thomas was not a Mexrenne. He did not command his father’s fortune.

He greeted their guests himself. After all, Thomas was the showpiece tonight, a second chance for the south after losing the civil war. “You have much of Stanley’s look” was the new catchphrase, often attached to “for a bastard”. That was the best compliment of the evening.
Since Thomas comes from Valz Sommari, inspired by a mix of Spanish and Egyptian and Arabic (but mostly Arabic) culture, I had to research all the food. Mashed lentils sounds delicious, in my opinion.

The latter two paragraphs aren't really about food, but they add context to the lavish food descriptions. Hospitality is an important part of southern culture. In order to acquire political and social sway, Thomas and his family are taking some financial risks.

It's not much of a plot point unless I ever write the sequel, but personally I think more challenge-the-government stories need to address the issue of finances.

A snippet you're really proud of

Oh, remember the quote posters I made? Here's the context for one of them, in which Thomas is, as usual, both arrogant and adorable (hopefully):
“You will succeed to your father’s legacy in time, we promise.” His uncle poured Thomas a cup of spiced tea. “But we will never build a future chasing the past, said a wise poet.”

“You’re not a wise poet, uncle.”

The past was not such an ill thing to chase. He learned accounting and trading in his childhood home with the white stone arch, his father’s thrice-yearly gifts of books and jewellery, and the unkept promise that he would come back from the war.

But the war never ended. Not for him. Thomas would fight to his dying breath for his father’s legacy. No one else could stand in his place.
Just to jog your memory, here's the quote poster I made:

Your first 500 words

I actually did share a good portion of my first 500 words last round of Snazzy Snippets, so this time I'll instead share the first couple paragraphs from the PoV of Kim, my semi-antagonist.

(Really though, I want to see a show of hands in the comments. Who roots for Kim, and who's on Thomas' side?)
Kim traded her good sense for justice seven years and eight months ago. She never stopped regretting it, and she would never choose differently.

On the weathered gallows, a corpse rattled in the autumn wind and leered down at her. The trial had been yesterday and Kim remembered every detail. Which house was burnt, whose graves raised, which children orphaned. That hadn’t changed for all the terrorists of the past years. Nor had their sentence—death, death and nothing else for treason—or her silent vow to spare them if they apologised.

They never apologised. They set the world on fire for their dreams and the law meant they perished in the flames.
Kim's character started as an unbending justiciar, as Shadowplay readers may recall. But when I fleshed out her backstory as a Matryoshka PoV, I soon realised she started out as a revolutionary/terrorist like the rebels in Matryoshka. To balance these two sides, I had her stick to this one ironclad rule: she'd forgive any rebel who repented of their bloody terrorist ways.

How ironclad is it really? You'll find out in later chapters. (To stay updated, join my takeout army and be the first to know anything and receive chances to read it!)

Did you link up with Snazzy Snippets? (Hint: you should.) Do you root for Thomas or Kim more?

Twitter-sized takeout:


  1. Honestly, I'm not sure who I'm rooting for yet--my feelings are split pretty evenly down the middle, which is great :) I loved all the snippets, though my favorites where probably the first (because mashed lentils DO sound delicious) and the last, because I like the insight into Kim's character. All three were a joy to read, though, and I can't wait to see more!

  2. I'm going to be totally terrible and say that I'm still rooting for Kim (that last bit about her character? GOLD), but Thomas is really, really compelling (it's just that Kim has several VERY OBVIOUS points in her favor for me personally, haha). I'm also super glad that you're tackling finances and justice and all the more weighty things that make a fantasy really insightful and great. Your writing is also still fabulous—I mean, that pretty much goes without saying at this point, but I'M GOING TO SAY IT. I'M ALWAYS GOING TO SAY IT.

    (Also, never let me into Thomas's house because I WILL EAT ALL HIS FLATBREAD. And NONE OF HIS SWEET + SPICED TEA WILL BE SAFE.)

  3. I'M DIVIDED. I'll give the Willow Shields answer to this; the protagonist. Because as adorable angsty and arrogant as he seems, at least he makes a good show for a character, you know? Like, he's the kind of person whom I would WANT to knwo whta's going on in his head. And he's adorable. SO I LIKE HIM.

    But omg. Kim sounds so badass and awesome....

    WHYYY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME? No. I refuse to answer this question, Alyssa >_>

    They're both my babies <3

  4. Omg I need to invite myself to dinner with Thomas, he eats well. You have me so hungry after reading that snippet haha. I crave lentils now.
    I would probably root for Kim althought I adore Thomas, because I am a bit of a ladyphile haha, but she does sound like a strong and fearsome female, just the type I love!

  5. Ooh, this is a hard one. I really love Kim's snippet, and her rule that she'll forgive people if they apologize. She looks like a really interesting character study. But I also know more about Thomas, from what you've shared before, and I love the whole idea of revenge seeking. So, can I say both?

    Anyway, these are great snippets, and I would pry your novel from the hands of a crying baby if I had to. Also your food descriptions *dies of hunger*.

  6. Wow. The writing in these snippets is very good. I'm almost speechless.

  7. This is so cool. What is your imaginary land called? Is thomas a normal name for this. The food sounds amazing. I love the line 'you're not a wise poet, uncle'. you're just hilarious! (Also serious and amazing. But hilarious.) Thank you for sharing, and every time I read excerpts from Matryoshka my curiosity is more aroused. (in a good way. Now you just have to publish it. But no pressure!) :D Thank you for sharing, Alyssa!

  8. 'They set the world on fire for their dreams and the law meant they perished in the flames.'

    That is absolutely epic. That should be your next poster. I'm split, but leaning more towards Kim I think. I love a strong female character, but then again, from previous posts Thomas really appeals to me too. He's one of those multi layered characters you can't help but be drawn to. Ohhh glorious food! You sure know how to win us over. I'm really looking forward to snatching up a copy of Matryoshka once it's released... Sooner rather than later I hope <3 Thanks for sharing Alyssa <3

  9. I... root for Thomas. I'm not sure whether I'm supposed to like him, though. He comes across as kind of snobbish, which usually I hate, but then, at the same time, I pity him. But then, I'm English. As a nation we kind of have a tendency to root for the underdog, you know?
    Beth x


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