Idea to Book: Illusion of a Boar


It’s time for the Ideas to Book for Illusion of a Boar. There’s so much I love about this book, both these four men and women and what it says about the Albion of the Second World War. 

(This does contain a spoiler about Cammie in the last section…)

Illusion of a Boar on a pale background with a woven wicker heart. Cover of Illusion of a Boar: Two silhouetted men and women standing at a table, on a ground of deep gold with an astrological chart behind them.

Two sets of chosen siblings

The first thing I knew I wanted to do in this book was bring two sets of people who were close with each other together – and have something new happen. That’s actually one of my goals for the Land Mysteries series. 

There are certainly books with romances. But I wanted a series that had just as much about all the other relationships in our lives. Geoffrey and Alexander are working partners before they’re anything else. Gabe and Rathna have been married nearly two decades. They’re still very much in love, but not the first flush of romance.

We’ve a somewhat more typical romance in Illusion of a Boar. But this book is also about choosing who’s family and making new trusted friends. Three Graces has three long-time friends working closely together. And The Magic of Four we’ve got four students who know and like each other. They come into a different constellation over the course of the year. 

Claudio and Orion have been friends since they were at Schola. To be specific, the 1924-1925 school year, when Eclipse takes place. They move from being around each other a lot to actually being friends. Now they’re in their 30s, they’ve lived – and risked – a lot more. As Claudio says early in Illusion of a Boar, it’s a relief to him that there will be someone read in on the same secrecy. Whatever comes, they can talk about it with each other. And of course Claudio’s been worried about his best friend, who’s just had the worst six months or so of his life. 

Cammie and Hypatia are just as close, but they got there differently. Cammie’s mother fell in love with – and then married – Hypatia’s older brother. But they’re only two years apart in age, they have a lot in common. It’s ridiculous to pretend to be aunt and niece. Hypatia knows most all of Cammie’s secrets – anything not related to her cryptography work, anyway. And Cammie is ready to go for anyone who doesn’t treat her sister well.

The boar references

Once I had four characters, I needed a plot. Or to be specific, an event in the Second World War that fit what I needed. Four people, isolated from those around them for some reason, and forced to work closely together. 

I did some rummaging through various events in 1943 and 1944, looking at which parts of the British Army were involved in what. When I started reading about Operation Fortitude, the deception operations that were planned in the run up to D-Day and the Normandy Landings, I got interested. 

What sealed it for me, though, was that they were pretending it was the Fourth Army that was moving as part of the deception. As Orion notes, in the Great War, the Fourth Army had a badge of a white boar, the same as Richard III. (The last king anyone in Albion has cared a tremendous amount about, for various reasons.) 

Between that and Orion’s actual inclinations, well, there we were, I had my basic plot. 

I will say that some of the reading about Operation Fortitude is some of the most hilarious and ridiculous history, set against a backdrop of war and imminent death. There are some completely over the top stories from the various deceptions. And the whole thing was held together by people who knew how to talk it up when necessary to get resources, and who could roll with all sorts of unexpected changes. Adding a magical arm fits surprisingly well. 

Different models of neurodiversity

One last thing I love about this book is that there are three or four different models of neurodiversity. (Claudio’s the neurotypical one here.) 

I sent Kiya chapter 7. Not too long after, I got a comment of “You do realise Orion is autistic, right?” More specifically, a particular kind of autistic. Unfortunately for him, he was born into the sort of family that expects people to pick up on and act on subtle social cues.

Once he and Claudio get to be good friends, he can rely on Claudio to explain things to him. But it explains why he’s so hurt – in ways he has no words for – for his ex-wife’s betrayal. It doesn’t fit what he understands about the world, and he can’t make it make sense.

The conversation he has with Thesan and Isembard, in the middle of the book, is a great example of how people can support each other. Thesan’s also quite arguably autistic, but in a way that’s different from Orion. (And Hypatia is also much closer to Thesan’s mode.)

More helpfully, though, she’s had time and reason to work through how to handle some of the situations Orion doesn’t understand. And she’s had other people to help her – her apprentice mistress, then Isembard. (Both of whom come from families who do this sort of thing all the time, and who are naturally gifted at some of it.) 

And Cammie? Well, it depends on how you read her. I’d argue that she’s a perfectly neurotypical stoat.

What’s next for these four?

If you haven’t read Three Graces, the end of that novella has a bit more about Orion’s arc in specific. I do plan to revisit the four of them. Claudio is finally going to get a proper romance in 1950. I’ve got a few things I need to write to set up the plot parts of that, but I promise it’s coming. (Expected publication mid-2026).

Until then, As The Ground Shifts, the set of extras for Illusion of a Boar and Three Graces also has a bit more about all four, especially Claudio and Orion. 

By Celia

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