The Ayla Trilogy
It all started in 2013 when…
...I was working with The O'Brien Press on the late Gerry Hunt's historical graphic novel At War With the Empire. The art director, Emma Byrne, asked me if I had any stories of my own that I might like to pitch. To this day, I still don't know how Emma suspected I could write. But the truth was I did have ideas - hundreds of them - scribbled in notebooks over the years due to a life-long dream to write and illustrate my own fantasy adventure for young readers.
They knew I was a fan of Irish mythology, and they knew I had a slightly dark imagination and so suggested I come up with something along those lines. I had the kernel of an idea - a doodle - that I thought could fit the bill. So I went for a walk in the woods and came up with a story called Aela & The Red Root King. In 2015 it was published under a new title - A Cage of Roots.
As well as writing the story, I was allowed to create all the artwork for the book - from the cover to the interior illustrations, chapter headers.. Even those little asterisks that separate sections in a chapter. I spent ages on those.
The story is about a girl - an American orphan called Ayla - who has ties to ancient Ireland. She goes to live with her three uncles (who happen to be nine feet tall) in a small fictional town in Co.Limerick. Those aforementioned ties go deep - very deep - right down to the roots of time. Along the way she learns of her true purpose and her terrible power as the Storm Weaver.
That's the plot. But the story is also about what might happen if myth and reality were to collide. It's about what happens to a group of friends when their bonds are tested to breaking point in the face of mortal danger. I wanted to put real kids in a magical situation and see what happened to them.
A Cage of Roots was followed up in 2016 by the sequel, Storm Weaver and the trilogy was completed with 2017's The Spiral Path.
In 2017, to my eternal delight and surprise, A Cage of Roots beat incredibly stiff competition to be named the Literacy Association of Ireland Children's Book of the Year in the 9-11 age category. I still pinch myself.
As for the future of the books, who knows? I am currently working with an incredible screen-writer to pitch the trilogy as a tv series, but in those races there are a lot of horses and very high fences. My fingers and toes are crossed. Really I'm just happy that they are in the world, and the thought of a kid, somewhere, picking them up and getting lost in a story I invented during a walk in the woods makes me very happy.
Thankfully, my imagination shows no sign of abating so these won't be my last books. I hope they're just the first of many.
Buy the books:
...or even better - ask for them in (and support) your local bookshop :)
A Cage of Roots
"...an original and engaging fantasy … gorgeously, eerily illustrated by the author, A Cage of Roots is equal parts compelling, enchanting and unsettling"
Children’s Books Ireland Recommended Reading Guide
"...full of magic and mystery, deeply rooted in Irish mythology and legends … an astonishing debut … a dark, deep tale of destiny and loyalty of heroic proportion, a strong recommendation for fantasy readers; this will keep you on the edge of your seat. (I do not recommend this as a bedtime read!) Stunning."
School Librarian Magazine
"...magical and compelling, full of darkness and a deeply satisfying mythological depth. Matt Griffin’s striking black and white illustrations evoke and enhance the strangeness of his gripping tale"
CBI Recommended Reads 2016
"The magical adventure that began so explosively with A Cage of Roots continues in this equally gripping new episode … setting and adversaries are thrillingly described, a seam of real myth and legend giving the story extra depth. Matt Griffin’s atmospheric black and white illustrations add to the mood"
"A mesmerising story that has the reader pondering throughout on who can be trusted and who is the enemy. Atmospheric drawings are the perfect complement to the story and it's good to see illustrations in a book for this age group - it should help even reluctant readers to take an interest. An excellent read, full of darkness and mystery - a real page-turner"
The Spiral Path
"...a breath-taking conclusion … author-illustrator Matt Griffin delvers a fantasy adventure with a lot of punch..."
Children’s Books Ireland Recommended Reading Guide 2017
"...a finale that subverts expectations at every turn … a fast, lean and creepy adventure … an unsettling combination of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the scouring of the Shire section from Lord of the Rings … both a haunting coda and sweet send-off, Matt Griffin’s new offering says goodbye to his strange world with aplomb."