Lost down a rabbit hole: What I researched for Book 3 of the Haven Chronicles

I’m one of those authors who likes to prepare as much as possible before I begin to work on a new novel. One aspect of that preparation is plenty of research. You might think that because I write fantasy stories, the whole concept will be born from my imagination but I’m a firm believer in the value of grounding a story – even a fantasy story – in reality and possibilities that are believable to the reader.

Before I started on the third book in my YA futuristic fantasy series, I spent a lot of time on research so that I wouldn’t have to stop mid-way through to find out what was scientifically possible or historically correct.  Here’s what I researched.

Haven Wakes and Magic Bound

Haven Wakes and Magic Bound book covers and the words Magic and robots and a boy searching for the truth

Yes, I know I wrote both books, but over time the edges of your creations begin to blur. So I needed to check certain facts from the first two books to make sure I got it right in book three. Facts like:

  • what the travelling door in Hartley’s kitchen looks like
  • the layout of Darkacre
  • the entrance to the magical council controlled area, the Confluence (including golems)
  • Kiri Ema’s and the dancer Mariana’s appearances

and much much more.

Flying cities

Magic Bound was predominantly set in the magical portion of Steve’s world so I wanted to feature much more of the workaday (non-magical and futuristic) portion in book three. One expression of that high tech culture is a flying city. Research unearthed several possibilities:

  • aerostatic lift, involving lighter-than-air gases to provide buoyancy and lift
  • aerodynamic lift, with aerodynamic features that generate lift
  • anti-gravity, using technology that manipulates gravitational forces
  • tethered aerostat, a lighter-than-air structure anchored to the ground
  • static lift structure, generating enough buoyancy to keep the city afloat without a tether

It’s all very exciting and the technology I’ve chosen has definitely influenced the design of the city. And no, I’m not telling you what it’s called yet – you’ll have to wait and see.

Ostriches pulling carriages

Yes, that’s a real thing – look. I can’t include an image in this blog post for copyright reasons, but there are so many vintage images of ostriches pulling carts, traps, and carriages out there.

Now, there are no ostriches pulling a carriage in book three but there is something similar to an ostrich. That’s as much as I’m going to say. Again, read book three.

Cruise ships

Fi Phillips standing in a Norwegian setting with the cruise ship Iona in the background

This was a lovely topic to return to after my cruise of the Norwegian fjords last year, but I was especially interested in vintage cruise ships like Queen Mary 1 and 2, the RMS Aquitania, and yes, even the Titanic. It was the sumptuous interiors that piqued my interest.


I’ve been promising to feature Venice in my novels since I finished writing Haven Wakes and it finally makes an appearance in book three. This was one of my favourite research topics to dive into.

I’ve visited Venice several times and it’s a city that I still find fascinating and mysterious, so I’m taking Steve and co there this time round. Having said that, it may not quite be the Venice we all know.


So yes, those were the rabbit holes that I disappeared into last year. I have to say that I loved researching all of these topics. In fact, I probably spent way too much time down these rabbit holes because, well, shiny things and all that. Once book three is finished, I’ll be straight into research for book four and I already know that’ll include… Hang on. That’s a completely different blog post.