joyful nails

There’s nothing like diving into a book that’s as magnificent as its cover. Today at Penguin Teen Behind the Book we welcome Liz Tingue, editor of Zodiac and its gorgeous new sequel Wandering Star by Romina Russell! Find out why she knew the world-building in this series would give readers a sci-fi fantasy escape worthy of endless binge-reading hours:


World-building, for me, is at once the most crucial and the most joyful aspect of sci-fi and fantasy novels. Crucial because these stories live and die on an invented world’s ability to be both wildly unique and governed by a set of rules that make sense to a reader curled up with coffee on planet Earth. Joyful because world-building is where an author’s imagination can run wild, and where many of the most beautiful and decorative-yet-necessary details of a fantastical tale live.

As anyone who’s hooked on the Zodiac series knows–and I know there are a lot of you–Romina Russell’s world-building skills are on-point. I love so many things about working on this series, but my absolute favorite has got to be those early stages of the process, when I get that first sneak peek into the brand new worlds Romina has created for her heroine to explore. And let me tell you, Romina has that whole crucial-and-joyful balance nailed down. The worlds within the Zodiac Galaxy are at once weird and welcoming; counterintuitive and orderly at the same time.

In Zodiac, the astrological signs start to come to three-dimensional life in the forms of the rolling green fields tended by the dedicated souls on House Virgo, the handsome opalescent halls walked by the diplomats of House Libra, and the bright blue lagoon villages Rho longs for back on her home constellation of House Cancer. Now, in Wandering Star, book 2 in the series, Romina steps it up to all new levels of world-building magic. I don’t want to give too much away, because it’s just too good to spoil even the most innocent of descriptive details, but I will say that when the book is over, readers will never look at wise Capricorns, wanderlusting Sagittarians, or enterprising Tauruses the same way ever again. 

But what sets Romina apart in the world of world-building is the sheer jumps-off-the-page passion she has for the Zodiac Houses and the characters that inhabit them. There are lots of fantastic world-builders out there, but I doubt there are very many who find as much joy in it as Romina does.


Thanks, Liz!

Peek inside ZODIAC and WANDERING STAR here!

@rominagarber