I recently did a fun audiobook giveaway for The Hollow Gods, book 1 of The Chaos Cycle Duology.
As part of the giveaway, contestents had to try their hand at pronouncing some of the names in the duology. Because many of the names take from Slavic languages (though not all), some of them were a bit of a challenge! I’ve definitely been asked how character names are pronounced before, so I thought I’d provide a fun pronunciation guide and some trivia about the names themselves!
Alright, let’s get started!
Emiliya “Miya” Delathorne
How to pronounce: Eh-mee-lee-yuh “Mee-yuh” Deh-lah-thorn.
Basically, think Amelia “Mia” Thermopolos from The Princess Diaries or Mia Toretto from the Fast and Furious franchise. You might be wondering, “Why the weird spelling?!” and the answer is that I’m a Slav, so I need to make spelling needlessly complicated, obviously!
Just kidding. Really, I wanted to stay true to my roots, so rather than using the Latinized Amelia, I chose to use the Slavic spelling, which is typically either Emilija or Emilia. Since I’m from the region that uses Emilija, I chose that spelling but phoneticized it to Emiliya so that people wouldn’t pronounce the name is EmiliDJA.
One small factor that played into my choice of name: the etymology of Emiliya is Aemelius, which means ‘rival.’ I thought this was fitting given that Miya is, in fact, a rival to the primary antagonist in the series, though she may not fully understand the extent of it until the second half of The Echoed Realm!
How to pronounce: K-ai.
I honestly don’t know how to break this down more. Now, you might be wondering, “Hang on—Kai is Russian-Tatar and Kai isn’t a Russian name.” Well, you’d be correct! There is, in fact, more to Kai’s name than meets the eye (which is how you pronounce the vowel combo, by the way), something I may or may not get into in a future book that may or may not come to pass (it probably will). All we really know from The Hollow Gods is that when Alice Donovan found Kai, it was the name he used to refer to himself.
At the time that I chose this name, I really liked it for its simplicity, and it wasn’t very common when I first wrote the book. Joke’s on me: by the time The Hollow Gods was published, everyone and their aunt was named Kai.
How to pronounce:
How to pronounce: Aw-muh though she will accept Ah-muh too.
The origin of this name is actually quite wholesome. I decided on it while playing Ōkami on my Nintendo Wii years ago, a game in which you play as the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu reincarnated as a white wolf. So, yeah, Ama’s name is basically just derived from Amaterasu.
This one is tricky because it’s actually a word in many Slavic languages, and so if pronounced properly, it needs its proper accents! The ‘Ga’ sound is the same as in Lady GaGa, and the ‘vra’ has the same long vowel sound, but you need to roll the r! And easier, Anglocized version would be pronounced Gah-vrahn.
This should probably come as no surprise to anyone, but Gavran means raven in multiple Slavic languages!
How to pronounce:
Ekaliya aka “Kali”
How tp pronounce: Eh-kah-lee-yuh aka “Kah-lee”
Okay, I sort of made this name up. Originally, Ekaliya was just Kali, named after the Hindu goddess of destruction, but that started to feel too on the nose, and since Kali is from an unnamed region in the Balkans, I Slavicized the name a bit! I was inspired mostly by the names Ekaterina and Emiliya (Miya’s name, of course!), and built around ‘Kali’ to make something Slavic-sounding.
How to pronounce: Sen-dough-uh
This is a Basqe name that means strength. Nothing Slavic about it; I just thought it sounded really cool and decided I’d make an exception for his name!
How to pronounce: Vee-yest
Originally spelled vijest, this is the Croatian and Bosnian word for ‘news’ or ‘message.’ It is similar in all the South Slavic dialects: vest/vesti, vijest/viyesti, though I chose the Croatian/Bosnian dialect because I liked the way the added y sounded better when read with Anglocized phonetics. I chose this word as the name for a folkloric being in the Chaos Cycle universe that when successfully hunted, signals the survival of the community.
How to pronounce: Veh-lee-zahr
So, this name actually has a really funny story behind it. You see, I thought I was being super clever when I made it up from scratch! In the South Slavic dialects, ‘beli’ means ‘white’ and tzar/zar/tsar means ‘prince’ or ‘king’ (you know, like the Russian Tsar). Now, ‘veliki’ also means ‘big’ or ‘great,’ so I thought I was a little genius when I changed the B to a V and made a name that meant Great/White King! HAH! Joke’s on me. Turns out Velizar is an actual South Slavic name that really is derived from ‘beli tzar’ and just means ‘white prince.’ Oh well.
How to pronounce: Roo-sulk-uh
I’m sure many folks have encountered rusalka in one place or another! Rusalka are nymph-like water spirits from Slavic folklore. Of course, their backstory varies from region to region, though they are known to lure and drown men who come too close to the water. There are indeed some versions which posit that rusalka are the spirits of (sometimes) pregnant women who were drowned by their lovers, and that they cannot be put to rest until their deaths are avenged.
How to pronounce: Ah-buh-dawn
Most folks will recognize this name as Biblical, and it is partly explained in The Hollow Gods! It’s a Hebrew term meaning ‘destruction’ or ‘doom.’ In the Bible, Abaddon appears as both a place of destruction and an archangel of the abyss, though Hebrew texts only use the term to reference a bottomless pit that often appears alongside the realm of the dead.
How to pronounce: Mee-wreck
Mirek is the Czech and Polish diminutive of Miroslav, a very old and traditional Slavic name that portmanteaus ‘mir’ (peace) and ‘slava’ (glory or celebration).
How to pronounce: Dreh-kah-low
Like rusalka, drekalo are ghouls from Slavic folklore and mythology, though drekalo are specifically south Slavic. They’re also known as drekavac, krekavac, zdrekavac or zrikavac. The name is derived from the verb drečati, which means ‘to screech’. As with all folklore, there are many regional differences in the different stories. Sometimes, it’s an undead man who comes out from his grave at night to scream at and haunt people. Occasionally, it will be the corpse of an unbaptised child, returning to haunt its parents or to call them out to the cemetery for a baptism. In Eastern Serbia, the dekalo or dekavac is depicted as a humanoid canine that walks on its back legs, but in Southwestern Serbia, the creature is depicted as a long-necked, long-limbed monster with a cat-like head. Others claim the creature has a dappled, elongated, spindle-thin body with a grotesquely large head (this was the description I was inspired by!).
That’s about it folks! Hope you enjoyed this piece of informative trivia. If you are interested in purchasing signed copies of the books or other swag (posters, book plates, and more), check out my shop here: