Over on Pinterest, I've been keeping a pin board full of images that inspire and capture the spirit of the Scorched Continent series. With book one, Steal the Sky, coming out January 5th, I plan to explore some of these images here and explain what they mean to the world and the characters which inhabit it.
The people of Valathea are dark of skin and tend toward being taller than their Catari counterparts. They inhabit a tropical archipelago just north of the Scorched Continent. It was once called Thea, but they have reverted to calling the whole island chain the Valathean isles.
Due to the island-chain nature of their homeland, the Valatheans quickly became adept at ship building, and currently control a trade network that stretches across the entire known world. Upon discovering the Scorched Continent, it did not take them long to adapt their seaships into airships, furthering entrenching themselves as an empire of trade.
They are ruled by an imperial family, the current head of which meets with her heads of state to formalize law and direct the empire. They consider themselves a meritocracy, but the reality is that wealthy landowners pass their fortunes down through the generations, effectively stymieing the efforts of the poor to rise through the ranks. For many of the disenfranchised, joining the Fleet (their military) is the only way in which to gain upward social mobility.
That said, those with special abilities who can prove their talents are of value to the empire - botany, chemistry, etc - can apply for and be granted Concordants, which are contracts that function as grants, providing living costs and materials as long as they continue their research.