The Xianthes are two enormous mountains on Xiantha, near the north pole of the planet. They jut out of the terrain, towering up 40 Kilometres into the atmosphere. You can just see them on the cover image, to the right.
They are based, very loosely, on the wonderful pictures of Miranda obtained by NASA's Voyager 2 on a fly past. The two images that really impressed me are these two:
Here is a detail of what would later be the inspiration for the Xianthes on Xiantha:
Of course, I made the Xianthes rather different, but I thought that these were superb pictures of Miranda (one of the moons of Uranus). They are, in fact, much smaller than the Xianthes, but you get the idea!
Here is a guest post I did in 2014 about finding the idea for the planet:
Where do worlds come from?
I have to see my worlds in my imagination, so I generally start by trying to find something extraordinary, something graphic which will start things going. For Xiantha, that was the Nasa picture of Miranda, one of the Uranus moons, where some prehistoric encounter with another celestial body caused a huge fracture right across the surface, leaving rock searing up to 20 miles above the surface.
As soon as I saw this I knew that my planet would have something similar. The mountains would stretch right through the atmosphere of Xiantha. The planet practically built itself after that. I could see how the huge mountains were formed, billions of years earlier, and how the planet had been changed by such a catastrophic collision. In fact, this one photograph meant that most of the planet Xiantha sprang into my imagination.
(Image courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper-atmospheric_lightning)
Of course, on my planet the mountains would reach 40 kilometres into space and would be quite a tourist attraction. People would want to ride up them to see the northern lights and the sprites and elves that would be such a fantastic sight as they travelled through the Stratosphere and Mesosphere. The two mountains would be sentinels on either side of the Lost Valley, which would have gradually been filled in over the aeons, but which would still be marked. That is where you would find the bottomless pool, a structure which was partly discovered by the impact of the other planet. The bottomless pool and the two Xianthes would become two of the eight ‘Magnificents’; places people should visit before they die.
There would be lightning storms on one particular site: bone-melting forked lightning which would terrify you to go through. That would be called Lightning Corner.
There would be a metallic structure winding its way all the way up one the Xianthes, as they would be called, and people would gradually be taken all the way up one side of the mountain and down the other in transparent pods, rather like those of the London Eye.
You would be able to see these two gigantic mountains from a huge distance; they would tower up over the landscape, which would be dry and sandy in the Northern hemisphere.
There would be increased magnetism in that part of the world too, which would enable the residents to develop a sort of hover sledge, utilizing the effect. These would be used for fast transport and called mag-sleds. There would be ...
Well, I could go on all day, but I think now you see how Xiantha came into existence. It is fun and exciting to build worlds. One thing leads to another, and then another, and suddenly you can ‘see’ it in your imagination. Now all you need to do is put your characters into it and let them interact. That’s why I am a writer!