How To Write Kick-Ass Fight Scenes with Mark Stallings: Authors in Focus Episode 107

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by Mark Stallings! He is the author of the fantasy novel The Elements (Silver Coin Saga Book 1)! You can follow him on Facebook, visit out his website and his Patreon, and check out his books on Amazon.

How to Write a Thriller with Sidney Williams: Authors in Focus Episode 106

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by Sidney Williams! He is the author of action-thriller novel Fool’s Run: A Si Reardon Novel! Follow his on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. And check out his Website and his books on Amazon!

Reread of The White-Luck Warrior: Chapter Two

Reread of The Aspect-Emperor Series

Book 2: The White-Luck Warrior

by R. Scott Bakker

Chapter Two

The Istyuli Plains

Welcome to Chapter Two of my reread. Click here if you missed the Intro!

We belittle what we cannot bear. We make figments out of fundamentals, all in the name of preserving our own peculiar fancies. The best way to secure one’s own deception is to accuse others of deceit.

—HATATIAN, EXHORTATIONS

It is not so much wisdom of the wise that saves us from the foolishness of the fools as it is the latter’s inability to agree.

—AJENCIS, THE THIRD ANALYTIC OF MEN

My Thoughts

In the first quote, there’s a lot there. That’s how you tear down what you hate. Ridicule. Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals has it as one of the ways to take down institutions. Mock and belittle them.

Then we have projection. You see this a lot of puritans accusing others of the very things they are guilty of. And puritans are out there. They’re on Twitter screeching about every “ism” under the sun no different from a Southern Baptist preacher screaming fire and damnation from the pulpit. The fundamentals and ideologies might have changed, but the people who embrace them have not.

And then we see what happens to those who act this way. How they tear each other apart over purity tests and pettiness. They project their own sins on others then condemn them to hide their own shame. They rip apart what is strong because they are too foolish to understand what they are doing. It’s not wisdom that stops them. The wise are powerless. They can point it out, but will the foolish listen?

History says no.

These are also apt quotes since we see Kellhus beginning to deconstruct himself in Proyas’s eyes. To prepare him for what is to come.

Spring, 20 New Imperial Year (4132 Year-of-the-Tusk), The High Istyuli

To the Sakarpi, men have two modes: joy and sorrow. It’s as if they have two different puppies in their belly, one that “nuzzles their heart” and the other that bits it. If they feel neither, they are doomed. And it doesn’t matter how many times you felt bliss in the past, one act of shame can end it. Sorweel feels nothing. He’s “Between Dogs.” Empty inside.

Suicidal.

His people were conquered for their Chorae Hoard, he’s been conscripted into Kellhus’s Ordeal, and Yatwer wants something from him. He’s fucked.

His prison is the Scions, a cavalry company of young hostages. They’re too valuable to risk, so they’ll be protected from combat while others died around them. All of them are eager for the fight even if they are marching for their fathers’ enemy. After all, “they were boys as much as men, and so their hearts were burdened with the violent longing to prove their mettle.” Sorweel is just like them. He wants the fight then feels guilty afterward for getting sucked in with the enthusiasm of the others.

He is torn. Warring against the Sranc is what his people have done since the First Apocalypse. Fighting them is how boys become men among his people. And now he’s doing it but beneath the banner of the “man who had murdered his father and enslaved his nation.” This is all his boyhood dreams realized in a perverse way.

The night before their departure on a patrol, Sorweel has dinner with Zsoronga. As the others boast about the fight to come on their patrol, Sorweel tries to hold his tongue until losing his temper and shouting they’re hostages. Zsoronga watches with a frown. Though Zsoronga is still friendly, there’s a chill between them since Kellhus declared Sorweel to be a Believer-King. Sorweel needed to explain how Yatwer’s spit, produced by the slave Porsparian, had hidden the truth from Kellhus. Sorweel still hated, but he could never spit out the truth. “Some silences, he was learning, were impossible not to keep.”

There are other hostages in the room like Prince Charampa of Cingulat, Tzing of Jekkhia, and Tinurit of Akkunihor (a Scylvendi). Sorweel demands to know why they “should celebrate fighting our captor’s war?” No one but Obotegwa understands him though they hear the tone. Obotegwa translates for Zsoronga. Sorweel is surprised he understands much of what is translated, picking up more Sheyic than Sorweel had realized. Tzing snaps back that this beast “rotting in our captor’s camp.” Charampa agrees and implores “Sorri” to think of it as a hunting trip. He makes a joke.

Sorweel glances to Zsoronga for support, but the Successor-Prince looks away but not before his eyes accuse Sorweel of being a Believer-King. Sorweel can’t help but note that Zsoronga’s friends from the Scions all come from nations outside of the New Empire. The Successor-Prince is plotting for the day when he rules Zeüm and has a chance to rival Kellhus. The prince is cultivating allies. Sorweel doesn’t understand why he’s still here if Zsoronga thinks him a Believer-King and thus a potential spy. Maybe Zsoronga was still deciding what to do.

The young Sakarpi King found himself brooding more than contributing as the night wore on. Obotegwa continued translating the others for his benefit, but Sorweel could tell that the white-haired Obligate sensed his despondency. Eventually, he could do little more than gave at their small flame, plagued by the sense that something stared back.

Was he going mad? Was that it? The earth speaking, spitting. And now flames watching…

He had been raised to believe in a living world, an inhabited world, and yet for the brief span of his life dirt had always been dirt, and fire had always been fire, dumb and senseless. Until now.

Charampa, who talks too much, walks Sorweel back to his tent. They make a good match. “The one talking without care of comprehension, the other unable to comprehend.” Sorweel is too lost in thought to even pretend to listen. He struggles to see his father’s face but sees Kellhus’s instead as the Aspect-Emperor rained sorcerery down on Sakarpus. He thinks about how tomorrow, the eighty Scions will be heading out as a hunting party to find game, though they are playing that it’s to fight Sranc. Still, they were riding out on their own. They could find Sranc. He thinks about fighting and killing, which makes him smile.

Charampa mistakes the smile for agreement and is excited as he marches off, leaving Sorweel bemused. Then he feels dread before entering his tent where Porsparian slept. He can see the slave making Yatwer’s face in his mind while he can’t believe that Kellhus named him a Believer-King.

A slave—a slave had done this! More Southron madness, Sorweel found himself thinking. In the story and scripture of Sakarpus, the Gods only treated with the heroic and the highborn—those mortals who resembled them most. But in the Three Seas, he was learning, the Gods touched Men according to the extremity of their station. The abject were as apt to become their vessels as the grand…

Slaves and kings.

Sorweel crept into his cot as silently as he could manage, tossed in what he thought was the beginning of another sleepless night, only to dissolve into a profound slumber.

The Interval wakes up Sorweel. A warm breeze for the dawn blows. In the morning, the slave isn’t scary but just a menial servant getting Sorweel ready. As Sorweel leaves, Porsparian tells him that he will return exalted. Sorweel snorts and says he’ll “do my best.” The old man starts yelling, “She!” over and over and Sorweel is frightened. He breaks free of the old man’s grip and heads to join the other Scions. The day is full of the sound of soldiers readying for the march.

The great host of the Aspect-Emperor… The other dog.

Yes, the young King of Sakarpus decided. Ne needed to kill something.

That or die.

Though the plains are starting to green, it’s not as much as it should be. Those who live on plains realize this is going to be a lean summer for the Great Ordeal. The warm wind blowing is called by the Sakarpi the Gangan-naru, something they fear. It comes once a decade, devastating their herds and turning plains into a desert. Some Kianene swears they smell sand in the air. The veterans of the First Holy War mutter how the righteous path is not an easy one. That “it is trial the separates the weak from the holy.” The drunk ones whisper about crossing the desert and the Trail of Skulls

Undaunted, the Great Ordeal marches on, a sea of humanity surrounded by a “cloud of horsemen” scouting and patrolling, searching for the Sranc and not finding them. In councils, Kellhus is asked about why the Sranc flee before me. He tells them that it will come. The Sranc will scratch their itch to crush them and they will wish that these peaceful days had never ended.

He smiled, and they smiled, finding levity in his wry humour, wisdom in his sober heart. He sighed, and they shook their heads at their juvenile foolishness.

“Fret not about the absence of our foe,” he admonished. “So long as the horizon remains empty, our way is secure.”

The grasslands dry out as no rain comes. Rivers dwindle. Dust shrouds them. Ceremonies are held for rain, but the sere wind howls. The soldiers worry about thirst and rumors of strife in the New Empire.

The horizon remained empty, and yet their way no longer seemed secure.

A halt to rest for a day is called while quartermasters become miserly. They are running out of provisions and have outrun their supply trains. They are draining rivers to fill waterskins. They are no on their own, cut off from civilization.

The time had come for the Great Ordeal to break into foraging columns.

Proyas can only describe Aspect-Emperor bed chamber as stark. He sleeps on the same cot as low-ranking officers, has a table with no cushions to sit on. No ornamentation. No gold. Only the columns that hold the roof have symbols on them. After twenty years of being Kellhus’s Exalt-General, Proyas I still perplexed by the man. It reminds him of his boyhood watching Kellhus and Xinemus play benjuka. He would wonder at their decisions that he can’t understand.

This, he had come to learn, was what it meant to serve the Holy Aspect-Emperor: to be a witness to incomprehensible decisions. The difference was that Anasûrimbor Kellhus took the World as his benjuka plate.

The World and the Heavens.

“To act without understanding.” Proyas realizes this is worship. He remembers leading the Sack of Srneveh that had so many dead, including 5000 children, that Proyas is still haunted by it. After, while alone puking and crying, Kellhus had stood over him and said he should grieve but not to think he had sinned. The world is too complicated, that’s why humans make things simple, and Virtue and Sin are the most complicated. Kellhus tells Proyas that every atrocity committed in the Aspect-Emperor’s name has a purpose. “Do you understand why you will never understand?”

“You are our father,” he [Proyas] had sobbed. “And we are your headstrong sons.”

Zaudunyani.

Though it’s only Kellhus and Proyas in the tent, Proyas kneels. He feels shame for having more stuff than Kellhus and vows to live as meagerly as an example. Kellhus invites Proyas to share his fire. Kellhus appears to have been sitting for some time in his simple rob. He looks normal except for his eyes. Those are extraordinary.

Proyas starts to ask if something is wrong and stops. Kellhus smiles and comments about how they have a weird relationship. They have to be formal sometimes and can be friends other than Kellhus makes a joke to break the tension. Proyas sits down but doesn’t laugh. Kellhus remembers when he did. Proyas says he was funnier back then. Kellhus asks when that was

“Before you beat the World to the last laugh.”

The Aspect-Emperor grinned and frowned at once. “That remains to be seen, my friend.

It still astonishes Proyas that Kellhus can shift between roles to be whatever was needed. Right now, he’s Proyas’s old friend. Normally, it’s hard for Proyas not to see Kellhus as a living miracle, but not right now.

Proyas asks if things are going bad. Achamian says it’s going and that things are unfolding according to the “true future” that he’s been allowed to glimpse. But they have dark decisions to make, and Kellhus doesn’t want to make them alone. “I’m not sure I understand,” Proyas answers feels ashamed for hedging his confession, not for ignorance. Despite the last twenty years, his pride sometimes rears up with little falsehood to “manage the impressions of others.”

How hard it was to be an absolutely faithful soul.

Kellhus no longer has to correct these lapses. Just being before Kellhus is enough for Proyas to rebuke himself. Kellhus continues that he doesn’t want to make guesses and that as a leader, Proyas should understand that. He agrees given the immensity of the stakes.

Proyas says he is ready to be commanded. Kellhus tells him to kneel before his hearth and bow his head in the flames. Proyas is surprised that he doesn’t hesitate. He kneels, feeling the heat, and remembers the story from the Tusk when Husyelt, a god, told Angeshraël to bow into his face. Kellhus used this very story in his Sermon of the Zigurrat when he first revealed his divinity. So many madmen had done this. Despite that, he was doing it. He even kept his eyes open. “And a part of him watched and wondered that a devotion, any devotion, could run so deep as to throw a face into the furnace…”

Across the crazed bourne of opposites. Into the lapping glitter. Into the needling agony.

Into the light.

His beard and hair whooshed into tinder. He expected agony. He expected to scream. But something was tugged from him, sloughed like flesh from overboiled bone… something… essential.

And he was looking out from the fire, into a thousand faces—and a thousand more. Enough to wrench the eyes, dazzle and bewilder the soul. And yet somehow he focused, turned from the battering complexity and took refuge in a single clutch of men, four long-bearded Men of the Ordeal, one gazing directly at him with a child’s thoughtless fixity, the other bickering in Thunyeri… Something about rations. Hunger.

Then he was out, on his rump in Kellhus’s gloomy chamber, blinking and sputtering.

Kellhus says that the “absence of space” is hard for people to handle. Proyas rubs at his face but he’s not burned. He’s embarrassed and glances at the hearth. Looks normal. Kellhus asks if it disturbs him that he spies on the army. Proyas is heartened because an army far from home can be capricious. After this meeting, Proyas will realize Kellhus already knew Proyas’s answer, and it makes Proyas question what was the point of the meeting.

Kellhus asks why he was shone this and if there is talk of mutiny. Kellhus says no mutiny, they’re just bitching about home. Proyas asks if this is a problem. Kellhus says it is, revealing that their enemies back in the Three Seas are making their move and the New Empire most likely will collapse. Proyas asks if that will cause desertion here and Kellhus says it will.

“But these men are Zaudunyani… They would die for you! For the truth!”

The Aspect-Emperor lowered his face in the yes-but manner Proyas had seen countless times, though not for several years. They had been far closer, he realized, during the Unification Wars…

When they were killing people.

Kellhus says that abstract ideas hold little power over Men save some rare few, like Proyas, who can “throw itself upon the altar of thought.” The army marches as much in their belief in Kellhus as their belief in his word. Proyas argues that they do believe that the No-God is about to return. Kellhus says but will the choice to save the world over saving a son. He then asks Proyas if he’s willing to risk his children for Kellhus’s gamble.

A kind of strange, tingling horror accompanied these words. According to scripture, only Ciphrang, demons, demanded such sacrifices. Proyas could only stare, blinking.

Kellhus assures Proyas he wouldn’t demand that sacrifice. Proyas is confused and Kellhus explains that these men march to save their wives and kids, their people, but not the world. So if they learn their families might die because they’re not there to protect them, desertions would begin. Proyas could see it. The men gossiping about the misfortune back home, building each other’s fears. He’s dismayed to realize that even the Zaudunyani were so weak.

So Kellhus is putting an embargo. No one can use Cants of Far-calling on pain of death. “Henceforth, the Men of the Ordeal shall march with only memories to warm them.” Proyas knows even beggars have a home. Proyas, though, having spent so much time from it, is a faint idea. His home is his wife, Miramis, and their children Xinemus and Thaila, whom hardly knew him. He’s gone so much, they feel more like strangers to him.

No. This was his home. Dwelling in the light of Anasûrimbor Kellhus.

Waging his endless war.

Kellhus gives him a comforting squeeze and implies this is the last war. That comforts Proyas as he asks what will he tell them. He’ll say the Consult can spy on the scrying, though he’s not sure if he can. Other than to say they’ve had two thousand years to prepare, and that should frighten Proyas because Kellhus knows so little of them. Proyas makes a joke about having “not know terror” since meeting Kellhus, even though he makes things as difficult. Kellhus replies that Proyas will find fear once more before the end.

Proyas asks if Kellhus will maintain contact with the New Empire. Kellhus says, “No,” which shocks Proyas. He asks why. Kellhus doesn’t have time to worry about them when he isn’t seeing the whole picture. He can’t look back.

And Proyas understood that at long last the Great Ordeal had begun in earnest. The time had come to set aside burdens, to shed all complicating baggage.

Including home.

Only death, war, and triumph remained. Only the future.

At the Eleventh Council of Potentates, Kellhus breaks apart the Ordeal. They have to do this to forage. One host is too large for the land to support, so they need to spread out. But with the draught on them, they worry there still won’t be any food to find as the game has chased the rain. Kellhus and his mathematicians explain how they have to keep on course, they can’t chase the herds, or they will not make it to Golgotterath before winter and perish. They are in a bind that the harder they march, the more food they need. The more food they need, the more time they need to spent foraging. The more time spent foraging, the slower they go.

So they must take the Shortest Path. And there is only one of them. They must do this to save the world. And so the Ordeal is broken into the Four Armies. Kayûtas commands the Men of the Middle North. The Sawayal Sisterhood and the Grandmistress Serwa goes with him. They will be the westernmost army and the one most at risk.

Proyas commands the Ketyai of the East with the Scarlet Spires, led by blind Iyokus, and the Mandate. Saubon commands the Ketyai of the West (Nansur and Fanim) and has the Imperial Saik and the “rehabilitated” Mysunsai. These two columns would be the heart of the Great Ordeal and would only be a few days apart and will hold the bulk of their force.

On the east, King Sasal Umrapathur commands the Ketyai of the South (the Nilnameshi). The Vokalti school marches with them. They are rumored to have made many attempts to steal the Gnosis. They would be marching through the least charted lands.

It’s chaotic as they break apart into their new hosts the next day several are killed in a brawl between two units, but it was mostly a peaceful affair. The next morning, the Breaking was finished and the Four Columns broke apart. “Songs in a hundred different tongues scored an indifferent sky.”

Thus began the longest, and most arduous, and most deadly stage of the Great Ordeal’s bid to destroy Golgotterath and so prevent the Second Apocalypse.

My Thoughts

This is the folly of humans and their strength. We are passionate. Sorweel is doing the right thing but for the wrong person. It’s destroying him because he can’t let go of the death of his father. That he’s a slave. They might be riding to save the world, but that’s such a huge concept. He is trapped by that anger that he has betrayed his father. He wars to stay faithful against the impulse to surrender, and it’s tearing him apart.

I like the stuff about Zsoronga building up his allies for the day he’ll challenge the New Empire. Don’t think it’ll ever matter since I doubt any of them survive, but it’s showing that Zsoronga is a character with his own motivations and goals that are not aligned with Sorweel’s. Got his own thing going on. His story is just in the background of Sorweel’s story.

Sorweel raised believing in the Supernatural, but there’s knowing something and witnessing something. Things really don’t matter to us when they’re abstract, but when you get it in your face, when your emotions are responding, well, things get real.

Meeting the Gods is like meeting your heroes, it seems. In the story, they hang out with only the cool guys, but in reality, they are slumming with Porsparian the slave. Life isn’t what you think it is, and it’s painful when those illusions are shattered.

So, Sorweel is going to return exalted because he’ll spot the Yoke and make it back to bring word. This is Yatwer at work. She is positioning him to kill Kellhus. He’s the real White Luck Warrior. We have the one that is working through the Three Seas, but we also have a second. Sorweel. He’s the subtle one. He’s not possessed by the Goddess, but things are going to turn out just fine for him.

Up until he fails.

He’s rather suicidal, too. In a very vulnerable and emotional state. Very easy to manipulate by Yatwer.

Ah, miss you Xinemus.

And we have the beginning of Proyas’s lessons. Kellhus has a job for both his generals. And it’s for them both to die. Proyas and Saubon are the closest two men to Kellhus in the Great Ordeal, and he is going to lead them both to their deaths because it is the Shortest Way. But before that can happen, he has to mold them. Ready them. Particularly Proyas.

“Before you beat the World to the last laugh.” Kellhus’s response to this joke is quite telling. He’s not sure if he will. I think this has to do with his agreement with Ajokli and his plan to evade being the god’s bitch in the Outside. This is the hint that Kellhus has something against the WORLD in the works, but will it succeed? Well, the third series will hopefully answer this question.

“Usually Proyas found it difficult—given all the miracles of might and intellect he had witnessed—to think of Kellhus as a creature of flesh and blood, as a man. No so now.” This is the point of the lessons. Kellhus is deconstructing himself with Proyas. He’s unmaking himself as a god. Kellhus mentions “dark decisions” and this is all to prepare Proyas for the final march on Golgotterath that will end with Proyas being condemned. The scapegoat for the sins the Great Ordeal will commit to survive the Appalling Fields.

When Proyas is in the fire, one of the men with the “child’s thoughtless fixity” seemed to have noticed Proyas. Perhaps the man has some mental handicap or maybe he was just bored and staring at the fire. But the point is the effect it has on Proyas. A spiritual experience to mold him.

And we see that, afterward, Proyas is wondering what the point of the meeting was. This is starting him on his path to be conditioned for Kellhus’s purpose. Proyas thinks they’re friends when he’s really just a tool. Esmenet is the only person Kellhus cares for, and he barely can care for her.

Bakker draws our attention to how close Proyas thinks he is to Kellhus and the fact that such intimacy was brought about by violence. They were committing dark deeds together, giving them shared pain. Or, to Proyas, the illusion of shared pain.

And Proyas starts to think Kellhus is a Ciphrang for asking Proyas to wager his children’s life. More deconstruction at work. This conversation, looking in the fire, has all been to lead Proyas to these doubts.

One of the things that Kellhus needs to know is if the Dûnyain has taken over the Consult. He suspects it, and is planned for it, but he doesn’t know yet. And Dûnyain being in charge of the Consult should terrify everyone.

Kellhus is trying to ignore his love for Esmenet here. That’s why he can’t worry about her plight. But as we’ll see in the next book. He fails. He goes back for her and it leads to the No God reactivating. He knows he should abandon her, but as he just described, men don’t fight to save the world. They fight to save their loved ones. And, in his own vestigial way, he loves Esmenet. Without that, Kellhus would have embraced his father’s plan. He already sacrificed one person he cared for, Serwë, and it broke him. Drove him mad. It seems he can’t do it again.

It’s a short chapter. It gets us caught up on the players here and sets up the story arc for the Great Ordeal going forward until they get to Asgilioch.

And you have to check out my fantasy novel, Above the Storm!

Now it’s been turned into an Audiobook!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When the Stormriders attack …

…Ary’s people have little chance.

Can he find a way to defeat them?

At 19, Ary has spent ten years mourning his father’s death. The aftermath of the attack still haunts him. Now, on the eve of the draft he faces his greatest fear, being sent to become a marine.

He knows the cost of war.

All he wants is to marry Charlene, who he has loved since they were kids. Building a farm and starting a family sounds perfect. There’s just one problem, his best friend Vel adores her, too. He’d give anything for peace.

But wanting the Stormriders to stop attacking…

…isn’t going to make it happen.

For love, for his people, and especially for the life he wants, Ary makes a decision that will change everything.

The adventure begins.

You’ll love this beautifully creative dark fantasy, because James Reid knows how to create characters and worlds you’ll grow to adore.

Get it now.

You can buy or burrow Above the Storm today!

Writing Realistic SciFi Romance with Evangeline Rain: Authors in Focus Episode 105

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by Evangeline Rain! She is the author of sci-fi romance novel Fatal Extraction (The Chikara Revolution Book 1)! Follow her on Facebook and Instagram, visit out her Website, and check out her books on Amazon!

Authors in Focus Podcast Episode 104: RG Long

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by RG Long! He is the author of the fantasy novel Legends of Gilia – Triple Trilogy Omnibus! Follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter! And check out his books on Amazon!

 

When Everyone Has Magic by Alexzander Christion: Authors in Focus Episode 103

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by Alexzander Christion! He is the author of the fantasy novel The Hand of the Dragons: Rook! Check out his Blog and his Website! Follow him on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and YouTube! And check out his book on Amazon!

Authors in Focus Episode 102: When a Novella Becomes a 5 Book Series with Adam Gaffen

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by Adam Gaffen! He is the author of the sci-fi novel A quiet Revolution: The Cassidy Chronicles Volume 4! Follow him on Facebook and Instagram! Visit his website and checkout his books on Amazon!

Authors in Focus Episode 101: Revamping Your Novel with Melissa Sell

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by Melissa Sell! She is the author of portal fantasy novel The Chronicles of Fey: Rising! You can follow her on InstagramFacebookTik Tok, and Website. And check out her books on Amazon!

Authors in Focus Podcast Episode 100: On Writing Cyberpunk with Jason DeGray

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by Jason DeGray! He is the author of the sci-fi novel 3vE! Visit his website, follow him on Facebook! And check out his other books on Amazon!

Reread of The White-Luck Warrior: Chapter One

Reread of The Aspect-Emperor Series

Book 2: The White-Luck Warrior

by R. Scott Bakker

Chapter One

The Meörn Wilderness

Without rules, madness. Without discipline, death

—NANSUR MILITARY MAXIM

Welcome to Chapter One of my reread. Click here if you missed the Intro!

My Thoughts

That is a very apt quote considering we’re picking up with the Skin Eaters. Rules impart order on the chaos of the world. And nothing is more chaotic than battle (or traveling through Cil-Aujas). Discipline keeps soldiers standing when they would have broken. The belief instilled in them, and the training they’ve gone through lets a person endure situations they could not without it.

Now going into Meörn Wilderness, we’re going to see that the Rules and Discipline of the Skin Eaters have been broken. They are going to fall into madness and death by the end of this book. Not even Kosoter will keep them in line.

The Skin Eaters are broken.

Spring, 20 New Imperial Year (4132 Year-of-the-Tusk), the “Long Side”

Even when the Skin Eaters walked ways sheeted in sunlight, some shadow of Cil-Aujas lingered in their eyes. The reflection of friends lost. The glint of things not quite survived.

Two days have passed since the Skin Eaters have escaped Cil-Aujas. “There was madness in the deep, and the scalpers wore it more as fact than trophy.” They’ve been decimated. Men who have survived years of hunting Sranc have cracked from the strain. Whether sunny or rainy, they rejoice in seeing the open sky through the trees they march through.

They walked with the wonder of those who could not fathom their breath, their heartbeat. Who could not believe they still lived.

Achamian thinks they’re too few to have discipline and not sure any Rules of the Slog remain. They would have to find a new way. Kosoter is still in command but in an even more dominating way. Sarl skulks at the rear, no longer Kosoter’s mouthpiece. He mutters all the time but speaks with no one. Mostly he mutters about Hell and “The Slog of Slogs!” Galian has become the second. The Nansur soldier seems unscathed. He, Pokwas, and Xonghis have become “a nucleus of sorts, like a conspiracy of the sane within the greater company.” They maintain authority by not giving their opinion. Whenever Kosoter gives an order, everyone looks to Galian. He would pause and then nod his head, never dumb enough to contradict Kosoter.

Xonghis is the scout, moving ahead. Only he, and Cleric, move with any energy. The others trudge. Pokwas, his head wound gruesome, stays by Galian’s side. The three eat apart from the others, devouring meat cooked by sorcery. Xonghis eyes never stop moving. Pokwas polishes his sword while nursing a grudge. Galian sits between them, watching the other scalpers like a worried father. Soma and Sutadra were now excluded from the group for no reason Achamian can see. Sutadra is silent but is waiting for something to set off his temper. Soma seems the most the same and seems oblivious to how his friends snub him.

Nothing should be the same after Cil-Aujas.

The other survivors are the Galeoth that are both mutinous and complacent. They complain and object until Kosoter looks at them. Then they shut up. They are the ones most broken by Cil-Aujas. Wonard’s wounds are infected, Hameron cries in his sleep, and injured Conger is getting better. His limp has vanished.

But no one had been more transformed in the collective eye than Cleric. Where before they had walked with an enigma, one rounded warm and smooth by local acquaintance, now they walked with a Nonman Ishroi… a Quya Mage.

Even for men so bitten, it was no small thing to walk with a legend. And for a Wizard steeped in the ancient ways, it was cause for more than a few sleepless watches…

Night comes suddenly with the Osthwai Mountains to the west. They don’t make fires or other lights because they’re in skinny country. “They became a company of shadows, skulkers between the trees, loath to speak.” Their losses are so apparent when they camp. Cleric dispenses Qirri reach night, his armor still clotted with blood. He seems more animal than before. Then he would sit by the Captain who either sat like a stone or lecture the Nonman in a low voice.

The Qirri would soak through their bodies, relaxing them. Then the mutters and complaints would start until Cleric began his next sermon. They all fall silent, Skin Eaters, Wizard, and girl. “A silence not of expectation, but of men who awaited tidings of themselves.”

During one sermon, Cleric speaks about how they have wandered “out of light and life.” As he speaks, he seems like he’s judging their mistakes. Cleric speaks about how they have seen things few humans ever have. They will understand how power and history piles upon themselves.

“Ever are Men stranded on the surface of things. And ever do they confuse what they see with the sum of what matters. Ever do they forget the rank insignificance of the visible. And when they do honour the beyond—the beneath—they render it according to what is familiar… They disfigure it for comfort’s sake.

The old Wizard sat rigid.

“But you… you know… You know that what lies beyond resembles us no more than the potter resembles the urn…”

A sudden mountain gust swept the high ridges, whisked through the gnarled jack pine that crooked the stone about them. Mimara raised a hand to brush the hair from her face.

“You who have glimpsed Hell.”

“The Slog!” Sarl exclaimed in hoary tomes. “The Slog of Slogs—just as I told you!” His laugh was half gurgle and half rasp.

Everyone ignored Sarl’s cackling as Cleric continues, saying all things has their place, including death. They have seen what only dead men do. Achamian flinches from Cleric’s gaze. The Nonman hopes that death will “greet you as an old friend.” Silence follows until Sarl cackles again.

Achamian feels the weight of those who have died, those he knew, and those he didn’t. This is the price of his conviction. His quest is paid for by the blood of men he has tricked into this quest. “Distance and abstraction are ever the twin lures of disaster.” He realizes it was so easy to take that first step from his tower. Absurdly so. Now he had come so far through so much suffering because of that first step.

All for the sake of finding Ishuäl… The name spoken by a mad barbarian so many years ago. The Cradle of Anasûrimbor Kellhus. The hidden refuge of the Dûnyain.

Achamian had promised these men riches in the Coffers of Sauglish, the sorcerous vaults. It’s a lie, but these “wrecked and heartbroken” men don’t know that. He has held back his map and the Dreams. He knows the Whore of Fate is on them. Mimara’s presence is proof of that. He had known his “mad mission” would have a heavy toll, but he had deceived himself anyways.

The truth, he had told himself. The truth demanded sacrifice, from him and from others.

Could a man be called a murderer when he killed in the name of truth?

At night, he looks at the men he is deceiving, men who are crippled. No longer the strutting braggarts before Cil-Aujas. Men boasting about the riches they would find and how they would return as princes. Those men were gone. Achamian fears what will happen to them next to pursue his goal.

Mimara often watches him watching them. She was a woman who had skill reading men’s emotions and was always guessing at his. She thinks he feels remorse. He says Cil-Aujas proved her right, referencing how she called him a murderer when she learned of his real goal and had threatened to tell the others. She replies that it “has wronged me more.”

In the absence of consequence, lies were as easy as breathing, as simple as song. During his days as a Mandate Schoolman, Achamian had told innumerable falsehoods to innumerable people, and a fair number of fatal truths as well. He had destroyed reputations, even lives, in the pursuit of an abstraction, the Consult. He had even killed one of his beloved pupils, Inrau, in the name of what could not be touched or seen. He found himself wondering what it must be like for his former brothers now that the Consult had been revealed. What would it be like to belong to an Imperial School, to have princes and kings stammer in your presence? According to Mimara, they even carried Shrial Warrants, holy writ that exempted them from the laws of the lands that hosted them.

Mandate Schoolmen with Shrial Warrants! What would that be like?

Achamian would never know because he had left the Mandate just as Kellhus made the Consult’s existence concrete. Now Achamian seeks Kellhus’s origins through his Dreams. He’s “[s]acrificing the actual for the possible.” He both believes and doubts, and he has more men to kill.

You can only possess a dream while awake. They can take over your entire existence. “Dreams are the darkness that only slumber can illuminate.” Achamian is dreaming of walking through the Library of Sauglish, the home of the first School, the Sohonc. The place is heaped with Wards, making the place ugly “the way all sorcery is ugly.” And yet the perfection of it, like a ship’s great rigging, is beautiful. No invaders had ever attacked this place. They had always brought gifts because this “was the Library!”

Achamian is dreaming of Seswatha carrying the map of Ishuäl through the Library. He uses the Cant of Sideways Stepping to pass through stone. He enters the Upper Pausal, a part of the library the Nonmen had carved when they taught humans Gnosis. It is carved out of “living rock.” Seswatha is almost overwhelmed by all the marks of Sorcery, especially from the Great Gate of Wheels which is both a portal and a lock into the Coffers.

To the mundane eyes, it was a wonder of scale and machination. To arcane eyes it was nothing less than a miracle of interlocking deformities: enormous incantation wheels carved from milk-white marble, turning through a frame of bronze set with constellations of faces carved of black diorite, instilled animata—or proxies, as they called them—enslaved souls, whose only purpose was to complete the circuit between watcher and watched that was the foundation of all reality, sorcerous or not. So hideous was the Mark of the thing, so metaphysically disfigured, that bile bubbled to the back of his throat whenever he found himself before it.

Quya magic. Deeper than deep.

He pauses at the stairs and feels no alarm to see the golden map case was now a dead infant’s body. “Such is the madness of dreams that we can assume the continuity of even the most jarring thing.” To the dreamer, he always had a dead baby. He marches down the stair and stops before the Gate which the proxies open at a command. The baby starts squirming and now the Archmage glances down. He feels revulsion at the dead baby reaching for him. He throws it to the floor. Only it floats in place.

“This,” Seswatha gasped, “is not what hap—!”

The gate opens. The infant falls to the ground and becomes the map case. Achamian stands still, the wind gusting out of the Coffers rippling around him. It’s then that Achamian sees there’s no roof. The Pausal is open to the sky. The Whirlwind has arrived.

TELL ME… the Whirlwind said.

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

WHAT AM I?” The No God’s question echoes in Achamian’s minds as the scalpers cross the Meörn Wilderness, or the Long Side, as they call it. They knew they walked through lands once cultivated and had been through the ruined cities of the Meöri Empire. Once upon a time, the wildlands were on the other side of the Osthwai Mountains. Ten years ago, the first companies had been overwhelmed by the Srancs. The “Stick Days” because you were tossing number-sticks on where you would survive. After five years, the Sranc were driven back to a forest called the Great Mop. They were so successful, the Holy Bounty had to be halved to keep the New Empire from going bankrupt.

The reconquest of the Great Meöri Empire had begun, albeit by Men who resembled the Sranc more than otherwise. When Fatwall, or Maimor, was discovered, the Holy Aspect-Emperor sent a Judge and a company of Ministrate Pikeman to occupy the abandoned fortress over the summer months. Many among the Imperial Apparati spoke of reclaiming all the ancient Meöri provinces—from the Osthwai Mountains to the Sea of Cerish—with ten scant years. Some even argued the Holy Bounty should take precedence over the Great Ordeal. Why wage war against one, they dared ask, when with mere gold you could battle against all?

But the Great Mop changed things. No matter how many Sranc were killed, their numbers were not diminishing. They did not retreat. One mathematician believed these Sranc were reproducing as fast as they were killed. It was a futile endeavor. “He would be imprisoned for his impious accuracy.” The scalpers didn’t care. They understood. The Mop’s dense canopy strangled out the underbrush. It was always dark and dim, perfect for Sranc and the grubs they fed on. “It provided for all but their most dread appetites.

That is, until the coming of men.

With Xonghis in the lead, they planned to march to the ruins of Maimor (nicknamed Fatwall) and hope of getting resupplied. Mimara clings to Achamian, often leaning against him even though she’s not injured. Achamian remembers Esmenet doing the same during the First Holy War. If it wasn’t for the trauma of the last few days, he would have felt the pain of her loss. He asks her about how she drove off the Wight-in-the-Mountain with a Chorae, but she can’t give a satisfactory answer. He doesn’t understand why Kosoter’s didn’t do anything. “Well, I’m not the Captain, am I?” He keeps coming back to it, like an itch that never goes away.

The School of Mandate had long eschewed the Daimotic Arts: Seswatha had believed Ciphrang too capricious to be yoked to human intent. Still, Achamian had some understanding of the metaphysics involved. He knew that some agencies could be summoned shorn of the Outside, plucked whole as it were, while others bore their realities with them, swamping the World with porous madness. The shade of Gin’yursis, Achamian knew, had been one of the latter.

Chorae only negated violations of the real; they returned the world to its fundamental frame. But Gin’yursis had come as figure and frame—a symbol wedded to the very Hell that gave it meaning…

Mimara’s Chorae should have been useless.

He begs her to explain, knowing the Judging Eye somehow made it happen. She just gets mad, calling it madness and not understanding it herself. He says she must know more. She glares at him and calls him a hypocrite. He was equally as evasive when she asked for information about the Judging Eye. He suspects she’s getting back at him. He doesn’t want to burden her with the doom of her future. He doesn’t want her to “forget hope.”

The old Wizard knew this as much from his Dreams as from his life. Of all the lessons he had learned at life’s uncaring knee, perhaps this was the most hard won. So when she pestered him with questions—gazing at him with Esmenet’s eyes and airs—he would bristle. “The Judging Eye is the stuff of witches lore and old wives’ tales! I have no knowledge to share, only rumours and misapprehensions.”

She would ask to know those, but he would tell her to leave him alone. He told himself he did it to spare her. “There is mercy in ignorance.” This is something are born appreciating. The less they know, the happier they are.

Soma also receives Mimara’s anger. When he tries to talk to her, she ignores him. He’s trying to rekindle their old banter in a way to earn her forgiveness. “His approach was at once cowardly and eminently male: he was literally asking her to pretend that he had not abandoned her in Cil-Aujas.” She does not forgive. Finally, he tries to explain himself, saying things just happened so fast.

“But that’s the way it is with fools, isn’t it?” she said, her tone so light it could only be scathing. “The world is quick and they are slow.”

Soma is shocked by her words and looks dumbfounded. Galian mocks him. Later, Achamian joins Soma on the trail and tells him to give her time and let her anger die down because she is a forgiving woman. He adds she’s too smart not to understand the difficulties. Soma is confused and Achamian agrees with Mimara that he’s a fool. He tells him, “Courage for men is fodder for dragons.” Soma doesn’t get it.

“That courage is more complicated than simple souls credit… Mimara may be many things, Soma, but simple isn’t one of them. We all need to build fences about what… what happened.”

Soma just stares with that same affable gaze repeats that she needs more time like he’s taking it to heart. Achamian agrees and keeps walking while fearing that the “daft fool” would take Achamian’s advice as permission. Strong in the same ways, Achamian feels she needs protection. She’s has something beautiful that should not have survived her experiences. “This realization, if anything, made her company more irritating.”

Pokwas believes it’s significant that Mimara saved Achamian’s life. In his lands, a woman saving you means “deep things.” Achamian says she said them all, but Pokwas reiterates that she saved his several times while awe creeps in his expression. Achamian scowls and asks what. Pokwas makes a joke about who would save someone so old and used up. He snorted and jokes back that only a daughter would. At the same time, he flinches from the lie that he’s telling a man who he had shared such abject hardship with.

Maybe this lie had also come true.

Mimara studies Achamian like a “mother reviews her children: the counting of things beloved.” Before he infuriated her by withholding knowledge, starving her of information. Needing him was unforgivable before, but things are different now even though he still denied her. “Still he complains, upbraids, and rebukes.”

The only difference is she loves him.

She recalls her mother, back in the Andiamine Heights, telling her about “Akka.” Mimara asked if he was her father which caused her mother to recoil. Mimara used her father as a weapon since her mother, being a whore, couldn’t answer it. It reminds her of her past. This time, the words hurt and she has tears before answering that he is her father. The response stunned Mimara even as she knew it was a lie. Though she gets why her mother wants it to be Achamian. “Everyone tells lies to dull the world’s sharper, more complicated edges—some more pretty than others.”

This prompts Mimara to ask what Achamian is like. “Foolish, like all men. Wise. Petty. Gentle.” To hurt her mother, she asks why she left Achamian. But Mimara is the one flinching, feeling guilty for it. It’s one thing to hurt her mother over being sold into slavery, this is different, and shows how ugly Mimara is.

Few passions require quite so much certainty as spite.

Defeated and hurting, Esmenet says she choose Kellhus. Mimara remembers that as she watches Achamian she thinks of Esmenet being terrified for her safety. Mimara feels guilt until she remembers being that little girl shrieking “Mumma!” as the slavers took her away. The child still weeps in her.

She asks Achamian why Esmenet left him. He answers that he died, that it’s too hard to “wait for the dead.” She asks about waiting for the living. He stares at her and says you already know that answer. She’s surprised. He smiles at her as Galian and Sutadra walk between Wizard and girl, the pair feeling like strangers to her now. Then Achamian asks her why she didn’t abandon him in Cil-Aujas.

Because I lov—

“Because I need you,” she says without breath. “I need your knowledge.”

He stares at her, his beard and hair trembling in the breeze. “So the old wineskin has a few swallows left,” he says inexplicably.

He’s unfazed by her gaze as she’s annoyed by more riddles. She ignores him for the rest of the afternoon, offended that after she saved him he laughed at her. She is furious because he’s holding out on what she hungers for. She understands that some starve and some eat, that’s life. “It’s only when fat men make sauce out of other’s starvation that it becomes a sin.”

Mimara is no one of them. She belongs. They treat her differently. They tease her with “brotherly skepticism instead of masculine daring” They don’t stare at her with lust. They are lessened because of Cil-Aujas and greater because she’s one of them. Even Kosoter appears to accept her, staring at her like his men do.

They camp for the night and she realizes that they’re like lice, and the Mop is the world’s pelt. The others talk about its dangers, but it seems safe after Cil-Aujas. They eat, but she’s aching for the Qirri that is handed out after supper. She keeps ignoring Achamian who is confused about what he’s done, just like all men are. Soma tries to talk to her, but she glares at him. Though he had saved her in Cil-Aujas, he had abandoned her when it was the most desperate.

To think she had thought the fool charming.

She finds herself watching Sarl. The madman hasn’t bathed, his skin sainted with Sranc blood. His clothes are filthy though his hauberk is well maintained. He looks like he’s hiding as he crouches by a boulder. He talks to it like it were his friend.

“The fucking Mop… The Mop. Eh, lads? Eh?”

Viscous laughter, followed by snapping cough. The back of his thought is broken, she realizes. He can only kick and claw where he has fallen.

“More darkness, yes. Tree darkness…”

Mimara can’t remember what happened with the Wight-of-the-Mountain, but she feels that something “was open that should not have been open.” And she closed it. Once during one of the many attempts by Achamian to learn what is going on, he talks about how there’s a line between the World and the Outside and souls can return as a demon. He says it was impossible and asks if it was the Chorae. She wants to say it was the Tear of God. Instead, she shrugs, feigning that she doesn’t care.

She had been given something. What she has always considered a blight, a deformity of the soul, has become fraught with enigma and power. The Judging Eye opened. At the moment of absolute crisis, it opened and saw what needed to be seen…

A tear of the God, blazing in her pal. The God of Gods!

She had been a victim her whole life. So her instinct is the immediate one, to raise a concealing hand, to turn a shoulder in warding. Only a fool fails to hide what is precious.

The irony is using the Tear of God is incompatible with her desire to be a witch. She needs to understand this so it frustrates her that Achamian won’t tell her anything. “Frustration and torment is the very shape of her life.” It’s all she can trust.

She wakens to Sarl crooning. She peers at the Nail of Heaven, listening to his nonsense. She realizes he is old and dying. This makes her worried for Achamian. She looks around and realizes he’s sleeping near her. This comforts her, and she falls asleep staring at him.

I understand, Mother… I finally see… I really do.

She dreams of Kellhus as if he were the wight. “Not a man but an emblem.” He says, “You are the eye that offends, Mimara…” She wants to talk to Achamian about in the morning, but she’s still mad at him. She thinks how caste-noble wives would pay augurs fortunes to interpret dreams while the poor would pray to a god-like Yatwer. In the brothel, the girls would drip wax on pillow-beetles. If it trapped them, it was true. She knows dozens of other ways. But she doesn’t know what to believe. Achamian’s skepticism is wearing off on her.

The eye that must be plucked.”

This morning, the scalpers seem renewed. They’re almost their old selves as they ready for camp. Achamian even senses that the Skin Eaters have returned. “Somehow, they have recovered their old ways and roles.” Though there are signs they are afraid. It’s the Mop, she realizes. It’s worrying them enough to drive out Cil-Aujas. Sarl cackles about killing skinnies and that receives a cheer, but it’s half-hearted. Reminding them that they are so small and Sarl isn’t one of them.

Kosoter slings his shield, announcing the march has started. It’s treacherous terrain, and she annoys Achamian by steadying him as they head lower down the mountain and into the Mop. She starts gasping at how big the trees are. The air is alive with birds. It’s dark, a “piling on of shadows.”

It will swallow us, she thinks, feeling the old panic buzzing through her bones. She has had her fill of lightless bellies. Small wonder the scalpers were anxious.

Tree darkness, Sarl had said.

It finally clicks in Mimara just how enormous Achamian’s mission is. Cil-Aujas is just the beginning. There will be more trials ahead. The company keeps marching into the Great Mop.

Into the green darkness.

My Thoughts

We can see how Kosoter’s discipline has fractured. He needs Galian’s unspoken support now. He alone isn’t good enough to lead. What they went through has shattered the Skin Eaters. They are not the same. And we’ll see that by the end of the book how badly things have changed.

Only Soma is unchanged by Cil-Aujas, and he shouldn’t be. He’s acting the same. More subtle clues that he’s a skin-spy.

Cleric talking about “pilings of powers” is something humans rarely see because we’re always standing on the surface. We have no real appreciation of the past. We might know about it but we truly don’t understand how our present will one day be buried by something different. That all we think is important, all our great works, will one day be the foundation of another civilization. We think the collapse can never come to us, but every other civilization thought the same thing as they stood on the ruins of what came before them.

“May it [death] greet you as an old friend when you return.” Now isn’t that interesting. Harry Potter burst into my head reading that. The Tale of the Three Brothers has the last brother greeting death as the old friend. A joyful reunion. Not something tragic, but something inevitable and a part of life. Not something to be feared but treasured. And here we have a Nonman who can only be killed, he can’t die. He’ll live on and on, never getting to meet Death at all. Never getting to greet his old friend unless someone murders him. Is that what Cleric is looking for on this journey? Is he looking to be killed by an old friend? By Seswatha?

“Distance and abstraction are ever the twin lures of disaster.” What a great sentence. It’s easy to make decisions that affect those far away. Like ordering a drone strike from the Oval Office. Simple. You don’t have to see the effects. Aren’t going to be living where that missile falls. It won’t be the peace of your day shattered by an explosion. It’s the abstraction. Reducing things to simple, ignoring all the complexity, and then making decisions that you cannot possibly understand what the ramifications will be. Worse, you won’t even suffer the consequences for them.

Then he talks about how his first step is easy. It reminds me of Tolkien where Bilbo talks to Frodo about how you never know what will happen when you step foot outside of your home. That the road before their house can take you all the way to the Lonely Mountains.

“Could a man be called a murderer when he killed in the name of truth?” Yep. That’s the worst sort. The ones who think this is all for the greater good. But as we see, what Achamian learns in Ishuäl does not matter one bit. His quest for truth killed all these men for nothing. Isn’t that usually how it goes?

“In the absence of consequence, lies were as easy as breathing, as simple as song.” What a great quote. That is so true about humans. When nothing on the line, just lie. Media, government, corporations, individuals. When you’re not held to account, why behave responsibly?

Cant of Sideways Stepping allows you to walk through stone. That is fascinating. It’s such an evocative name to slip through the atoms of an object. I believe this is the only time we see it used. Maybe you have to do it with specially prepared stone? The library is surrounded by Wards and such. It seems really useful to use like when you’re trapped in another library and the Scarlet Spire is closing around you. Or, perhaps, it was lost to time and Achamian is seeing it for the first time since he’s dreaming one of the special Seswatha Dreams.

Living Rock is how Seswatha describes what the Nonmen carved the Pausal out of. I think this is just saying it’s natural rock, not actually alive. But, perhaps, to the Nonmen, it is alive in its own way. Maybe that is why they delve into the rock and adorn it with so much iconography.

Animata, or enslaved souls, are exactly what we saw with the Wathi doll Achamian had and later used to escape the Scarlet Spire. They are needed to observe reality. This implies that the foundation of reality is observation. If nothing of intelligence observes it, does it even exist? This allows the gate to open without the use of actual sorcery. They observe the spell and hold it ready to be activated.

The baby is the No-God. And since that is Nau-Cayûti is secretly Seswatha’s son, the soul of the No-God, of Nau-Cayûti, is reaching out to Achamian. At the end of the next book, Achamian will even dream Nau-Cayûti’s final moments before being thrown into the Golden Sarcophagus.

I like how they’re moving through the wilderness that used to be cultivated lands after leaving cultivated lands that used to be wilderness.

On the Mathematician who delivered bad news. Just remember, your political masters will only support the experts that agree with them.

That’s the problem with sparing people’s feelings. It pisses them off. No one likes it. She’s an adult. Tell her what’s coming, Achamian. It’s going to happen. Let her make informed decisions. I get Achamian likes her and all. She’s the step-daughter he couldn’t help molesting.

“His approach was at once cowardly and eminently male: he was literally asking her to pretend that he had not abandoned her in Cil-Aujas.” Yeah, sounds right. Why just speak about it? Well, that leads to talking and shit. Why not let it go and be cool. I’m for it, Soma. I mean, I know you’re an evil skin-spy and all, but I’d let it pass. I mean, I’d probably abandon your ass in the same situation. Course, I’m not a woman. It’s the wrong approach with a woman. Soma failed her shit-test. Hard to come back from that.

“But that’s the way it is with fools, isn’t it?” Mimara tells Soma. “The world is quick and they are slow.” See, failed that shit-test, and now she has no respect for him. And it was a big one. If he had rescued her from a horde of murdering and raping Sranc, things would be really different.

“Courage for men is fodder for dragons.” This is saying it’s easy to be courageous but it’s hard when you’re facing real danger. Then that courage is devoured. All men have their breaking point. I think Soma is struggling to understand why he was afraid. He was a skin-spy. Those Sranc would not have killed him on purpose. But he succumbed to the same terror as the others. He stopped being a hunter and became prey. And he doesn’t understand it. He can’t. He isn’t human. Worse, he’s playing at Soma. He needs to keep being Soma, but he doesn’t know how to play a Soma who went through such trauma. It’s why he’s unchanged and everyone else is different. He’s trying the same things and it’s not working with Mimara any longer. More confusion. He’s grappling with things beyond him.

Achamian has definitely grown to see Mimara as his daughter. Which makes their one time having sex a creepy problem in the relationship because, even then, the pair sensed that was what they were. Not biological father and daughter, but adopted through Esmenet, the woman who betrayed them both. In Cil-Aujas, they both came to understand their feelings for the other. As Pokwas said, Mimara saved Achamian. That means something. Yes, she saved the others, but that was to save herself. She risked a horrific fate to keep Achamian alive.

More pretty Bakker? Prettier is a word. I’m glad I’m not the only one that sometimes uses the adjective more instead of the -er ending.

Mimara wants to hurt her mother, but only when it concerns what happened to herself. She is a nice person at her core. She feels bad about using other weapons to hurt her mother. She’s so full of pain and hurt that it’s drowning out that compassionate core of her.

You can only hate so long as you are confident in the truth. You have anything that puts doubt, that makes you consider why the other person wronged you, or to see them as a person hurting like you, and it blunts that spite. Shatters it. So you have to keep honing it on pain. Like Mimara does when she remembers the day she was sold to the slavers.

She cannot admit she loves him because she hates being vulnerable, but it’s there. She knows it.

“It’s only when fat men make sauce out of other’s starvation that it becomes a sin.” This is so profound. Disparity is life. There’s no way to avoid it. It’s a law that the more you have the more you accumulate. It’s true of stars, cities, and wealth. 1% of the stars in the universe have 99% of the mass, 1% of the cities of Earth have 99% of the population, and 1% of people have 99% of the wealth. It’s when you are miserly with it, when you can share it and don’t, that’s when it’s a bad thing.

We see our first signs of addiction to Qirri. Mimara wants it more and more.

Shit tests, guys. You fail a woman’s shit test, and it changes how she sees you.

Want to read more, click here for Chapter 2!

And you have to check out my fantasy novel, Above the Storm!

Now it’s been turned into an Audiobook!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When the Stormriders attack …

…Ary’s people have little chance.

Can he find a way to defeat them?

At 19, Ary has spent ten years mourning his father’s death. The aftermath of the attack still haunts him. Now, on the eve of the draft he faces his greatest fear, being sent to become a marine.

He knows the cost of war.

All he wants is to marry Charlene, who he has loved since they were kids. Building a farm and starting a family sounds perfect. There’s just one problem, his best friend Vel adores her, too. He’d give anything for peace.

But wanting the Stormriders to stop attacking…

…isn’t going to make it happen.

For love, for his people, and especially for the life he wants, Ary makes a decision that will change everything.

The adventure begins.

You’ll love this beautifully creative dark fantasy, because James Reid knows how to create characters and worlds you’ll grow to adore.

Get it now.

You can buy or burrow Above the Storm today!

Author of The Storm Below Series