Tag Archives: Fantasy

Reread of the Darkness that Comes Before: Prologue

Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy

Book 1: The Darkness that Comes Before

by R. Scott Bakker

Prologue

The Wastes of Kûniüri

If you missed out on the introduction to the series, click here.

Section 1

It is only after that we understand what has come before, then we understand nothing. Thus we shall define the soul as follows: that which precedes everything.”

—Ajencis, the Third Analytic of Men

My thoughts

darkness-that-comes-beforeBakker opens every chapter with quotes from various fictitious philosophers, historians, or folk sayings of his world. To me, Ajencis is saying the cause of man’s actions is the soul. To understand men’s actions we need to understand the soul. Another reference, I believe, to the title of the book. The cause that comes out of the “darkness” is the soul.

Bakker is a philosopher in the field of human consciousness (read his treaties on thought, they are dense and make my head spin), in his series the soul is a very real phenomenon that he will explore over the course of the books.

2147 Year-of-the-Tusk, the Mountains of Demua

 The prologue begins in the citadel of Ishuäl. Months earlier, High King Anasûrimbor Ganrelka II fled here with the remnants of his household. Here they thought they would be safe and survive the end of the world. They were wrong.

“The citadel of Ishuäl succumbed during the height of the Apocalypse. But no army of inhuman Sranc had scaled its ramparts. No furnace-hearted dragon had pulled down its might gates. Ishuäl was the secret refuge of the Kûniüric High Kings, and no one, not even the No-God, could besiege a secret.”

Ganrelka was the first to die of plague. Followed by his concubine and her daughter. It burned though the fortress, claiming the lives of mighty knights, viziers, and servants. Only Ganrelka’s bastard son and a Bardic Priest survived.

The boy hid from the Bard, terrified of his strange manner and one white eye. The Bard pursued the boy and one night caught him. Crying and pleading for forgiveness, the Bard raped the boy. Afterward the Bard mumbled, “There are no crimes, when no one is left alive.” Five nights later, the boy pushed the Bard from the walls. “Was it murder when no one was left alive?”

Winter came and wolves howled in the forest beyond the walls. The boy survived alone in the fortress. When the snows broke, the boy heard shouts at the gate and found a group of refugees of the Apocalypse. The refugees scaled the walls and the boy hid in the fortress. Eventually, one of the refugees found him.

With a voice neither tender nor harsh, he said: “We are Dûnyain, child. What reason could you have to fear us?”

But the boy clutched his father’s sword, crying, “So long as men live, there are crimes!”

The man’s eyes filled with wonder. “No, child,” he said. “Only so long as men are deceived.”

For a moment, the young Anasûrimbor could only stare at him. The solemnly, he set aside his father’s sword and took the stranger’s hand. “I was a prince,” he mumbled.

The boy was brought to the refugees and together they celebrated. In Ishuäl they had found shelter against the end of the worlds. The Dûnyain buried the dead with their jewels and fine clothes, destroyed the sorcerous runes on the walls, and burned the Grand Vizier’s books. “And the world forgot them for two thousand years.

Thoughts

“One cannot raise walls against what has been forgotten.” Bakker opens the book with a warning about the need to remember. The importance of keeping and remembering history is a prevalent theme in the series. From the Dûnyain deliberately forgetting about the outside world, to the world forgetting about the Apocalypse. And, of course, the world forgetting about the Dûnyain for two thousand years.

Bakker then starts to give us hints of the Apocalypse that dominates the rest of the series. Of cities burning, dragons, and inhuman Sranc. This Apocalypse is so terrible that not just any king, but a High King has fled it and written off the world as lost. Now just hopes to survive. And finally the sadness that even in this refuge, they almost all die anyway.

Bakker displays in this section his ability to paint events in a historical context. His books change from the tight focus, limited third person POV common in most of Fantasy today, allowing you to get into the thoughts of a single character in any scene to vast, more omniscient third person sections where he tells the events of the story almost as a bard reciting the story of history. Not a dry text book, but a vibrant story that keeps you interested.

In the description of Ganrelka’s retainers as they die, we get hints about the world and the Apocalypse. Bakker doesn’t dump his world building on us, but teases us with names that are almost familiar. The five Knights of Tyrsë who saved Ganrelka’s after the catastrophe on the Fields of Eleneöt. The Grand Vizier who dies upon sorcerous text. Ganrelka’s unnamed uncle, “who led the heartbreaking assault on Golgotterath’s gate.” Golgotterath resembles Golgatha where Jesus was crucified. When I read this name, I always picture something like the Black Gate of Mordor with skulls.

Bakker is skilled at using the familiar trappings of Fantasy, whose modern roots extend from Tolkien It roots the reader in the familiar while his style and story clearly deviates from anything you would read in Lord of the Rings.

Without showing us a single scene of the Apocalypse, Bakker still conveys the horror of it. After showing large scale horror, Bakker narrows his focus to the Boy. Left alone, he is preyed upon by an adult. Nietzsche’s philosophy at work here. Humans are selfish creatures who pursue their own desires and its only the fear of the consequences that keep us from acting upon all of them. Whether fear of a higher power, fear of a temporal power, or just the fear of the opinion of others. Once those are removed, there are no crimes any longer.

And finally, the Dûnyain arrive. Another group of refugees who fled the Apocalypse. The Dûnyain have rejected the gods. They deliberately destroy there history and anything connected to the supernatural. They bury all the wealth and trappings of power. They have survived the Apocalypse and decide to reject the former world they come from. As they say, “Here awareness most holy could be tended.”

Section 2

Nonmen, Sranc, and Men:

The first forgets,

The third regrets,

And the second has all of the fun.

Ancient Kûniüri nursery rhyme

This is a history of a great and tragic holy war, of the mighty factions that sought to possess and pervert it, and of a son searching for his father. And as with all histories, it is we, the survivors, who will write its conclusion.

—Drusas Achamian, Compendium of the First Holy War

My thoughts

These two quotes began the second, much longer part of the prologue. Nonmen is one my favorite names for the “elf” race in a fantasy series. It also informs us about the most important part of a Nonman, they forget. Regret is definitely a large part of being human. And of course, Sranc just want to have fun—and by fun I mean murder and brutal rape.

The second quote is from a book written after the events of the Prince of Nothing trilogy and gives us a plot summary of what the overt plot Prince of Nothing series is about. The First Holy War is the obvious story, the one on which the true story hides in the shadows. The Compendium is written by Achamian, one of the main characters, and often a segment is before each chapter, teasing you about events that are up coming. The downside is you never can believe Achamian is in real danger because he has to survive the Holy War to write about it. But it does serve to keep you reading.

Now who is the son? Well, we’re about to find out.

Late Autumn, 4109 Year-of-the-Tusk, the Mountains of Demua

The section begins with dreams coming to a group of men. Dreams of clashes of culture, glimpses of history, and of a holy city—Shimeh. A voice “thin as though spoken through the reed of a serpent, saying ‘Send to me my son.‘” The dreamers follow the protocol they established after the first dream and meet in the Thousand Thousand Hall and decided that such desecration could not be tolerated.

The narrative shifts to Anasûrimbor Kellhus, transitioning to a limited, third person POV. He is on a mountain trail looking back at the monastic citadel of Ishuäl. He sees the elder Dûnyain abandoning their vigil. These Elders have been polluted by the dreams sent by Kellhus’ father. The Elders would die in the great Labyrinth beneath Ishuäl.

Kellhus has been sent alone on a mission. As he descends into the wilderness of Kûniüri, he wonders how many vistas he would cross before seeing his father at Shimeh. As he enters the forest he finds himself unnerved. He attempts to regain his composure using “ancient techniques to impose discipline on his intellect.” He wonders if this is the first trial. Kellhus is awed by the beauty of the natural world. “How could water taste so sweet. How could sunlight, broken across the back of rushing water, be so beautiful?

What comes before determines what comes after. Dûnyain monks spent their lives immersed in the study of this principle, illuminating the intangible mesh of cause and effect that determined every happenstance and meaning all that was wild and unpredictable. Because of this, events always unfolded with granitic certainty in Ishuäl. More often than not, one knew the skittering course a leaf would take through the terrace groves. More often than not, one knew what another would say before he spoke. To grasp what came before was to know what would come after. And to know what would come after was the beauty stilled, the hallowed communion of intellect and circumstance—the gift of the Logos.

This mission was Kellhus’s first surprise. His childhood was strict ritual, study, and conditioning. Out of Ishuäl he is constantly barraged by new sights, sensations, and creatures. His mind, trained to drink in stimuli in the controlled environment of his home, is overwhelmed by the chaos of the natural world. For more than a month he wanders south through the foothills of Demua. He stops talking care of himself or his gear as the endless walk continues. On his 43rd day he comes across an immense valley dotted with ruins.

Kellhus explores the ruins. They are ancient, overgrown by the forest. Kellhus wanders who were the men who built this place. Bending to drink from a pool, he sees his unshaven face reflected in the water

Is this me?

He studied the squirrels and those birds he could pick from the dim confusion of the trees. Once he glimpsed a fox slipping through the brush.

I am not one more animal.

His intellect flailed, found purchase, and grasped. He could sense wild cause sweep around him in statistical tides. Touch him and leave him untouched.

I am a man. I stand apart from these things.

As evening waxed, it began to rain. Through branches he watched the clouds build chill and gray. For the first time in weeks, he sought shelter.

Kellhus continues his journey but his supplies begin to dwindle. He set out with as much as he could carry. Hunger and exposure begin to take their toll of Kellhus. The snows come and Kellhus could finally walk no farther. “The way is to narrow, Father. Shimeh to far.”

Kellhus is found by a trapper named Leweth and his sled dogs. Kellhus is half buried by the snow and barely alive. Leweth takes Kellhus to his home and cares for him through the winter.

Neither Kellhus or Leweth speak the same language. Kellhus picks up the basics and begins to communicate with Leweth. Kellhus learns he is the lands of Sobel, the northernmost province of the ancient city of Atrithau. Sobel has been abandoned for generations, but Leweth prefers the isolation.

Though Leweth was a sturdy man of middle years, for Kellhus he was little more than a child. The fine musculature of his face was utterly untrained, bound as though by strings to his passions. Whatever moved Leweth’s soul moved his expression as well, and after a short time Kellhus needed only to glance at his face to know his thoughts. The ability to anticipate his thoughts, to re-enact the movements of Leweth’s soul as though they were his own, would come later.

A routine forms between the two men, with Kellhus helping with chores to “earn his keep.” Kellhus studies Leweth during this time and learns that through small labors Leweth learned patience. The only times his hands were still was when he slept or was drunk. Leweth would drink all day, and by the end become drunk. While Kellhus learned much from observing drunk Leweth, he decides a sober Leweth would be more useful. While Leweth is passed out, Kellhus dumps out all his whiskey.

After Leweth’s painful detox, they discuss old pains. Leweth came to the wilderness after the death of his wife in Atrithau. Kellhus observes that Leweth pretends to morn to secure pity. Leweth lies to himself about why he came out here. That Atrithau reminds him or his wife. He even believes his family and neighbors secretly hated her and are glad she is dead. This forced Leweth to flee to the forest.

Why does he [Leweth] deceive himself this way?

“No soul moves alone through the world, Leweth. Our every though stems from the thoughts of others. Our every word is but a repetition of words spoken before. Every time we listen, we allow the movements of another soul to carry our own.” He paused, cutting short his reply in order to bewilder the man. Insight struck with so much more force when it clarified confusion. “This is truly why you fled to Sobel, Leweth.”

Leweth fled Sobel so he could hold onto the ways his wife moved his soul—he fled to remember. Kellhus confronts Leweth with this truth. Kellhus does this to posses Leweth, but lies and says its because Leweth has suffered enough. They argue, but because Kellhus can predict Leweth’s reaction, he guides the argument in his own favor. In the end, Leweth breaks down and cries.

“I know it hurts, Leweth. Release from anguish can be purchased only through more anguish.” So much like a child …

“W-what should I do?” the trapper wept. “Kellhus … Please tell me!”

Thirty years, Father. What power you must wield over men such as this.

And Kellhus, his bearded face warm with firelight and compassion, answered. “No one’s soul moves alone, Leweth. When one love dies, one must learn to love another.”

Once Leweth regains his composure, the continue their conversation. Through his Dûnyain training, Kellhus could control the “legion of faces” that live within him. He can fake any emotional response with the same ease he can craft words. Pretending to happy and compassionate, Kellhus continues his cold scrutiny of Leweth.

Kellhus is disdainful of Leweth’s superstitions of gods and demons. To Leweth, finding Kellhus was fate. Leweth asks Kellhus why the gods sent him. Kellhus tells him of his mission to find his father Anasûrimbor Moënghus. Moënghus left when Kellhus was a child and has now summoned him to Shimeh. Leweth asks how that is possible since Shimeh is so far away and Kellhus answers through dreams. Leweth thinks sorcery explains the dreams. Kellhus doesn’t think that is possible. He dismiss Leweth’s talk of sorcerers and priests, of witches and demons.

Superstition. Everywhere and in everything, Leweth had confused that which came after with that which came before, confused the effect for the cause. Men came after, so he placed them before and called them “gods” or “demons.” Words came after, so he placed them before and called them “scriptures” or “incantations.” Confined to the aftermath of events and blind to the causes that preceded him, he merely fastened upon the ruin itself, men and the acts of men, as the model of what came before.

But what came before, the Dûnyain had learned, was inhuman.

There must be some other explanation. There is no sorcery.

Leweth tells Kellhus about Shimeh. It is a holy city far to the south in the Three Seas. Leweth doesn’t know much about the nations of the Three Seas since the Sranc controlled the lands of the north save for Atrithau and Sakarpus. What Leweth knows is they were young lands when the north was destroyed by the No-God and the Consult. The only contact between Atrithau and the Three Seas is by a yearly caravan. Shimeh is holy city in the hands of heathens. In Atrithau, Kellhus could secure the means of reaching Shimeh. Only after the trapper tells Kellhus everything, does he let him sleep.

Near the cabin, Kellhus finds an ancient stone stele with runes upon it. In Kellhus’s own language it records the deeds of Anasûrimbor Celmomas II. Kellhus had dismissed Leweth’s talk of the apocalypse as superstition, but the stone proves the world is far older the Dûnyain. On one of these trips he notices strange tracks in the snow.

Kellhus informs Leweth of the tracks, and in horror, Leweth says they are Sranc. Leweth is amazed the Kellhus can be from the north and not no what those tracks mean. Leweth explain the Sranc will eat anything, but they enjoy to hunt men to “calm the madness of their hearts.” The Sranc have found them, and Kellhus and Leweth flee.

A small group Sranc catch them. Kellhus stays to fight the Sranc and tells Leweth to keep fleeing. In amazement, Leweth watches Kellhus charge the Sranc and kill them “like a pale wraith through the drifts.” Then Leweth is injured by an arrow.

Another group of Sranc are killing Leweth’s dogs. Leweth wants to save them but Kellhus grabs his arm and half drags Leweth. Eventually, Leweth’s strength fails him and Kellhus questions him on the way to go to get to safety. Leweth answers and Kellhus abandons Leweth to the Sranc. Leweth sobs in disbelief as he watch Kellhus, a man he has come to love and worship, disappear into the woods. But for the calculating Kellhus, the decision to abandon Leweth is simple—he has no further use for him.

Kellhus leaves the forest and climbs a hill. The Sranc have caught him. Before the ruins of a wall and gate, Kellhus makes his stand. They fired arrows at him. Calmly, he plucks one out of the air and examines it. In a rush they come at him and he “speared the ecstasy from their inhuman faces.”

They could not see that circumstance was holy. They only hungered. He, on the other hand, was one of the Conditioned, Dûnyain, and all events yielded to him.

The Sranc fall back. For a moment they surrounded him and Kellhus faces their menace with tranquility. They flee. One dying on the ground hisses something in an unknown language. Kellhus wanders what these creatures are.

More Sranc come, led by a figure on a horse. The figure wears a cloak stitched with abstract faces. In Kûniüric, the figure praises Kellhus and asks his name. Anasûrimbor Kellhus, he answers. The figure thinks he is being mocked, but then sees the resemblance in Kellhus’s face.

Kellhus studies the figure and realizes the cloak is made from skinned faces, stretched flat and sewn together. The figure is powerfully built, heavily armored, and unafraid. “This one was not like Leweth. Not at all.”

The figure is surprised that a mortal is not afraid of him. Fear is what separates the figure from humans. Kellhus mocks the figure, trying to bait him and is surprised by the figures reaction.

Kellhus’s provocation had been deliberate but had yielded little—or so it seemed at first. The stranger abruptly lowered his obscured face, rolled his head back and forth on the pivot of his chin, muttering, “It baits me! The mortal baits me … It reminds me, reminds …” He began fumbling with his cloak, seized upon a misshape face. “Of this one! Oh, impertinent—what a joy this was! Yes, I remember …” He looked up at Kellhus and hissed, “I remember!”

And Kellhus grasped the first principle of this encounter. A Nonman. Another of Leweth’s myths come true.

The Nonman points to a dead Sranc and says this one was his elju (book). He laments the Sranc’s death, although they are vicious creatures, they are “most…memorable.” Kellhus sees an opening, and presses the Nonman. The Nonman reveals that while the Sranc are their children now, before humans were. He was a companion to the great Norsirai kings and enjoyed the humans childish squabbles (wars). But as time passed, some Nonmen need more exquisite brutality than humans can provide to remember. This is the great curse of the Nonman.

“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor … ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.”

“Then why,” Kellhus asked, “raise arms now, against a lone man?”

Laughter. The free hand gestured to the dead Sranc. “A pittance, I agree, but still you would be memorable.

They fight, trading blows. Kellhus fends off the Nonman blows, but his weapon own cannot penetrate the Nonman’s armor. The Nonman is surprised at Kellhus ability. Kellhus sword slashes the Nonman’s chin open. The Nonman is disarmed, on his back, Kellhus sword at his face. Kellhus begins to interrogate the Nonman.

The Nonman speaks a word and Kellhus is thrown back by incandescent. The Nonman rises up into the air. Confronted with sorcery, Kellhus flees into the forest. Behind him are explosions and fire. An unearthly voice yells his name. “RUN, ANASÛRIMBOR! I WILL REMEMBER!” Kellhus runs faster than he had before the Sranc and wonders if sorcery is one of the lessons from his father.

My Thoughts

When we first meet Kellhus he seems like a traditional hero of a fantasy journey. The quintessential character to go on the Campbellian Heroic Journey. A young man leaving home for the first time on a quest who is the unknowing descendant of kings. However, there are differences between Kellhus’s and the Hero’s Journey. While Kellhus has answered the Call of Adventure, he never Refuses the Call. Kellhus upbringing and training have left him with no doubt. This is his mission, and he will accomplish it.

The wilderness is not kind to Kellhus. The isolation and toil reduces Kellhus to a beast with only one thing on his mind: reaching Shimeh. Eventually, Kellhus realizes this and overcomes the Crossing of the First Threshold and becomes a man again.

Kellhus’s time with Leweth is where we see the products of Dûnyain training. They have embraced Nietzsche’s philosophy. These are the übermench he wrote of. They have trained their bodies and minds past the normal human limits. They have made of study of passions and have learned how to control their emotions. Kellhus listens to Leweth’s story about his dead wife and never once feels anything. Neither pity or compassion. Kellhus uses truth to make Leweth his slave and once Leweth is of no further use, abandons him to death without a second thought. The Dûnyain embody the Will to Power and have no morality to temper their methods. Kellhus will do anything to accomplish his mission.

Kellhus is a sociopath. To contrast Leweth and Kellhus: when Leweth first finds Kellhus in the snow, he thinks food for his dogs. Meat was scarce in the north. However, Leweth’s humanity cause him to show Kellhus compassion,. Leweth cares for Kellhus, using his own scarce resources.

We seen more of Kellhus’s abilities against the Sranc. He reminds me a lot of Bene Gesserit of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. Their bodies are so under their control and their ability to read the movement of their enemies makes them almost invincible. Kellhus has a lot similarities to Paul Muad’dib. However, Paul’s abilities was tempered with emotions.

When Kellhus plucks the arrow out of the air, I recognized him as a D&D Monk (it’s a common ability the player class monks get). The setting of these books were originally Bakker’s D&D campaign he created. The Nonmen are elves, the Sranc are orcs, etc. Bakker also draws a lot on Tolkien. I read somewhere on the internet that the Second Apocalypse is Tolkien done with Nietzschean philosophy, and that is not far off. But only in the broad strokes does this series follow the Lord of the Rings. Take the sexual imagery that is used to describe the Sranc. It is the first hint about the nature of their creators.

Finally, Kellhus confronts the Nonman. A race so long lived, they forget, only remembering the bad stuff. No wonder the Nonman (revealed by Bakker to be Mekeritrig) seems slightly mad. You can see the delight the Nonman has at finding such a memorable man as Kellhus. He is really looking forward to the fight.

Bakker’s description of sorcerery is always very minimal and ethereal. He uses phrases like “petals blowing from a palm” and “pale watery light.” The Dûnyain rejection of the supernatural have left Kellhus without the training on how to deal with it. There is no pride that holds back Kellhus decision to flee. It is instantaneous. He has determined he has no chance of winning and the only option is flight. Even then, his mind is still working normally, cataloging the event and shifting his world view. Kellhus has almost died and no fear assails him.

Kellhus is the reason I love this series. He is so different from any character I have read. Everyone of his POV’s is fascinating to read. As you shall see, he is our prophesied hero and his appearance ushers in the end of the world.

But will Kellhus be the one to save it or cause its destruction?

Click here to continue on to Chapter One

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestmailby feather
Facebooktwitterrssby feather

Reread of the Darkness that Comes Before: Intro

Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy

Book 1: The Darkness that Comes Before

by R. Scott Bakker

Intro

darkness-that-comes-beforeMore than a few years back, I was in the Borders (yep, that far back, I miss you Borders) at the SeaTac Airport killing time before my flight. While browsing the fantasy section, the Darkness that Comes Before caught my eye. I read the description on the back with talk of an apocalyptic past and a gathering crusade. The book promised a mysterious traveler named Anasûrimbor Kellhus. I was hooked. I bought the book on the spot and devoured it on my trip. I have since come to love the Prince of Nothing Trilogy and its sequel the Aspect Emperor Trilogy. Together these two series plus a third as yet written series form the greater Second Apocalypse meta-series.

R. Scott Bakker is a controversial author. His books are deep in the genre of modern fantasy called Grimdark. And that is what it is. He has created a world whose roots mankind struggles to rise from. It is not a pleasant place. Very few people are allowed the luxury of agency, and those tend to be men. Like most of human history, women hold little power in his series. He is accused of misogyny. There will be no female character bootstrapping feminism and rising above the shackles placed upon her.

But calling his books misogyny is missing the point. R. Scott Bakker is showing just how bad humans can get. He is also writing this towards men, not to show them treating women is bad but to illuminate some of the darker aspects of male fantasy and thoughts while at the same time showcasing the misery most of human kind has toiled under through most of our history. If anything, I would say the books are more misandrist. The every man a rapist trope is almost a reality in this series.

But there is still hope and light to be found.

With the third book of the Aspect Emperor Trilogy, the Great Ordeal (formally titled the Unholy Consult), release approaching in July I felt the need to reread the series in preparation. Of course, there is no way for me to even hope to catch up before the release, but I’ll give it a valiant try. This is a repost of a blog series I never finished from four years ago on my original blog, the ReReid blog (see, I was trying to be clever). But no one ever visited my blog so after several months, well, my interest wained.

So without further ado, let’s dive into the Darkness that Comes Before.

SPOILOR WARNING: Please read the book before any of these posts. This is intended for those who have read the books. I will discuss both the events of the chapter and even their ramification for future events.

Bakker opens the book with a quote. Not a fictitious quote from his own setting, but a quote of the German philosopher Nietzsche.

“I shall never tire of underlining a concise little fact which those superstitious people are loath to admit—namely, that a thought comes when ‘it’ wants, not when ‘I’ want…”

—Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

My Thoughts

Philosophy is a large part of the Second Apocalypse and Bakker starting the series with a quote of Nietzsche informs us of one of the major themes he will explore in the series. Nietzsche was an atheist who promoted the philosophy that without God there is no moral authority upon man. Nietzsche believed in ideas like “self-consciousness,” “knowledge,” “truth,” and “free will” were inventions of moral consciousness. Nietzsche believed the “will to power” explained all human behavior.

According to Nietzsche, the will to power illuminated all human ambition—the drive to succeed, and reaching the highest position in life. In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche writes, “Even the body within which individuals treat each other as equals…will have to be an incarnate will to power, it will strive to grow, spread, seize, become predominant—not from any morality or immorality but because it is living and because life simply is will to power.”

The quote that Bakker opens his book is quite clear that we human have no control over the origin of our thoughts. This idea is directly related to the title of the book and one of the overarching themes of the series—the Illusion of Free Will.

If you haven’t gotten bored yet, click her for the Prologue

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestmailby feather
Facebooktwitterrssby feather

Sailing over the Skyrift

Sailing over the Skyrift

by JMD Reid

 

Here is my addition to the Story Hop Blog Tour. Sailing over the Skyrift is a short tale taken from the history of my Above the Storm Fantasy series. It is a world of floating islands and flying ships over an ever churning storm. Join Xostrial, a scholar and member of a bird-like race, as she seeks to discover the secrets of the skyrifts. If you want to read more entries, click here!

The Neta Skyrift, 313 VF (1874 SR)

TheStoryHopLogoXostrial stood on the stern deck as the Uastraes hurtled towards the Neta Skyrift at full sail, the fierce winds propelling the wooden sky ship at breakneck speeds. The sleek, Soweral rake’s crimson sails billowed behind the combined force of two Windwardens. A third Windwarden stood ready to ward the Uastraes from the violent winds of the skyrift. The trio of Windwardens, individuals blessed by Riasruo the sun goddess with the Blessing of Major Wind, were tied securely to the railing of the stern deck of the Uastraes near Xostrial, their beaks tight with concentration.

And fear.

Xostrial buzzed with excitement. Like the rest of the crew, she was a bird-like Luastria of the Soweral flock. She stood shorter than a human, her delicate, gray-feathered body cloaked in a thick, brown robe. Two ropes bound her waist, cinching her robe and irritating her feathers beneath. The scholar held a wax writing slate in one wing. The distal feathers—five prehensile feathers found in a Luastria’s wings between their flight feathers—gripped a bone writing stylus, ready to scrawl her notes into the impressionable wax as the Uastraes flew over the skyrift.

No one in the history of the skies had ever flown over one.

Sensible captains avoided skyrifts, giving them a wide berth as they sailed over the Storm Below. The Storm was far below. The Uastraes flew at the height of her altitude ceiling, the air thin, increasing Xostrial’s light-headed excitement. Xostrial hoped the high altitude would counteract the sucking winds found at the edges of a skyrift. Her heart fluttered in her chest, and her talons dug into the iron oak planks.

“Brace,” chirped Captain Dwaifeed, her head snapping around in quick jerks as she scanned the deck of her sailing ship. Her eyes twinkled with excitement. Captain Dwaifeed was not a sensible captain. “Every hen and drake stay secure. We make history today.”

It had taken Xostrial three years to find a captain willing to entertain her proposal. Xostrial studied the mysterious skyrifts. They were strange anomalies. Only five were known to exist in the entirety of the skies. They were breaks in the ever-churning Storm, the vast blanket of angry clouds created two thousand years ago by the Goddess Theisseg to cover the world and block her sister’s sun from the mythical ground.

But Riasruo had raised the skylands and created a new way of life for her chosen children to live above the Storm, thwarting Theisseg’s petty cruelty.

But in these five rare spots, rifts had formed, sucking air down into the Storm. The skyrifts were surrounded by dangerous winds. Clouds were drawn in, forming vast walls of boiling gray rushing down into the Storm. The rifts could be leagues wide. Xostrial’s careful measurements had shown they were widest in their centers and then tapered into points at their edges.

What caused them? Xostrial hoped today’s flight would answer that question.

“We’re almost there,” she chirped, staring at the gray cloud wall.

“Windwardens, ready,” Captain Dwaifeed sang.

The Windwardens were crucial. They not only charged the Uastraes engine, allowing the ship to fly, but they conjured the breezes that propelled the ship. A Windwarden could also protect a ship, deflecting winds away from it.

But could a Windwarden stop the force of the descending column of air ahead?

Fear and excitement warred in Xostrial’s gizzard as the skyrifts roar grew louder and louder. A tumultuous cacophony of sounds assaulted her ears, drowning out Dwaifeed’s commanding chirps. Xostrial, on the corner of the stern, leaned over the railing to peer down the side of the ship.

The Storm Below was a vast carpet of dark gray striated with ever-changing patterns of near-blacks and paler ash. The clouds boiled and crashed together. But at the edge of the skyrift, the Storm’s clouds undulated almost like waves washing on the shore of a lake.

The wall of gray rushing down approached. Soweral rakes were the fastest ships in the sky, and this one flew without cargo. Xostrial hoped the speed and altitude would allow them to punch through the narrow edge near the end of the Neta Skyrift.

She trembled, clutching onto her wax writing board. She took in a final breath through her beak. Every feather on her body stood up. Her talons dug deeper into the planks. The captain would be angry at the damage, but Xostrial was too scared by their impending clash with nature to fear the captain’s chirps.

The wall loomed over the ship. It filled Xostrial’s vision. Her gizzard churned around her stone. She wanted to retch it up. The bow of the ship knifed for the wall. The roar was so loud it threatened to crush her.

The edge of the Windwarden’s influence struck the skyrift. The gray clouds parted like a stone outcropping jutting through the flow of a waterfall. Hope relaxed Xostrial’s gizzard for one moment as the spar of the ship entered the skyrift. The bubble widened, clearing space for the ship’s two masts and wide spars to enter.

And then the ship shuddered. The winds hammered at the bubble of calm. The clouds pressed in on it. In heartbeats, the entire ship had penetrated the skyrift. Around Xostrial, angry winds reached for the ship. The masts waved and the hull groaned beneath her talons.

The cloud wall was thick. She glanced up at the masts. They waved and flexed. The rigging creaked and the sails snapped. Downdrafts burst through the Windwarden’s controls, crashing across the ship and sending errant gusts swirling across the deck and the crew.

Captain Dwaifeed chirped at Xostrial, but the words were lost. The ship shuddered again, and then Xostrial’s gizzard swam up her throat. She let out a frightened chirp as the ship dropped several ropes in altitude. She stumbled forward and then was jerked short by the ropes about her waist.

The violent downdrafts slammed over and over into the ship. Wood snapped above. A spar collapsed on the foremast. The middle sail fluttered as half of it dangled towards the deck. The ship rocked again, pitching Xostrial forward.

And then they dropped again.

Her talons rose from the decking. Xostrial released her wax tablet in her panic. It tumbled in the air beside her as she sang in fear. The ropes went taut, keeping her hovering above the deck. She spread her wings wide.

The driving wind caught them and spun her about. Wing feathers ripped off, points of pain pricking down her wings. Her torso burned as the rope dug deep into her flesh. She closed her wings and fell hard to the deck.

The ship had stopped falling. Her tailbone ached as she gained her feet.

“Don’t try to fly with a wind that strong behind us,” chided the Captain, her voice audible over the roar.

The skyrift’s roar had diminished.

Excitement burst through Xostrial. She rushed to the railing and peered down. The clouds roaring down around the ship thinned. Her gizzard twisted. “Is it the edge? Are we through to the interior?”

She gripped her stylus, eager to write down her estimate of the cloud wall’s thickness. Her wax tablet was gone. Pieces lay shattered across the decking. Xostrial chirped in disappointment, but she had her memory.

The clouds thinned more, and then they were through. Her eyes widened. The noon sun shown down overhead. She stared at the ground. The world went silent around her. Xostrial’s heart hammered in her chest as she stared at a dark, glistening muck. Pools of water reflected sunlight as their surfaces rippled. The ground rose to her right towards the center of the skyrift. She let her gaze follow along it. A sluggish river wound through the murk, flowing down an outcropping of stone.

“Beautiful,” she chirped to herself. It may have been a brackish swamp, but once her ancestors had lived far below. “Why didn’t we fly lower? We could see more details. I can’t tell if anything lives down there. Are those brownish-red patches more dirt? Or vegetation? And is that a mountain rising to our right, or just a large hill?”

The ship’s bow pitched down, knocking Xostrial out of her thoughts. The front of the ship had reached the other side already. She clutched to the railing with her distal feathers, her vision absorbing everything she saw as the ship struggled to gain level flight.

The roar grew louder again. The winds slammed down. The ship creaked and flexed beneath her talons. The masts swayed over her head. Xostrial ignored it all, twisting her head to look behind the ship. She had a final glance at the ground below and what may have been a peak rising up into the heart of the skyrift before the gray clouds engulfed the stern of the ship. The ship dropped as she stared in awe.

“I saw the ground. It does exist.”

A loud, booming snap crashed across the deck. Xostrial jump and chirped in surprise. She whirled and her gizzard clenched. The main mast teetered. Wood splintered where the mast had cracked near the base. It swayed, the rigging almost holding it upright.

And then it crashed towards the stern of the ship.

Canvas sail smacked into Xostrial, driving her to the decking. Her world became crimson. She panicked, crushed beneath its weight. Her wings tried to lift the heavy canvas. Her legs kicked, her talons scraping along the fabric. The ship plummeted again. She rose from the decking, pressed into the canvas. It wrapped about her, cocooning her.

“No,” she chirped as she crashed back into the decking. “Please, no. Help, help.”

Only the roar of the skyrift answered her. She strained with her wings to break free. Her sharp talons caught the fabric. Canvas ripped and her foot broke through to free air. She chirped in relief, using her feet to rip the canvas apart. The tear surged up her body and then broke through to her face.

Gray boiled above her. The ship rocked and shuddered. She stood up through the tear and gripped the railing. The ship dropped again, driven down by the powerful force of the skyrift. Her gizzard rose into her throat. It clenched and rebelled, and she coughed out her small stone. It spun in the air before her, wet and rounded smooth before it crashed to the deck along with her.

Xostrial ached. Fear hammered her heart. Her plan had failed. The rake wasn’t fast enough to penetrate the skyrift. She had killed all forty members of the crew along with herself. She closed her eyes, remembering the ground, wanting to take the image up with her to Riasruo’s sun.

The ship stopped shaking. Sunlight beamed down. Xostrial sat up and let out a chirp of relief.

The Uastraes had broken free. She sang for joy, praising Riasruo Above as she stood up. Other members of the crew, the captain included, unburied themselves from the collapsed sail and rigging. The ship groaned and creaked.

“We did it,” chirped Captain Dwaifeed. She spread her wings wide as the Uastraes drifted to a halt.

Xostrial turned and looked at the Neta Skyrift. They had penetrated it. They were on the eastern side now. The Storm was far closer. They had dropped over three thousand ropes in altitude. Another few hundred, and they would have been lost to the Storm.

The scholar kept singing out her fear as she stared at the skyrift. She had seen the ground and it was beautiful. The risk to their lives had been worth this insight into the natural world. She had glimpsed a peak.

Theories formed in her head. She unknotted the ropes and rushed to find quill and parchment.

THE END

If you want to read the other great stories included in the Story Hop Blog Post, click here to the main directory!

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestmailby feather
Facebooktwitterrssby feather

Review: Spark of Defiance (Game of Fire 1)

Spark of Defiance (Game of Fire 1)

by Autumn Brit

Reviewed by JMD Reid

B01D3VUJ9O.01.LZZZZZZZSix months after the war that broke the Church of the Four Orders and freed the other temples from Solaire’s control. But the scars remain. Two events, both innocuous and seemingly innocent, spark off a new conflict.

When Zhao, an air elemental, returns home to visit his sister. His people fear elementals. Zhao had been kept confined to a shrine, quarantined from his people. When he arrives now that the war is over and elementals should be free, he discovers his new niece is an elemental and the chief of his tribe looks to inflict the same punishment. With his friend Laisseg, he rescues his sister and niece.

And sparks off a war between neighboring people. As the war spirals out of control, Zhao seeks help from his friends, pulling Ria from her search for the escaped Sinika, the villain responsible for the war and held as a prisoner for the last six month until his supporters freed him.

Meanwhile, Lavinia and her husband Darag have finished their pilgrimage to all the temples to allow Lavinia to touch all the spheres and use all the elements. Wanting to fulfill a promise to the Ashanti Jeif and Leifa, they visit the short-lived and mysterious Ashanti. Their message sparks off a chain of events that could forever change the world.

War has returned, but an even great threat looms and the survivors of the last war will have to reunite to stop the new threats to their world.

Sparks of Defiance (and the Game of Fire series) is a sequel to her Rise of the Five Orders series. It was great to return to her world and see old characters. The war haunts the characters, particularly the death of Beite. She does an excellent job reworking reminders of the previous plot without exposition dumps. The plot moves fast, keeping you reading.

Autumn ratchets up the tension as the book builds to its climax. All your favorite characters that survived the last series are once again in peril.  I was on the edge of my seat through the climax.

Sparks of Defiance is a great start to another amazing Fantasy series from Autumn. If you enjoy great, fast-paced fantasy, then you’ll enjoy Autumn’s Rise of the Five Orders series and the start to Game of Fire. I am eager for Book 2 to be released.

You can buy Spirit of Life from Amazon!

I received this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest review, though I had planned on buying it before the author sent it to me and have preordered it.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestmailby feather
Facebooktwitterrssby feather

Review: Bands of Mourning

Bands of Mourning

by Brandon Sanderson

Reviewed by JMD Reid

B00R697BC8.01.LZZZZZZZIt is the day of Wax and Steris’s wedding, and he is not ready to remarry. The wounds of being forced to kill his first wife for the second time still haunts Wax. His marriage to Sterris is one of political and economic necessity. But Wax has promised to marry her, and he will grit his teeth and get through the ceremony.

Of course, nothing ever goes right around Wax. When a kandra shows up needing Wax’s help and the nearby water tower collapses and floods the church in the middle of the ceremony, another adventur has begun. In New Seran, a kandra has almost been killed after coming across the location of the Lord Rulers bracers, the Bands of Mourning. Reputed to be the source of the Lord Rulers inhuman powers, they are coveted by all, including Wax’s devious uncle and the nefarious group he works for.

Not wanting to help Harmony and the kandra after their betrayal, but unable to resist the urge to hunt his uncle down and recover his kidnap sister, Wax joins the group. Accompanied by his disreputable friend Wayne, the intrepid constable Marsai, his fiancee Steris, and the kandra MeLaan, Wax heads off on an adventure that will change everything for the people of Elendel.

Bands of Mourning was a rollercoaster ride. Brandon weaves almost every pulp story in existence into this tale from Westerns (including a classic train robbery), detective story, and more (I don’t want to spoil this one). Wax and his group have never faced such danger as they try to dicover what the mysterious Set, the shadowy organization bent seizing power in Elendel. The characters have grown and changed, but Steris really shines. In Alloy of Law I did not like her. I wanted Wax to end up with Marsai. But the last two books, especially this one, shows just how great a match she is for Wax.

But there’s more than just Wax’s love life in this book. So much happens. Just when you thought you understood how Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy works, Brandon throws curve balls. MeLaan and Wayne continue to entertain, and it’s great seeing how far Marsai has come from the first book where she blushed at everything (though she does have her occasional blush).

The stakes only grow higher in this book, setting the stage for the final book in the Mistborn Era 2 series, The Last Metal. This book packed some emotional wallops. There were times I was at the edge of my seat, my stomach twisting in disbelief at what was happening.

If you’re a fan of Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn, and the Cosmere, you will eat this book up. And if you’ve never read Brandon Sanderson, you are missing out. Pick up the first Mistborn book (this is not the place to start) and fall in love with one of the modern masters of Fantasy.

Bands of Mourning is available from Amazon.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestmailby feather
Facebooktwitterrssby feather

Interview with Autumn M. Brit

51w0Olv36sL._UX250_This week, I got to delve into the wonderful mind of Autumn M. Brit. She’s one of the many delightful indie authors I’ve discovered since embarking into the world of self-publishingShe has two series under he belt, a Fantasy series called ‘Rise of the Fifth Order’ (a wonderful series) and a dystopian future series Friends of My Enemy (on my TBR list).

First, let’s get to know Autumn with some fun, quirky questions!

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three books would you want with you.

I’m a practical girl so the first two books would be one on botany and the use of any and all plants found on the island. I want to know what can be used to make fiber like linen and rope strength as much as poisonous or not! The second book would be Wilderness First Aid. You know, just in case!

But the last book… that is a tough one. My first thought was the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, but I think I’d like a book I hadn’t read. If I can stretch the rules a bit, I’d love to the a compilation of all books in the Guin Saga. It looks so fascinating! I love heroic fantasy and at 130 books … well to have time to finish it I’d have to be stuck on a deserted island. Hopefully by the time I reached the end I’d have been rescued … or made myself a sailboat. 😉

How thick would a 130 book anthology be? Well, it would definitely keep you busy!

What animal best describes your personality?

If I can choose any animal: dragon. Totally a dragon. BUT my husband likes to limit me to ‘real’ creatures. sigh. In that case, my totem is an owl. And that really does suit me. I tend to be quiet and observe. And owls (like dragons) have no major predators and are amazing hunters. I like that they are a traditional magical creature too, being a night hunter. It grants them the mythos of being able to fly between the spirit world and our world, which is probably why they are often selected as familiars for wizards and witches. An owl is also the symbol of the goddess Athena and her Roman incarnation Diana. Can’t go wrong when you choose something representing the goddess of war and wisdom!

What do you mean dragons aren’t real? Next, you’ll say there aren’t elves!

If there was one place in the world you’d love to visit, where would it be?

This one is hard because I love to travel and there are so many places I want to go. In the last year I crossed off two of the top journeys on my list: hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu and Alaska. I really want to go to Iceland, preferably in the winter where I can soak in a hot spring and watch amazing auroras. And I’d really love to see a good meteor shower anchored in a sheltered lagoon off a sand spit of an island one day. Somewhere you can watch stars fall all the way to the horizon. And I’d love to hike a really long trek. The AT would be nice of even the PCT, but there are some really cool journeys in Nepal and Mongolia that are less well known and would be incredible. So this didn’t really answer your question, because I’m not sure I can choose between those three. I’m thinking I’ll make my way to Iceland first, but you never know!

Soaking in a hot spring and watching nature’s beauty painted across the sky! Nice!

Are you a cat or dog person?

Well when I was younger, I had cats. But my family also had one dog throughout my childhood. I wanted a dog as a hiking companion when I was in college, but of course couldn’t sneak one into my dorm. So when I met the man who became my husband and then met his Cairn Terrier … well I just knew I’d do anything to be with that dog! So as an adult, I’m a dog person.

If you could have a dinner with one historical person, who would it be?

I love history and so this one took some thought. There are so many interesting people who have lived! Buddha would be awesome. Or Confuscious? Hmm … As a final decision though, I’m going to say Sappho. I admire her poetry, or at least the few fragments we have remaining of it. What has endured is her amazing legend as one of the most famous poets of antiquity. So I’d love to hear more of her poetry – from her! – and about her life. Can you imagine learning what legends she holds of what the world was like before 600 BCE? And really, how could you not want to meet the poet who wrote:

Although they are
only breath, words
which I command
are immortal

What a great quote! I see why you like her.

Now that we got the fun questions out of the way, let’s get down to the brass tacks!

Besides writing, what are you passionate about?

Living! That may seem like a tossed off answer, but I’m serious. I love life and the adventure/journey of it. I’m never bored and even on the horrid days I know there will be a balance of amazing ones. I joke that even if I had a thousand years, life would be too short. I want to fill it with so much and get frustrated by the limitations of body (which thankfully isn’t so bad at the moment!) and money/society. Why on earth do I have to earn a living? I want to see sunrises all over the world, taste food from every culture, and share a smile with strangers. I want to write amazing tales that inspire others to do the same. I want days with my family to really enjoy being with them. Everything always feels so rushed, because we don’t have a thousand years and we do have to earn a living, and you end up missing some of the best moments running to the next thing. I guess that I’m passionate about smelling the flowers on the way.

 What drew you to the craft of writing?

Because I can’t draw the ideas I see in my head. But I can write them pretty well. Honestly I was on track to be an artist and even have my BA in Studio Art – but it is also in English. I’ve picked away at writing while in high school and college, but didn’t get serious until I was 35 when I realized I got a lot more enjoyment out of writing than I did drawing. And then I stumbled into the epublishing aspect and that gave me an outlet (selling artwork is not that easy!).

I love the challenge of writing. Crafting a comprehensive story is only the first part. I get into subtleties such a hidden clues in chapter headings to word choice based on a character POV. Writing, and by that I mean everything from creating a story, writing it, and editing it to high polish, stimulates my brain like nothing else. I write first for me, because I love trying to write the best story I can and because I love delving so deeply into the characters and plots of what might have only been a ten minute daydream. When I hear back that someone loved it to, or picked up on a tiny clue buried in the prose … oh it is so awesome!

I know what you mean. I was speaking to a beta reader on my second fantasy novel, and was thrilled when she made noticed foreshadowing I planted!

 

When writing a novel, are you a detailed planer or do you fly by the seats of your pants?

I’ve tried both ways. I wrote Born of Water with a very general idea that could have been summed up in three sentences. And I immediately got lost and bogged down. So then I rewrote it with a pretty detailed map. But spending months working on an outline to then write it for real is a VERY slow process. And I like the writing part. And I don’t have a lot of writing time.

So now I’m a bit of a hybrid. I have a pretty clear idea of major events in a novel and know how it will end (usually – I’ve had characters make decisions that created a whole new book, but that is another story. The VERY end of that one did resolve how I expected. Sort of.), but I have no idea what is going to happen in each chapter when I sit down to write. Instead, I keep things flowing and guide my pace for tension and action by doing quick sentences under at least the next three chapters, though sometimes I’ll have half the book mapped out with quick notes including POV, major point/action of chapter, and how it should end. As I write and edit, I’ll keep side notes of things that feel off or need to be added in. I’d almost call my writing method layering. I write out the main story, add in subplots and other details missed, make sure timelines match up and that clues for later actions are there, and then work on word use. I’m not sure it is the system I’ll always stick to. If I were a full time writer and not trying to maximize the bit of time I get each day to write, I might develop a whole new system! But this seems to work to keep the idea flowing while it is fresh and then adding critical depth when I’m in a more editorial mode.

Your trilogy Rise of the Fifth Order are imaginative fantasy. What attracted you to writing speculative, genre fiction?

Because that is what I read when I was a teenager! I wouldn’t say I set out to write epic fantasy as my first book or even really thought about it while I wrote the Rise of the Fifth Order. I was really writing a story that would be one I would have loved to have read. Only when I was done to I realize that I needed to pick a genre and really got into the nitty gritty of what types of fantasy are out there. After I dipped my toe in the self-publishing world, I realized that having an idea of what beast I’m planning on writing is nice to know before I get going, even if it is a mishmash of several genres. The beauty of the indie publishing world is that you can have space dragons eating zombies if you’d like. I haven’t gone quite that crazy yet, but I keep trying to write stories I love. And my first reading love was epic fantasy. 🙂

I have a feeling, “Because that is what I read when I was a teenager!” is at the root of most Fantasy and other Speculative Fiction authors choice on subjects.

Inspiration is such a fascinating phenomenon. Where did the inspiration for the Rise of the Fifth Order come from?

The idea stemmed from the combination of two random ideas oddly enough. I had this story idea that was going no where in my head of an executive who was a dryad (could turn into plants, specifically a potted on in her office) at a conference and sees a young woman like herself, which is rare. But that is as far as the idea had grown before wilting. It just went nowhere. And at the same time there was this massive painting of a Mediterranean village  in the bathroom at my office. One day wondering what life was like in that painting combined with a woman with elemental powers who sees a young girl like herself, but different and Born of Water started to grow.

The rest of the story is more difficult to explain. I finished Born of Water knowing the story didn’t end, but not knowing where it went. That is a mistake I avoid now when I right a series! I finish the whole thing first because there are definitely things I’d tweak in Born of Water to set up everything for book 2 and 3 better. But I didn’t have this first series planned and when I sat down writing Rule of Fire I only had a vague idea everyone had to go back to Lus na Sithchaine. Except they got into a fight on the Steppes and then ran into Tam again and Ria decides to leave with Zhao, and of course the whole point of the story is finding out who this man who used to be the Curse is… Rule of Fire is the first book where I really let the characters lead the way. They sorted out what was going on and when writing fell off, it was usually because I had a plot hole I had to solve before I could continue. That is how I realized what Elantha’s price for sending Sinika to Minna really was: it was a plot hole that needed answering. I knew Sinika would go after the Kith because that was an unresolved conflict from the previous war. The Church of Four Orders would never let their only defeat last. And I knew that balancing the spheres would be important but not be the whole solution, just bring about the resolution. Rule of Fire and Spirit of Life flowed into each other really well and that is how I want to write series from now on! But I can only say the inspiration for the second two books came from the characters reacting to what had happened in the first book and Born of Water came from a very strange place.

What is your favorite character from the Rise of the Fifth Order?

Am I allowed to choose? I feel like a parent and you shouldn’t have a favorite. 🙂

I think I relate to Darag the best. He could be represented by an owl too! I do like Niri and her voice flows naturally for me. Khodan, Ty, and Zhao are harder for me to get into their heads, but when I do it snaps into focus and I can write their voice quite well. Ria in Born of Water was nearly impossible for me to write. I wasn’t very fond of her and thought about chucking her off the boat. But since the whole point of the story was saving her life, I couldn’t let the Curse eat her. And I’m glad I didn’t as I really like who she becomes in Rule of Fire and love writing her (and Zhao’s!) perspective as the different creatures they become (the dragon scene was the easiest one for me to do – I really should be a dragon). Sinika was always a challenge because he didn’t let me in on his thoughts. He outwitted me even as I wrote and I seriously worried he’d win. He still might. I’m working on a new series… And I totally skipped Lavinia, who is a very good character but easy to overlook at times.

I often joke that my favorite character is the one whose voice I’m writing in at the time, because I see the world through their perspective and want to relate it the best I can. I think I’ll leave my answer at that.

I understand you’re writing a sequel series to Rise of the Fifth Order. Could you tell us something about it?

I did just hint at that, didn’t I? lol. Yes, I’m writing a new trilogy called Games of Fire that begins six months after Spirit of Life ends.

I really thought I was done with the characters and world of Myrrah when I finished Spirit of Life. I was working on my near future dystopian series Friends of my Enemy and was quite in love with the characters and story line despite no magic! But the characters from the Rise of the Fifth Order kept popping in my head. And with good reason. They might win, but not necessarily in the best circumstances for everyone.

Darag, Laireag, and Zhao are hurting from the death of Beite. The forest is in tatters. Sinika is being held prisoner in the same Temple housing the Sphere of Fire, Ria is trying to create a new affiliation out of the Church of Four Orders to include Spirit Elementals, which of course isn’t going to be easy. There is a lot going on right there, but it wasn’t a story and certainly not a trilogy, so I tried to ignore the voices in my head – at least theirs as they were making it hard to write about a non-magical near future war. I eventually had to confront them and demand they tell me a good story or shut up. Oh and they did. I think I totally missed the point of their world or what they started with the events in the Rise of the Fifth Order!

So yes, the story does start up again based on those little problems listed above. But it is really so much more, a deeper thread that goes all the way back to the beginning of the world of Myrrah and the first war. The spheres are just a part of it. Little clues that I didn’t even know I’d put into the Rise of the Fifth Order become incredibly important in Games of Fire.

Book 1, Spark of Defiance, is written. I’m starting book 2, the Fire of the Spheres and hope to finish that his fall. Book 3, as yet unnamed, will hopefully be written in the early winter while I edit book 1. I hope to release all three in 2016 with the first in the spring.

Well, I can’t wait until 2016!

What do you find most challenging about being a self-published author?

Finding the time for everything. I love, love, love to write. And I actually really like editing too. And I like to read and the marketing isn’t too bad. But I’d like to be more social on social media. And I’m taking a marketing course, but I haven’t found the time to implement some of the suggestions. I feel like I’m holding myself back because there just isn’t enough time to do it all. I have side projects like working on a non-fiction book on tips to writing better fantasy. And I want to offer author services like covers or character sketches or even CreateSpace formatting (which I oddly like doing now that I’ve finally learned how!). But ack, time! My 1 to 1 ½ hours of writing time a night has been squeezed to death and something has to give at some point soon. Thankfully winter is coming and I can curl up next to the woodstove and not feel so pulled to also want to spend time with family, hike, kayak, camp, motorcycle, etc. If I can figure out the bills and marketing, I’m going to try to become a full time writer or at least shift into a part time job. That is my goal and the only thing that makes the complete insanity of everything I’ve got going on right now seem worthwhile. Heck, this fall will also see the launch of Born of Water as an audio book with a really awesome narrator Jerry Villegas. Hearing something you’ve written spoken by someone with an amazing voice and who is great a catching nuances is an experience every authors should have! But thank goodness most of the work is on his plate, because I would never be able to fit it in if I were the lead!

Being a self-published author and taking it seriously as a career often means you are running a full time writing/publishing job while working a full time job and juggling a family and life. It is hard. Things are going well enough that I am hoping to move more towards writing as my main career, but while I’m making that switch and getting all those pieces in place, it is really stressful to keep up with everything. And that kinda sucks.

That is amazing advice!

Last, do you have any advice for a new or aspiring author?

Three things: Take yourself and your work seriously, write more than one book, and if you are going to write a series write the whole thing first and then launch the books three to four months apart.

What I mean with take yourself seriously is to treat yourself like a serious author from day one, and that, I hope, means providing quality. Get your work edited. Get a good cover. Work on your novel until it shines. Don’t throw a story up on Amazon and expect people to flock to it and love it and you’ll be rich and famous. That rarely happens and the best chance of it occurring is if the packaging looks great and the product is unbelievably awesome. I totally thing being a self published author is worth all the effort, but it does take effort.

And the advice about writing more than one book is simple: you get so much better with each novel you write. Whether or not you publish them, keep writing. Your prose will get better, how you tell a story will get better. Reading is great, you can learn from that, but there is nothing better than practice. Practice writing a lot!

And the last advice on launching a series of books back to back is because it is the best way to build a fan base. In today’s day and age, no one wants to wait more than a year for the next novel. I saw my sales jump when the Rise of the Fifth Order series ended because all the books were available. People who love epic fantasy love to read and most people go through all three books in less than a week. It took me more than three years to write. That just doesn’t work out well. So if you want writing to be more than a hobby, if you want a career, get all those books lined up, edited, and ready to go and launch them all within a few months. Heck, put book 2 and 3 out on pre-order at the same time you release book 1 if you can. Let people know you are serious about being an author and providing a complete tale that will rivet them.

And I guess one last piece of advice that goes along with that: if you want to make this a career, keep a writing schedule or writing goals. You should write or edit every day, even the lack of inspiration days when the writing feels horrible. Work isn’t always fun, but writing is more often than not thankfully. But if you want to have fans you have to commit to creating fresh material every year. So get writing!

Now that we’ve gotten to know the amazing Autumn Brit, you can find out more information about her amazing books!

0B22g0ZhnTV2RYWFRVDN3d1VEdW8

0B22g0ZhnTV2RcV84OERpNm82NFU

Autumn is a best selling author in fantasy, epic fantasy, and war – not all on the same series though! She is the author of the epic fantasy, adventure trilogy on elemental magic, the Rise of the Fifth Order. Her newest series is Friends of my Enemy, a military dystopian/ dark fantasy tale laced with romance. Friends of my Enemy will be released in full in 2015 and will be quite the story full of strong characters, tight plots, and lots of action. Meanwhile, she is working on a new epic fantasy trilogy, Games of Fire, set in the same world as the Rise of the Fifth Order. If she stops goofing off and enjoying hobbies such as hiking, motorcycling, and kayaking, she may even be able to release the first book in 2015 too.

Stop by her website and blog to learn more about the worlds of her books at www.AutumnWriting.com. You can also find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Author.Autumn.Birt or more frequently on twitter @Weifarer.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestmailby feather
Facebooktwitterrssby feather

Interview: Poppy Reid

11853927_1654184644868390_889607995_nThis week, I had the pleasure to interview Poppy Reid. Despite us sharing a last name, I had never met Poppy before I joined twitter last year. She’s a great, supportive author and helped me out a lot by editing my short stories. She also wrote a really great fantasy book The Blood of the Fallen

First, let’s get to know Poppy with some fun, quirky questions!

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three books would you want with you.

I assume you mean books I’d want to read, as opposed to huge tomes I can use to make a fire or island survival guides. I’d probably take ‘Outcast’ by Josephine Cox because I love the drama and romance. Another drama I love is Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. After those two I’d probably be thoroughly depressed so I’d have a fun book as a pick-me-up – probably “Is it just me?” by Miranda Hart. It’s more of a biography than a novel, but it’s so funny!

Yeah, the last thing you’d want is to be depressed while stranded on a desert island!

What animal best describes your personality?

I’ve never heard that question before! I suppose I’d say a squirrel, because they hide their food to prepare for winter. I’m fairly decent at planning ahead.

If there was one place in the world you’d love to visit, where would it be?

There are hundreds of places I want to go. Right now my dream is to travel the world. I’d love to visit New Zealand one day – go kayaking, skydiving and hiking on the gorgeous islands.

New Zealand is a beautiful place!

Are you a cat or dog person?

Definitely a dog person. I used to be scared of dogs as a kid but I love them now, I can’t see one without squealing and wanting to pet it.

Right!

If you could have a dinner with one historical person, who would it be?

Probably Martin Luther King. He was a great inspiration to many.

Now that we got the fun questions out of the way, let’s get down to the brass tacks!

Besides writing, what are you passionate about?

Travelling. It’s my dream to travel the whole world, working, earning and writing as I go. I might start next year!

Good luck with that! I could never do that, I would get too stressed about the details!

 What drew you to the craft of writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. If it rained when I was at school and we couldn’t play outside, I’d be curled up in a corner writing a story. When I got my first computer (a huge, heavy old thing without internet that used to belong to my mum), I’d sit in my room for hours and hours working on the Fire Princess series (which unfortunately got lost after we moved house). I’ve always written, and always enjoyed it.

When writing a novel, are you a detailed planer or do you fly by the seats of your pants?

I have pages and pages of notes, comments and highlights on my computer. Sometimes I come across an ancient version of a book I’d written and laugh at the old – and sometimes terrible – ideas I’ve had. I don’t plan every little detail but the basic story, notes on characters and a timeline is on a separate document as a reference.

I have a hard drive full of stuff I wrote back in the late nineties when I was in high school. It’s dreadfully hilarious.

Your novel Blood of the Fallen is a sword-and-sorcery Fantasy. What is your favorite part about writing Fantasy?

I absolutely adore fantasy. It’s completely limitless. You can create an entirely new universe with its own rules, its own hierarchy, its own laws. You can control the magical elements, the weaponry, the creatures and the people. Fantasy is definitely my favourite genre for those reasons.

I think we’re on the same page!

Inspiration is such a fascinating phenomenon. Where did the inspiration for the Blood of the Fallen come from?

I’ve always been kind of a hopeless romantic, enjoying romantic books and movies. I always wanted to create something like that but didn’t fancy focusing on just a romance book. Since I love fantasy, I created the world of Theldiniya and developed the relationship between two people whose love could never be accepted by others – something I experienced when I was younger, and wanted to incorporate into my first book.

What has been the biggest obstacle you faced when you self-published your novel Blood of the Fallen?

Formatting! I didn’t enjoy having to sort out the front cover, page numbers, page size, etc. It was a massive pain in the butt.

Oh, yes. The joy of formatting. I’ve only had to do shorts, I can only imagine an entire novel.

I understand you are living abroad in Japan. What is it like to live and work in a foreign country?

If you enjoy being considered exotic, working in Japan is a lot of fun, if a little challenging at times. Once you’re over the homesickness and craving your country’s food (it took six months to stop fantasizing over sausage rolls) you start to get used to it and really feel at home. Japan is a great country in many ways – it’s safe, clean, the people are polite and it’s an entirely different culture. I did get a little culture shock when going back to England for a week, though – I forgot to tip the taxi driver (tipping isn’t done in Japan) and felt really bad about it afterwards.

I’ve always wanted to return to Japan, well Okinawa. I was there at a really young age, too young to remember it outside of my parent’s home videos.

Last, do you have any advice for a new or aspiring author?

First of all – write every day! Even if it’s nothing to do with a project you’re working on. Read a lot, especially friends’ and acquaintances’ work. Enjoy what you do – don’t think of it just as a way to make extra money. Get people to read your work and take criticism well. I actually wrote a small piece on being a writer on my blog which answers this question. Click here to check out Poppy’s Article!

Yes. Learning to take criticism is important. We are usually blind to the faults in our work until someone points them out.

Now that we’ve gotten to know Poppy a little bit, let’s check out an excerpt from her novel, Blood of the Fallen.

A1c9ZO68mEL._SL1500_Theldiniya has been torn apart by two hundred gruelling years of war, both sides forsaken by their ancient gods. One last desperate strike by the Tyrans has prophesised doom for their people, yet, undeterred by the Seer’s cataclysmic predictions, a clan of Tyran warriors have moved east to attack a small Elven village. The Seer turns to Villid, his last true friend, in hopes that he will help protect the Elf Seer and save the Tyran people. When Villid is framed for a crime he didn’t commit he finds an unexpected ally in Aya, an Elf girl, forcing them to rely on each other to survive. In such turbulent times an unlikely friendship is formed between those who once would have been enemies…

You like that one?” Shade suddenly hissed. “The one in green? You want her, do you, Tyran?”

Villid didn’t respond. He glanced round. The Tyrans had now completely surrounded the square, well-hidden in the shadows, waiting for the order to attack. Here and there he thought he saw the hilt of a sword, or a movement from one of the soldiers. The Elves round the tables, however, were oblivious to their hunters. Villid could see women and children sitting, eating, clapping and smiling at the beautiful dancers in the middle. He didn’t like this at all. Battles and arenas were one thing, but the slaughtering of the innocent?

The music had reached its climax and was starting to slow down, and then the dancers were entwined round each other, their arms outstretched, still and silent, smiling down at the crowd. All too soon their performance had ended. Villid knew it – the moment would come any second.

“Shade,” he whispered desperately. “We… we shouldn’t…”

“I tire of this,” Shade interrupted, as several of the Elves started to get to their feet and applaud the dancers. “This is it. So what was the one you wanted, six-one-twenty-seven? That one in green?” and he took aim with a long, sharp dagger from his belt.

It was like an instinct. Villid slammed as hard as he could into Shade’s shoulder, throwing him off his aim. The blade cut through the air as fast as lightning…”

If you want to read more (and you should, Blood of the Fallen is a great read!), you can pick it up from Amazon and Amazon UK!

Poppy Reid was born in Wick, Scotland and grew up in various parts of England before going to York St. John University to study Linguistics. She now resides in Nagano, Japan and works as an English teacher. Poppy adores writing, and has written several books and a numerous amount of short stories and informative articles online.

 

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestmailby feather
Facebooktwitterrssby feather

Review: Blood of the Fallen (Blood Scrolls Trilogy 1) by Poppy Reid

Blood of the Fallen (Blood Scrolls Trilogy 1)

by Poppy Reid

Reviewed by JMD Reid

 

A1c9ZO68mEL._SL1500_On the eve of the Tyran’s attack on a small, Elven village, a Tyran warrior named Villid is approached by a Seer. Villid respects the Seer and listens to the old man’s prediction that cataclysm will befall the world if the Tyrans kill the Elven seer. But the Tyran warleader is bent on exterminating the elves. Villid’s loyalties are torn and he makes a fateful decision.

Aya is a young, Elven woman, an acolyte of the Elven seer helping her village get ready for a festival. But horror descends as the Tyrans attack, and Aya finds herself saved by a Tyran warrior. Forced to join with Villid, the pair are hunted by the Tyrans as they search for the Elven seer. But enmity burns in Aya’s heart. Her people were just butchered by Villid’s. Can they work together, or will their races bitter history drive them apart?

Blood of the Fallen is a fun read. Villid is torn between his loyalty to his people and his loyalty to the Seer, forced to make a moral decision. Aya starts out as a weaker character, the innocent waif, but she gets her eyes opened by the far more world-wise Villid as the pair are both the hunters and the hunted. The plot takes a number of twists and turns and at the end, I was left wondering what would happen next.

Poppy Reid’s first book might not be the most original fantasy plot, but it is written with heart and with characters that you’ll come to care for. I enjoyed this book immensely. Poppy is just starting out, but I know she’ll have a great writing career ahead of her. So if you love a fun Fantasy with great characters, you’ll love Blood of the Fallen!

You can pick up Blood of the Fallen  from Amazon and Amazon UK

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestmailby feather
Facebooktwitterrssby feather

Review: Born of Water (Rise of the Fifth Order Book 1)

Born of Water (Rise of the Fifth Order Book 1)

by Autumn M. Brit

Reviewed by JMD Reid

81vG6hkWFyL._SL1500_On the night of the summer solstice festival, Niri, an acolyte of the Church pf the Four Orders, hunts through the streets of to find the girls he had witnessed during the ceremony. The girl had shone with potential—she was an Elemental. And Niri had to find her. Niri was a water elemental, like all elementals, she was raised by the Church, taken from her family at a young age. And if she doesn’t find this girl and returns empty handed, she knows her punishment will be sever.

But when she finds Ria, the potential, with her best friend Lavina and Lavina’s brother Ty, Niri can’t bring herself to ruin this girl’s life. But when a group of armed men accost the group, Ria uses magic. Not elemental powers, but the forbidden arts that had caused a war a thousand years ago.

Panic fills Niri. She knows that the Curse, a shape-changing beast bred to hunt down mages, is even now coursing from the Temple of Solaire to hunt them down. Niri can’t stand by and let this young, innocent girl be killed and flees with Lavinia, Ria, and Ty by boat, sailing south to the lost Temple of Dust where, according to a message from Niri’s mentor, answers might be found.

Born of Water is a fun read. Autumn sets the stage right from the beginning, putting you in Niri’s panic mind as she searches the city for Ria while reflecting on the cruelties the Church of the Four Orders is capable of committing. When she decides to betray her order and join the youths in flight, you understand why.

The journey is full of much bickering. Niri is the oldest, but she’s barely an adult, and Ria and Lavinia are teenagers. Their flight is punctuated by teenage squabbling and angst that seems quite real, but can be a little tiresome.

But the book really shines with the magic, from the way Niri’s eyes cry tears of lavender when she works magic, to the battle between elementals. The action scenes are crisp and imaginative, with some creative uses of the powers. The book has a level of adrenaline through much of it that keeps you reading, wanting to find out what new obstacle the band of four will have to contend with as they sail the world. And while the teenage angst can be annoying, it fades as the four work through their problems.

If you’re a fan of fantasy and great world building, then you’ll love Born of Water. I can’t wait to start reading the sequel, Rule of Fire. Born of Water is a great foundation for a fantasy series!

You can buy Born of Water from Amazon. Follow Autumn on twitter @Weifarer and check out her blog.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestmailby feather
Facebooktwitterrssby feather

The Colors of Fantasy

For the longest time, the Fantasy genre has been dominated by protagonist that do not represent most of the world’s demographics. Often male, and almost always white. The roots of this are easy to see. The modern Fantasy genre was birthed out of the Epics and Romances of Europe. Fantasy settings were often just Medieval Europe with magic. And when you needed your villains, why, you just looked to the east where the swarthy and exotic races of Fantasy Asia lived.

All writing is influenced by the era it is produced. Once It was perfectly acceptable to have your protagonist be white and your antagonist not-white. Luckily, we do not live in one of those close-minded eras. I grew up believing the color of your skin doesn’t matter. The capacity for heroism dwells in the hearts of all of us, and the siren’s call of evil sings in the depth of all our souls.

So why do you still see Fantasy dominated by White protagonist? Is it because the majority of authors in the field are White? Perhaps it’s because the largest market for English literature is (in no order) USA, Canada, Australia, and the UK? Is it a subconscious act. Do these authors look at the Fantasy stories they were raised on and propagate what they read? Or is it a limitation of imagination that locks them into a Eurpoean-centric fantasy world?

Fantasy is an amazing genre. It doesn’t have to be limited to knights, castles, and wizards. You can set your world in a Victorian era, a bronze-age, a tribal landscape. You can conjure worlds that could never exist in reality, the work on principals of physics or theorems of magic that are impossible in our more mundane universe.

And the races you populate your world in can be just as creative. You don’t have to limit yourself to the constrains of the old. Why couldn’t the courtly intrigue of a seventeenth-century France be populated with Black-skinned aristocrats as they scheme and plot for power? The center of culture and learning could be a society inspired by the Indian subcontinent. And the fierce barbarians pressing at the edges of a might civilization could be White.

Or you can get really creative. Why limit yourself to the races that we have on Earth? Create your own. Take elements from different cultures. Let your imagination populate your world with a diverse mix of fleshed out societies. There are a rainbow of skin-tones, eyes, and hair colors to paint the canvas of your Fantasy world with. So create a world that wholly unlike our own, and share the amazing depths of your imagination with us.

And the most important thing to remember is that any human is clever. Regardless of how technological their society is, how learned their scholars are, how civilized their nation appears, even the most primitive of humans had the intelligence to grasp new concepts, to adapt to new circumstances, to innovate. That’s who we are as a species. So let’s celebrate our diversity in our writing.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestmailby feather
Facebooktwitterrssby feather