Book Review: "A Darker Shade of Magic" (by V.E. Schwab)

Every so often you read a fantasy books that just sort of sweeps you up in its fictional universe, a book that’s told in such a compelling way that you feel like you literally can’t put the book down.

Such is the case with A Darker Shade of Magic.

This novel, the first of a series by V.E. Scwhab, follows two characters, Kell and Lila, as they attempt to stave off the consequences of a dreadful new type of magic that threatens to upend the fragile balance of power that exists in their interconnected worlds. In the process, they discover much about themselves and, by the end of the novel, the stage is set for further adventures with the two of them.

At first, I couldn’t quite figure out why it was that I loved this book so much. Part of it, a significant part, is the setting. In the world that Schwab has created there are four connected worlds. Each of those worlds has a city named London, and each of those is named after a particular color (Red, Grey, Black, and White), and each of which has a different relationship with magic. Though it turns out that this is largely a conceit of Kell’s and not codified in any official way, it remains a useful way to refer to each of the individual locations. Red London is probably the most balanced, with magic present but not destructive. White London has a deeply pathological relationship with magic, and it is ruled over by the sadistic and monstrous twins Astrid and Athos. Grey London, the one that is our world, has almost entirely forgotten what magic is. And Black London has, in the distant past, been so overwhelmed by magic that the other Londons have resorted to walling themselves off from it.

Schwab has the stunning ability to create a richly imagined world without smothering us in detail. Much of the action of the book takes place in both Grey London and Red London, with only occasional forays into the horrifying and dangerous White London. However, the mystery of Black London hangs over the entire book, and while Kell ultimately manages to avoid having to journey there in person, there is a sense at the end of the novel that there is much that we haven’t yet seen from that place where magic has gained such power that it has burned through its hosts.

For that is one of the most interesting things about this book. Magic is not just an inactive force that some can draw upon. It is, instead, a powerful force with its own agency, and one of the gravest threats posed to this world comes when magic gains a power and a will of its own. It’s quite disturbing, really, to think of magic as something that has agency, and Schwab perfectly captures that sense of menace, as this powerful force begins to inhabit the bodies of those that it encounters, using them as its host before ultimately burning through and discarding them (given that I am writing this review in the midst of a pandemic, that particular storyline feels even more chilling than ever).

Next, the characters. Both Kell and Lila are both sympathetic and, at times, frustrating. Kell is in many ways impossibly noble, always willing to do whatever he can to protect those that he loves, including and especially his brother Rhy. Noble as he is, however, he is also rather prideful, and he takes unnecessary risks that put not only his own life in danger, but also those that he claims to care about the most.

Lila, on the other hand, is almost irritatingly unwilling to commit to anything except her own survival. By the end of the novel, of course, she has recognized that there is something more than just her own benefit. What I especially appreciated about A Darker Shade of Magic was that it didn’t go the easy route and force Kell and Lila into a romantic relationship. Though there is clearly a strong connection between them, it was refreshing to see them go their separate ways rather than committing to one another (though, since there are two more books in the series, it’s entirely possible that they might end up together by the end).

Narratively, the story is tightly-woven. Though most of the book is told from the perspectives of Kell and Lila, we do occasionally get glimpses into other side characters, particularly those who are being possessed by the darker magic of the stone. Despite those brief interludes, the novel moves along at a brisk pace, keeping us caught up in its propulsive momentum from the first page to the last. By the time I reached the end, I was almost breathless, and I was a little sad to find that I had to stop. There was so much more that I wanted to know about this world and about these characters, so much that continued to hover just out of view. But, of course, that’s precisely what makes a book like A Darker Shade of Magic such a pleasure to read. The fact that you are left wanting more is a definitive sign that the writer has done something right, that they’ve found the proper balance in their fiction.

What I really appreciated about this novel was the fact that it wrapped up all of the storylines so neatly. Though it is the first book of a trilogy–with the same characters–it still manages to be self-contained, leaving us satisfied with how things have worked out for these characters. At the same time, there are just enough hints scattered throughout the book to suggest that there is a great deal of chaos just waiting to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting residents of the various Londons.

Given how much I enjoyed A Darker Shade of Magic, I’ve already started reading A Gathering of Shadows. I have to say, I’m enjoying it already. I can’t wait to review it!

Book Review: “Children of Virtue and Vengeance” (by Tomi Adeyemi)

When I first read Children of Blood and Bone, I was absolutely blown away. It wasn’t just that I was excited to finally see a young woman of color writing what was, by all accounts, a stunning fiction debut. It was that this extraordinary talent had managed to create a compelling world based on Africa mythology, one that lived and breathed and drew you in from first page to last. Thus, when Children of Virtue and Vengeance came out, I rushed to the store.

I’m glad I did.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance picks up shortly after the previous novel ending, with Zélie mourning the death of her father, while royal siblings Inan and Amari each struggle for the throne in order to bring an end to the war that has already cost so many lives. The novel follows each side as they each go to ever-greater depths of darkness and violence, each side convinced that right is on their side.

One of the things that I’ve appreciated about the books in this series is the way in which they manage to combine all of the elements of fantasy in ways that feel fresh and exciting. I particularly love that the series is drawn from west African mythology and that it pays so much attention to the fact that these characters are definitely not white. Fantasy as a genre has been dominated for so long by whiteness that I’m always looking for a series that breaks out of that mold. It’s clear from the first page to the last that Adeyemi has given a great deal of thought to how to build this world from the ground up, and it’s impossible not to find yourself utterly swept up into it.

The novel keeps moving along at a breathtaking pace, and you’re left never entirely sure when the next twist will happen. There are many twists and turns in this novel, which is appropriate, given that it is in many ways about the destructive power of war and the corrosive impacts it has on even those who begin with the noblest of intentions. None of the three primary characters are angels, and there are moments when it’s possible to dislike any of them. However, Adeyemi does an excellent job of making us appreciate and love each of these characters, even as we also recognize their flaws. All of them, each in their own way, is trying to do what they think is best, and while they don’t always succeed, we’re led to at least appreciate their efforts.

Each of the three main characters finds themselves tested in ways that they never before imagined. Zélie must slowly come to terms with the fact that, whether she likes it or not, she is now a leader of the people who now wield magic. Amari must recognize that, in many ways, she has become far too much like the father that she spent so much of the previous novel loathing and trying to escape. Inan, the boy who has been thrust into a kingship that he never really wanted and is not really prepared for, must contend with the competing forces around him, from his mother’s relentless desire to eradicate magic to his own love for Zélie and desire to bring about peace.

And it’s important to remember just how young these characters are. These young people have been thrown into the midst of a war that none of them asked for, each of them caught up in the web of deceit and death and destruction that was precipitated by their parents and those who don’t have their own interests at heart. You can hardly blame them if, at times, they aren’t able to exactly meet the challenges that they face and if they make choices that are foolish and sometimes dangerous.

The novel ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and at the moment it’s unclear what, exactly has happened and what will happen to these characters that we’ve already come to love and care about. The worst part about finishing a book like Children of Virtue and Vengeance is that we now have to wait for an even longer period of time before the third volume is out! And, given how many twists and turns the first two volumes in this series have taken, I think it’s safe to say that we are about to see these beloved characters go through quite a lot before this whole thing is over. Heartache is no doubt on the horizon, but hopefully so is salvation.

TV Review: “The Witcher” (Season 1)

Being the contrarian I am, I actually put off watching The Witcher longer than I normally would. Though I am, of course, a huge fan of fantasy series and was in need of something to fill the gap left by the conclusion of Game of Thrones (which was a huge disappointment) and the season finale of His Dark Materials, for some reason I just found all the hype around The Witcher off-putting. Eventually, however, I gave in to the pressure and watched it.

I have to say, I’m not disappointed. In fact, I found myself more drawn into the show than I thought I would be, which was a pleasant surprise. The action is propulsive, the characters are strangely likable (for the most part), and there are glimpses of a vibrant world with cultures and conflicts that are as compelling and bloody as anything in Game of Thrones. Somehow, The Witcher manages to grab hold of you from the first episode and doesn’t let you go until the very end, when it leaves you dangling on a cliff-hanger.

It’s rather hard to summarize this show without giving away important plot points, but I’ll give it a try. It focuses on three characters. The first is the Witcher Geralt (Henry Cavill), a mutant warrior who goes about fighting monsters and demons for payment. His fate is bound up with Princess Cirilla (Freya Allan), who is forced to flee into exile when her kingdom is invaded by Nilfgaard. The third is the Yennefer of Vengeberg (Anya Chalotra), a powerful mage who has her own series of journeys to undertake as she becomes ever more entwined with the fates of nations.

Narratively, the series is rather a mess, to be quite honest, but the genius of The Witcher is that it somehow just rolls with its own absurdities and encourages us to do the same. It doesn’t get hung up on the mechanics of its magic system (which seems pretty much to be whatever the plot demands), nor do the pieces of the political jigsaw puzzle ever entirely coalesce into some sort of coherent whole. In fact, the show seems to go out of its way to keep us guessing as to why the characters are doing what they’re doing. Part of this has to do with the fact that it’s told out of order, and it actually takes quite a while to figure that out, and even when you do it can take some time to orient yourself within a given episode.

At times, I found myself getting a little frustrated at how underdeveloped both the magic and the politics were. I’m not one of those people who demands that their fantasy series explain everything to them, but it is hard to get a sense of the stakes of The Witcher when it’s so resistant to providing a birds-eye view of the world and its conflicts. I’m hoping that now that the various storylines have come together at the end of the first season that this means that the second one will be a bit more straightforward.

One of the reasons I think the series succeeds despite these flaws is because the performances are so absolutely compelling. Cavill is one of those actors who is both beautiful and strangely flexible in terms of the kinds of characters he can play. He manages to imbue Geralt with both taciturnity and vulnerability, and while the former definitely dominates through much of the show, the moments when the latter appears are some of the best in the series. His feelings for both Yennefer and his lost mother. You get the sense that he’s been through a lot, and that these experiences have shaped him in some unexpected ways. Tough-as-nails he may be, but he also has a powerful sense of right and wrong.

Likewise, I found myself increasingly drawn to Yennefer. Again, performance has a lot to do with this, as Chalotra does so much with what she’s given. We get to see Yennefer grow from a twisted girl to a powerful sorceress, and if I have a complaint about her role it’s that we don’t get more of it. Narratively, her arc doesn’t quite gel until we get to the very end, but her character is arguably as important as Geralt’s, if only because it’s refreshing to see such a powerful woman take center stage in a fantasy series.

Unfortunately, at this point in the series Cirilla is still something of a blank slate. She spends most of the season running from conflict to conflict, and I’m afraid that I just wasn’t drawn to her in the way that I was Yennefer. A number of other secondary characters, however, more than make up for this, and once again the women get the lion’s share. I absolutely loved MyAnna Buring as Tissaia, the Rectoress of Aretuza (the academy for mages). She managed to own every scene that she appeared in, and I sincerely hope that we get to see more of her in the second season. The same goes for Jodhi May as Queen Calanthe, who is about as badass as they come (even if she is rather shortsighted on some key issues). And, of course, there’s Joey Batey as Jaskier, the rascally bard who appears periodically to make Geralt’s life miserable. There’s undeniable chemistry between Batey and Cavill, and I hope that he returns for the second season.

Overall, The Witcher is tremendously entertaining. If you can look past the flaws in its storytelling, and if you can be patient enough with it to see it through the first several episodes, I think you’ll find it to be a rewarding series to watch. There’s still a long way to go before we get the second season, but I hope that the writers take the chance to iron out a few of the kinks. If they do that, they might just have a truly great show on their hands.

I know that I, for one, will be watching!

Reading “The Lord of the Rings”: “The Muster of Rohan” and “The Siege of Gondor”

Welcome to another installment of “Reading The Lord of the Rings,” in which we take a leisurely stroll through J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnum opus, dwelling on the beauty, the majesty, and sometimes even the sadness in these wonderful pages.

In these two chapters, Merry contends with the fact that he’s been left behind by Gandalf. Though he offers his services to King Théoden, his offer is refused and it is only due to the intervention of the mysterious Dernhelm that he’s taken along to the rescue of Minas Tirith. For his part, Pippin must contend with the duties attendant upon serving the Lord Denethor while also witnessing the tightening siege.

Reading it this time, it was hard to put aside my awareness of the fact that Dernhelm is, in actuality Éowyn, to think back to the very first time that I read it and wonder who, exactly, was this young soldier that decides to take an interest in Merry and ensures that he comes to the battle. It’s hard not to feel tremendously touched, both by Dernhelm’s actions and by Merry’s desire to serve his king in whatever way he can. Merry, like all of the hobbits, shows a surprising strength and courage, a willingness to put himself in harm’s way, to do his own part (however small) in the great and terrible deeds that are shaking the foundations of his world.

On the other side, we finally get a more in-depth glimpse of Gondor and Minas Tirith in particular For some reason, I’ve always found myself drawn to the faded majesty and grandeur of Gondor. Perhaps it stems from my love of Byzantium (and Late Antiquity more generally), which the fading might of Gondor so clearly resembles. There is something irretrievably melancholic about this noble city, poised on the brink of utter oblivion yet refusing to give in to the pressure from the East. Relatedly, I’ve also always thought that the chapter on the siege of Gondor contains some of the most visually vivid of all of those in the book. Every time I read it, I can almost imagine that I’m sitting on the ramparts of Minas Tirith, looking out over the fields below. Certainly, my image of this terrain has been shaped by Jackson’s interpretation of the novels. Even before I watched them, though, I always found myself utterly immersed in this world and this city.

Narratively, the sequence of chapters here are some of the most brilliantly conceived in the entirety of the novel. At each conclusion of each chapter, we are left wondering exactly how matters shall transpire. While the Rohirrim come to save Gondor? Will Gandalf be able to save Faramir from the suicidal madness that has overtaken Denethor? Scholar Tom Shippey refers to this as interlacement, and it is a narratively brilliant move, showing us how actions can frequently have unexpected consequences, ones far beyond the ken of those who undertake them.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Denethor. This is a man, after all, who has spent his entire life trying to keep the darkness of Mordor at bay, even as he’s aware that it’s a losing battle. There is a noble spirit in him, but it’s a sort of nobility that has been corrupted because of its inability or unwillingness to see anything beyond itself. This is most conspicuous in his confrontations with Gandalf, with whom he maintains an ongoing antagonism.

These chapters are interesting for another reason. For the first time since The Fellowship of the Ring, we finally get to see the Witch-king in action. As with so many of Tolkien’s villains, the Witch-king draws us to him precisely because there’s so much that we don’t know about him. Even in this, his moment of greatest victory, he remains literally invisible. One of the most fascinating parts of this chapter is the unanswered question of who would have won the contest of wills between Gandalf and the Witch-king. While it’s tempting to think that Gandalf might have done so–considering how he was able to chase away the Nazgûl in other parts of the chapter–I’m inclined to think that the Witch-king would have won. This chapter makes it clear that, in this moment, the power of Mordor is in the ascendant,

Next up, we’ll continue exploring the intertwined fates of the Rohirrim and the Gondorians, and we will also see some of the most beautiful and tragic scenes in an epic that’s full of them.

Tolkien’s Songs: Pleasure or Pain?

In the annals of Tolkien fandom, there is no subject more likely to cause an argument that the subject of the songs. Anyone who’s read either The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings knows that fans either love them or hate them. Anecdotally, I’d go so far as to say that casual fans tend to simply skim over them in the process of reading the books, while those who are a little more in-depth in their appreciation read them and savor them (though whether they enjoy them, per se, is a rather different question). To some they’re an essential part of world-building, while to others they’re hopelessly self-indulgent and more than a little silly.

In my opinion as someone who has read both of these books more times than I can count, I have to say that I’m still divided. Part of me dearly wants to love the ones that Tolkien clearly took the most pride in–the great romantic tales of Beren and Luthien, the sailing of Eärendil the mariner–but I’ll be honest, they’re kind of a slog to get through. I’m not enough of a poetry critic to gauge whether they’re “good” (I’m also rather dubious about such distinctions in any case). Sometimes, I do read them in their entirety, but at other times I skim through them to get to the parts of the narrative that interest me more.

At the same time, I can appreciate how these serious songs function in the context of the books as a whole. In the case of The Lord of the Rings, they are often symbolic of the power of the Elves, even in the darkening hours of the Third Age, to command some measure of power. For example, when Frodo, Sam, and Pippin encounter Elves in the Shire, it is their song in praise of Elbereth that drives away the Black Rider. It’s clear that for Tolkien song in particular was a powerful form of magic as great as anything that a wizard can create.

I can say, however, that as I continue to re-read Lord of the Rings, I find myself absolutely loving the ones that are more humourous in tone. Both the elaboration of the nursery rhyme “The Man in the Moon” and Sam’s ditty about the Troll never fail to bring a smile to my face. But, more than that, they do reveal some important facts about Tolkien and the way that he viewed his act of creation. In the case of “The Man in the Moon,” we can see him performing the sort of linguistic archaeology that he loved so dearly, giving us an extended version of the very short nursery rhyme that we already know so well.

In the case of Sam’s song about the Troll, it is not only very amusing–almost earthy–but it also reveals something important about Sam. While we might be forgiven for regarding Master Samwise as something of a buffoon, there are hidden layers to his character that really come into the open at moments like this. Through this song, we learn that he is actually a far more competent and intelligent character than we might have been led to believe.

No doubt the arguments about the merits and drawbacks of Tolkien’s songs will continue to rage for as long as people continue returning to Middle-earth. Love them or hate them, however, you have to admit that they remain a key part of the world that Tolkien created, a reminder of just how much he laboured to make a world that had its own internal consistency. If we owe one thing to Peter Jackson’s films (and I would argue that we actually owe quite a lot), he deserves credit for bringing the songs out of the realm of the abstract and into the performative. Let’s face it. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to really hear how a song is supposed to sound when you’re reading it silently. However, I dare you to remain unmoved by Billy Boyd’s singing of the travel song (even if it is delivered out of its original context).

What are your thoughts about the songs in the work of Tolkien? Do you love them, hate them, or some combination of the two? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: “The Ruin of Kings” (by Jenn Lyons)

As readers of this blog know, I’m always on the lookout for a new fantasy to really sink my teeth into, one that would allow me to lose myself in its world while also keeping the pace moving. I remembered seeing Jenn Lyons’ The Ruin of Kings at Barnes and Noble some time ago, but it was some time before I could actually sit down and read it, and even more time after that until I’d finished it.

The novel follows Kihrin as he struggles to come to terms with a destiny that is far grander–and far more dangerous–than he’d ever imagined. It toggles between three different timelines, as well as several characters, before they all come together in the sort of climaxes that are the hallmark of much epic fantasy. The novel ends with Kirhin fleeing into exile, while a horde of demons has been unleashed upon the land.

The Ruin of Kings has all of the ingredients that I love about epic fantasy. Kihrin is a very sympathetic hero, and there are enough side characters with their own personalities to flesh out the story. There’s an extensive cosmogony, and the world that the characters inhabit is a once beautiful, deadly, and cruel. This is the sort of novel in which you can truly lose yourself, as you become invested both in the hero’s journey and in the world in which it takes place.

What’s more, it’s told in a very lively and engaging fashion that actually had me laughing out loud a couple of times. It’s not just that Kihrin is an irreverent character–though that is true–it’s also that the other characters are as well. What’s more, there are footnotes scattered throughout, all of which come from the compiler of Kihrin’s story. While these sometimes provide useful context for what’s happening in the story, just as often they’re witty or amusing asides and commentary about what is happening. They are very amusing, but they can also be a bit distracting at times (as is often the case when people choose to use footnotes in fiction).

Much as I enjoyed this book, however, I do think that sometimes it does get a bit self-indulgent with its complexity. It can sometimes get a little bewildering trying to sort through the various social structures, magic systems, and goddesses. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that so many of them have very similar-sounding names, which can get a bit bewildering at times. Just as importantly, there are some aspects of the narrative itself that can get a bit bewildering, as there are quite a few twists and turns along the way. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but it is definitely something to keep in mind as you start to read.

While some reviewers have really come down hard on the choice to have the novel toggle between three different periods of time–the time of the compiler, the frame narrative, and the time of the main action of the story–I think that this is actually one of the novel’s more interesting moves. Admittedly, it does get a bit confusing at times, trying to piece together this fragmented story, and I’m not entirely sure I understand the point of telling the story in this way.

However, since ornateness is hardly unique to Lyons (Brandon Sanderson comes to mind as someone else who gets a little indulgent in this regard), I won’t hold her to account too much. It just means that, as you read, you want to either keep a running tab of the various mentions of characters (the book contains a glossary, but sometimes it’s helpful to keep your own notes), or actually outline what’s going on. Alternatively, you can follow my method, which is to just keep moving forward and assume (rightly, I think) that the numerous conundrums will be resolved in the end.

Overall, I very much enjoyed The Ruin of Kings. By the time that the novel ended, I was left hungering for more. Lucky for me, the sequel, The Name of All Things, has already been released, so I can’t wait to devour it and report back to you on my findings.

Stay tuned!

On the Pleasures of World Building

Ask any fan of epic fantasy what they enjoy most about the epic fantasy, and they will almost certainly tell you that they love seeing the way that epic fantasy authors create their own secondary worlds,

Certain fantasy authors have become famous for their ability to craft secondary worlds that have a level of depth and sophistication that are truly the envy of all of those who write in epic fantasy. Tolkien, of course, tops the list, if for no other reason than that he even provided his fictional people with a language all their own (and, of course, there is the fact that he created a fictional history that’s literally thousands of years long). Other, more recent authors have become giants in their own right. Brandon Sanderson is famous for his ability to create worlds that are as delightfully complex as our own, and George RR Martin has shown again and again that he has a very firm grasp on the convoluted histories of his own fictional world (even if he doesn’t always have the same grasp of his primary narratives, but that’s a different blog post). And of course Terry Brooks, in his sprawling Shannara series, has shown the ways in which an epic fantasy can have impacts that echo through numerous generations of a single family.

As we’ve embarked on our own epic fantasy story, we’ve found that one of the things we’ve enjoyed the most (aside from crafting our story, of course) has been the ability to create a world that’s entirely our own. From cosmology to countries, from customs to conflicts, we’ve begun putting the flesh on the bones of this sprawling secondary world (a term from Tolkien, by the way). It’s a little like being able to create your very own toy chest, with all of the attendant joys and perils.

Part of the pleasure for us comes from our love of history. The advantage of writing epic fantasy rather than historical fiction means that we can draw upon historical reality, even while we don’t have to have the same level of fidelity that a true historical novelist does (we don’t have to worry, for example, that some reader is going to criticize us for not adhering to history). At a broader level, it’s also fascinating to watch the ways that events that happened in the distant past in our created world have effects and consequences that echo down through the generations. In that sense, writing a history of your world is a little like writing actually history in that you gain a more nuanced understanding of how events and choices in one particular period can echo down the ages, changing everything that comes after that.

Another enjoyable aspect of world building is the excitement of discovery. Though of course we have a pretty extensive set of histories already built, any author will tell you that there are times when you’re writing a narrative when you accidentally find out that something happened in the past–whether that of a character of your fictional world–that totally changes how you thought about things. Just as importantly, it can sometimes radically change how you conceived of your plot and, while this is certainly a good thing a lot of the time, it can also be quite a challenge.

I guess you might say that fantasy-world building is a bit like playing God. After all, it’s entirely up to you what your world is going to look like, how its people are going to worship (assuming that you pay attention to matters of religion), how magic works (and what its history looks like), and how all of this impacts the characters that, presumably, you’ve already created. And, of course, you’ve got to make sure that your story meshes with your fictional history in a way that makes logical, organic sense. It’s all quite a lot to keep straight in your mind.

Because, of course, there are some more challenging parts of the whole world-building process. It’s very easy–for us, at least–to just sort of tumble down the wormhole. Sometimes, we get so invested in the creation of our world and all of the things about it that we forget that there’s actually a story that we’re trying to tell that’s set in this world. It’s hard to really explain this to someone who doesn’t either read or write epic fantasy, but it really is difficult sometimes to give the stories that are set in the present the love that they deserve. On the other hand, spending so much time building up a secondary world does give us opportunities to explore more stories in the future, so there’s always an upside.

Overall, world building is definitely one of the most satisfying and challenging aspects of writing epic fantasy. Just as you often find yourself both falling in love with and getting frustrated with the characters that you create, you often find your world taking on a bit of a life of its own. Sure, you may start off creating a theocracy loosely modeled on the Byzantine Empire, but soon you find elements of the Crusaders and the Templars moving in and that, in turn, begins to inflect the entire way that you had conceived of the essential conflict at the heart of the story. Sure, you start out with an empire sort of like Rome, but then it becomes a little something different, far more permissive of female empowerment than its historical predecessor. These are the sorts of changes that make world building such a pleasurable part of writing epic fantasy.

As we move forward with our series, we look forward to continuing to discover more about this world and the peoples that inhabit it. Just as importantly, we’re also looking forward to thinking about not only the past of this world, but also the future. There are so many stories that we’ve already started developing in this world, and we look forward to sharing all of them with you.