Last week I mentioned the diversity of heavily armed societies a reader might expect to find in a High Epic tale like THE GATHERING OF THE LOST (UK|ANZ)– which got me thinking about the importance of conflict to epic fantasy generally, and about the specific conflicts in the Wall of Night series’ world of Haarth.
The Importance of Large-Scale Conflict In Epic Fantasy
Something I’ve discussed before in relation to epic fantasy – particularly in my Big Idea post for THE HEIR OF NIGHT (UK|ANZ) – is the way in which classic epic stories speak to our human condition through juxtaposing the internal conflicts of the protagonists with the external conflicts in which they are engaged. Nations and worlds are often at stake; at the very least major paradigm shifts and world-altering events provide a way of exploring more personal struggles and human cost.
The conflicts that characterize the Wall of Night series honour that epic tradition. (more…)
When embarking on a High Epic tale like THE GATHERING OF THE LOST (UK|ANZ), with its diversity of heavily armed societies, making an inventory of the epic armoury becomes a priority. Any good armoury, after all, should comprise an array of weapons – some magical, some mythic, some even real – that may, depending on circumstances, save the day for one’s protagonists.
The Soul-Sucking Sword
A favoured contender for any self-respecting High Epic tale has to be The Soul-Sucking Sword. After all, they do abound within the annals of the epic literature we love: from Elric of Melniboné and Stormbringer, to CJ Cherryh’s Morgaine with Changeling, and Steven Erikson’s Anomander Rake and Dragnipur. Even Robin McKinley’s (far) more benign Blue Sword has an ambivalent sense of humour. When the chips are down, a soul-sucking sword – or one that can drop whole mountain ranges, like the Blue Sword – has to be handy to any protagonist with worlds to save and a destiny to fulfil.
There may not precisely be soul-sucking swords in THE GATHERING OF THE LOST, but there is reference to black blades:
“Fool!” the old woman spoke with asperity despite her cut and bruised mouth. “She’s carrying black blades—that’s how she defeated the siren worm five years ago. That’s where all your power is going now, too, unless I much mistake the matter.”
“Black blades—fables for children!” Boras said, but Garan noticed they had all taken a step back.”
There is also a frost-fire sword with a liking for geasas—but to say any more than that might be a spoiler.
The Spear of Power
Spears of power are almost as popular in the epic armoury as soul-sucking swords. Tolkien’s Gil-galad carried Aiglos, which “none could withstand”, into battle against Sauron at the end of the Second Age, while the Irish hero, Cuchulain, possessed the Gáe Bolg, the spear of mortal pain. Whether the spear of power is quite as effective as a soul-sucking sword remains moot however. Tamora Pierce’s heroine, Keladry, may wield the glaive to good effect in the “Protector of the Small” series, but proficiency with a spear does not preserve Oberyn Martell in George RR Martin’s “A Son of Ice and Fire.” Nor does it appear to have done Kaladin a great deal of good, so far, in Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings. (more…)
While world-building a city is an exercise in imagination, it’s always preferable, I think, to make sure you’re grounded in at least the basics of reality.
It’s possible to make buildings that can support many, many levels, so why not a city that can do the same? It takes a little extra forethought and planning perhaps. In the case of Mahala, it didn’t start off meaning to grow up, that’s just the way it happened. They ran out of room sideways, so they began building up. While this is fine to start with, just building as and when, at some point things are going to start to collapse under their own weight. Not to mention other considerations, such as “what do you do with all the waste?”.
So at some point in the past, well before the story of Fade to Black starts, a bright mage-king decided it was time to sort it all out. A superstructure was grafted on to what already existed and gave a backbone for more and bigger buildings. As Mahalians are well known for their inventiveness and ingenuity, it wasn’t just any old superstructure – the steel was strengthened to withstand almost anything. Archive details are hazy, but it seems likely that magic was involved in this – in those days magic was involved in everything. The only thing the superstructure couldn’t withstand, so it turned out, was mages. But never mind, the resulting Slump made a handy dumping ground for bodies, especially when space for crypts was at a premium.
A second problem was light – once you go up far enough, light is at a premium at the bottom. That same thoughtful mage-king made sure that even the poor sods far below his sun drenched palace got at least a minute of daylight a day by the cunning installation of lightwells and mirrors to bounce all that light around, and I’m sure everyone was jolly well grateful.
For a chance to be part of this amazing panel please post your best questions in the specially created event page and make sure that you have circled +Google Play to find out if you have been successfully shortlisted. Don’t have a Google+ account but want to take part? It’s easy, find out here.
For those of you who miss out, never fear, the Hangout will be broadcast, so you will be able to watch the discussion in real time, and your questions may still be asked.
And for everyone in the UK, Iain will be touring in October:
We’re all absolutely thrilled to announce that Helen Lowe has won the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for her brilliant debut fantasy THE HEIR OF NIGHT! (UK | ANZ)
Biggest congratulations go to Helen – we can’t think of anyone who deserves this more. We’re constantly amazed by her hard work and her skillfully plotted fantasy writing, (we just can’t wait for her third novel, DAUGHTER OF BLOOD) and we’re delighted that she’s been recognised in this way.
The win was announced on Friday evening, in a glamorous ceremony held at the Magic Circle Headquarters in London – some photos of the awards ceremony below. Congratulations also go to the other winners on the night: Patrick Rothfuss, who won the Legend Award, and Raymond Swanland, who took home the Ravenheart Award for best cover art.
Don’t forget that Helen, with her epic fantasy novel THE HEIR OF NIGHT, is one of five authors shortlisted for the David Gemmell Morning Star Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer and that you can still get your votes in here until 12 Noon GMT 31st May.
Orbit authors N. K. Jemisin and Brent Weeks have also taken part in Reddit AMAs recently, and it looks like they had a great time of it!
We are pleased to announce a new way to get the latest news from all of us at Orbit. Orbit Books now has four Facebook pages sharing news, exclusive deals, and giveaways to readers specific to Orbit’s publishing imprints around the world.
Announcing the winning entries to our very special Gail Carriger UK Tour competition! Gail has now perused all the photos at length and wants to emphasise that picking the winners has been very tough indeed – as every photo has been delightful in its own special way. But a decision must be made. So . . . In first place, winning this darling teapot, is:
The Heroic Valerie Hernandez!
And the two runners-up prizes, each winning a twee tea strainer, go to:
Maria Diana Broughton’s photo of the darling Ane Victoria and Eirin
And Terry Kroenung’s capturing of a feisty low-kick
Well done everyone, and your prizes, which Gail signed for us when she visited the UK offices, will be with you shortly.
You can follow the progress of the rest of Gail’s European Tour here, and don’t forget to catch up on Gail’s latest adventure Timeless (UK | US | ANZ), as well as the manga edition of Soulless (UK | US | ANZ) if you haven’t done so already!
We’re all so pleased to announce that Helen Lowe’s THE HEIR OF NIGHT has been shortlisted for a David Gemmell Award! Our biggest congratulations to Helen, and we’re keeping everything crossed for the final awards announcement on 15th June, even though it’s pretty hard to type on the blog with crossed fingers!
If you liked THE HEIR OF NIGHT then please do go and vote for Helen at the Gemmell Awards website. It’s as easy as just one click! There’s no need to sign up, although if you’d like to be a Gemmell Awards member then you can get a free account and become part of the discussion.
There are five books on the shortlist, and voting closes on 31st May 2012, 12 Noon GMT.