The legends of King Arthur sparked my imagination as a young boy. The majesty of his court, the magic, the intrigue, politics, civil war, and immense battles. It was all so interesting and incredible, and I was a very disappointed ten year old when I learned that he wasn’t, in fact, real. As I grew older, I came to learn about historical figures that were just as fascinating as King Arthur, and far more real.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Julius Caesar had a tumultuous life. He was an orator, a politician, and a military man. He survived political purges, being captured by pirates, and was at one point a high priest of Jupiter. He conquered Gaul and invaded Britain. Plutarch claimed that Caesar’s armies killed a million men and enslaved that many again during that campaign—though the number is likely propaganda.
He ignited a civil war in Rome, eventually emerging victorious, and went on to implement much-needed reforms with the goal of strengthening Rome’s central government and reducing corruption. He instituted the new Julian Calendar, which was the basis for the calendar we still use today.
Arthur Wellesley entered the British army as an ensign at the age of eighteen. Twenty-six years later he was a field marshal and was soon after granted a dukedom, becoming the 1st Duke of Wellington. He fought in wars all around the world, and served as a Prime Minister in Great Britain, earning the nickname of the “Iron Duke” for his political resolve.
He was Napoleon Bonaparte’s greatest enemy in the Peninsular Campaign and led the troops that defeated Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo.
It says interesting things about a man that he could have lost not one but two wars hundreds of years ago and still be known as one of the greatest military commanders of all time. A Corsican, he rose through the ranks of the French army and eventually staged a coup, installing himself as the First Consul and later emperor of France. He was known for his military prowess and often defeated numerically superior armies.
He initiated civil reforms that included advancement by merit and religious freedom, as well as laws written and accessible to the average man—reforms that stayed in place after his ultimate defeat. He had a keen mind for politics and popularity that pandered to the people rather than the established aristocracy.
Most of us live our lives knowing that we won’t have much influence on the grand scheme of things. That’s normal. With so many billions of people on this planet, how could we? Yet there are some people who change everything. These are the movers and the shakers, the great generals and statesmen. Looking back on some of these men and seeing their imprint on history one might believe they were forces of nature.
Field Marshal Tamas, the protagonist of PROMISE OF BLOOD, came about because I wanted to write someone like that. He’s a flawed man who does bad things for good reasons—and he does them on a monumental scale. In most stories, he would be the villain. Tamas is not the villain of this story, but he’s no saint. He doesn’t pretend to be. There’s enough blood on his hands to drown a city and there’ll be more before he’s done.
There is a little bit of each of those three men in Tamas. Like Caesar, he’s loved by his troops and by the people. Like Wellesley, he is a hard-headed man known for his resolve. Like Napoleon, he staged a coup, and both his friends and enemies respect his military prowess. As with all three of them, he shapes the world around him.
Join Brian on reddit/r/fantasy tomorrow for a Q&A or read the first four chapters from PROMISE OF BLOOD (US | UK | AUS) here or on Facebook.