Monday, 30 August 2021

Hello, Fantasy Book Nerds! I hope you are all having a good bank holiday and that you are all doing some bookish activities. Today, it is a cover reveal for Jim Wilbourne's new book The Seventh Cadence. This is a new book published by Emergent Realms and is out in October (look out for a review coming in October). I have to say that I am a tad excited to read this one.

Now, for those of you that don't know Jim Wilbourne, here is a bit of info about the man himself. Besides being a writer, he also has his own blog, but that is not all! Jim launched his small press, Emergent Realms in October 2020 (yes the very same one that is publishing this book and Vile & Blessed by A. H. Serrano, which I read earlier this year!). So. it has been a bit of busy time for him.

Just to mention, that there are a number of bloggers involved in this cover reveal, including my friends at Storytellers on tour, so have a look for their posts on social media too.

About Jim Wilbourne

Jim Wilbourne is a creative at heart. If he’s not writing a novel, he’s writing and recording a song, or once again trying to learn how to draw. When he’s not working on the next project, he spends his free time working on another project. He totally has a life. Jim lives in the deep south with his wife and son and doesn’t miss the snow at all. 

You can find Jim Wilbourne at all these places

The Seventh Cadence 

(The Continua Chronicles #1)

After a supernatural and unforeseen calamity shatters the tentative alliance of the five realms, the Deseran Dominion has returned to take back their homeland and restore their oppressive regime.

As the Dominion readies their troops for invasion, the fate of the entire world rests in the hands of a few young heroes with little to guide them but their own ideals. With the freedom of a kingdom at risk, each must find their place in a world torn asunder.

The Seventh Cadence is a sweeping high fantasy epic of war, found family, and reckoning with fate.

So, without much further procrastination, I think it is about time to reveal the cover







Yup! Pretty Darn Gorgeous isn't it? I have to say that I think that this is one of my favourite covers  this year.

Just to give you some more views of this cover.

If you like the look of this book, it can be pre - ordered here, or alternatively, just use the QR code below.

If you want to check out this and other books from 

  here are some links!

So there you have it!

As always thank you for visiting the blog 

Hello Fantasy Book Nerds! Welcome to a pretty special event that I am dead excited about. Today, is a day of reveals, and first up, Rowena at Beneath a Thousand Skies and I, are presenting a Map Reveal for Trudi Skies' upcoming book The Thirteenth Hour. 

Why a Map Reveal you ask?

Well, I don't know about you, but I love a well crafted map, it gives you an idea of the world that you are entering, and is so much more than a point of reference, it's the first thing you see when you open the book.

Now, this map for Trudi's book is something special and a concept that I haven't seen before and I must say, that as soon as I saw it I was utterly bowled over. 

Before we get to the map itself there are loads of tidbits of information, such as what the book is about, a bit about Trudi and an interview with Soraya Corcoran, the designer of the map.  

Book Info

Title: The Thirteenth Hour

Series: The Cruel Gods

Genre: Gaslamp Fantasy

Release Date: October 13 2021

Pages: 535

Amazon Link:

Goodreads Link:

Book Blurb:

When the saints fail, the sinners step up.

Cruel gods rule the steam-powered city of Chime, demanding worship and tribute from their mortal subjects. Kayl lost her faith in them long ago, and now seeks to protect vulnerable and downtrodden mortals from their gods’ whims. But when Kayl discovers powers that she didn’t know she had—and destroys a mortal’s soul by accident—she becomes Chime’s most wanted.

Quen’s job was to pursue sinners, until the visions started. Haunted by foreboding images of his beloved city’s destruction, Quen hunts soul-sucking creatures made of aether who prey on its citizens—and Kayl is his number one target.

To ensure Chime’s future, Kayl and Quen must discover the truth of Kayl’s divine abilities before the gods take matters into their own hands.

For a city that bows to cruel gods, it’ll take godless heathens to save it.

About Trudi Skies

Trudie Skies has been living inside fantasy worlds ever since she discovered that reality doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Through the magic of books, she wishes to share these worlds of hope and heroes with other weary souls. Living in North East England, Trudie spends most of her free time daydreaming about clouds, devouring whatever fantasy books or video games she can get her hands on, and chasing after her troublesome dogs, who would like to reassure you they are very good boys.

Her debut YA fantasy series, Sand Dancer, was published through Uproar Books. Trudie is now writing adult gaslamp fantasy with her new series, The Cruel Gods.


Interview with Soraya Corcoran (Cartographer):


1) When did you get into maps and what was the first example of this particular art form that drew you in?

While I've loved drawing as long as I can remember, I didn't start drawing maps until a few years ago, 2018 I think, when I wanted to draw a map for the first book I drafted. The first maps I remember were from the Redwall Series by Brian Jacques, as I was a huge fan of all those books! Tolkien's map of Middle Earth was a big inspiration, no surprise there. The map of Skyrim was phenomenal, I was obsessed.

2) When you are working with an author, how does the process start? How do you determine what they have in their head so that it can be transposed onto the page?

This is a hard question to explain! Every map is a unique process. Some authors come to me with a detailed sketch while others give me a blank canvas. The author might have a theme or an aesthetic of what the overall map should look like, and I just roll with it. It's common for me to work off lots of references provided by the author too.

3) Now we all know that fantasy books have maps, as does historical fiction etc, but what was the unlikeliest medium that you have drawn a map for?

I've done a couple SF-ish maps, though I certainly prefer things in the fantasy realm where I feel most at home.

4) Which kinds of mapistry are your favourite, e.g.fantasy, Norse, Arabic, SF?

It's hard to pick a favorite because I appreciate all these different flairs! I want to try them all out some day. I'd say my favorite is anything I can get really artistic with in the design, lots of flourishy lines and artwork! I've done some celtic-inspired art, some dark gothic styles, rough-edged nautical maps, steampunk. I love it all!

5) Obviously, the landscape has changed and digital has become common, what for you is your favourite medium to produce maps, digital or hand drawn?

I use Photoshop for digital work, because there are some amazing and powerful tools that can speed up certain processes. I can make my own brushes and easily do major edits that would be impossible on paper. It's a time-saver for sure, but in my heart, I still prefer drawing by hand. When I'm drawing just for me, I'll almost always do it on paper.

6) What other creative projects do you work on besides maps?

Lately, not much, but I like to draw my own characters to go with the pieces I've written.

7) What advice would you have for someone wanting to get into cartography? Any particular resources that you would recommend?

I would say get a basic understanding of geography and what a realistic landscape might look like. An example of a common mistake is rivers that flow towards higher ground or split rather than converge. Look at tons of maps and notice the things you like about them. Find other artists and follow them. Google Earth is a lot of fun to explore and see real areas, and when you find an interesting spot, research it further. Always be practicing.

8) If you could produce a map for any franchise, what would it be, and why?

My favorite read of 2021 was BLACK SUN by Rebecca Roanhorse, and I know there's already a couple maps in that book, but I would love to try my own take on a Mesoamerican-style map, especially since the world-building and culture in her book are so rich and detailed. I think there's a lot of illustrative opportunities there.

And Now for the Main Event

Are you Ready?







About the Map

In the world of The Cruel Gods, there are twelve domains each ruled by their own deity. These domains can be entered via a magical portal within the steam-powered city of Chime. Each domain is designated an hour slot, and the portal cycles through the domains at the turn of the hour. You’ll have only one hour to make your crossing. Miss your crossing and you’ll have to wait twelve hours for the next one!

This domain map is part-map of the various domains, and also part-timetable, as the map clearly shows which times match each crossing. Each wedge of the clock shows the kind of world you’ll be entering, from the underwater domain of Memoria at one, to the volcanic casinos of Rapture at nine. Soraya really brought these domains to life with a design that fits at home within Chime!

I’d previously commissioned Soraya to create a map for my Young Adult fantasy series, Sand Dancer (below)


and was blown away by her artistic talents and eye for detail then.I knew she’d be the perfect cartographer to tackle my clock-map! And I’m sure you’ll agree she has created a truly magical map.

And there we have it folks! 

I hope you enjoyed this map reveal.

If you want to know more about Trudi Skies you can find her knocking about the T'interweb in various places. 

As Usual, thank you for visiting the blog 

 And Happy Reading!

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Title: The Mapmaker's Daughter
Author: Caroline Dunford
Publisher: SpellBound Books
Publication Day: 25th August 2021

Sharra’s world is a terrifying place. 

Violent seismic ‘Shifts’ and outbreaks of an all-consuming black fire radically alter landscapes on an increasingly frequent basis. Only the Map Makers can predict where the Shift will fall, and Sharra, daughter to one of the most famous Map Makers, yearns to join their ranks and break a cultural taboo that forbids female cartographers.

Sharra’s father, Lord Milton, is one of the few to challenge the current order, but his shadowy past limits his political reach and his second wife, Lady Ivory, is determined to manipulate him to ensure a privileged future for herself and her daughter, Jayne. 

The main obstacle standing in Ivory’s way is Sharra. 

About Caroline Dunford

Caroline lives for stories. Reading them. Telling them, Watching them. She can’t get enough of them. She can hypnotise people and she sings well in the shower. She enjoys cooking, but hates housework, and has managed to convince everyone who knows her that she doesn’t understand washing up. So much so that when friends visit some of them do it for her. Fortunately she also has a dishwasher. She always feels she didn’t make enough of her teenage years, and hopes that at least the teenagers in her books do!

You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or her website

The Mapmaker's Daughter

Caroline Dunford's The Mapmaker's Daughter is an interesting tale of political wrangling, betrayal and ecological disaster.

The Shift moves across the land bringing devastation in its wake. The Mapmaker's work to prevent this, but their battle to stop the Shift is becoming harder to predict.

The story starts with our MC, Sharra and her socially conscious sister Jayne being Waylaid by a man delivering maps to two towns. However, after his horse breaks it's leg, he has to commandeer a horse. Enter Sharra and Jayne. The Two Daughters of master Mapmaker, Milton.

It is from here that the story springboards off to give a view of the current happenings within the Milton household and the plot, which whilst having a slow start, full of intrigue and political machinations, eventually careers off to become a full blown adventure story.

The book is essentially a story of two halves, with the first half set in the Milton household, and the second half being set in the wider world. For me, I found that as well as being two halves to the book, there was also two tones to the book, with the first half feeling like gothic horror, reminding me very much of Daphne du Maurer's Rebecca, accentuated by the fact that Sharra's mother is a ghost like presence seeping through the essence of the first half of the story. We get constant hints that she is there and that there was some tragedy surrounding her death. Add to that the creaking eeriness of the house and it's forest like library that women are not allowed to enter as they may disrupt the balance. And the second half of the book becomes more of an action/adventure story.

It is obvious that Caroline Dunford likes fairy/folktales as she manages to bring in various tropes of fairy tales such as the evil stepmother who marries the father after the mother has died in tragic circumstances, and is  totally selfish, only concerned with her own status, hating the stepdaughter and favouring her own. She also manages to get the tale of Stone soup in there, which is one of my favourite tales as a child.

On top of this she manages to bring in some prescient topical subjects with the main antagonist of the story, the Shift, which reflects current topics such as climate change and the effects of over resourcing the planet. And whilst Sharra's stepmother, Ivory, is the villain of the group (I didn't think I would ever get a Zappa skit in a review😁), the ecological threat of the Shift is the thing that drives the story as it affects the whole of the world that Caroline Dunford has built, and also the what the magic system is based on.

However, for me, one of the main themes that runs through the story is the consequences of our actions, both on a micro level and on a larger scale, and this permeates throughout the book. Now I don't want to go into it too much as this would be major plot spoilers so let's leave it at that shall we?

Now I have talked a lot about topics and themes, but what about the characters. Well, I have to say I liked the characters of the story, especially Sharra, who I liked due to the fact that she is not a perfect character and there are subtle shifts in her  personality throughout the book. Initially, she is precocious and at times exasperating. However, midway through the book, she becomes more vulnerable and less sure of herself when she is taken out of her environment, which added to her character and making her more likeable.

Unfortunately, I wasn't that struck on Ivory to be honest. Her character is good, but I wished that she got more page time in the second half of the book, and some more development time, as I felt that she was more of a device to move the story along rather than being an actual part of the plot.

Maven, the other character moves the story along, and quite interestingly harks back to one of my earlier points, in that the book is about consequences, as Maven has being directly affected by certain events in the book, which has a significant effect on the story. Again, I won't go into that part of the story due to spoilers, but it took me by surprise, and I like being surprised!

Now one thing that I found, is that  there were a few characters and storylines that I wanted to have a little more depth with, and in my opinion, felt they fell by the wayside due to the brevity of the book. One of these being Gory. I found him to be quite interesting and a bit of a Lord of Misrule type of character that initially sows seeds of chaos, but he kind of disappears in the latter part of the story. I found myself wanting some more depth to him and explore how he could affect the story. Similarly, Dale's story seems to be on the sidelines and when he becomes a little more prominent in the story, I found that the impetus of him and the mercenary army threatening Maven's village was a little bit lost. And I think for me personally, that these two things could have been expanded on. 

The magic system is quite intriguing. As you can guess it is based on maps, and I liked the idea of how it works. It is nicely woven into the details of the story, but as time moves on in the book, it becomes a part of the plot. 

There are loads of things that I liked in this book, the way it starts as a character driven book but then metamorphoses into a plot focussed story. The pace of the plot, the intriguing magic system and the characters as a whole. And added to the fact that Caroline Dunford's prose is really easy to get along with. I mean, it took me about two days to read this book, so I think that that in itself shows how much I enjoyed it.

So there you have it, my thoughts on The Mapmaker's Daughter by Caroline Dunford.

As an aside, I would like to thank the publishers and Zooloo's tours for a chance to read this book.

If this book has interested you, here are the links for Amazon UK and Amazon US

As always, thank you for visiting the site

And Happy Reading 😊

Thursday, 19 August 2021

The Hand of the Sun King
J. T. Greathouse

My name is Wen Alder. My name is Foolish Cur.

All my life, I have been torn between two legacies: that of my father, whose roots trace back to the right hand of the Emperor. That of my mother's family, who reject the oppressive Empire and embrace the resistance.

I can choose between them - between protecting my family, or protecting my people - or I can search out a better path . . . a magical path, filled with secrets, unbound by empire or resistance, which could shake my world to its very foundation.

But my search for freedom will entangle me in a war between the gods themselves . . .

The first book in the Pact and Pattern series. Fans of Robin Hobb, Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn and R.F. Kuang's The Poppy War will love the magic running through every page.

This is one of those books that I did not know much about. However, what I had seen is that everyone who has read it has given it a glowing review. 

The Hand of the Sun King is an Asian inspired fantasy set in an expanding empire called Sien. The story centres around Wen Alder, when we first meet Wen Alder, we meet a young child from the conquered lands of Nayen. 

His mother is a native to the country, but his father is from the Sienese Conquerors, making Wen Alder a boy that straddles two cultures and two ways of life. 

And it is these clashes of culture that Drive the book.

As I said, whilst I had it on my radar, I did not know what exactly what I was going into when I started the book. The book is done as a first-person narrative from the point of view of alder. Initially, this is a compact view as the story mainly centres around Alder and his family. In particular, his grandmother, Koro Ha, who clearly dislikes the fact that her daughter has married a husband from the cruel empire (as she sees it) and sets about teaching young Wen Alder in the ways of the Nayeni. The first thing that she does is gives him a proper naming ceremony in the tradition of the Nayeni peoples, and thus, Foolish Cur is born.

However, not only does she give Wen Alder another name, but she also teaches him the customs and traditions of the people that he comes from on his mother’s side, but she also introduces him to witchcraft.

However, after a near fatal accident when experimenting with witchcraft, Wen Alder pursues his Sienese side. And with this we learn about the culture of the Sien. 

As Wen Alder becomes older, he is bound more and more by tradition, and his father’s vision of him becoming a ‘Hand’ of the Emperor, and subsequently serving the emperor in any way he can. This leads Wen Alder to be tutored in all the ways of the empire, so that he can successfully b able to undertake the Imperial examinations and hopefully realise his dream of making his own path for himself that is not shackled to either one of his conflicting heritages. 

This is where the book opens up! As Wen Alder (or Foolish Cur) begins to experience life outside of his father’s cosseting, we begin to see the world along with Wen Alder, and follow him on his journey as he navigates his way around the Sienese Empire, it’s custom and it’s pitfalls.
All the way through this book, I was constantly surprised in the way that it unfolded, and this kept me engaged throughout the book and The Hand of the Sun King kept me gripped throughout as we follow Wen Alder, as he moves from boy to man. 

One of the things that I liked about JT Geathouse’s writing was that he manages to fit in a number of fantasy tropes, such as the old coming of age story, the magic school story, the found family element and the journey of self-discovery (even though I never get bored of most of these tropes) and manages to breathe new life into these common aspects of fantasy fiction and make them seem new. 

Besides an engrossing plot, JT Greathouse writes some fantastic characters that are endearing and relatable, and that you want to spend time with. However, they are not the perfect characters, for instance, the main character Wen Alder is not always particularly likeable at times. However, it fits in with the narrative of the story. 

What I mean by that is that when Alder is a teenager, he is a know-it-all stick in the mud who believes everything that everyone says to him. He is ambitious and will not let anyone get in his way so that he can fulfil his ambitions. He can be stuck up and believe in his own power just a little too much, but throughout the story JT Greathouse creates situations which knock him down a peg or two (which he deserves) However, this character arc sees him developing, both in his skills of sorcery and in his personality. 

There is conflict throughout the whole of the book. Not just in the sense that people are fighting, but Wen is always at conflict with himself, with the two cultures pulling him in different directions, and he is left unable to clearly determine which side he should be on.
In addition to this the side characters all have a role to play and you cannot help but like them (or sometimes hate them), depending on the situation.

As well as the characters, JT Greathouse’s prose is just delightful. Initially when we meet Wen Alder, the prose is as refined as he is, and the prose is clipped and precise. However, as the book becomes more and more epic in its scale, so does the prose, especially when we start to see the story take off in a direction that you do not expect about midway through the book. Through it all JT Greathouse writes rip roaring action scenes and again, these become grander in scale as the book progresses.

Throw in a hefty ability to write cracking world building and you are on to a winner. As I said earlier, initially, the world is compact as is Wen Alder’s world view. But, when he gains more insight, more experiences we begin to see more of the world and the scale of it.

I cannot praise this book highly enough, it’s just brilliant and shows me why I love this genre so much

As always, thank you for visiting the site!

Happy Reading!

Monday, 16 August 2021

Norylska Groans 
Michael Fletcher & Clayton Snyder

Norylska Groans...

with the weight of her crimes. In a city where winter reigns amid the fires of industry and war, soot and snow conspire to conceal centuries of death and deception.

Norylska Groans...

and the weight of a leaden sky threatens to crush her people. Katyushka Leonova, desperate to restore her family name, takes a job with Norylska's brutal police force. To support his family, Genndy Antonov finds bloody work with a local crime syndicate. 

Norylska Groans...

with the weight of her dead. As bodies fall, the two discover a foul truth hidden beneath layers of deception and violence: Come the thaw, what was buried will be revealed

This is one of those books that I have been meaning to read for ages as I have had it recommended to me on a number of occasions, and I have to say that I found this book to be exceptionally good. 
Now the story is billed as fantasy, but for me I didn’t feel that it was fantasy per se, but there does seem to be fantasy elements running through it, but they do see to be there, intrinsically wrapped up in the very essence of the rich and detailed world that Michael Fletcher and Clayton Snyder have developed. At this point in time, the world reminded me more of something set in a nightmarish gaslamp Gibsonian world.
The book is set in a Russian inspired world, which I have to say that I found totally unique, and this is something that I have not come across before. It’s a bleak setting, full of grime and smoke, filth and slush. Nothing is clean in the industrualised town of Norylska. There might be nice parts of it, but the story sets itself in the downtrodden slums of the town and we only get a glimpse of the ostentatious part of the town.  
Added to this, there is an oppressive state-run political system that seems to be akin to the early years of communist rule. Everything is run around ‘The Party’, and there are partisan politics running through the whole of the book. From how the inhabitants of Norylska live their lives to what type of employment that they are suited to. 
As I said, it is a pretty grim book, and Michael Fletcher and Clayton capture the essence of the bleakness perfectly. In the past, I have read some Russian literature, and for the most part I found it to be quite dark, and similarly with Norlyska Groans, there is that oppressive feeling that I got when reading this type of literature, and the book is as harsh as the environment that it is set in.
That is not to say that it is totally devoid of light and hope, because it is not, and this seems to be a driving force to the characters motivations. Both Gen & Kat are motivated by their hopes that their choices can lead to a better life, although it is this hope which leads them down the individual paths that they go down. 
The story revolves around two main protagonists, Genndy Antonov and Katyushka Leonova, and the book tells their stories separately, even though their paths do collide at various points in the book. 
Genndy, or Gen for short is a factory worker who is initially laid off from his job as a factory worker in the early stages in the book. Following this, he is approached by local crime lord Akady Vetrov to come and work for the resident crime family, especially as Gen is ex-military and has a propensity for violence. As he as a wife and the imminent birth of a child to provide for, he sees this as the only viable option to solving his problems. 
Katyushka, otherwise known as Kat, on the other hand is a woman that is in an unsatisfying relationship with a turd of a man. She initially takes up a job as a secretary in the local police force. However, she is side-lined into ‘volunteering’ for an experimental project to introduce women to the police force and is subsequently teamed with suave Maks Tkatchenko. 
What follows is the descent of both protagonists into their respective worlds. One, a police officer and the other a criminal and how their lives fall apart, intersect and dissect again. 
Like I said earlier, I liked this book immensely. Whilst it is not a hard book to read as both Snyder’s and Fletcher’s prose drive the story along with addictive precision, it is a dark book! There are no shreds of light and each of the protagonists find themselves enfolded in an increasingly violent and stygian world. 
There are loads of things going on this book and lots of aspects of the book that caught my attention. One of these being the magic system. And whilst it is not a conventional fantasy magic system as such, you get hints that it derives from fantastical elements in its inception and that it has been modified altered and transmuted into something new through the ages of the world. It is a totally intriguing concept that bears a resemblance to say something like the computerised alterations of a William Gibson book, but that it has been pared back to fit into a prehistoric concept ad subsequently updated to the industrialised setting. Let me explain! The system revolves around stones that the wearer places next to their skin. The stones are imbued with the characteristics, personalities, and memories of the previous wearers, and these can instil these same memories, personality traits and characteristics into the individual that is wearing them. The personality can wear one or more stones and they will each enhance certain properties in the wearer, like bravery for instance. However, there is a catch that the wearer will lose time and memories when wearing the stones, which again leads to some brilliant scenarios in which the wearers will forget everything they have done throughout the day when they revert to their original personalities. Totally fascinating! And whilst initially, the magic system seems to be such a small part of the narrative, it is so intricately woven into the plot that you do not realise how much an effect that the magic system does have on the narrative. 
In addition to this, the world building is so rich and vividly detailed that you can actually feel the soot and grime on your fingertips as you turn the page. Michael Fletcher and Clayton Snyder have created a fully realised world that has a history and all the other things that make the environment that the characters inhabit a living and breathing entity that makes you feel like you are actually ensconces in the surroundings of the book when you are reading it. 
The story falls very definitely into the hard-boiled category of violence and there are some graphic scenes of violence and torture throughout the book. However, I did not feel that this was violence for violence’s sake, but that it matched the tone and narrative of the book, and on top of that it always felt like it was controlled with Fletcher and Snyder reining in the violence when it wasn’t necessary.
One of the things that I had a little trepidation over, was the fact that two authors had done the book. You always wonder what the styles, different ideas and different approaches will have on the story. However, both Snyder and Fletcher mesh their differences seamlessly, and each differing approach compliments, interacts and bounces off each other perfectly. 
I have to say, that this is one of those books that has stayed with me as I will find myself mulling over some aspect of the book, days and weeks after I have finished it. 

So as always, thank you for visiting the site

And happy reading!

Friday, 13 August 2021

Welcome to Day 3 of the Blog Tour for the Legacy of Light by Matthew Ward, the culmination of the epic Legacy Trilogy.

There are loads of fantastic bloggers involved in the tour 

As part of the tour I am pleased to announce that on Fantasy Book Nerd, Matthew Ward will be taking over this transmission and doing a guest post.

To be honest, I think that this is the first time that anyone has done one on the site and I am so chuffed that the first person to do one, is the first person that was ever interviewed on the site, and also my first ever blog tour when I started the site.

That is a lot of firsts!

So without any more waffle from me, I will hand you over to Matthew Ward


There is nothing wrong with your internet connection
We will control the horizontal,
We will control the vertical,
For the next few moments
Relax and read..........

Three Pillars of Fantasy


A little while ago, a question was doing the rounds on Twitter: What Three Things Does Every Fantasy Story Need? [1] With book three of my Legacy Trilogy – Legacy of Light – launching next week, this seems like a fantastic time to delve into yon question, doesn’t it?

(Obviously, this is one of those super-subjective lists, so if you disagree, you should absolutely share your thoughts in the comments below, or hunt me down on Twitter and tell me there.)

Thing the First: Something to Care About

Okay, we’re going to start out with the low-hanging fruit. The first thing any fantasy story needs – in fact, any story needs – is something the reader’s going to care about. Told you it was low-hanging fruit.

Ideally, you’re going to want your reader to care about your protagonist. After all, they’ll be spending a lot of time together. But it’s important to note that your reader doesn’t have to actually like your protagonist. Many a story has played out to conclusion with the reader yearning for something appalling to happen to the lead [2]. Fondness is nice, love is better, but any emotional connection that drives the reader to turn the page is a winner.

As a second caveat, your reader doesn’t have to care about the protagonist. It’s perfectly fine for it to be something else, like the world building, the prose and so on. That said, it’s better if there’s at least one prominent character for the reader to cling to. Someone they look forward to showing up and strutting their stuff.

I’ll be honest, I’m a secondary characters man myself, maybe even tertiary. I love characters who can just be themselves, without the burden of shouldering the plot. If I love a story, you can bet it’s because I’ve latched onto a supporting act rather than the headliner, and there’s nothing wrong with that. A hooked reader is a hooked reader. Get ‘em any way you can.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Legacy Trilogy cheats in this regard. In each book, protagonist duties are shared across three or four characters, so there’s bound to be at least one that hooks the reader’s attention. Most folk seem to like all but one (although which one varies), but that’s okay. Someone always has to come last.

Thing the Second: Something that Shouldn’t Exist, but Does

This one’s easier. Every fantasy story needs a big bad, whether it’s your malevolent Dark Lord™ [3], the prospect of environmental collapse, some dreadful magical super-weapon, systemic oppression or a psychological burden. You might have a bunch of these, but one will be the main event – it’s the yardstick by which your protagonist’s success or failure is measured.

A balancing act is required here. For a fantasy story, you’re almost certainly going to want a speculative element powering the big bad. Magic’s the usual go-to, but there are other options – a creature that doesn’t exist in our world, for example [4].

The only real rules are a) That the empowering force should be something that cannot be understood – much less defeated – by the received wisdom of our workaday ‘real’ world, and b) The threat it poses must be an empathic one.

It’s no good having a Dark Lord whose threat doesn’t strike emotional resonance. Blarkon the Indefatigable can use the Ur-Power of Oblivion to collapse all the quasi-dimensions he likes if we don’t have a reason to care.

But if those empty dimensions are actually populated by innocents, or contain some kind of resource that’s vital to the survival of said innocents (or at least some arguably sympathetic characters) elsewhere? Well, that’s different. Hell, maybe one of those empty quasi-dimensions contains an irreplaceable piece of artwork crafted by the protagonist’s estranged, deceased father? How’s she supposed to get any kind of emotional closure if Blarkon turns the whole thing into lightly-scorched rubble [5]? It doesn’t matter how high concept[6] your speculative element is, so long as the stakes are clear-cut and engaging.

The Legacy Trilogy’s full of things that shouldn’t exist: bigotry, oppression, slavery, greed … but lurking behind it all is the threat of the Dark – the magic upon which all of existence was built. The Dark itself is a primal force, capable of great good and great evil depending on the will and intent of its wielder … but more often than not, it’s the perception of the Dark that leads to conflict.

Thing the Third: Something that Doesn’t Exist, but Should

This is your counterbalance to the above. If your world contains a terrible thing that must be confronted (and probably destroyed), then it should also contain a wonderful thing that must either be protected or wielded in the face of yon terrible thing.

Unlike Thing the Second, Thing the Third always wants to be wholly speculative. After all, there’s plenty of stuff in the real world that shouldn’t exist but does, and it’s easy enough to transfer them to a fictional environment. By contrast, things that don’t exist? Well, by their very nature they … don’t exist – you have to invent them.

As to the candidates? Again, magic’s a go-to [7], but if you really like unicorns or wotnot, set them loose on the unsuspecting reader and regret nothing. It’s worth noting, however, that this element can be speculative in either the real world, or the fictional one. Just as magic’s not much of a day-to-day occurrence hereabouts, maybe gunpowder doesn’t exist in your fictional setting [8]. Or, at the abstract end of the spectrum, maybe your world lacks light, sound, or the concept of peace. The important thing is to create a feeling of wonder in your reader, or else have your reader experience the reflected wonder of your setting’s inhabitants [9].

Case in point, in the Legacy Trilogy the light of the Goddess Lumestra is a versatile form of magic, once commonplace but now rare. It can heal, it can protect – it can even empower vast mechanical constructs – but more than anything, it can contest the Dark, just as Lumestra herself once did in ages past. By placing the protagonists at the heart of this age-old struggle, the engine of the story begins to turn.

And that’s the trick – whichever path you take, make sure to tie Thing the Second and Thing the Third together – that’s what gives your story and your world their identity. Thing the First gives you the means to have your reader pay attention to both. Get these right, and you’re well on your way.

Where will your story end? That’s up to you. As for the Legacy Trilogy? Well, helpfully I’ve written in all down in some handy novels, so you can find out for yourself …

Matthew Ward is a cat servant, creative consultant and author of the Legacy Trilogy, the final book of which – Legacy of Light – is available 19th August 2021. Follow him on Twitter (@thetowerofstars) or check out his website  

[1] I’d credit the asker of the question here, but my search-fu is too weak to drag it out of the seething roil of tweets, retweets and replies.

[2] Or maybe that’s just me. I’m a tough crowd (and a sociopath) so it’s possible.

[3] Or Lady. Or non-gendered title of their choosing. Even overbearing evil schemers have to move with the times.

[4] Dragons, vampires, werewolves or superluminal azure ghost-creatures etc. are only magical if the prevailing rules of your setting say they are. If they’re commonplace they’re mundane, and if they’re mundane they’re probably not magical at all. Just different.

[5] Blarkon cares not for the conventions of artistic criticism. Blarkon is forging a new paradigm.

[6] At some point, use of the word ‘bonkers’ seems to have fallen out of fashion.

[7] We can consider the various iterations of superpowers to fall into this category. You can claim Superman’s vulnerable to magic all you like, but how else does he fly? Magic, I tells you.

[8] Quoting from the classics: We can take these Deadites, we can take 'em! With science.

[9] Bringing us neatly back around to “Something to Care About”.

There we go, a round of applause for Matthew Ward everyone!

Before you go, below are some details about when the book comes out and a link . I am waiting expectantly for my own copy to come as I have ordered a signed copy to come from a very popular online indie bookshop, and I cannot wait to join the reviewing party. 






I also want to mention that Matthew's site, The Tower of Stars has tons of resources

for the Legacy Trilogy, such as maps, pronunciation guides, Recaps and lots of other things 

that you will find most useful, and this is a resource that I visit very regularly.   

 And if you want to read my previous interview with Matthew you can find it HERE





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Welcome to my website. Hopefully, you are all like minded individuals here and are interested in the fantasy genre. Mostly, I will be reviewing books that I like. It might not always be fantasy, there might be some horror or science fiction.



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