The D&D Connection: Authors and TTRPGs- Jeffrey Speight

Continuing on with my series on great fantasy authors and table-top roleplaying games, I’m excited to be able to talk with Jeffrey Speight, author of the excellent Paladin Unbound. Thanks for taking the time to chat D&D!

Will you talk a little bit about your recently released fantasy book, Paladin Unbound?

I’d be happy to. Paladin Unbound is a fast-paced high fantasy adventure that follows a half-Orc mercenary, Umhra the Peacebreaker, as he uncovers an insidious plot to bring the natural order of Evelium to its knees. In the process, he suffers tremendous loss as a result of his own reluctance to show his true nature and risks his own life in coming forth about his secret to guarantee he never makes such a mistake again. It’s a tale of self-discovery, honor, and lots of action.   

How about your history with ttrpgs? Have you been playing for long?

I started playing D&D when I was in middle school in the late 80s. My first character was an elf ranger named Sage. I played rangers a lot growing up. Somewhere along the way, I shifted to preferring paladins. I’m a lawful good alignment, myself, so I think there’s a natural connection there. Several years ago, I started playing again to introduce my three sons to the game and get them off screens. Ugh. It got the creative bug going and led me to homebrewing Tyveriel (the planet where Evelium sits) and, eventually writing the book.

One of the things that I really loved about Paladin Unbound is that it has a bit of a classic D&D feel to it. Is any part of the book inspired by gaming at all?

Absolutely. As I said, the worldbuilding and some of the early character development came directly from a homebrewed D&D campaign for my kids. I way overbuilt for what they needed to learn the game and decided to keep going and really flesh it all out. I took a lot of what I had made for the campaign, elevated the worldbuilding and the characters and started writing Paladin Unbound. The book is very much a love letter to D&D. 

I’ve noticed that many great fantasy authors play D&D. Do you think there is a connection between gaming and writing?

Without a doubt. I think there is a natural connection between the world building, character creation, and fantasy backdrop of D&D and other TTRPGs and the writing process. For many, it’s a direct connection as was the case for Paladin Unbound. For others it’s looser. But let’s face it, if you are spending your time creating a conflicted Dwarvish Sorcerer with a rich backstory, you’re well on your way to writing a fantasy book.

What are some similarities and differences? 

I think the similarities are pretty straight forward. Creating a fantasy world with engaging characters and a storyline are critical to both. Where they diverge is in the craft of actually writing a book. It’s very different than designing, running, or playing a campaign. You can’t go off on silly side quests that don’t further the plot of the story (I totally endorse silly side quests that do further the plot of the story), you are seeing things from only one perspective per scene, you can provide the readers more context than the characters themselves are aware of, etc. 

Does gaming help with writing creativity or vice versa?

For me, it flows both ways. It’s like working out (I’m not an expert in the field) in that if you flex a muscle, it grows stronger over time. Creating a world and characters and stories, whether it is for D&D or writing, will make you better at doing those things in both venues. The more we create, the better we get at creating. A virtuous cycle.

What do you love about gaming?

Oh man, where do I start. I love sitting around the table with a group and experience a story built cooperatively. I love the unexpected twists and turns a game can take due to a single decision or roll of the dice. I love how real it can feel when you are in the middle of a great session. And dice…I love dice.

Yes, the surprise twists are the best! I always smile a little when I find out later that a campaign that someone was running went in a completely unexpected direction and the DM spent the last little bit pulling things out of thin air. With the best DMs, I can’t even tell. As for dice: a certain first-time paladin needed new dice. Absolutely needed them. Nowadays, do you DM more often, or are you a player?

I was so excited to hear you were going to play a paladin. You’ll be smiting evil in no time. As most of my D&D time is spent with my kids, I often find myself the DM. They will walk in the room and ask, Dad, can we play D&D? I’ll say sure. Then they’ll tell me about the new characters they built and that they want to have the campaign based in a flying city run by an evil wizard. They just expect me to have that ready to go. I’d definitely like to join up with a crew for some adult game time, though. Maybe as a player…

What first drew you to writing? 

The escape. I took up writing as a hobby and found that I really enjoyed and benefitted mentally from my time in Evelium. It’s relaxing to leave things behind for a moment and immerse yourself in another world. I had no intention of publishing a book. That came much later once the story was finished and a friend encouraged me to explore publication.

Is there a particular gaming memory that always makes you laugh or smile?

Every Halloween I do a one shot for my wife and kids. It’s usually a short, creepy storyline that involves us as the characters. We’ve built a lot of great memories around those sessions that I will always cherish. Then, there was the time my oldest son thought he could make friends with an orc guard. The party was hiding in the bushes and saw the orc guarding a keep we knew was hostile. He insisted on trying to persuade the orc to let us pass. I asked if he was sure and he said yes. He stood up and waved hello. He took a pretty bad hit from a javelin. We still laugh about that one.

That’s hilarious! Memories like that are the best. I remember the first time my husband and I gamed with my oldest. His wizard accidentally lit the tree my rogue was hiding in on fire. Surprisingly, that gets brought up a lot. Are the majority of your games homebrewed?

Yes. I’ve run a few modules for my kids. They are usually fun, but I actually prefer having more control over the world and the campaign plot. If I’m going to DM, I’d much rather build it all from the ground up.

What would you say to someone who hasn’t played before but is curious about it?

I think a lot of people don’t play TTRPGs because they seem so complicated. I’d say to go into it with an open mind, be willing to learn, and just have fun. A good DM and experienced players will help you out along the way. If you want to DM yourself, I wouldn’t get so wrapped up in all the rules. They are a guideline. Set the expectations accordingly for your table that you aren’t going strictly by the book and just go for it. You’ll have a blast and so will your friends/family. Oh. And be a Paladin…there aren’t enough of us.

About the Author:

Jeffrey Speight’s love of fantasy goes back to an early childhood viewing of the cartoon version of The Hobbit, when he first met an unsuspecting halfling that would change Middle Earth forever. Finding his own adventuring party in middle school, Jeff became an avid Dungeons & Dragons player and found a passion for worldbuilding and character creation. While he went on to a successful career as an investor, stories grew in his mind until he could no longer keep them inside. So began his passion for writing. Today, he lives in Connecticut with his wife, three boys (his current adventuring party), three dogs, and a bearded dragon. He has a firmly held belief that elves are cool, but half-orcs are cooler. While he once preferred rangers, he nearly always plays a paladin at the gaming table.

Website: https://www.jeffreyspeight.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jeffspeight

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jeffsp8/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeffreyspeightauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21486809.Jeffrey_Speight

Where to find Paladin Unbound:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58022890-paladin-unbound

Literary Wanderlust: https://www.literarywanderlust.com/product-page/paladin-unbound

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1942856768

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/paladin-unbound-jeffrey-speight/1139410896

Self-published Authors Appreciation Week: The Midyear Freak Out Tag

Banner Credit: Anca Antoci

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to post nearly as often as I wanted to during Self-published Authors Appreciation Week. I have been planning on giving this tag a go for ages, however, so I can’t let the week end without taking this opportunity to finally get it done. I don’t know who came up with the original tag, so please let me know if you do. I’d love to credit them.

These are all self-published books, which goes to show (yet again) that any stigma against self-publishing is completely without merit. I encourage you to read off the beaten path!

Best Book You Read So Far This Year

Dragon Mage by M.L. Spencer

Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Aram thinks he’s nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known. But Aram is more.

Much, much more.

Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that Aram earns a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn for themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders.

Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn’t existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need.

This is actually a three-way tie at the moment (I reserve the right to add to this number at any given time), but since I think everyone and their brother should read Dragon Mage, I’m going to go with this one. Aram is one of the most wonderful main characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. I’ve gushed at length about the book here, but there really isn’t a single thing that I didn’t love about Dragon Mage. Definitely read this book, if you haven’t yet.

Best Sequel You Read So Far

The Infinite Tower (Heroes of Spira Book 4) by Dorian Hart

Horn’s Company saved the world of Spira.

The Black Circle erased it.

Now Dranko, Morningstar, Kibi, and the rest of the team have a lot of work to do.

In order to mend their broken reality, the company must venture to distant Het Branoi — The Infinite Tower — in search of a third Eye of Moirel. Only then will they be able to travel into the past and stop the Sharshun from changing the course of history.But Het Branoi is a bizarre and deadly place, a baffling construction full of mystery and danger, of magic and chaos, with unexpected allies and terrifying monsters. Horn’s Company will need courage, perseverance, and more than a little luck if they are to find the Eye and discover the terrible secret at the heart of the Infinite Tower.

Both my oldest and I are loving this series. From the characters and their relationships, to the world-development and the fantastical creatures, this hits every checkmark on my list of favorite things in fantasy books. It’s quickly become one of my most given fantasy recommendations and for good reason. Not only am I looking forward to seeing what happens next, I am planning on rereading from the beginning of the series before too much longer. You can find my review here.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet

Pawn’s Gambit by Rob J. Hayes

Yuu wants nothing more than to forget the mistakes of her past. The Gods have other plans.

Once a renowned strategist and general, five years ago Yuu made a mistake that cost her everything. Now she is on the run, royal bounty hunters snapping at her heels. But what if there was a way to get back what she lost, a way to bring back a murdered prince?

Every century, the gods hold a contest to choose who will rule from the Heavenly Jade Throne. Each god chooses a mortal champion, and the fate of all existence hangs in the balance.

On a battlefield full of heroes, warriors, assassins, and thieves can Yuu survive long enough to learn the rules of the game, let alone master it?

Why haven’t I read this yet? WHY???

Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year

Mirror in Time by D. Ellis Overttun

As the sun sets, eerie contrails appear on the dome of the firmament, ghostly streaks that have replaced the stars that should fill the night sky. These “ribbons in the sky” appeared 70 years ago. Since that time, planet Arkos has experienced increasing climatic and seismic activity.

Jo’el is the director of the Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory, a high‑altitude astronomical facility situated atop its namesake. Tasked with finding a solution to this problem, he has concluded something outside the universe is tearing apart the very fabric of space‑time. He has also discovered a gateway to another universe. Sadly, any pathway to this portal has now become compromised.

The solution?

Go back in time and engineer a planetary exodus to the safe haven before it becomes inaccessible. It is a seemingly impossible task, but desperation is the mother of invention and the stuff of storytelling. Jo’el is not alone in this quest, with him are two lifelong friends, Chief Physician Kyros and Chief Psychology Officer Auberon. While only aware of Jo’el’s need for their support, they have a camaraderie born of trust that enables them to jump into the unknown knowing they will land safely.

Space‑time mechanics are outside the realm of Jo’el’s expertise. So, he has enlisted the aid of Prefect Godvina, head of the Cosmological Data Collection and Compilation Center. His plan is to meet with her, confirm his findings and proceed on with his friends. However, their meeting arouses the interest of Prefect Tarsus, Head of Intelligence. The unwanted scrutiny disrupts Jo’el’s plans. Now, the Director must improvise, and he reluctantly includes Godvina in the fold.

Are they successful in their travel back through time? Of course! Without it, there is no story, but how do they get there, what do they find and do they make good on Jo’el’s plan?

Mirror in Time will take you on a journey beyond the galaxy then to the ancient world of Ziem as a band of intrepid time travelers struggle to save existence.

I’m not going to say too much because my review is still forthcoming. I’ll just point out that any reader of sci-fi needs to add this to their tbr right now.

Biggest Surprise

Path to Villainy: An NPC Kobold’s Tale by S.L. Rowland

Villains aren’t born, they’re made.

Witt was an ordinary NPC—a non-player character in a video game. As a kobold skald, he sang songs to empower heroes before they entered the local dungeons.

Every day was a fresh start. Every day Witt woke with no memory of his previous encounters with all those so-called heroes. And every day he forgot the countless beatings and deaths he took at the hands of the murder hobos he valiantly buffed.

But when all of those memories suddenly come flooding back, he only wants one thing:

Revenge.

I honestly expected a fun, entertaining little story. I got that and more. It was more violent than I expected, but it was also much more thought-out than I expected. Path to Villainy: An NPC Kobold’s Tale was a blast to read and I’ll be on the lookout for more from this author.

Favorite New Author

I’ve decided that M.L. Spencer could write a book about sandpaper and I’d pre-order it.

Newest Favorite Character – Merovich

Small Places by Matthew Samuels

Jamie is a lonely, anxious kid when he has a run-in with a witch in a remote Somerset village. He’s almost forgotten about it thirteen years later when unpredictable storms and earthquakes hit England – and that’s the least of his worries. Suffering from anxiety, terrible flatmates and returning to his family home after his mother is diagnosed with cancer, he’s got a lot on his mind. But Melusine, the witch of flesh and blood, lures him back with the offer of cold, hard cash in exchange for his help investigating the source of the freak weather; something’s messing with the earth spirit, Gaia, and Mel means to find out who – or what – it is. As they work together, travelling to the bigoted Seelie Court and the paranoid Unseelie Court, meeting stoned fauns and beer-brewing trolls, Jamie must reconcile his feelings about the witch’s intentions and methods all while handling grief, life admin and one singularly uptight estate agent. (taken from Amazon)

Merovich was a delight. They were so child-like and sweet, while at the same time they invented the most dangerous of things. I loved that juxtaposition. Honestly, all of the characters in Small Places are fantastic. You can find my review here.

Book that Made You Cry

The Archive by Dan Fitzgerald

In Hollow Road three companions discovered the monsters of legend were all too real…Rumors among the Maer tell of an underground library called the Archive, which houses a wealth of knowledge and terrible magics that could be used to start the biggest war seen since the Great Betrayal. A mixed group of humans and Maer set off on an historic quest to find the Archive and protect it from those who would use it to destroy everything they hold dear. As the cold of winter bears down upon them, they trek through forbidding mountains beset by dangers they could have never imagined. They follow a set of ancient clues deep into the Silver Hills, forging surprising alliances and making new enemies.The humans and Maer are linked by more than their quest to find the Archive and stop an insidious war. A mystical surrogacy may bridge the gap between two peoples, and many hearts entwine as their adventure hurtles toward its bloody conclusion. (taken from Amazon)

I don’t often cry over books or movies. This one had me tearing up, though. Author Dan Fitzgerald used it as a kind of mirror, to show the best and worst in all of us. It was beautiful. Find my review here.

Book that Made You Happy

Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable by Susanne M. Dutton

The aged and still cocaine-addicted Sherlock Holmes submits entry forms at a nearly defunct psychiatric clinic, naming a peculiar goal: “No more solutions, but true resolution,” and finds that his worst enemy has left him the key to his wish, if he can give everything in return. Can his friend Watson stop the clock that has been ticking toward Holmes’ demise, or will he be forced to sit powerless and watch as Holmes walks straight into danger? (Taken from Amazon)

Oh, how I loved this book! The mystery was great, the author nailed the characters, and the ending was absolutely perfect. This was a brilliant homage to the foremost Consulting Detective. You can find my review here.

Most Beautiful Book You Got this Year

Sairō’s Claw by Virginia McClain

Torako has done many things to protect the valley that she calls home, but she’s never looted a corpse before. So when the katana she steals off the still-cooling body of a bandit turns out to be possessed by a grumpy wolf kami, she can only assume it’s because she’s somehow angered the spirits. An impression that’s only reinforced when she returns home to find her wife abducted and her daughter in hiding. But angry spirits or no, Torako isn’t about to let bandits run off with the love of her life, even if it means taking their 3 year old on a rescue mission.
In all Kaiyo’s years as Captain of the Wind Serpent she has never once questioned her admiral’s orders. So when she receives the command to abduct a civilian scribe with the help of fifteen felons, she registers her objections, but does as she is bid. Yet, as the mission unfolds, Kaiyo finds herself questioning everything from her loyalties to her convictions. 
As Torako and Kaiyo’s fates cross like dueling blades, their persistence is matched only by their fury, until they uncover a series of truths they may never be ready to accept. (taken from Goodreads)

I mean…look at it! Gorgeous!

What Are Some Books You Need to Read By the End of the Year?

Oh, jeez! My tbr has a longer life expectancy than I do, so this is one of those questions that could be answered with many many titles. I’m looking forward to : A Troll Walks Into a Bar: A Nori Urban Fantasy Novel by Douglas Lumsden, Sacaran Nights by Rachel Shaw, and A Ritual of Bone by Lee C. Conley are a few that come to mind.

Self-published Authors Appreciation Week: Books Galore

I’ve been privileged to read some truly fantastic books over the years, from all avenues of publishing. Here’s a list of some of the great self-published books that I recommend. There is no rhyme or reason to the order, and this is far from complete. Give them a go!

Illiad: The Reboot by Keith Tokash

History cares about kings, but the gods love a buffoon.

The hapless young soldier Gelios faces execution for offending his king. Desperate, he accidentally volunteers his cousin to chronicle the coming war.

Equipped with only a sword and a stunning lack of judgment, Gelios must keep his cousin alive amid the greatest war of an era. Worse, he must survive the egos of the two most powerful kings in their army.

But his deadliest struggle is with his mouth. Can he keep it shut long enough to make it home alive?

The Iliad has long been the definitive source of knowledge surrounding the kings, gods, and heroes of the Trojan War. Now, for the first time, readers can experience the clash of two ancient superpowers through the eyes of the biggest jackass in history. (taken from Amazon)

To purchase:
Amazon

The Ventifact Colossus by Dorian Hart

A fantasy adventure begins…

Banished to an otherworldly prison for centuries, the monstrous Emperor Naradawk is about to break free and wreak havoc upon the world of Spira. The archmage Abernathy can no longer keep the monster at bay, and has summoned a collection of would-be heroes to help set things right.
Surely he made a mistake. These can’t be the right people.
Dranko is priest-turned-pickpocket, expelled from his church for his antics. Kibilhathur is a painfully shy craftsman who speaks to stones. Aravia is a wizard’s apprentice whose intellect is eclipsed only by her arrogance. Ernest is a terrified baker’s son. Morningstar is a priestess forbidden from daylight. Tor is a young nobleman with attention issues. Ysabel is an elderly farm woman. Grey Wolf is a hard-bitten mercenary.
None of them are qualified to save the world, but they’ll have to do. Even Abernathy himself seems uncertain as to why he chose them.
What starts with a simple scouting mission soon spirals into something more far-reaching and sinister. The heroes will contest with dream warriors, evil cultists, sentient gemstones, and a devious yet infuriatingly polite gentleman with a perfect mustache, on their way to a desperate encounter with the unstoppable: The Ventifact Colossus. (taken from Amazon)


Review:
The Ventifact Colossus


To Purchase:
Amazon

Hollow Road (Maer Cycle) by Dan Fitzgerald

Legends describe the Maer as savage man-beasts haunting the mountains, their bodies and faces covered with hair. Creatures of unimaginable strength, cunning, and cruelty. Bedtime stories to keep children indoors at night. Soldiers’ tales to frighten new recruits. It is said the Maer once ruled the Silver Hills, but they have long since passed into oblivion. This is the story of their return. Carl, Sinnie, and Finn, companions since childhood, are tasked with bringing a friend’s body home for burial. Along the way, they find there is more to the stories than they ever imagined, and the mountains hold threats even darker than the Maer. What they discover on their journey will change the way they see the world forever. Travel down Hollow Road to find out which legends are true, and which have been twisted. (taken from Amazon)

Review:
Hollow Road

To purchase:
Amazon

Alexis Vs. the Afterlife: An Urban Fantasy Comedy by Marcus Alexander Hart

Alexis is dead. But that won’t stop her from becoming a hair-metal superstar.

When teen metalhead Alexis McRiott is killed in a freak accident, her ghost manifests unexplained magical powers. Thinking she can use them to resurrect herself to the rock-star life of her dreams, she kinda sorta accidentally releases an ancient evil bent on raising an army of poltergeists to slaughter the world of the living. Oops. Party foul.
Racing against the clock, Alexis teams with a badass Asian cowgirl and an overzealous medieval prince to learn the truth behind her mysterious powers and prevent a full-blown paranormal apocalypse. But can this foul-mouthed burnout charm the girl, save the world, and still prove she has what it takes to rock an arena show?

She doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance. (taken from Amazon)

To Purchase:
Amazon

Vultures by Luke Tarzian

An enemy slain is not a conflict won…After decades of war the demon Te Mirkvahíl is dead. But its progeny endure, spilling from the Heart of Mirkúr, sowing death across the land of Ariath. If the people are to finally know peace, the Heart must be destroyed. Theailys An believes he can do just that with The Keepers’ Wrath, an infamous power focus wrought in Ariath’s yesteryears–but the weapon first must be reforged.War spares no one…Serece never intended to get involved in Ariath’s war. But history and demons have a way of pulling strings. When she learns Theailys An, a man whom she abhors, bears striking similarity to the first creator of The Keepers’ Wrath, Serece departs her mountain world for Ariath to ascertain the truth.From patience, hope…For millennia Behtréal has walked the world alone. Rewriting history to resurrect his people is easier said than done. But Ariath holds the key–soon The Keepers’ Wrath will be remade.Truth from madness…As paths converge and a shadow falls across Ariath, one thing becomes increasingly and horrifyingly clear–these events have played out many times before. (taken from Amazon)

Review:
Vultures

To purchase:
Amazon

Path to Villainy: An NPC Kobold’s Tale by S.L. Rowland

Villains aren’t born, they’re made. Witt was an ordinary NPC—a non-player character in a video game. As a kobold skald, he sang songs to empower heroes before they entered the local dungeons. Every day was a fresh start. Every day Witt woke with no memory of his previous encounters with all those so-called heroes. And every day he forgot the countless beatings and deaths he took at the hands of the murder hobos he valiantly buffed. But when all of those memories suddenly come flooding back, he only wants one thing: Revenge. (taken from Amazon)

To purchase:
Amazon

Small Places by Matthew Samuels

Jamie is a lonely, anxious kid when he has a run-in with a witch in a remote Somerset village. He’s almost forgotten about it thirteen years later when unpredictable storms and earthquakes hit England – and that’s the least of his worries. Suffering from anxiety, terrible flatmates and returning to his family home after his mother is diagnosed with cancer, he’s got a lot on his mind. But Melusine, the witch of flesh and blood, lures him back with the offer of cold, hard cash in exchange for his help investigating the source of the freak weather; something’s messing with the earth spirit, Gaia, and Mel means to find out who – or what – it is. As they work together, travelling to the bigoted Seelie Court and the paranoid Unseelie Court, meeting stoned fauns and beer-brewing trolls, Jamie must reconcile his feelings about the witch’s intentions and methods all while handling grief, life admin and one singularly uptight estate agent. (taken from Amazon)

Review:
Small Places

To purchase:
Amazon

Kings and Daemons by Marcus Lee

In the Ember Kingdom, a dying land riven by famine and disease, Daleth the evil Witch-King plots his conquest of the neighbouring Freestates. Gifted with eternal youth, his vampiric power is responsible for the decay that afflicts his realm, and now other kingdoms must fall to quench his never-ending thirst for life.
However, on the cusp of the invasion, Maya, a peasant huntress, is arrested, Daleth’s soldiers kill an old farmer’s wife, and a young outcast is reluctantly enlisted into the Witch-King’s army. Three seemingly innocuous events that nonetheless have the potential to alter the destiny of generations to come.
For Maya is gifted with the ability to heal and can influence the hearts and minds of men if she but finds the strength to do so. The young recruit carries a gift of reading thoughts and has no love for the king he serves. As for the vengeful farmer … he’s an ancient warrior gifted in reaping souls who now seeks to fulfil a long-forgotten oath against unbeatable odds.
The world will soon be soaked by the blood of war, but with these three individuals’ lives inescapably entwined, the faint light of hope begins to shine. Alliances will have to be forged, enemies convinced to become friends, and a flicker of love given a chance to become a flame for there to be a chance to fight the encroaching darkness of the Witch-King’s evil. (taken from Amazon)

Review:
Kings and Daemons

To purchase:
Amazon

Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable by Susanne M. Dutton

The aged and still cocaine-addicted Sherlock Holmes submits entry forms at a nearly defunct psychiatric clinic, naming a peculiar goal: “No more solutions, but true resolution,” and finds that his worst enemy has left him the key to his wish, if he can give everything in return. Can his friend Watson stop the clock that has been ticking toward Holmes’ demise, or will he be forced to sit powerless and watch as Holmes walks straight into danger? (taken from Amazon)

Review:
Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable

To purchase:
Amazon

Mirror in Time by D. Elllis Overttun

As the sun sets, eerie contrails appear on the dome of the firmament, ghostly streaks that have replaced the stars that should fill the night sky. These “ribbons in the sky” appeared 70 years ago. Since that time, planet Arkos has experienced increasing climatic and seismic activity.

Jo’el is the director of the Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory, a high‑altitude astronomical facility situated atop its namesake. Tasked with finding a solution to this problem, he has concluded something outside the universe is tearing apart the very fabric of space‑time. He has also discovered a gateway to another universe. Sadly, any pathway to this portal has now become compromised.

The solution?

Go back in time and engineer a planetary exodus to the safe haven before it becomes inaccessible. It is a seemingly impossible task, but desperation is the mother of invention and the stuff of storytelling. Jo’el is not alone in this quest, with him are two lifelong friends, Chief Physician Kyros and Chief Psychology Officer Auberon. While only aware of Jo’el’s need for their support, they have a camaraderie born of trust that enables them to jump into the unknown knowing they will land safely.

Space‑time mechanics are outside the realm of Jo’el’s expertise. So, he has enlisted the aid of Prefect Godvina, head of the Cosmological Data Collection and Compilation Center. His plan is to meet with her, confirm his findings and proceed on with his friends. However, their meeting arouses the interest of Prefect Tarsus, Head of Intelligence. The unwanted scrutiny disrupts Jo’el’s plans. Now, the Director must improvise, and he reluctantly includes Godvina in the fold.

Are they successful in their travel back through time? Of course! Without it, there is no story, but how do they get there, what do they find and do they make good on Jo’el’s plan?

Mirror in Time will take you on a journey beyond the galaxy then to the ancient world of Ziem as a band of intrepid time travelers struggle to save existence. (Taken from Amazon)

Review to come

Dragon Mage by M.L. Spencer

Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Aram thinks he’s nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known. But Aram is more.

Much, much more.

Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that Aram earns a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn for themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders.

Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn’t existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need. (taken from Amazon)

Review:
Dragon Mage

To purchase:
Amazon

The Part About the Dragon was (Mostly) True by Sean Gibson

Sure, you think you know the story of the fearsome red dragon, Dragonia. How it terrorized the village of Skendrick until a brave band of heroes answered the noble villagers’ call for aid. How nothing could stop those courageous souls from facing down the beast. How they emerged victorious and laden with treasure.



But, even in a world filled with epic adventures and tales of derring-do, where dragons, goblins, and unlicensed prestidigitators run amok, legendary heroes don’t always know what they’re doing. Sometimes, they’re clueless. Sometimes, beleaguered townsfolk are more hapless than helpless. And orcs? They’re not always assholes, and sometimes, they don’t actually want to eat your children.



Heloise the Bard, Erithea’s most renowned storyteller, is here to set the record straight.



See, it turns out adventuring isn’t easy, and true heroism is as rare as an articulate villager. Having spent decades propagating this particular myth (which, incidentally, she wrote), she’s finally able to tell the real story…for which she just so happened to have a front-row seat.



Welcome to Erithea. I hope you brought a change of undergarments; things are going to get messy. (taken from Amazon)

Review:
The Part About the Dragon was (Mostly) True

To purchase:
Amazon

Shadowless by Randall McNally

What if the gods themselves wanted you dead? A young boy lies on a beach on a warm summer’s day. While trying to block the sun from his eyes Arpherius makes a shocking discovery; he has no shadow. Confused and bewildered he asks his uncle why he is shadowless. What he learns is a terrifying secret that will change his life forever. Set in the Northern Realms, Shadowless is a fantasy novel about individuals born without a shadow. Spawned by the malevolent deities of this world these children of the gods are persecuted at every turn. Hunted by the high priests who carry out the wishes of their gods, hunted by the Shadow Watchers; armed soldiers who are assigned to each temple, and hunted by the gods themselves. Part-mortal and part-god, the Shadowless live for centuries and face a battle for survival, constantly on the run or hiding in far-flung corners of the Northern Realms. Soon their lives and fates become intertwined, expedited by the mysterious monk Amrodan. Driven by a series of visions Amrodan travels through the Northern Realms, seeking out the Shadowless and trying to enlist their help to take a stand and fight back against the gods. (taken from Amazon)

Review:
Shadowless

To purchase:
Amazon

Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire

It was only supposed to be one little job – a simple curse-breaking for Mennik Thorn to pay back a favour to his oldest friend. But then it all blew up in his face. Now he’s been framed for a murder he didn’t commit.
So how is a second-rate mage, broke, traumatized, and with a habit of annoying the wrong people, supposed to prove his innocence when everyone believes he’s guilty?
Mennik has no choice if he wants to get out of this: he is going to have to throw himself into the corrupt world of the city’s high mages, a world he fled years ago. Faced by supernatural beasts, the mage-killing Ash Guard, and a ruthless, unknown adversary, it’s going to take every trick Mennik can summon just to keep him and his friend alive.
But a new, dark power is rising in Agatos, and all that stands in its way is one damaged mage… (taken from Amazon)

Review:
Shadow of a Dead God

To purchase:
Amazon

The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren

The Dragon’s Banker. A standalone novel of epic fantasy & adventure capitalism from the author of Vick’s Vultures Finance: The lifeblood of any country’s beating heart and the life’s work of Sailor Kelstern — Merchant Banker. While wizards brood in their towers and great warriors charge into battle Sailor is more interested in the price of ore, herbs, and alchemicals carried by the trade ships. But when a spell of bad fortune and bitter rivalry leaves him scrambling to turn a profit on little more than winds and whispers, one such whisper catches Sailor’s ear— a dragon has been seen in the west. Sailor soon finds that the dragons are very real, and not at all what he expected. And they practice a very different sort of economy — one of subterfuge and fire. With bonus novelette: Forego Quest. What if you were the hero of every song, story, and legend? What if you didn’t want to be? Find out in this hilarious fantasy short.

Review:
The Dragon’s Banker

To purchase:
Amazon

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

I just want to warn everyone that there will be major spoilers below. I’m sorry about that, but I need to discuss this disturbing little story somewhere. I am really hoping for comments on this one because I would love to hear other ideas on “The Lottery”. I need to be able to unpack this thing! This is my first read-through and, knowing Shirley Jackson, I really should have expected it to be disquieting. It completely sucked me in and I can’t stop thinking about it.

——HUGE SPOILERS BELOW——

“The Lottery” takes place in a small town, the sort of place where everyone knows each other. It follows the story of a lottery which the reader finds out is drawn annually, the winner ultimately being the loser, as they are stoned to death. I found it to be unsettling and engrossing, easily the best Shirley Jackson work I’ve read, and one that’s kept me thinking. There are themes of casual acceptance of violence and apathy toward change or improvement, which are chillingly still applicable today.

In the beginning of “The Lottery” the tone is almost lighthearted. The reader is given no clue that the story will end in such an upsetting way. The men talk about their crops; the children talk about school and eventually even start playing. The story says that “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones” . With the picture the author has painted of a lighthearted ceremony, I wondered at first if the boys are grabbing stones to skip across a lake, or to use as a fort. Only at the end is it revealed that those very stones gathered by the children were to be used to stone someone to death- possibly even one of the very children who gathered the stones. The lottery has taken on a familiar feel to the participants, and almost seems to signal the beginning of a season. Certainly, no one seems to be upset or even reluctant to participate.

Despite the chilling violence that has taken place for years and years, no one questions or objects to the sacrificing of a life. In fact, when one woman points out that some places have stopped having lotteries, a man claims that there’s “nothing but trouble in that”. This is where I started to see a little beyond the surface, and felt rising tension. This “turn”, so to speak, is one that has served Jackson well in her other works, and it worked wonderfully here. The villagers accept the violence without argument, even encouraging their children to participate. There is almost a duality shown in the neighbors. They can talk about doing dishes one moment, and plan on stoning someone to death in the next. However, the ultimate protest of the person who has “won” the lottery, coupled with the relief of those who have not, shows that no one is quite comfortable with the situation. Not one of them steps in, says anything against it, or even foregoes the chance to throw a stone, though. This shows an apathy and unwillingness to take steps to change or improve. The keeping of tradition is the most important thing, no matter that the tradition is violent and wrong. Even the disheveled state of the lottery box, which has not been fixed, shows a stoic acceptance and indifference- perhaps even an active resistance- to changing or stopping the violence.

“The Lottery” isn’t just a creepy little tale: it’s a commentary on the acceptance of violence, and an unwillingness to question the status quo. This unwillingness to change anything, or even examine whether change needs to happen is still echoed today. Seen through that lens, “The Lottery” becomes at once both fascinating and disturbing. Can you see why I can’t stop thinking about it?

Have you read “The Lottery”? (I kind of hope so, if you’ve read this post, seeing as I posted spoiler after spoiler). What did you think? Did you get the same things out of it that I did?

From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Night Circus

This week Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub has been the host of many discussions on magic systems in fantasy. I’ve been joined by some amazing contributors, both bookbloggers and authors. Before I close out the week, though, I have to talk about The Night Circus.

I love this book! I mean rereading, paraphernalia-owning love. Reading The Night Circus is like wandering though a beautiful dream. I’m going to attempt to talk about magic in the world of The Night Circus, but please forgive me if the post rapidly dissolves into gushing. I promise I’ll try to keep it in check.

What makes the magic in The Night Circus different from other magic systems is not the how but the what. Magic doesn’t exist in the world of The Night Circus, magic is the world. The stage is set, the circus a playing board for a duel between two separate schools of thought. Two powerful magicians battle each other to see whose magic is better- that of Marco, who uses glyphs and symbols; or Celia, who uses her own mind as the focal point.

There are rules to how the magic works, but the reader is drawn into the magic itself. Everything is a product of one magician or the other, from the black-and-white striped tents, to the cloud maze, and everything in-between. Words and creativity become real. And, holy crow, author Erin Morgenstern is creative! Her words themselves weave a magic spell around the reader.

“When the battle are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang Souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they could never predict. From the mundane to the profound.”-Erin Morgenstern

And here’s the crux of it: every book is magic. Every author has the power to draw a reader into a world both different and new. As readers we know the power of words. The books we’ve talked about this week are samplings of some of the incredible magic that words can cast on the reader. A book can entertain, it can teach. It can open a path to new worlds, or comfort someone during a difficult time.

I am incredibly grateful to bloggers who gave their time and energy to a discussion on magic, and to the authors who were willing to talk about their magic systems. Each book we focused on has a unique, creative magic system. I hope you found some new books to add to your tbr and some new bloggers to follow.

What magic system has completely floored you? Tell me what you loved about it. I’m a glutton for punishment, go ahead and add to my tbr!

“There are many kinds of magic, after all.”– Erin Morgenstern

About the blogger:

 Jodie is the creator of the Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub blog and a contributor to Grimdark Magazine. She either lives in Florida with her husband and sons, or in a fantasy book-she’ll never tell which. When she’s not reading, Jodie balances her time between homeschooling her hooligans, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and lamenting her inability to pronounce “lozenge”.

Find her online at :
Blog: https://wittyandsarcasticbookclub.home.blog/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WS_BOOKCLUB

More from this series:
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Wheel of Time
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Coldfire Trilogy
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Magic for Mercenary Kings
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Weather Warden
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- And Now This
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Blood, Fire, and Death
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Teaching Physics to Barbarians
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Discworld
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic-Let’s Talk Mistborn
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Fae Magic

From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic in Fantasy- Magic ex Libris

Over the last week, I’ve been focusing on magic in fantasy. I am in no way an expert, just an appreciative fantasy fan. I have been fortunate in that many amazing authors and bloggers have been generous with their time and have talked about some great examples of magic in fantasy.

Today, Beth from Before We Go Blog makes a compelling case for moving Jim C. Hine’s Magic ex Libris series to the top of the never ending to be read pile.

Before We Go Blog:

As a huge lover of fantasy novels, I have read about a magic system or two. There are some that stick out that have been extraordinary in one way or another. 

One often mentioned is the magic of Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. He created the magic called allomancy, where the ingestion of certain metals gives the user certain powers. How much metal is consumed, and who consumed them, and whether they can be digested is where things get interesting. Not everyone can walk up to an ingot of silver, chow down, and hope to digest it. The powers are all different with different combinations of things. It gets fascinating, and the possibilities are endless. It is an excellent example of the creativity that magic systems can have. However, it is not as cool as Jim C. Hines’s series, Magic ex Libris. 

“…bookstores, libraries… they’re the closest thing I have to a church.” 


It is essential to call out again; I am a big reader. I love escaping into books, literally escaping into new worlds. But what if, instead of escaping into a world, I can pull something from stories into reality? It seems like the ultimate expression of power. For example, I am battling a foe. We are sizing each other up as foes are want to do. This person has really pissed me off by eating my favorite silver necklace. Grabbed it right off my neck and started swallowing it. “You wanna battle do you? I liked that necklace.” We happen to be battling in a library. Don’t laugh; lots of rough people go to libraries. I reach into Harry Potter and grab harry’s wand from inside of the book. I use that to whip up a wind vortex, then I grab Peter Bentley’s Jaws off of the shelf, and pull the entire great white shark out of the book and drop it on their head. I am sorry for the whale. Sacrifices need to be made. Don’t worry, I know my foe is still chewing a piece of silver and wouldn’t notice the giant shark that I lofted them. 

Two libriomancers had been disciplined for trying to get an early copy of the last Harry Potter book.”

Or maybe I am feeling sassy and grab Moby Dick instead of Jaws, and I drop a whale on them. Oops, darn it. I grabbed the wrong book. This whale said, “Oh no, not again.” Before falling from a great height, followed by a very confused flower pot. Same effect. I have the power and the entirety of literature to pull from, and right now, I am just working with aquatic animals. Maybe, they would like a kracken instead? There are plenty of those in literature. 

All I am saying is they can go ahead and eat their piece of metal. I’ll throw a shark at them, followed by a whale, then another whale, and a flowerpot. Don’t get me started on movie adaptions, Sharknado anyone? Then I will pull the tea and the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland and have a nice lunch. 

Obviously, there is some plotting that Hines does around this brilliant magic system. It isn’t all fun. Pulling whales from books does take some work. But I love that at its core, this magic system speaks to lovers of reading. It feels like being a well-read person is rewarded with the ability to do magic, and that is amazing. That is pretty much living the dream, reading a book, taking knowledge from the book, and becoming a badass. This is why Magic ex Libris is my favorite system, and I recommend it to anyone who is a big reader. Where else would trivial knowledge of JawsMoby Dick, and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy come into use all at once?!  

About the blogger:

Elizabeth Tabler runs Beforewegoblog and is constantly immersed in fantasy stories. She was at one time an architect but divides her time now between her family in Portland, Oregon, and as many book worlds as she can get her hands on. She is also a huge fan of Self Published fantasy and is on Team Qwillery as a judge for SPFBO5. You will find her with a coffee in one hand and her iPad in the other. Find her on: instagram.com/elizabethtabler https://beforewegoblog.com/ https://www.pinterest.com/scottveg3/ https://www.goodreads.com/Scottveg3 https://twitter.com/BethTabler

More From this series:
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Wheel of Time
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Coldfire Trilogy
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Magic for Mercenary Kings
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Weather Warden
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- And Now This
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Blood, Fire, and Death
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Teaching Physics to Barbarians
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Discworld
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic-Let’s Talk Mistborn
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Fae Magic

From Merlin to Misborn: A Discussion on Magic- Music as Magic

As we continue our discussion on magic in the fantasy genre, I am privileged to welcome author Satyros Phil Brucato. His novel, Red Shoes, focuses on music as magic. Having been moved by music (as most people have been at one time or another), I was immediately intrigued by the idea. Satyros’ magic system is unique and grounded in the idea of music transcending the ordinary and becoming something more, something magical.

The song poured into me, lent me strength. The pounding beat melted into my pulse. Heavy chords filled my muscles, energizing me, throwing each power chord behind each punch, kick and block. My heart beat in time with the music. 

It was glorious. Red Shoes, by Satyros Phil Brucato

Music, fantasy, and magic. All three have been vital elements of my life since childhood, and so they’re vital elements of my writing, too. In my forthcoming novel Red Shoes (Quiet Thunder, Spring, 2021), I combined those elements into a tale of love, loss, abuse, revenge, and eventual recovery. Genét Shilling, a young bellydancer, sees her friend Blue burn to death on stage. As she traces the cause behind Blue’s death, Genét learns that our “reality” fluctuates in strange and sometimes awful ways. Sound, she discovers, manifests throughout creation. Everything is composed of sublime frequencies, and folks who understand that fact can manipulate time, physics, vital energies, and the nature of reality itself. Few people, thankfully, know how to manipulate sound with such potency. Those who can do so, however, command uncanny powers…

“How so, Meghan? And what sort of ‘powers,’ exactly?”

“Well,” she said, settling into the role of my mystic advocate, “the theory is that everything that exists came from a primal cosmic sound. You know that whole om thing people do in yoga class?” 

I nodded. “Yeah,” I said. “Go on.” 

“That’s supposed to be an echo of the cosmic sound – the Om, like the real one. The universe is supposed to be the echoes and refractions of that sound, running throughout the universe in infinite frequencies. If you tap into those frequencies, you can change the laws of physics and manifest things that science says are impossible.” 

“This is a weird-ass conversation, Meg,” I said, trying to joke off the eerie crawl up the back of my neck. “You sure we’re not dreaming right now?” 

“If we are,” she said with a flatness that turned that crawl into a full-force shudder, “then it’s a dream I’ve been living for most of my life.” 

There’s so much that even best friends don’t know about each other.

Genét’s best friend, Meghan, learned this stuff the hard way. During a mysterious event in high school (the subject of my next novel, Black Swan Blues), Meghan tapped into those powers by accident. Thankfully, she wound up being trained by people who understand those principles. In Red Shoes, Meghan and Genét call some of those friends in to help sort out the mess behind the burning girl’s demise. Time shifts. Blood flows. Secrets break wide open. All lives change. Some lives end.

For my approach to magic in Red Shoes and Black Swan Blues, I drew upon Vedic and Pythagorean metaphysics, combined with my own experience as a musician, dancer, DJ, and lifelong music fan. Sound, from this perspective has both physical and metaphysical effects. The physical ones are obvious: vibrations that arouse, excite, and occasionally harm living organisms and inanimate materials alike. On a metaphysical level, such vibrations shift emotions, inspire passions, and potentially connect us – for better and worse – with cosmic powers we barely understand. The idea for Blue’s death came from legends of the Dikpa Raga: a song that supposedly burns the singer alive with heat so intense it can evaporate a riverbed. I combined that idea with alchemical principles of transformative vibration and that weird time-dilation sense you get when you’re listening to great (or terrible) music or enjoying (or enduring) a great (or terrible) concert. Adding in the ups and downs of music culture and the people who create it, I wrote an urban faerie tale rooted in real-life experience and my own perceptions of this world. I’ve explored those ideas in my other work as well, especially Powerchords: Music, Magic & Urban Fantasy, Deliria: Faerie Tales for a New Millennium, and several short stories collected in my book Valhalla with a Twist of Lethe. The title track of that collection features the Norse thunder god attempting to become a rock star, realizing that the essence of human creativity flows from the uncertainties of mortal life. That interplay between sublime vibrations and earthy passions fascinates me. Although my real-life musical pursuits come nowhere near the powers manifesting in my fiction, I’ve experienced enough of such powers in my life, channeled through artists far more talented than I am, to know that while I exaggerate such magic in my fiction, the essence of that magic is real.

Red Shoes should be available for preorder this June, in print, digital and audio editions, from Quiet Thunder Productions. Ivy Tara Blair reads the audiobook edition, and she’s done a marvelous job.

About the author:

Satyros Phil Brucato is known best for his work with Mage: The Ascension, Strowlers, Deliria: Faerie Tales for a New Millennium, and various fiction and nonfiction projects spanning dozens of anthologies, magazines, games, comics, and other media. An occasional musician and outspoken political activist, Satyr lives in Seattle with his spouse Sandra Swan, two cats, and an endless supply of rage.

For an ongoing essay on this subject, expanded from an article I published in Realms of Fantasy magazine, check out the “Mystic Rhythms” series on my blog: 

Satyros Phil Brucato on wordpress: Mystic Rhythms: Music, Magic & History (Part I) | Satyros Phil Brucato (wordpress.com)

For my now-disbanded mystic rock group Telesterion, see our page on Bandcamp:

Telestrion

For some of my other books on this subject, check out:


Powerchords: Music, Magic & Urban Fantasy: Rock ‘n’ roll roleplay (1)

Valhalla with a Twist of Lethe, and Other Strange Tales

Tritone: Tales of Musical Weirdness


For more from this series:
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Wheel of Time
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Coldfire Trilogy
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Magic in the Copper Circle
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Magic for Mercenary Kings
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Weather Warden
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- And Now This
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Blood, Fire, and Death
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Teaching Physics to Barbarians
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Discworld

From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Wheel of Time

This week is magic week on my blog! That means discussion about all the wonderful sorts of magic that is found in fantasy. I think that, if I were to skip Wheel of Time, I would have to turn in my Fantasy Lover card. However, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve read WoT and I am not known for having an excellent memory. Luckily, Rob Edwards, author and youtuber, has lent his expertise. As he points out, there is an upcoming TV show. If you’re a book hipster who likes to read the book before the adaptation, you might want to hop on it! You can also hear Rob Edwards’ thoughts on WoT on Youtube.

Rob Edwards:

The Wheel of Time turns…

And what turns it is magic. Or, more specifically, the True Source and its male and female halves, saidin and saidar. Every aspect of the world Robert Jordan created is predicated on this fact. The existence of people who can channel, men who can use saidin, and women who can use saidar, touches almost every aspect of the world.

I want to be particularly careful of spoilers, as Amazon’s television version of Wheel of Time is getting closer, and this story is (hopefully) going to find a brand-new audience. On balance, I think I’m safe to spoil things that happen in the prologue of book 1 of this 14-book behemoth.

The male half of the One Power, saidin, is tainted by the Dark One and male channelers are doomed to insanity as a result. One of the earliest victims of this (at least on this turning of the Wheel) is Lews Therin Telamon, who slays his friends and family, and releases so much power he reshapes the very geography of the world. Ever looked at the map of the Wheel of Time and thought it looked a bit weird? Blame Lews Therin’s madness and saidin.

The fact that only women can safely touch the One Power makes their order, the Aes Sedai, a power in the world. I’m not going to attempt to argue sexism isn’t a thing in the Wheel of Time, it is, but there are women in positions of influence in most cultures of the world. The story starts in the Two Rivers, a village so provincial they don’t even realise what country they are in, but they have heard of Aes Sedai. They don’t trust them, but they have heard of them.

But I wanted to talk about the magic system. What do we know about how the One Power works?

Quite a lot, in fact. Over the course of almost 4.5 million words of fantasy epic, we spend a fair amount of time with women, and men, who can channel. We watch them learn, and come to understand their methods and risks.

To access the power, women must surrender to saidar, being careful not to be consumed by the desire to draw too much power, or risk burning themselves out. Men channelling saidin, don’t talk about it as a surrender, their use of the power is more combative, and while the desire to draw too much power is there for them too, it is set against the oily poisonous feel of the Dark One’s taint.

The one power is used to create weaves from earth, air, fire, water and spirit. Women are typically strongest with weaves of air and water, men with earth and fire. These weaves can be used for all sorts of purposes from fireballs to Healing, from influencing the weather to influencing people. 

Over the course of the series, we learn so much more about the intricacies of use of the power. We learn the circumstances in which a channeler can (or cannot) detect other channelers’ weaves. Inevitably, we learn what happens when two channelers come into conflict.

Really, I’m trying to be vaguely specific here to avoid spoilers!

The way that channelers can come together to create greater effects are explored, including noting that in earlier Ages, it was only by linking men and women in the same circle that the true wonders of bygone Ages were achieved. To keep me on brand, there’s a table in the old Wheel of Time RPG which shows how many men and women are needed for what size Circle. This table is not something invented for the game, it’s all in the books, though admittedly not in table form.

I’m barely skating across the surface here. I’ve not mentioned the differences and significances of power-infused items like angreal, ter’angreal and sa’angreal. That new weaves are created, or old ones rediscovered. Each with implications that are explored in the…

Burn me, there’s a lot. I guess that’s part of why this series is so long.

Still, if you’re looking for a fantasy series which really explores its magic system and its implications. If you want to get into the crunchy, almost scientific minutiae, Robert Jordan’s work is astonishingly detailed. It’s not a series for everyone, it has its problems, and some of the books are… not as good as the others… But light blind me for a wool-headed sheep herder, I love this series, and if you’re into this kind of thing, you might too.

Or wait for the TV show.

About the author:

Rob Edwards is a British born writer and content creator, living in Finland. His podcast, StorycastRob, features readings from his short stories and extracts from longer work. He writes about coffee, despite not drinking it, spaceships, despite being down-to-earth, and superheroes, despite everything.

His debut novel, The Ascension Machine was published in 2020. His short stories can be found in anthologies from Inklings Press and Rivenstone Press.

A life-long gamer and self-professed geek, he is proud of his entry on wookieepedia, the result of writing several Star Wars RPG scenarios in his youth.

Links

Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/StorycastRob
Check out his Podcast: Storycast Rob
Or YouTube: Rob Edwards

For more from this series:
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Wheel of Time
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Coldfire Trilogy
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Weather Warden
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- And Now This
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Blood, Fire, and Death
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Teaching Physics to Barbarians

From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic

Banner Credit: Sue Bavey

I’m so excited to spend a week discussing magic in fantasy books! A creative and epic magic system is always a huge draw to me when it comes to fantasy. While some magic isn’t necessarily fully explained, (which is absolutely fine) other novels have unique and complex systems. This week is going to explore some of those books.

Due to either time constraints or inexperience with a specific book (I haven’t read every fantasy that’s ever been written, to my obvious consternation), there will of course be holes in this series. There will be books that maybe aren’t discussed that you feel ought to be. Please mention them in the comments: I’m a glutton for punishment and love seeing my already-teetering tbr list grow ever longer.

Fortunately for me, there will be far far less holes because both bookbloggers and authors have offered to give their time and talents to this little project! There will be more books mentioned and explained by bloggers, as well as some amazing introductions to unique magic systems by their authors. Stay tuned because this week is going to be great!

To start things off, author M.D. Presley has an excellent breakdown of different kinds of magic that can be found in fantasy novels. Among other books, M.S. Presley is the author of Worldbuilding for Fantasy Fans and Authors, a guide on fantasy worldbuilding. Enjoy!


M.D. Presely: Magic systems are a lot like worldbuilding in that we frequently discuss what we like about them, but we don’t have a shared understanding as to what makes a good magic system. Brandon Sanderson has laid the foundation with his three (secretly four) laws of magic, but few outside of serious worldbuilders can quote them beyond the first, which differentiates between hard and soft magic systems. So then, what makes a great magic system?

The short answer: The right kind of magic for the story you’re trying to tell. 

Like worldbuilding, magic systems run the gamut for the highly mysterious soft systems to hard ones exacting enough to make computer programmers blanch, whereas most reside somewhere in the middle. However, while working on my upcoming Fantasy Worldbuilding Workbook, I noticed there’s a progression of magic systems. And these four types just so happen to align with Sanderson’s laws of magic as well as the Four Cs of Worldbuilding. Each of these types builds off of the ones that came before, such that Point Systems include all the facets of Soft Systems, while Level Systems include the aspects of Point and Soft, and Cost Systems include them all. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the A.A.L.C. system:

Appearance: Soft Systems

Soft systems focus mostly on what the magic looks like in the story and serve to either make the world more fantastical, make the villains more powerful (and the heroes greater underdogs), or attach to the protagonists in such a way that they must overcome the mysterious magic through a character arc. Because of Sanderson’s first law, these soft magics cannot step in to solve the main conflict of the story without feeling like dues ex machina. So they make the world more awesome in the fact they inspire awe, which is Sanderson’s secret fourth law as well as the C of Compelling. 

Abilities: Point Systems

Point systems follow the classic video game model with a certain amount of fuel (mana) that can be exchanged for varying abilities, with the understanding that the fuel is finite and the characters must make choices as to which abilities to use. And when the fuel is overtly referenced like in video games, this is the hardest of magic systems and can solve the main conflicts since the audience understands the rules (Sanderson’s first law). However, most stories only make oblique reference to how drained the characters are after using their powers, which softens the system considerably. Because the mana levels are not overt, it still feels like dues ex machina when the exhausted heroes find their hidden reserve in the finale. But Point Systems can employ a cost when dramatically necessary to make it more satisfactory. Because the powers are worked out ahead of time, this maps to the C of Consistent.

Limits: Level Systems

Sanderson’s second law states that Limitations > Powers since audiences want to see how characters creatively use their limited abilities rather than gaining godlike powers. As such, leveling systems have clearly defined parameters of what the characters can and cannot do at each stage of their development. Without the need for a point system, the characters have unlimited use of their powers established within their levels, which includes Airbender, Harry Potter, and the Jedi in Star Wars. Because they have unlimited uses of their abilities, characters in level systems usually face down villains of a higher level, and have to come up with clever uses of their lesser, limited abilities to overcome them, thus demonstrated the C of Creativity.

Cost: Cost Systems

The best things in life may be free, but everything else has a cost; so it makes sense that magic would too. And authors have unconsciously been using cost systems for centuries to make magical effects feel earned. In so doing, the magic suddenly has implications, which forces choices and dilemma among the characters. Cost systems create drama because the characters know they must either give up time, valuable materials, their health, sanity, or even life, to use their magic. Cost systems can either be overt from the onset, or can (and often are) tacked on to Soft, Point, or Level Systems when dramatically necessary, meaning that systems can move up the hardness scale at will (although it’s ill-advised to ever go the other way). Cost systems map to Sanderson’s third law in that they extrapolate further on the magic, which in turn makes the magic more Complete. 

These four types then break into 13 different subtypes, with more than one showing up in some of the most popular systems like Harry Potter and Airbender. In fact, the Force in Star Wars has been a Soft, Point, Level, and Cost System depending on who is writing it over the years. Which should demonstrate all the effort that goes into making an inspired magic system and the importance of finding the one that works best for you. 

About the author:

Never passing up the opportunity to speak about himself in the third person, M.D. Presley is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. Born and raised in Texas, he spent several years on the East Coast and now waits for the West Coast to shake him loose. His favorite words include defenestrate, callipygian, and Algonquin. The fact that monosyllabic is such a long word keeps him up at night.

Where to find M.D. Presley: https://www.mdpresley.com/


For more posts in this series:
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Wheel of Time
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Coldfire Trilogy
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Magic in the Copper Circle
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Magic for Mercenary Kings
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Weather Warden
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- And Now This
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Blood, Fire, and Death
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Teaching Physics to Barbarians

Book Challenge: I’m a Sucker for…

I love this idea for a post! I was challenged by both Fantasy Book Nerd and The Swordsmith (two blogs you really should be following, by the way) to talk about a book trope that I’m a sucker for. Challenge accepted!

There are several tropes that are almost insta-reads for me, but I’m going to go with small groups involved with some sort of quest. You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t the the same as the “found family” trope?” The answer is, only sometimes. Sure, it can have that dynamic. It can either start out that way, or that found family trope can be a gradual development (I love that). Sometimes, though, certain members of the group don’t necessarily like or trust each other. Possibly they haven’t even met before. There is something brilliant about that. I think it takes a steady hand to write characters that work together without being particularly close, while at the same time keeping those kinds of relationships from becoming stale or annoying.

The quest aspect adds a sense of urgency that I really get sucked into. It doesn’t have to be something that will affect the entire world, although those are good too, but something that is of the utmost importance to the group involved. There’s something great about lazily drinking coffee while reading about others desperately trying to accomplish a nigh-impossible task. Let them go through the physically and emotionally taxing quests. I’ll happily relax and enjoy the ride.

Some great examples of group quests are:

The One Kingdom (Book 1 in the Swans’ War Trilogy) by Sean Russell

The cataclysm began more than a century earlier, when the King of Ayr died before naming an heir to the throne, and damned his realm to chaos. The cold-blooded conspiracies of the Renne and the Wills—each family desirous of the prize of rule—would sunder the one kingdom, and spawn generations of hatred and discord.
Now Toren Renne, leader of his great and troubled house, dreams of peace—a valiant desire that has spawned hostility among his kinsmen, and vicious internal plots against his life. In the opposing domain, Elise Wills’s desire for freedom is to be crushed, as an unwanted marriage to an ambitious and sinister lord looms large. As always, these machinations of nobles are affecting the everyday lives of the common folk—and feeding a bonfire of animosity that has now trapped an unsuspecting young Valeman Tam and two fortune-hunting friends from the North in its high, killing flames.
But the closer Toren comes to achieving his great goal of uniting two enemy houses, the more treachery flowers. Nobles and mystics alike conspire to keep the realm divided, knowing that only in times of strife can their power grow.
And perhaps the source of an unending misery lies before an old king’s passing, beyond the scope of history, somewhere lost in a fog of myth and magic roiling about an ancient enchanter named Wyrr—who bequeathed to his children terrible gifts that would poison their lives…and their deaths. It is a cursed past and malevolent sorcery that truly hold the land, its people, and its would-be rulers bound. And before the already savaged kingdom can become one again, all Ayr will drown in a sea of blood. (taken from Amazon)

The Ventifact Colossus (book one in The Heroes of Spira series) by Dorian Hart (review found here):

Banished to an otherworldly prison for centuries, the monstrous Emperor Naradawk is about to break free and wreak havoc upon the world of Spira. The archmage Abernathy can no longer keep Naradawk at bay, and has summoned a collection of would-be heroes to help set things right.

Surely he made a mistake. These can’t be the right people.

Dranko is a priest-turned-pickpocket, expelled from his church for his antics. Kibilhathur is a painfully shy craftsman who speaks to stones. Aravia is a wizard’s apprentice whose intellect is eclipsed only by her arrogance. Ernest is a terrified baker’s son. Morningstar is a priestess forbidden from daylight. Tor is a young nobleman with attention issues. Ysabel is an elderly farm woman. Grey Wolf is a hard-bitten mercenary.

None of them are qualified to save the world, but they’ll have to do. Even Abernathy himself seems uncertain as to why he chose them.

What starts with a simple scouting mission soon spirals into something more far-reaching and sinister. The heroes will contest with dream warriors, evil cultists, sentient gemstones, and a devious yet infuriatingly polite gentleman with a perfect mustache, on their way to a desperate encounter with the unstoppable: The Ventifact Colossus. (taken from Amazon)

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames (review found here):


Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best, the most feared and renowned crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk, or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help — the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together. (taken from Amazon)

The Fellowship of the Ring (book one of the Lord of the Rings) by J.R.R. Tolkien:

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit. In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose. (taken from Amazon)

Dragons of Autumn Twilight (book one of the Dragonlance Chronicles) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman:

Once merely creatures of legend, the dragons have returned to Krynn. But with their arrival comes the departure of the old gods—and all healing magic. As war threatens to engulf the land, lifelong friends reunite for an adventure that will change their lives and shape their world forever . . . 
 
When Tanis, Sturm, Caramon, Raistlin, Flint, and Tasslehoff see a woman use a blue crystal staff to heal a villager, they wonder if it’s a sign the gods have not abandoned them after all. Fueled by this glimmer of hope, the Companions band together to uncover the truth behind the gods’ absence—though they aren’t the only ones with an interest in the staff. The Seekers want the artifact for their own ends, believing it will help them replace the gods and overtake the continent of Ansalon. Now, the Companions must assume the unlikely roles of heroes if they hope to prevent the staff from falling into the hands of darkness. (taken from Amazon)

The Book of Three (book one of the Chronicles of Prydain) by Lloyd Alexander:

Since The Book of Three was first published in 1964, young readers have been enthralled by the adventures of Taran the Assistant Pig-keeper and his quest to become a hero. Taran is joined by an engaging cast of characters that includes Eilonwy, the strong-willed and sharp-tongued princess; Fflewddur Fflam, the hyperbole-prone bard; the ever-faithful Gurgi; and the curmudgeonly Doli–all of whom become involved in an epic struggle between good and evil that shapes the fate of the legendary land of Prydain. (taken from Amazon)


I’m not tagging anyone here, although I’ll probably hassle (I mean, tag) a few people on Twitter. If you want to join in, though, the more the merrier!