My newest book, The Dread: Book Two in The Fallen Kings Cycle, confronts a medieval world on the brink of a “War of Unmaking.” Plague, famine, civilian unrest, pretenders to the throne, usurpers, traitors and a foreign invasion—along with betrayals large and small—have set the monarchies of the Winter Kingdoms on a collision course with war. The stakes are huge, and no matter who wins and who loses, neither the kingdoms nor the main characters will ever be the same.
Sure, I drew on ancient Asian, Sumerian, and Celtic/Norse mythology, as well as my own fevered imagination to conjure up this war-torn world, but I’m certain that the angst in modern headlines had some subconscious influence over the decision to set in motion a cataclysm that changes the course of history.
I also blame some of it on my undergraduate training as a historian, taught by professors who saw flashpoints in history more as a confluence of trends rather than the handiwork of a single “great man.” Where a single individual rises to such prominence as to seem capable of personally changing history, I’ve been taught to look deeper, to see the societal, religious, financial, cultural and other shifts that made it possible for the “great man” to come to the fore and achieve such prominence.
Personally, I find this a more interesting reading of history than seeing an endless procession of heroes and villains who are larger than life. And as an author, I think that the idea that those who become heroes and villains stand astride the crest of a great flow of other circumstances makes a story much more intriguing as well. While my characters always have choices, both they and the readers should feel that other forces are pressing toward particular options, or making other choices unsatisfactory. Sometimes, the hero chooses to swim against the tide. In other situations, he (or she) rides the swell, realizing how little control they have over the rushing torrent, trying to make the best of it. Throw magic, active deities, and two groups of immortal enemies into the equation, and all bets are off.
Part of the fun for me with epic fantasy is having a big enough canvas to set up this kind of cataclysm and bring the reader along for the ride. The story that begins in The Sworn: Book One of the Fallen Kings Cycle, finds its conclusion in The Dread, but those who have been with me for all four preceding Chronicles of the Necromancer books will find old loose ends tied up and unfinished business brought to a close.
So is this the end of adventures in the world of the Winter Kingdoms? No. But my surviving characters do deserve a little rest! So while the survivors rebuild, I’ll be bringing out a brand new series, The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, from Orbit in 2013. Time to start the mayhem all over again!
You can find The Dread in stores and online everywhere. For more about my books, please visit www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com, and like me on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms. I blog at DisquietingVisions.com, host author interviews at GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com, and tweet @GailZMartin.