As part of my Guest blog series for authors and fellow bloggers I am proud to present another guest blog spot.
Make sure you check out When the Heavens Fall by
Here is a clip of the book from Audible www.audible.com/
Multi-threaded Epic Fantasy: Weaving the Tapestry by Marc Turner
One of my favourite fantasy books of all time is The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. It tells the story of a holy war in a fictionalized medieval Spain, but what I remember most about the book is the clash between two of its main characters: Ibn Ammar, an Asharite poet, solider and diplomat, and Rodrigo Belmonte, a Jaddite military commander. At the beginning of the book, Kay establishes them both as formidable characters. When they meet they become friends, but they have different faiths and different allegiances, and it becomes clear early on that those differences will ultimately bring them into conflict. When they duel at the end of the book, I had no idea who was going to win, still less who I wanted to win. Kay even uses a clever device to suggest that the loser of the fight is actually the winner before he hits you with the truth.
The Lions of Al-Rassan highlights one of the things I love most about multi-threaded fantasies. An author is able to introduce you to various characters, build them up into people you admire and sympathize with, and then set them off against each other. It’s a technique Kay uses in a lot of his books. The stronger the characters, the more you look forward to them meeting, because you know that sparks are going to fly. What you don’t know is who’s going to come out on top, and that can only be a good thing. With a lot of the fantasy books I read as a teen, you knew by the bottom of page one where the story was going. When yet another farm boy discovers he is the “chosen one”, you can be reasonably certain he’s going to defeat the Dark Lord on the last page. All very predictable. But what if there were two“chosen ones”? Suddenly the book becomes more interesting.
Another of my favourite authors, Steven Erikson, also uses multiple story lines to good effect. Take, for example, House of Chains, the fourth book in the Malazan series. In the battle at the end, it’s far from clear who the “good guys” and the “bad guys” are supposed to be. Unsurprisingly, there are some on each side. In one camp you have the likes of Felisin, Karsa and Heboric. In the other, Tavore, Kalam and Fiddler. How do you pick a winner from those? My favourite characters were scattered across both factions, and there was no way they could all emerge victorious. Watching them square off against each other made for a truly epic ending.
I have tried to capture that “epicness” in my debut, When the Heavens Fall. The book tells the story of a necromancer who steals an artifact called the Book of Lost Souls and uses it to resurrect an undead army with the intention of challenging the Lord of the Dead for control of the underworld. Drawn into the chaos are four viewpoint characters: Luker, Romany, Ebon and Parolla. At the start of the novel their threads run in parallel, but as the story progresses they increasingly overlap, until the characters come together for a suitably climactic finale. So which of the four characters is the “main” character? None of them. I never set out to create one protagonist and three antagonists. Each of the characters is the hero of their own story. Each has their own agenda, their own cause. But there’s only one Book of Lost Souls up for grabs, so they can’t all win, right?
Of course, there are some aspects of multi-threaded fantasies that I don’t enjoy. No matter how good the writer is, it’s fair to say that readers of such books will find themselves liking some characters more than others. In Game of Thrones, I suspect I’m not the only one who skimmed the occasional Sansa chapter to get to the next Tyrion one. If you’ve got multiple characters and multiple threads running through the book, it’s a challenge to keep each one as entertaining as the next, especially since there will be times when there is more going on in some story lines than in others. And then if some of your favourite characters start dying (George RR Martin, I’m looking at you) . . .
Another potential pitfall with multi-threaded books is how unwieldy they can become. The more threads you weave into a story, the harder it can be to keep them in a coherent pattern. I’m sure that we’ve all read epic fantasies that started strongly, but seemed to collapse under their own weight as the author introduced more and yet more characters. The story loses forward momentum. Also, if there are too many characters, the reader may never get to know any of them well. Just as they’re starting to care about what happens to a character, they’re whisked off into someone else’s head. And they might not encounter the first character again for fifty or a hundred pages, by which time they’ve forgotten all about them. So how many characters is too many? I’ve no idea, but I found four a good number to work with in When the Heavens Fall.
That brings me on to endings. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of books that aren’t complete stories. I like novels to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It can be frustrating to read the first book in a series, only for it to stop (seemingly in mid-sentence) without even a hint of a resolution in sight – particularly since you might have to wait another year or longer (or much longer!) to find out what happens next. The more threads there are in a story, the harder it can be to tie them off neatly. That’s another reason why I enjoy Steven Erikson’s books so much: each of his novels has an ending that resolves the immediate story line at issue, whilst at the same time leaving questions open to be explored in the next book. That’s also why I made When the Heavens Fall a self-contained story, albeit part of a larger series of novels.
About the author:
Marc Turner was born in Canada, but grew up in England. His first novel, When the Heavens Fall, is published by Tor in the US and Titan in the UK. You can see a video trailer for the book here and read a short story set in the world of the novel here. The short story has also been narrated by Emma Newman, and you can listen to it free here. Marc can be found on Twitter at @MarcJTurner and at his website.
Marc Turner was born in Toronto, Canada, but grew up in England. He graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford University, in 1996 with a BA (Hons) in law, and subsequently joined a top ten law firm in the City of London. After realizing that working there did not mix well with simple pleasures such as having a life, he fled north first to Leeds and then to Durham in search of a better work-life balance. Unfortunately it proved elusive, and so in 2007, rather than take the next step and move to Scotland, he began working part time so he could devote more time to his writing. Following the sale of his debut epic fantasy novel, When the Heavens Fall, he started writing full time.
Why writing? Because it is the only work he knows where daydreaming isn’t frowned upon, and because he has learned from bitter experience that he cannot not write. The authors whose work has most influenced him are Steven Erikson and Joe Abercrombie. Consequently he writes fast-paced, multi-threaded novels with a liberal sprinkling of humour; novels written on a panoramic scale, peopled by characters that stay in the memory. Or at least that’s the theory . . .
He lives in Durham, England, with his wife and Son.
About the books:
- Series: The Chronicles of the Exile
- Hardcover: 544 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (May 19, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765337126
- ISBN-13: 978-0765337122
If you pick a fight with Shroud, Lord of the Dead, you had better ensure your victory, else death will mark only the beginning of your suffering.
A book giving its wielder power over the dead has been stolen from a fellowship of mages that has kept the powerful relic dormant for centuries. The thief, a crafty, power-hungry necromancer, intends to use the Book of Lost Souls to resurrect an ancient race and challenge Shroud for dominion of the underworld. Shroud counters by sending his most formidable servants to seize the artifact at all cost.
However, the god is not the only one interested in the Book, and a host of other forces converge, drawn by the powerful magic that has been unleashed. Among them is a reluctant Guardian who is commissioned by the Emperor to find the stolen Book, a troubled prince who battles enemies both personal and political, and a young girl of great power, whose past uniquely prepares her for an encounter with Shroud. The greatest threat to each of their quests lies not in the horror of an undead army but in the risk of betrayal from those closest to them. Each of their decisions comes at a personal cost and will not only affect them, but also determine the fate of their entire empire.
The first of an epic swords & sorcery fantasy series, Marc Turner’s When the Heavens Fall features gritty characters, deadly magic, and meddlesome gods
- Series: The Chronicles of the Exile
- Hardcover: 496 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books (February 9, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765337134
- ISBN-13: 978-0765337139
The sequel to When the Heavens Fall features gritty characters, deadly magic, and meddlesome gods
Once a year on Dragon Day the fabled Dragon Gate is raised to let a sea dragon pass into the Sabian Sea. There, it will be hunted by the Storm Lords, a fellowship of powerful water-mages who rule an empire called the Storm Isles.
Emira Imerle Polivar is coming to the end of her tenure as leader of the Storm Lords, but she has no intention of standing down graciously. As part of her plot to hold onto power, she instructs an order of priests known as the Chameleons to sabotage the Dragon Gate. There’s just one problem: that will require them to infiltrate an impregnable citadel that houses the gate’s mechanism—a feat that has never been accomplished before.
But Imerle is not the only one intent on destroying the Storm Lord dynasty. As the Storm Lords assemble in answer to a mysterious summons, they become the targets of assassins working for an unknown enemy. And when Imerle sets her scheme in motion, that enemy uses the ensuing chaos to play its hand.