Cover for Toric’s Dagger

I’m excited to reveal the official front cover for Toric’s Dagger, agreed with Streetlight Graphics.

All the advice I get is that the cover of the book is vitally important to reach the right audience. I like this design because it sends out all the right signals that this is a fantasy series. It ties in well with the title of the book and the series too.

Seeing the cover is an encouraging sign that the project is heading towards completion. There are lots of other jobs to do, and I hope that I will soon have a release date for the book.

February Update

After a brief hiatus, I am back to work on getting Toric’s Dagger published. The script has received a professional line edit from Invisible Ink Editing, resulting in many improvements. Next, I need to get a final edit done and then get it formatted for publication. I will also need to get a book cover done and I think the book needs a map of Dalriya in it.

I have joined Wattpad, a cool site to discover new writers. I intend to put my first chapter there, in instalments. I will post here when it is up!

 

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Tigana is a classic, stand alone fantasy novel by one of the greats of fantasy fiction. It is named after a province in the mythical Peninsula of the Palm.

 

Characters

Kay uses multiple points of view in this story, meaning that we look through the eyes of a number of characters. This allows us to follow events across the Palm, from a number of perspectives. I tend to enjoy this approach to fantasy writing and the author handles it well. Most of the characters we follow are exiles, of one kind or another, from Tigana: Devin, young and green; Catriana, equally young but more mature; Dianora, whose story is largely separate from the other characters; Baerd, her brother, full of anger and purpose. Interestingly, their leader, Prince Alessan, is never used as the POV by Kay, leaving him more mysterious and remote, which I think was a good decision. We are even treated to the POV of one of the main adversaries, Alberico of Barbadior, which Kay seems to enjoy writing. The characters are well drawn, with clear motives and backstory. They are also complex: the heroes make morally dubious decisions to get what they want, and the villains can be sympathetic, too. I found I cared about the characters. Having said that, when the book was finished, I didn’t find myself missing them, which can happen with my favourite books.

Worldbuilding

The story is set in the Palm, which is geographically an upside down Italy. Like medieval Italy, it is divided into different, disunited provinces. At the beginning of the story it has been invaded by two different foreign powers, Ygrath and Barbadior, who have divided the Palm between them. The world feels real, with a history, culture and religion of its own. Each province has its own unique characteristics, which inform much of the plot. All this world-building is done with a light touch, so that it never intrudes too much on the story.

There is magic in the Palm, but no great magicians. This explains how the antagonists, Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior, were able to conquer it in the first place. It also helps the reader to root for those struggling for independence, since they are underdogs for this very reason.

Style

Tigana is an effortless read and Kay writes with a sense of poetry, like the earlier fantasy writers. It is, therefore, different to the more modern trend of gritty writing which can make it feel more dated than it is in some ways (it was published in 1990). This sense of poetry and magic pervades this novel, reminding me of classic Arthurian literature. It means that the world is perhaps not always logical or realistic—that’s OK, though—it’s a fantasy novel.

Plot

The story is centred on the fate of Tigana, one of the provinces of the Palm. It has been cursed by Brandin of Ygrath, as punishment for its resistance to his invasion. We focus, therefore, on the efforts of the heroes, mostly exiles from Tigana, to save their homeland. The themes of duty, of belonging to a place or people, are therefore very strong. None of the heroes are ‘super’ heroes, with extraordinary magic or martial skills to help them. Indeed, many of them are most proficient at making music. Neither do they have an army to help them. This fact is both a strength and a weakness of the book. It means that we root for them, as underdogs. However, in order for them to achieve their goals, we have to swallow a fair amount of dubious plotting. The route to victory, apparently, involves years of wandering around carrying out complicated/pointless acts of rebellion, or, conversely, huge acts of self-sacrifice. There is no conventional rebellion or civil war here; neither is there ever an outright attempt at assassination of the two wizards by the heroes. This is despite the fact that other attempts at assassination make it seem eminently achievable. This lack of realism in the plot was the one thing that made me harrumph while reading. Having said that, this is pretty standard fare in the fantasy genre.

Conclusion

This is a really good book, still loved by many, that has stood the test of time. It doesn’t have the complexity of some fantasy epics, but we are so used now to fantasy stories as trilogies, if not longer, that this is a somewhat unfair criticism. In Tigana, Kay achieves in a single novel what many authors fail to do in a series. If we are to judge it against other single, stand alone fantasy novels, then it is up there as one of the best ever written.

 

Rogue One

As a long time Star Wars fan I was upset that one of 2016’s last victims was the legendary Carrie Fisher. She was such an engaging and honest personality whose contribution to the Star Wars story shouldn’t be underestimated. There was some consolation in the release of another Star Wars film though. Rogue One kept the roster of old characters to a minimum, giving a new generation of stars a chance. I’m sure the ever generous Fisher approved.

Chronologically, the film is set just before the first Star Wars film, A New Hope. The Rebel Alliance learns of the building of the Death Star – a powerful weapon central to the Star Wars movies. This places it in familiar enough territory for even the most conservative-minded fans to accept.

Character wise, however, we have a brand new group. Much of the first part of the film is introduced in setting up the new characters, especially lead character Jyn Erso, played well by Felicity Jones. It’s fair to say it takes a while to get going and is a bit over-complicated at first. I was a bit nervous that my 10 and 9 year olds wouldn’t follow it. They were fine in the end and enjoyed it, though I wouldn’t recommend for younger age groups. It would appear that in the final edit they cut out much of Jyn’s adult backstory, which may have been quite interesting: instead we get the rather predictable tragic opening sequences, which have been done to death by Star Wars, let alone the wider genre. A strong supporting cast is added as the film goes along. Personally, however, I didn’t find these characters quite as engaging as in the original movies or the more recent outing, The Force Awakens. There certainly wasn’t a totally unique character added, although K-2SO, a sarcastic ex-imperial droid with a wiped memory, came the closest.

The plot centres on an attempt to locate a weakness in the Death Star which could be exploited by the Rebel Alliance. Once it gets going, the film moves along at a good pace and has a great climax – the last half an hour or so is the best. It is certainly dark in places, but then this is nothing new. The familiar Star Wars world is recreated effectively, with enough new additions to keep us interested. Quite a number of older characters do return for brief cameos – this is generally well managed and not intrusive. One method I was less keen on was computer generated characters rather than the use of actors – this was too techie for me and ‘broke the spell’ somewhat.

All in all this was a good addition to the Star Wars canon and recommended viewing if you’ve somehow avoided it. If you are allergic to Star Wars, there is nothing here to cure you of your terrible affliction. The film does point the way to future projects. One-off stories such as this are already in the pipeline. Eventually, I hope, film-makers will be able to go off in new directions within the Star Wars universe and this film helped people to see that they can enjoy a Star Wars movie without the Skywalkers and other familiar faces in it. Not that I or many like me will ever forget that first time they fell in love with Star Wars – and the role that a certain princess from Alderaan played in that.