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A Throne of Bones

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 | Posted by Theo

the cover for the forthcoming novelExactly 499 days ago, I was discussing with a friend our mutual disappointment with George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons. We waited for six years and that was our reward? “I swear, even I could do better,”(1) was said at one point in the conversation. “So, why don’t you?” came the response. The next day, I began writing the first words in what turned out to be the beginning of an epic fantasy series entitled ARTS OF DARK AND LIGHT, an 852-page book called A Throne of Bones. In it, I attempted to build upon the foundation of my past critiques of the modern fantasy epic, a number of which were first presented here at Black Gate. There are heroes and there are villains. Characters have a clear sense of morality and know when their acts violate their conscience. People possess religious faith, even when the religious institutions themselves are corrupted by the ambitious. The basic fantasy tropes are embraced and utilized; no wheels are pointlessly reinvented. Married men love their wives and have sex with them. Children love, respect, and in some cases, even listen to their parents. The plot is driven by the choices made by the characters rather than the other way around. There is no historical authenticity, but there is reasonable historical verisimilitude.

Throughout the writing process, I attempted to apply the lessons I’d learned from reading Tolkien, Erikson, Martin, Abercrombie, Bakker, Abraham, and others. Whether I have been successful or not in doing so is not for me to say. In some cases, I reacted; in others, I borrowed. In one case, I consciously and overtly stole. (In that case, I think the reader will agree that the theft was more than justified.) I mined Republican Roman history every bit as assiduously as George R.R. Martin plundered 15th century English history. At all points along the way, I tried to keep in mind the question that I originally asked in writing Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy: What would be the result of placing the most powerful and important medieval institution into a conventional quasi-medieval fantasy setting? It’s not at all necessary to read Summa Elvetica in order to read A Throne of Bones; the former is little more than an extended chapter in one prospective character’s life prior to the events of the latter and the same is true of A Magic Broken. However, those who have read Summa and grasped the significance of its structure will understand the intellectual and philosophical basis for A Throne of Bones.

For those who may be interested, here is an excerpt from an early review of the book:

A decade or so ago, I watched the Michael Chrichton movie Twister, and the early dialogue explained that the protagonist researchers had three complex and expensive measuring devices and their goal was to successfully place one in a tornado’s path during a superstorm. So, I said to myself, the movie’s plot will be them failing twice and then being triumphantly successful with the last machine, against all odds and competing against a more fully funded research team. And this is exactly what happened [Oh, I'm sorry, Spoiler Alert!]. So I (along with, I presume, most alert viewers) knew the basic structure of the entire plot, including the ending, before getting twenty minutes into the movie.

In extreme contrast to that experience is the reading of `A Throne Of Bones’ by Vox Day. On a micro and macro level, the reader is surprised (not to mention shocked and stunned), narrative directions are turned 180 degrees and assumptions are ripped away. I never knew where it was heading next. And here’s the good news: It’s a delightful experience.

When I reviewed `Summa Elvetica’, Vox Day’s last fiction book, I wrote, `My feeling here is that this book could be a “The Hobbit”-like prelude to a much more significant fictional writing.’ This, I’m pleased to say, is what the author has done.

A Throne of Bones is now available from Amazon for $4.99 in Kindle, from Barnes and Noble for $4.99 in Nook, or for $34.99 in hardcover from Marcher Lord Hinterlands.

(1) Just to be clear, this refers solely to A Dance with Dragons. Not A Game of Thrones. Or the second and third books in the series, for that matter. I may be arrogant. I’m not delusional.

6 Comments »

  1. Sounds worth reading Theo. Perhaps. I like the descriptions you and the reviews provide, and of course I’d like to determine firsthand if your writing lives up to or demonstrates the points you make…but I am not a fan of reading religious-dominated fiction. Though Paul Kearney’s Monarchies of God series did turn out to be surprisingly addictive. We’ll see; I’ll be sure to let you know if I read it.

    Comment by Jason M. Waltz - December 8, 2012 10:26 pm

  2. Rather than simply say “read it and find out” I’d invite you to think about what you mean by “religious-dominated fiction”. Now, I completely understand not wanting to read fiction that is written as propaganda, particularly propaganda from a perspective one does not share. I despise feminist fiction myself.

    And yet, I very much enjoyed The Left Hand of Darkness, even though it is considered one of “the first major works of feminist science fiction”. Why? Because LeGuin wrote an intriguing novel that uses its feminist foundations as the basis for a strong story with interesting characters. It made the novel stronger; ironically, I find that I prefer it to her less overtly feminist fiction.

    Now, faith is an aspect of the story in A Throne of Bones, as is its corruption by organized religion, but both are elements of the book rather than the dominant strains of it. When I began writing the book, I was determined to focus on story, story, story. This was because I strongly believe that the urge to write propaganda weakens most avowedly religious and ideological fiction as badly, if not worse, than the desire to leave religion out of their fictional worlds weakens most secular fiction. In contrast, Tolkien justly described The Lord of the Rings as “a profoundly Catholic work”, but who would describe it as dominated by religion?

    As it happens, A Throne of Bones is bloodier than a Martin novel and couldn’t be published in the CBA if I put the Ten Commandments on the cover and the Nicene Creed on the back. If it is dominated by religion, it is primarily so in the sense that Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose was. In fact, that reminds me of something that struck me after finishing the book. Eco once said that he wrote Il Nome della Rosa because he wanted to murder a monk. It seems I went him one better – I polished off a Pope!

    Comment by Theo - December 9, 2012 4:49 am

  3. [...] A Throne of Bones, Vox Day ($4.99) [...]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » The Black Gate Christmas Gift List - December 9, 2012 12:32 pm

  4. My use of “religious-dominated fiction” was perhaps unwise, as it was meant to sum up my stance at a moment I did not want to type very long ;) Yet here I am typing again.

    What I mean is this: ‘religion’ forces its presence into my ‘real’ world experience no matter where I cast my eyes or turn my ears – I’m vastly tired of it and don’t want to read a lick of it in my personal enjoyment time. I find little joy in reading of yet another dominating ‘belief’ system that slaughters and enslaves its followers and tortures and eliminates its opponents. I cry bullshit at those gods and evil mortal minds who profit by them.

    That, though, has nothing to do with faith, or my faith and the pursuit thereof. Nor does it have anything to do with escapism, that damned label flippantly applied by confused and fearful ignorants.

    Examples off the top of my head:

    (1) Feist’s world which I enjoyed for a while, especially at the onset, yet in which, if I recall, the Church of Ishtar grew too big for my liking, left a disconcerting mental aftertaste.

    (2) The aforementioned Kearney series…I’d always meant to read these books, yet never had, until mutual friend Mr. O’Neill graciously gifted (?) me the omnibus volumes to review just before I left on a cross-country to-college trip with my family. While interesting, if I had picked book 1 up at the onset of the series I highly suspect I would not have pursued the following titles and thus would never have met a handful of inspired characters and a tumultuous yet ultimately satisfying tale. Why? Because book 1 (and considerable portions of each other title) is predominately filled with the church of his world and its far-reaching power and control. I am not intrigued, amused, enamored by this in any way. This is one reason I’ve long delayed my reviews — I haven’t successfully figured a way to tell readers that if I hadn’t been locked in a car and traveling for days on end, I wouldn’t have read the series.

    You’re correct, that if an author wishes to write and claim any authenticity in era or locale and omits the presence, impact, and influence of the predominate religious tendencies of that era/locale s/he fails. No argument from me. And when I read nonfiction, I expect such, am cognizant of the why of its presence. I just don’t seek it in my nonfiction.

    Perhaps this is yet another of the many appealing traits I adore in Steven Erikson’s Malazan world — the absence of a domineering religion amidst the abundant presence of countless gods and faiths.

    Comment by Jason M. Waltz - December 9, 2012 3:13 pm

  5. Hmm, my ability to edit my comments seems to have vanished.

    I wanted to say, Theo, I quite enjoyed your last paragraph and find more encouragement to read your novel. I believe I shall.

    Comment by Jason M. Waltz - December 9, 2012 3:16 pm

  6. [...] A Throne of Bones [...]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in December - January 30, 2013 9:30 pm


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