Exactly 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.
(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.