Last March, Elizabeth Bear visited to tell us a little about her new fantasy novel, Range of Ghosts. And it sure sounded terrific — especially if her inspirations were any indication.
But here’s Bear in her own words:
The influences on this work are myriad, and begin with the beloved books of my childhood: Conan, of course, but also Jessica Amanda Salmonson’s three-volume retelling of the life of Japan’s legendary female samurai Tomoe Gozen, which at one point I read until the covers fell off.
Leiber, but I wanted something with more scope than the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser tales — something with a sense of empire and history. Tolkien, but not just Tolkien, because while I wanted a heroic aspect — not the straight rejection of heroic narrative that comes with George R.R. Martin and his literary descendents, such as Joe Abercrombie. But I didn’t want an uninterrogated heroic narrative either…
Moorcock is of course an influence, but I didn’t want to write something that dark. Poul Anderson was probably closest to the mark I was aiming at — humane, accepting of the horrors of war, but also capable of acknowledging the potential for greatness of the human spirit — and its indomitable stubbornness, which is my favorite thing about Tolkien. His people just. Keep. Plugging. Away.
Conan, Salmonson, Leiber, Tolkien, Moorock, Poul Anderson… man, there’s no way this book won’t be great.
Of course, if you’re like me, you’re a little gun shy of starting a series until a few books are in print. Which is why I was delighted this spring when Elizabeth Bear’s Shattered Pillars, the second volume in the Eternal Sky series, hit the stands.
Shattered Pillars picks ups where Range of Ghosts left off, as Temur, Edene, and Samarkar come together and begin to Figure Things Out.
From the eastern end of the Celadon Highway to the western, chaos reigns. The great Khaganate is shattered, and with it the peace. High in his desert fastness, the sorcerer Mukhtar ai-Idoj, al-Sepehr of the Nameless sect of the Rahazeen, plots to bring all the world under the rule of his Scholar-God. He is very close to success; his enemies war with one another, and none sees the true author of their downfall.
Re-Temur and the wizard Samarkar have reached the great city of Asitaneh and the house of Temur’s powerful grandfather. With their companions, they intend to mount an assault on the fortress of the Rahazeen to rescue Temur’s beloved, Edene. If they succeed, it will be a mighty feat, a hero’s deed. But Temur has sworn a magical oath, and he has a wizard of the Tsarepheth at his side.
Far to the east of Asitaneh, the attack on the Rasan empire has taken the form of a plague. The imperial city of Tsarepheth struggles against the contagion, a terrible disease that kills all who contract it. The wizard-healers do all they can to discover the course and cure the disease, but with little success. Someone with power in the city has invited the plague demons in, and if the Emperor Songtsan falls to the disease, so too might the Rasan Empire – he has no heir who is of age.
But al-Sepehr has made one error. He has allowed the escape of his hostage, Edene.
Elizabeth Bear won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2005 and has won the Hugo twice for her short fiction. Her Hammered science fiction trilogy (Hammered, Worldwired, and Scardown) is a Locus Award winner.
Shattered Pillars was published by Tor Books on March 19, 2013. It is 33 pages, priced at $26.99 for the hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition.