The Reaper is book two in the Fallen Conviction series and opens with the revelation that the King of Akala is missing, and the new Queen, Leah, is now in power. What was the inspiration for the direction of this thrilling novel?
I had the idea of the direction of the novel when I first planned out the series. The entire story is planned out, and had been from the beginning – but the direction of the story has led up to this point because of Darius’ position: The title of the series, The Fallen Conviction, refers to the main characters. Everyone, Darius included, have fallen in some way from positions of power or comfort, and this has led to their current convictions and beliefs. Therefore, showing him as fallen and missing was essential – because this is what drives him to fight against his oppressors. While he was in power, he had very little conviction, but now things have changed.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
My favorite character to write for is Zacharias: He knows everything that is really going on, but is reluctant to reveal too much to the people he is around for his own reasons. Because of his knowledge, however, he is the most fun to write for because he can say things with double meanings that don’t become clear until later, and there is more to discover about him than any other character.
How do you feel you’ve developed as a writer between book one and two in the Fallen Conviction series?
I think I’ve developed a better understanding of character dynamics, and making a character driven story. The first book was very plot driven, and although I had a clear understanding of all of the characters, it became clear that my readers did not get a great sense of all of them – and so with the second book, I focused more heavily on developing them.
The interplay between Darius’ group of refugees and the leadership of Shaweh are the primary drivers of the plot. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
Each character has lost something that they want to get back, and at their core each one is selfishly trying to get back what they lost, and on top of this there is a hatred between the two nations that leads to mistrust and tension – but as the story progresses, they all learn that there is a bigger issue at stake, and they have to work together.
Will there be a third book in the Fallen Conviction series? If so, where will it take readers and when will it be available?
Yes, there will be a third and final book in the series, called The Empty Nation. This novel explores the war between the three factions: The Empty Ones that Lialthas has created, the remainder of humanity, and The Reaper. Each one represents three important pieces: Lialthas and The Empty Ones represent complete order, a totalitarian system of control without the slightest room for deviation; The Reaper is his opposite, that is to say he is complete chaos, disorder, anarchy, and is the embodiment of deviation; and caught in the middle are the remainders of humanity, who are being forced to choose a side between one of the two, because both are more powerful than could ever be overcome. Therefore, it is not just a war of weapons, but a war of ideals as each person from the group will be forced to choose one of the two sides. Right now, it should be available in mid 2018.
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The Reaper opens with the revelation that the King of Akala is missing, and the new Queen, Leah, is now in power. She meets with President Inaeus Janu of Shaweh to offer a peace treaty that brings their long war to an end. Janu suspects the Queen is a figurehead and focuses on the mysterious Lialthas who seems to have an undue influence over the Queen.
In the meantime, refugees from Akala reach the city-state of Shaweh seeking asylum. The group includes the missing King Darius, his half-sister Moriene with the child Hannah in tow, General Victor Ikharson, and Sefas, once called Meddiah when he was an Empty One. They are shadowed by the black-clad Zacharias who used his magic to help them escape from Lialthas. When the Akalan’s gestures of peace turn out to be empty promises, President Janu and the Akalan refugees are whisked to a secure location as war resumes.
This is the second book in the Fallen Conviction series, and it wasn’t hard to catch up when the asylum-seekers told their story to Janu. This gave me the chance to get up to speed on the plot if you haven’t read the first book.
The interplay between Darius’ group of refugees and the leadership of Shaweh are the primary drivers of the plot. Character-driven stories are a big draw for me, and the author has a knack for showing the complex, often antagonistic relationships between all of these strong-willed characters. My favorite characters in this book were Moriene and Sefas, who were once under Lialthas’ control. Both escaped his grasp and recovered from being “Empty,” yet both still seem to be fighting the battles of the past.
I also enjoyed the high-tension setting. Being locked in a bunker with people you don’t like but are forced to trust is hard enough, but if that trust is tested, things are going to get violent. The situation erodes when Zacharias reveals that there’s something even worse that Lialthas out there, and they may not be able to stop it.
The first thing that struck me about The Reaper was the unusual formatting. At first, I thought it was a typesetting error, but it became clear that the line numbering was meant to give it a scriptural feel. Some of these passages have archaic sentence structure with rhyming words at the end of sentences, but it’s not always consistent and that can be frustrating for those expecting poetic meter. However, the nod to scripture isn’t surprising because gods and religion play a major part in this story.
Don’t assume that because this is written in poetic language that it won’t be exciting. This is a place where magic and technology that we would recognize today are both present, where battles are fought with WMD strikes as well as mind-bending magical attacks. War is gruesome, and the author doesn’t pull his punches when it comes to violence and mayhem. In this world, magic is fueled by blood, fear, and suffering, so whoever wields this power must harm others in order to succeed.
If you’re looking for a novel that offers both a unique style and a reading experience that challenges and defies “the usual” in fantasy, give this book a try.
Pages: 340 | ASIN: B06XRS3SFD
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The Empty One is an epic fantasy novel setup like other epic poetry in the past; Beowulf for example. Why did you choose to write in verse for the book and what was your experience writing in this style?
Verse can set a tone that cannot ordinarily be achieved through the use of prose, and by using poetic phrases, more can be conveyed in just a single line than in an entire paragraph otherwise. For example by using short, quick words in succession, you can convey a kind of rushed and hurried atmosphere; conversely, longer phrasing sets up a more relaxed scene. Subtle keys such as these allow for a lot fewer ex-positional portions within the novel, and make room for action and character development. While writing in this style, I took a lot of inspiration from the epic poems of India, such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads – and as these dealt with fantastic situations and characters, poetry seemed a natural choice for my book, as well. When it came to my experience with writing in this style, it was challenging and rewarding at the same time. It took several weeks to come up with just the right phrasing in certain parts, because I simply didn’t like the mood or atmosphere of a particular section. (The hardest part was chapter twenty-six; it took so many rewrites to get that chapter just the way I wanted it, for a while I considered removing it altogether). Additionally, while not being an established writer, I made many safe choices when it came to the rhyme schemes I used – such as only using end rhymes in most places. However, I fully intend to advance to more complex styles in the future entries of the series.
In your novel I picked up some inspiration from other fantasy novels and mythology of the past that I thought played well in the story. What were some of your sources of inspiration for this book?
As mentioned, I took inspiration from The Bhagavad Gita, but I was also influenced by some Greek mythology surrounding The Titans and the Gnostic text The Reality of the Rulers.
In The Empty One there are two nations against one another, The Akalan Nation and the City States of Shaweh, that represent good and evil in the story. How did you create the dichotomy between these two nations?
The history of the two nations is that they were once one land, but split due to a civil war over ideology. They have a common history, language, and even culture in many aspects – but they cannot get past their differences over the definition of morality. They are therefore like brothers that grew apart over the ages, so much so that they have disowned each other. However, just as you might be furious with a loved one if they committed something atrocious yet still feel the need to help them, this is how the two nations exist. Both see the other as completely wrong and evil, but on some level they still feel inexorably connected.
In fantasy novels it’s easy to get carried away with the magical powers characters have. How did you balance the use of supernatural powers in The Empty One?
Magic is incidental to the story, and this was always the intention. The characters were the focus of the narrative. To achieve this, there was an idea that I always kept in mind: Supernatural powers would just be commonplace for any supernatural being, just as locomotion might seem supernatural to a plant but is ordinary for humans. Therefore any character in the book with these types of abilities would not use them to show off and instead they would use them only when the need arose.
What is the next book that you’re working on? When can you fans expect it to come out?
I am working on two books right now: The sequel to The Empty One, which is currently titled The Reaper, and it is also written in the same style (as an epic poem). This second entry into The Fallen Conviction should be out by early 2017. The other work that I have going is a horror story, not written in verse, which is much less closer to being done, called Mind.
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Two superpowers – The Akalan Nation and the City States of Shaweh – are at war. The Akalan Nation is a brutal theocracy that believe the City States are evil for not following their beliefs, and both sides are decimated from the years of fighting. In a desperate move to try and win the war for his people and his faith, the king of the Akalans, Darius, enlists the power of a mysterious man with supernatural powers named Lialthas, who claims to be an angel sent to help the righteous win the war against the disbelievers. However, as Darius soon discovers, Lialthas is not who he says he is – and he has his own motives and aspirations to power.
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If there’s one thing I can guarantee about this book, it’s that you’ve absolutely never read anything like it before. And that’s no small thing—fantasy as a genre has a bad habit of being predictable, and this book certainly is not that. If you’re looking for new form, experimental writing, and a very unique voice, then this is the book for you.
The form is really intriguing: it’s written like a cross between the Bible and Beowulf, with annotated lines and a very deliberate rhyme scheme (all the lines are end rhyme, which is certainly unique in the modern fantasy genre market). The book is biblical in the sense that a lot of the sentence structures seem to mirror the historical books of the Bible, i.e. “1.2.29 For whosoever believed in other than Lialthas was surely deviant, as was the plain truth as seen by his narration!” The text is also reminiscent of Beowulf in that it has a very tried-and-true formula of an “epic”, with a lot of focus on character development throughout the story. Quite a few of the names have pseudo-Scandinavian roots and the focus is very much on masculine honor, value, etc.
The actual plot is a bit hard to follow, which is the only thing I wasn’t crazy about in this book. Typically, fantasy novels are very plot-driven and follow a certain pattern, but this book completely breaks that pattern (which, don’t get me wrong, can be very good sometimes, but I’m not sure if it works here). The central idea is that there are two groups of people who worship two different gods: the Alakans worship the goddess Akala (who are presumably the good guys), and the others worship Lialthas (definitely the bad guys), and they wage a centuries-long battle that, on the surface, looks like a religious war, but, as we continue to read, we learn the reasons for their fighting are much more complicated. The plot moves incredibly quickly, with at least one major plot event per five pages, so anything beyond that will be a spoiler alert. Suffice to say there is quite a bit of action—it is an epic, after all—and definitely not for the faint of heart, since there are definitely some violent and gory scenes. If you’re a fan of old Norse mythology or Anglo-Saxon epic poetry, you’ll feel very comfortable reading this.
That typical “pull” you get from regular fantasy books is still lurking here, but it’s a bit more obscured than, say, Lord of the Rings or A Game of Thrones. I found myself staying up late because I was so engrossed in reading the book; however, not for the typical reasons I would with other novels… more because I appreciated the uniqueness of the structure and freshness of the author’s voice than the fact that I was attached to the characters or really cared about the movement of the plot. Readers who feel bored with the current state of the fantasy genre: this is for you.
Overall, I’d absolutely recommend this book if you love fantasy but would like to move outside of the typical fantasy novel and into something more unique (“avant garde fiction”, if you will). Even if it’s not something you may personally enjoy, I can definitely see this being a great read for a reader who wants to learn more about using narrative poetry and other old-school fiction elements in modern fantasy.
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