I’ve heard the Mistborn series described as swords and sorcery. It has sorcery “in spades” – the fascinating and innovative Allomancy. Think magical power from metals. I’m not sure the swords part really qualifies. The setting strikes me as more 19th century than the traditional psuedo-medieval worlds we most often find in fantasy. The Final Empire is a fun magical romp through a world broken by past events still shrouded in mystery that I’m keen to penetrate by reading more books in this series.
The overall style and the age of the heroine (16) make me think YA Fantasy but with enough sophistication to appeal to an adult audience. I would have liked more showing in the writing style, especially in action sequences, than the telling we often get. As a result, there were times I felt force fed events rather than experiencing them. I’m done with criticisms now.
The Final Empire was thoroughly enjoyable. The main character Vin is a wonderful blend of strength and naivety with a special but unschooled ability in Allomancy. Her world view is delightfully distorted by her tragic backstory. This gives her an understandable problem trusting anyone and she must overcome this on her quest to end The Final Empire. The Lord Ruler (the Emporer if you will) is immortal and apparently invincible. How can they possibly succeed?
This is a trope Sanderson also uses in Steelheart. If you love Mistborn The Final Empire and have not read Steelheart yet I recommend adding it to your “want to read” list.
Ever envied Spiderman’s ability to swing through the buildings on his web strings? Wait until you discover how the Allomancers use their ability to travel with speed and style…
Vin’s mentor Kelsier teaches her much about Allomancy and sends her to learn from others with different specialist skills. The story never gets bogged down in this training. It’s woven into the storyline. Of course, there are some things a true hero/heroine is going to have to figure out for themselves. Kelsier is a key player in this story are there are many scenes from his point of view. The grand plan at work in this story is his, but he can’t do it alone.
Mistborn The Final Empire takes a street urchin and member of a gang of thieves into a world of nobility and espionage, magic and mist. Vin takes on a second identity, Vallette, the only identity her love interest, a son of the enemy ruling class, knows her by. What could possibly go wrong…
The right questions are answered in this book by the end but there are plenty of others left open for future books. Vin grows as a character but there is still plenty of room to see her grow more.
This is a fantastic story that will keep you guessing until the end – how can you kill the invincible Lord Ruler and exactly what is the power of the eleventh metal?
4.5 stars from me overall, but rounded up to a well deserved 5 for Goodreads etc.
Almost 2 years ago I was invited to contribute to an anthology of 40 fantasy stories along with other traditionally and self-published authors. I’m honoured to be among them!
February 20th, 2018 is release day for the anthology titled OMP Fantasy that is available for pre-order today with a paperback edition coming very soon.
The One Million Project goal is to raise £1,000,000 over time for two international charities, Cancer Research (UK) and EMMAUS, a charity for the homeless. In future, there will be fundraisers and several launch parties are being planned across the globe (London, Scotland, Florida, Texas etc) for April. A variety of creative arts projects are underway, but for book readers, two other anthologies may be of interest – OMP Thrillers and OMP Fiction.
Discover new authors and indulge in some quick bite short fantasy stories with the OMP Fantasy anthology while raising money for worthy causes.
Look out for The Silver Warrior from me. Discover the adventure Quain from The General’s Legacy had on the way to the Battle of Beldon Valley and how he got the Silver Warrior nickname.
Each story has its own cover inside the book!
This poem struck a cord with me so on a whim I thought I would share it with the kind permission of the author Ann Burgess.
With each stroke of the pen
With each line typed in
With the imaginations growing
My life begins and I am born.
I come alive with every word
Whether it be truth or something
With every reader my life goes on
Through the years I live.
Sometimes upon book shelves I gather dust.
But my waiting I hope won’t be too long.
Someone will find me and open my world
To discover my hates, loves and song.
Once more I am born.
In thoughts of children, women and men
My character will love again.
I am the hero, the villain the friend
I am the one that kept you till the end
I made you cry and made you laugh.
I took you into the future or carried you
Into the past.
I shall live on until the world dies.
Those of us who love fantasy fiction get lost in what our imaginations conjure from the words we read. The train journey passes in but a moment. Our eyes droop as we set aside the book, too exhausted to read on into the night. Our families become widows and orphans to our reading.
In the summer of 2017, I asked members of my readers’ group 3 questions. Over 100 fantasy readers responded to these questions:
What do you love the most about fantasy fiction?
What else do you love about fantasy fiction?
What do you want to find more of in fantasy fiction?
The responses were a mix of the expected with some surprises. One surprise was the runaway success the number one reason most people give for their love of fantasy.
Here are the reasons in descending order. I could have used star ratings, but this is fantasy fiction so I’m ranking the responses on a dragon scale (excuse the accidental pun!) where 10 dragons is the highest.
Here goes in reverse order on the dragon scale:
What do you love the most about fantasy fiction?
7. Quests – Adventure against the odds
We love heroic quests against the odds done by hero or heroine. It’s about triumph over adversity during an adventure. It’s do or die against insurmountable odds. In what other genre do mortals to take on the gods themselves?
6. Characters (villains and heroes)
Perhaps it is because, in the realms of the unbelievable that exists in fantasy fiction, there is a need for characters to be portrayed “realistically” and deeply. This applies even if they are a centaur, elf or dragon, to help readers suspend disbelief. Fantasy readers demand exotic worlds populated by equally exotic and diverse characters. They can flourish in this genre like no other. When characters are relatable, their faults can be forgiven. Readers want to root for the character. Personally, I don’t think that last point is specific to fantasy, more genre fiction in general, and we must be talking about the protagonist(s) here.
I like this next quote: “Anyone can write a fight between wizards, but how many make the reader care about who wins?”
It illustrates the desire to root for the hero very well.
The villains of fantasy are not forgotten here. Rendering the villain in words in all their glory as intricately as the hero is every bit as essential. What is the first character that comes to mind for Star Wars? I’m betting it’s not Luke Skywalker.
“As soon as you put a dragon in a story, it’s a fantasy,” a reader once told me.
Dragons are the iconic creature of the fantasy genre. You would think that with so many stories out there featuring dragons our fantastical winged lizard friends would score more than 1.6 on the dragon scale and rank higher than 5. The story of dragons in this survey is not yet complete. There is a reason this survey had more questions. Read on dragon lovers…
Tastes vary among fantasy readers on this one. Some people want magic to be in the background, the way George R R Martin does it in his A Song Of Fire and Ice series. Others want magic to be something mysterious and unknown, the way J R R Tolkien does it with Gandalf. Some people want to know how magic works. What the rules are. This is how Brandon Sanderson portrays magic in the Mistborn series with “Allomancy” as an example. The term “Magic” could extend to superheroes and their powers and we can hardly ignore “The Force”. Almost no one needs telling where that comes from. When it comes to it, the powers or magic of the superhero is the defining dramatic concept of the superhero story itself.
However you like your magic, exploring characters with supernatural abilities making the impossible seem possible, and even fantasizing about having the same abilities yourself is all part of the charm of fantasy stories.
3. Imagination – No limits, anything can happen
Two words feature high here. “No limits.”
The only thing limiting what goes into a fantasy story is the imagination and creativity of the author and their ability to make the fantastic feel real and believable.
“Anything is possible.”
“Every restriction is lifted.”
“Make the impossible seem possible.”
“Only bound by rules the author invents.”
In fantasy, everything is bigger and grander. Authors are not limited by real world rules.
The message to fantasy authors is, go crazy, be inventive and don’t play safe.
2. World building, cultures, societies – other worlds
It could be a castle at the top of a beanstalk, a world made of water, a world similar to our own but full of surprises, heaven, some other plane of existence or a city suspended by chains over the pit of hell (that one has been done).
Whatever it is, it is the setting, the world building or “worlds unlike our own”. But the physical characteristics of the world on its own is not enough. Readers want to experience the culture and politics of the races that make up fantasy worlds.
The setting is a large part of the vicarious experience the fantasy reader is looking for. Readers want to leave behind the mundane world they already know and enter fully realized imaginary worlds brought to life in writing. Humans have a desire to explore places they have never been before and a fantasy fiction world is a place that desire can be satisfied. It’s about rediscovering that childhood sense of wonder at the world about us that we lose (or feel we lose) as adults.
Readers say they want a land that is exotic, magical and fascinating. Done well, the depth and richness of made up history and traditions can be breathtaking.
1. Escapism to another reality – immersion
Top of the dragon scale and the flyaway winner is escapism into previously unexplored and unknown worlds. It might be a little difficult to separate “escapism to another reality” from “world building” but survey respondents made this distinction when they answered the survey. The way I see it is an author could build an amazing world, but without a compelling story, and heroes and heroines to follow into this world we won’t experience escapism.
Finally, the worthy mentions for the most loved things in fantasy:
Fantastical creatures, potential complexity, storyline and time travel.
Readers want more than just one thing in their fantasy fiction (of course!) and we get a fascinating and different picture to the next question:
What else do you love about fantasy fiction?
Survey respondents were free to list multiple things here so there are more dragons awarded in most categories.
11. Duels and swordplay
OK, I get why duels and swordplay are not of the highest priority in fantasy fiction, but I’ve got a particular affection for them. And duels between wizards for that matter. Because I love them and this one from Princess Bride in particular, I’m going to share it here:
Normal service is now resumed 😉
10. Storylines and conflicts
As a fan of plotting and planning stories for drama I confess I’m a little disappointed conflict-filled storylines – the plot itself – does not feature more highly in the results. Perhaps because it’s like the air we breathe. We don’t think about the plot or notice it and we take it for granted until it is not there or bad.
Some of us want humour in our fantasy. I know I like a bit of humour to make characters feel real. Most authors will tell you characters come up with their own dialogue and decisions at times, and sometimes they are funny.
8. Quests – Adventure against the odds
Quests and adventures features a little higher in “other” things people love in fantasy.
7. Imagination – No limits, anything can happen
Ranked number 3 as the most loved aspect of fantasy it’s lower in the ranking here but remember people were free to state multiple “other” reasons for loving fantasy.
6. Escapism to another reality – immersion
For the few that did not mention this as their number 1 love of fantasy a great many included it as one of their other reasons.
It’s not many peoples number 1 thing for fantasy but plenty of people mention it in their “other” list. But the story for dragons in this survey is not over yet. There is another question coming…
4. Characters (villains and heroes) and development
Another strong showing for well developed characters.
3. Fantastical creatures and races
Fantastical creatures that could still include dragons for some respondents has a strong showing here.
I love magic in fantasy and it seems most fantasy readers do too, even if it is not their first priority.
1. World building, cultures, societies – other worlds
For those that did not list this as their number 1 reason for loving fantasy the vast majority listed in “other” things. Fantasy authors, ignore great world building at your peril!
And the worthy mentions
Romance, heroics & heroes, time travel, epic battles, excitement, strong heroines, alternate history, portal fantasy, mythology, undead, happy ending, heroine rescue, fight evil, mysterious guides, character unsure of ability, varied perspective, thought-provoking, past/future opportunities, dark fantasy, modern times fantasy, flight by creature, absence of modern technology, clean language and no sex, good vs evil, angels, action, fairyland and character groups
So know we know what my readers’ group loves about fantasy, the next question is…
What do you want to find more of in fantasy fiction?
This is the kind of information authors are going to love – what are fantasy readers not getting enough of?
Here is the ranking in reverse order:
18. Longer series
17. Standalone books
16. Humour in dark moments
14. Beleivable character actions
11. Strong female characters
Particularily in the eBook market, women buy by far the most books – 75%+ of the market. Strong female characters are a big draw in the market right now. I’m a little surprised this did not feature higher in the rankings!
10. Good dragons
Wait for it… the dragon story is still not over…
9. Clean – no sex or bad language
8. Funny / crazy / happy
7. Original story with surprising twists
6. Strong character backstory / daily life
4. World building details – epic
3. Epic Adventure / Quests
2. Magic and Mages
Magic is a big part of what I like to write in my stories so I’m delighted to see fantasy readers want more magic!
Dragons did not show strongly as the most loved or other things loved about fantasy but with 15% of respondents saying they want more dragons it ranks first in this list.
There will be dragons in future books from me in time. For now, check out the top 10 dragons from the movies:
Other things on the wanted list.
The remainder of the things mentioned come from only 1 or 2 people, but I don’t want to ignore anyone’s contribution so here is a list.
Women fighting dragons, conquering Kingsdoms etc
Names easy to pronounce
Surprise character deaths
Power from earth
Different worlds and cultures
Dragon and human interaction
New worlds and technology
Conan the Barbarian
Strong heroes and heroines
Coming of age
Biblically based fantasy
Philosophy and metaphysics (nature of reality)
Balancing world building with telling the story
Bravery and loyalty
Blurry lines between good and evil
Human and intelligent animal interaction
Prequels with more character development
Dungeons and Dragons stories
Dragons as main characters
Not a Tolkien copy
Less poor rising against rich baddies
Swords and sorcery bladesinger style
Creative creatures – pizza dragon (Eh?)
Get lost in another world and forget ours
Tight knit groups
Away from a few key features of fantasy fiction there is a lot of diversity in the loves and wants from readers. Authors have their work cut out keeping their audience happy!
I would like to thank all the members of my readers’ group who took the time to take this survey. If you would like to join my readers’ group click the Freebie & Newsletter menu option on this website above.
If there is anything my readers’ group missed that you want to share please tell us the comments section below.
I think you’ll love this – the type fantasy book giveaway I’ve wanted to participate in for almost a year that swords and sorcery fans are already finding on Facebook. I have organised the Swords and Sorcery Source Giveaway.
Tap the image above or the link below to discover free books and samples:
The giveaway is open now and there is no planned end date. Be sure to check back often as new books and samples will arrive all the time. Don’t miss out on what takes your fancy as authors can withdraw their books whenever they like, although most should remain available for at least 3 months.
Join other swords and sorcery fans and authors to share what you like about these books in the Facebook readers group:
Follow me into a frozen land plagued by monsters – interview with fantasy author and Glimpses anthology contributor Cameron Wayne Smith.
Cameron, thanks for joining me. When did you know you wanted to write and why did you begin?
Back in school I was somewhat of a joker and often turned essays into snarky stories. The teachers never really appreciated my humour, but a few of these single page stories did make it through the school. I don’t have any of these anymore, but if I did, I probably wouldn’t let you read them!
In 2012 the missus and I bought a Landcruiser camper to travel around Australia. We hit the road and I thought it would be fun to write stories while doing so. I started writing my first novel seriously while we were running a pub in a small town called Thangool. I did start very casually, but that was the point I decided to write.
What has the writer’s journey been like for you?
Well, the day we hit the road and the day I started writing a novel were one and the same. I’ve loved travelling around this beaut country, working from place to place, and writing along the way.
That first story I started, in 2012, was a fantasy story taking in a lot of creative ideas I had come up with when I was younger. I ended up self-publishing that story in 2015 (In Innisfail, QLD), the sequel in 2016 (In Esperence, WA) and the third episode earlier this year (In Queenstown, TAS). The whole series was discovery written without a target audience. Sadly, the originality made it quite difficult to market, but it will always hold a special place in my heart!
The concept of Holtur—a town in the midst of a frozen, desolate land, plagued by monsters and full of mystery—came to me late last year. Originally because I wanted to try my hand at writing a vampire story. My goal was to not have them sparkly, romantic, linked to were-creatures, or the result of an infection. I’ve got nothing against the way vampires have been used in the past, but I wanted a completely original take on the creatures, while still taking some elements of the classics. I wanted to create monsters.
I like the sound of your vampires!
The first step for my Holtur plan was to write a story displaying how horrible this town would be to reside within. I feel I did that reasonably well by bringing a cowardly outsider, Vivian Patressi, to the town and creating a story about his attempt at survival. At first, his attempts convincing Captain Sonja Bluwahlt, and her band of monster slayers, to fight his battles for him does little but amuse her. Experiencing the horror of the town through Vivian’s experience explains why, to both reader and the less than heroic protagonist, the slayers laugh at his problems. The vampires are hinted at during Vivian’s initially romp through the town, but the folk of Holtur have no idea that the ‘leeches’ are in any way humanoid.
The biggest change I’ve made between series is going from discovery writing to plotting. This year my writing journey has been quite interesting, landing me in the magnificent (but cold) Tasmanian hinterland, and I’m keen to see how the rest of 2017 unfolds.
So, would you now describe yourself as a “plotter” rather than a “panster” aka discovery writer?
I honestly do not know if I could label myself as one or the other. The Necrosanguin series was all discovery written, but The Holtur Trilogy has been planned… Well, it was supposed to be! In The Holtur Curse, chapter 10 has now gone for six chapters. So, I’d say I’m a primarily a plotter now, but the ‘pantser’ within likes to beat up the plotter from time to time! Without ruining the story, this section of the story, in plot form, was basically ‘x attacks y, but z goes and brings w along, now v has to solve the problem’. I didn’t realise at the time, that actually meant I’d have to write an epic battle the length of a novella, it happens!
Ah yes, I’m with you there. I have a final battle sequence I always knew would be two chapters, but I didn’t expect each of those chapters to be double the length of the others!
Where does the inspiration for what goes into your stories come from?
A lot of things! Where I’ve been and things I’ve seen and done. Books, movies, and games too!
The second half of my first story I got to work on not long after going to the USA and doing some ‘tunnel time’ at iFly in Chicago. My partner and I did quite a bit of skydiving that year and used the wind tunnel to improve our skills. The characters in my story travel to an incredibly large tower in a wealthy city, and I thought, why not throw a massive air vent into the tower for transportation? Of course, that lead to the next obvious question: Why not have a battle in that giant wind tunnel? Being fantasy, and marketed to no-one in particular, meant that it all came to life!
Necrosanguin also has a heavy ocean theme throughout the series. During the time I did most of the writing my partner and I spent a lot of time in and around the ocean.
This year, living in a cold, mountainous region, I’ve written about a variety of wyverns (if you don’t know what a wyvern is, for my style think dragon, but four limbed, less regal, more savage and numerous) and creatures I could imagine lurking in and around mountains. The shroud are probably my personal favourite creation this year; they’re a skinny, insect-like creature with large claws and translucent skin. These things are awkward, like a fish out of water outside of the ‘fog’, but within their special environment, they are practically infallible. I’m sure you can get a bit of an idea where some influence for this came from, but driving through winding mountains, in a fog so thick I could barely see, was what really made my mind wander!
For media that has inspired me, I’d have to say the two biggest things are the video game series Monster Hunter and the card game Magic The Gathering. The Monster Hunter games are, not surprisingly, games full of monsters. It’s a series that my partner and I have enjoyed playing together when we have spare time. Magic cards are an unlimited source of inspiration. I don’t play as often as I’d like to, but just gazing upon the sensational artwork on the cards can help me find inspiration.
The ‘kehrip’ creature from the Necrosanguin series was loosely based on two things I thought were scary as a kid: raptors from Jurassic Park and xenos from the Alien quadrilogy. While books have inspired me also, I cannot think of anything in particular that strongly influenced any of my creations.
Tell us about your Glimpses short story, Flight of Flame, and how it relates to your series, The Holtur Trilogy?
The Holtur Enigma was quite an ominous ride from start to end, and I wanted to create something lighter to bridge the gap to the upcoming sequel, The Holtur Curse. I also made the decision to switch point of view characters between each book in the trilogy. Flight of Flame was a great opportunity to take Sonja out of her element by throwing the veteran monster slayer into a ‘wyvern piloting course’.
Thank you, Cameron, for sharing your author’s journey and giving us some insight into your stories.
Glimpses, an anthology of 16 fantasy stories including Cameron’s Flight of Flame can be found here: http://books2read.com/glimpsesanthology
You can connect with Cameron and find more of his works using the following links:
I have another book I rate 5-stars to share with you.
Here is a thoroughly absorbing book best classified in the Steampunk sub-genre of fantasy. In fact, the first Steampunk story I’ve read.
Senlin Ascends is set in a mythical version of The Tower of Babel with apparently Victorian era characters that mostly seem to be quasi-British. We have airships docking at the various “ringdoms” of the tower and many examples of steam powered machinery.
Thomas Senlin is a studious Headmaster lacking somewhat in passion and spark who has an encyclopedic knowledge of everything around him based on what he has read from books. His real-world experience of most things appears absent. Newly married, he brings his young vivacious wife on a honeymoon journey to The Tower of Babel and promptly loses her in the crowded markets around its base as she sets off to find a “scandalous” dress to wear.
Poor Mrs Senlin appears to have to work far too hard to get the kind of attention from her new husband that a bride would expect on her wedding night. She resorts to innuendo – “would the Tower [of Babel] be tall enough to fill the well beneath it” to try and encourage him. Senlin is not a man of action. If he wants to try and find his bride lost somewhere in the 60 levels of the Tower of Babel he will have to become one. Senlin and his wife appear to be poles apart and early in the story, I felt the urge to grab Senlin by the lapels, give him a shake, and yell at him to show some bravado.
Josiah Bancroft is a talented story teller. Long before the end of the story, I realised that is exactly how I’m supposed to feel about Thomas Senlin, at first. But he is destined to ascend not just the tower, but his own claustrophobic limitations. At this point, I will mention that I think the book cover design is a work of genius. Go and take a hard look at it.
Josiah does an incredible job during in the narrative of simultaneously doing many things – building a world of plotting villainous characters, showing the world of the tower seducing Senlin into abandoning the hopeless search for his wife, giving the impression of his wife moving ever further out of reach into a disastrous new life while Senlin is ever more desperate to find her. It’s a little like one of those nightmares where you are trying to reach the door at the end of a corridor that seems to stretch further into the distance the more you strive to try to reach that door.
As it says in the book description, Senlin must become a man of action and that propels the story on a new and more dangerous course.
Senlin Ascends was one of those books where the stuff I have to do in my life got in the way of me reading it. It’s going up there on the shelf next to my other all time favourite books.
If you hold a flintlock pistol to my head and force me to find fault with this book there is just one thing I can come up with.
Early on in the narrative and also during the climax, perhaps when Josiah is trying the most to impress the audience, he might have tried just a tad too hard. I felt there were occasionally a few too many metaphors per page. It’s a subjective opinion that feels a bit like whispering to Michael Angelo that he may have overused that particularly vivid shade of blue he likes in his painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Yep, Senlin Ascends is beautifully and almost poetically written and deserves to be recognized as a classic story in the Steampunk genre.
So far I’ve successfully talked my mother, my wife and one of my friends into buying it. Don’t miss out yourself now!
I’ve moved straight on to reading the next book in this series.