We have a guest post from Douglas Nicholas regarding his Something Red fantasy series and its similarities to and differences with George R. R. Martin’s series. The latest book in the series, THRONE OF DARKNESS, has just been published, following on from the first and second books - SOMETHING RED and THE WICKED.
And for more fun we will be hosting a giveaway for the Something Red trilogy and a separate giveaway for just the third book in the series THRONE OF DARKNESS - which I am told can be read independently. So stay tuned.
Let’s welcome Douglas!
photo credit - Kelly Merchant
I’ve been asked to write a comparison of my books to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. After thinking about it a bit, I find some similarities, and a fair amount of difference.
Martin is a wonderfully prolific writer, and if he were a painter, he’d be a muralist—he needs a big canvas, peopled as his books are with so many characters and subsidiary characters—at last count, there were thirty-one point-of-view characters and a thousand named characters. Despite the familiar trappings of Western medieval kingdoms and Eastern desert nomads, the milieu of Ice and Fire is set on a world where there are nonhumans capable of controlling the seasons, dragons—wyverns really, and a form of zombie as well.
By contrast, I am more comfortable working with a close and intimate focus on a few people as they journey through a hostile but recognizable medieval Britain. Of course I’m introducing a supernatural element too, with shapeshifters and Celtic magic, but I do try to ground the story in a universe that’s as close to the real European Middle Ages as possible. Here is what bestselling author Christopher Buehlman (The Necromancer’s House and The Lesser Dead) said of Something Red:
Although Something Red is a handsome, graceful fable with compelling echoes of Beowulf, its strongest suit is not the fantastical, but the mundane. Without sacrificing pace, the author vividly presents Saxon food, Norman manners, the flora of Northern England, the primacy of weather and the complex relationship between medieval man and the beasts he depends on. With its smoky campfires, greased cart-axles and bees-waxed bowstrings, Something Red grounds us in the high Middle Ages so credibly that we are willing to believe in whatever monsters Douglas Nicholas asks us to.
Something Red, The Wicked, and now Throne of Darkness are adventures: hero tales focusing on the formidable Irish queen-in-exile Maeve—who calls herself Molly while she travels incognito through England—as the leader of a small group consisting of her granddaughter, Nemain, Molly’s lover Jack Brown, and the apprentice Hob. Hob, a boy in Something Red, becomes Nemain’s fiancé and then her husband as the books progress. Although Molly is in many ways the chief protagonist, Hob is our point of view, Nemain is both student and inheritor of many of Molly’s powers, and Jack—well, on the surface Jack is a powerful man-at-arms, injured while on Crusade, devoted to Molly, but he harbors a dark secret. The series—it will be a tetralogy—is very much an ensemble piece for these four, but it also has strong secondary characters: Sir Balthasar, for example—an Italian papal legate calls him “the so-frightening Sir Balthasar”—and his diminutive, merry wife Aline, who teases him unmercifully and whom he adores. (Sir Balthasar is the protagonist in the short story The Demon, which takes place before Something Red opens; it’s available as a free ebook on Amazon.) The book blog Books, Bones, & Buffy said of Something Red: “an irresistible mix of wonderful characters and carefully constructed moments that add up to an amazing reading experience. . . . I had goosebumps as I read the final page.”
There are also colorful and terrifying villains—different in each book—a hidden shapeshifter in Something Red, a sinister knight who may have been alive since ancient Rome in The Wicked, a Berber sorcerer and his band of were-hyenas in Throne of Darkness. Molly must find a way to overcome these evildoers as she seeks to build support and wealth for a return to Ireland and the overthrow of the usurpers who scattered her clan and left Nemain an orphan.
George Martin has said that he embraces the moral ambiguity of his characters—people are a mixture of good and evil, and they change for the better, or for the worse. With Molly’s little family I’ve tried to show how essentially good people might support one another in their struggle against evil, and so eventually prevail. Throne of Darkness is now available.
Douglas Nicholas is an award-winning poet, whose work has appeared in numerous poetry journals, and the author of four previous books including Something Red and Iron Rose, a collection of poems inspired by New York City. He lives in New York Hudson Valley with his wife Theresa and Yorkshire terrier Tristan.
Here’s more about Something Red, the first in his series:
In an intoxicating blend of fantasy and horror, acclaimed debut novel Something Red transports you to the harsh, unforgiving world of thirteenth-century England. An evil and age-old force stalks the countryside—who dares confront it?
During the thirteenth century in northwest England, in one of the coldest winters in living memory, a formidable yet charming Irish healer, Molly, and the troupe she leads are driving their three wagons, hoping to cross the Pennine Mountains before the heavy snows set in. Molly, her lover Jack, granddaughter Nemain, and young apprentice Hob become aware that they are being stalked by something terrible. The refuge they seek in a monastery, then an inn, and finally a Norman castle proves to be an illusion. As danger continues to rise, it becomes clear that the creature must be faced and defeated—or else they will all surely die. It is then that Hob discovers how much more there is to his adopted family than he had realized.
An intoxicating blend of fantasy and mythology, Something Red presents an enchanting world full of mysterious and fascinating characters— shapeshifters, sorceresses, warrior monks, and knights—where no one is safe from the terrible being that lurks in the darkness. In this extraordinary, fantastical world, nothing is as it seems, and the journey for survival is as magical as it is perilous.
Atria/Emily Bestler Books | 336 pages | June 2013 | Trade Paperback