BOOK REVIEW: The Last of the Atalanteans (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 2) by P. L. Stuart

Book Review

Title: The Last of the Atalanteans (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 2)
Author:  P.L. Stuart
Publisher: FriesenPress
Released: March 31, 2022
Pages: 534
ASIN: B08VS15WTR
Book Reviewer: Christine Bode
Stars:  4.0

Book Two in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, The Last of the Atalanteans by fantasy fiction master, P.L. Stuart, opens with Othrun, Thurol, and Glathan: three Atalanteans in disguise as Lynchun soldiers using assumed names, entering the Lynchun border city of Lionshead, en route to its capitol, Lionfort. Together with the usurped Lynchun King, Centi, Earl of Lynchun, and the rightful King of Lynchun, Wely, this five-men ruse intend to get Wely’s kingdom back from his corrupt brother and wife.

Badan—the ugly Earl of Lionshead—sides with Wely’s usurping brother Orlu, Lynchun’s greatest, undefeated warlord. Badan is a man to be reckoned with and not discounted. Badan’s men are watching the “captured” Wely, for whom he hopes to be rewarded by Orlu while nudging Centi out of the way so he can gain the king’s favour.

Othrun, the narrator and orchestrator of their remarkable play, hopes that their deceptive plan will hold and that within twenty-seven days, their forces will besiege Lionfort. But he has no idea what lies in store for them.

And so, author Stuart sets the stage for another grand and bold chapter in this epic fantasy saga. He writes this brilliant chess match between usurpers, warriors, noblemen and mages with a visceral description of the sights, sounds and odours of the places his heroes occupy. Stuart perfectly sets the tone for the adventure and inevitable battles to follow. Stuart skillfully interweaves the fascinating supernatural tale of Othrun’s beloved, albeit cursed, Atalantean steel sword, Sure-Steel, and the Anchali, an enigmatic angel who claims to be his true father. Othrun has a hard time wrapping his Single God-believing mind around the contradiction of the pagan beliefs he’s surrounded by, creating an absorbing conflict of a non-killing kind.

Stuart also reintroduces the powerful mage, Lysi, Princess of Nyrimia. She is my favourite character and the perfect adversary for the Fab Five of Fantasy—regardless of her sexual attraction to the married Othrun. Fierce, fearless and intelligent, Lysi is the femme fatale warrior who will hold the fate of the Five in her hands. In addition, she adds much-needed humour, magic, and sexual tension to Othrun’s tale as she challenges his spiritual beliefs.

There are spies amongst the band of warriors trying to make their way to Lionfort, making their journey treacherous beyond the inclement weather and inhospitable accommodations. The King of Lynchun’s wife, Syda, also a powerful mage, wants Wely dead. It will take cunningness and hyper-vigilance for Othrun’s men to deliver Wely to King Orlu in one piece. Lord Badan doesn’t view Othrun as the noble hero he believes he is, so the arrogant Othrun will have to hold his cards close to his chest to protect his ruse.

Othrun hates paganism and blames it for the seduction of his brother Erthal by Dira and the downfall of Atalantyx. He believes that there is no room in the realm for other gods. They must eradicate them. 

“It was the God-given task of the virtuous kingdom of Atalantyx, I believed, led by my royal house, to rid the world of those idolaters. I had seen the Anchali’s power, its glory, and its wonder. I knew our Single God to be real. Any other sort of worship was heresy. Yet there I was believing in pagan magic, as wielded by Lysi.”

In Chapter Twenty-Nine, Yedwol the Old tells the story of the Battle of Berefet to Othrun, and the reader learns more about the history of the Altalantean warriors. It is superbly crafted. Describing the tragedy of war from the point of view of a thirteen-year-old warrior with the spirit of a dragon, Yedwol’s tale will make you weep. Beheading women and children for the gold in their land is beyond atrocious. However, the Berefetish people still tried to kill and poison the three hundred warriors left in the Atalantean army after their colossal battle as they resisted their sovereignty. Yedwol and his young men stole everything they could and killed everyone who opposed them while praying to their Single God. And how that sickens me. There is no justification for such behaviour and no way I could cheer for them.

Othrun asks himself if he could kill Eltnish women and children to bring monotheism to the continent of Acremia and secure gold for the prosperity of the Eastrealm, his soon-to-be kingdom. However, he cannot abide rape or violence against women, children and the weak, so he watches the shine of his uncle’s glory tarnish.

As war rages between Russia and Ukraine, it is difficult to read such a passage knowing that millennia later, in the real world, men still kill each other for power, land, and greed and because they think their religion is the truth. War is not only something glorified in fantasy fiction or history books; it is inherent to man’s nature, which saddens this reader deeply. Of course, we should never ennoble war, but for those who enjoy reading about it and want to experience the horror, Stuart is a master narrator. He also manages to capture the humanity behind the carnage.

Othrun’s conflict is authentic and complex. This profoundly flawed man slowly evolves before our eyes in the second volume of this epic seven-book series that author Stuart is planning. In this story, he must be a follower rather than a leader most of the time. Othrun befriends a homosexual warrior named Hani, who enjoys cooking for their party of conspirators against Orlu. Although Hani favours sleeping with men, an abomination to the Single God, Othrun decides he doesn’t care and likes him anyway.

After reading Book One, I wasn’t sure if I would care enough about Othrun to follow him on his journey. But after reading Book Two, I am pleased by his evolving humanity, captivated by the storyline, and cannot wait for what will happen in the next instalment of The Drowned Kingdom saga, Lord and King, to be published next year.

If you missed it, read my review of A Drowned Kingdom (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 1). Then, buy your copy of The Last of the Atalanteans here.

P.L. Stuart will be a fantasy fiction legend like his heroes Cornwell, Martin, and Jemesin before the last book in this series is published.

Book Review: God of Nothing: Book #1 The ALL by Shane Scott, a Writer to be Reckoned With

Book Review

Title: God of Nothing: Book #1 The ALL
Author:  Shane Scott
Imprint: Self-published
Released: February 6, 2021
Pages: 499
ISBN-13: 978-1735518213
Stars:  3.5


Gods, Devils, Titans, Dragons, Angels, Demons, Bool (a.k.a. Werewolves), Vampires, and Mortals all inhabit the fantastical worlds created by gifted author Shane Scott in his debut novel, God of Nothing: Book #1 The ALL.

At the beginning of each chapter, the reader is provided with knowledge about the facts of the worlds that Scott has created by Miranda, God of Knowledge (a Titan librarian and historian of the ALL). Don’t skip reading these as they contain essential information that you will undoubtedly go back to.

The story shifts back-and-forth through time, beginning in the year 2002 (January) on Planet Earth with Aja Ashe Jensen, a 17-year-old girl who lives in Maine with her father, Matthew Jensen. Vacationing at Matthew’s cabin in Naples, ME, with her dad’s friend, Dr. Theodore Kane, and his son—her best friend, Bobby—Aja is itching to take the new Ski-Doo she received for Christmas for a ride. As a blizzard is in progress, she must wait for the storm to pass.

We know almost immediately that there is something very different about Aja as she has begun to notice an electric blue and gold aura emanating from her person, while a serpent has been twisting and turning through her insides.

The next day, Aja goes for her snowmobile ride and ends up having “an accident” that results in her and her machine going through the ice and her body instantly freezes. We soon discover that Silver, God of Death, and a Titan, is responsible for the death of Aja, the Dragon. We also discover that Aja‘s father is Memnoth, God of Love, who has been hiding as a Mortal. However, not only is he God of Love, but also the God of Hate, Satan. And Lucifer is the God of Evil. I’m not clear on whether Lucifer is also Memnoth.

This is just the beginning of an extremely ambitious, complex story, that weaves in and out of time, space, and different planets that make up the ALL. The author has provided the reader with a timeline that explains the main characters, significant dates for their introduction to the tale, and how they are related but it is a bit hard to understand until we read more. There is so much going on in this story that one must pay close attention so as not to miss any key plot points.

We learn about different Immortals’ romantic relationships, how they are related to others, and what part they will play in the future of the ALL. We also learn that “before the beginning, God existed without form or substance. In the realm of Nothing, She existed as something.”  The author’s creation of the history of the universe that exists in this novel is interesting. Nothing is what we would expect based on anything in this genre we have read before. God creates time yet finds it difficult to hold Her thoughts, existing in a battle for Self. The only weapons in God’s arsenal are Her Will and Her Word but She nevertheless made nothing into something and with it created Her own body. Time confuses many cultures in the ALL and Immortals can walk through doorways into various places and times.

This book turns the myth of Creation that we understand, upside down. God created Memnoth to be different from Her and so that She wouldn’t be alone. Memnoth was her Next (soul mate). Memnoth named God, Ashe, and he loved Her, but She didn’t love him. She was not capable of emotion. So, Memnoth created Spirit, resembling DNA, compiled of threads that go beyond infinity, as well as threads of emotions, to fix her, or to give her the choice to love him or not. From this gift exploded a massive Dragon of Spirit that amalgamated itself with Ashe.

Ashe and Memnoth created Silver, God of Death, and first of the Titans. However, Silver wanted what she couldn’t have, Memnoth. Silver kills Ashe, destroying Memnoth’s love, and Memnoth, God of Love became Satan, God of Hate. Satan curses Silver to bring pain, suffering, and misery into God’s creation. And with her dying breath, the Voice of God whispered in Memnoth’s ear, “let there be life.“ “An endless explosion of God’s perfect, pure love turned nothing into Everything. God’s ALL, 12 dimensions of infinite, came into existence.”

The use of the capitalization of the pronouns is a bit tedious for this reader. However, the story itself is compelling and engaging and the author is a mad scientist genius with a wicked sense of humour.

In Part Two, we visit Planet Gella, Home of the Immortals (a place with few rules or laws) where no Immortal ever harms another as it is forbidden. The Immortal races control energy without technology. They touch sources of power and shape it to their will which is majik. What a person does with majik or tek defines if it’s good or evil. Mortals capable of doing limited majik are known as Seer, Witch, and Sorcerer.

Sel, a Dragon, falls in love with Lilith who is a Demon and a prisoner in the dungeons of The Castle Sovereign. He rescues her from the dungeons and after Lilith gets sick because she has trouble acclimating to Planet Gella, Satan (Sel’s grandfather) and Sel take Lilith to The Downstairs (where Demons are chained) and set her in Hellfire. She absorbs its energy and stores it in her heart, which restores her health. Lilith slowly finds her way to trusting and then loving Sel.

Sel is the son of Aja and Wyatt/Yennifer/Gia, and his partner is Lilith. Jaxx is the son of Sel and Lilith and his partner is Olivia. Jaxx and Olivia’s story takes place in the year 2236 on Planet Gella. Jaxx is the only Dragon with a Demon heart. He is in love with an eighteen-year-old Vampire named Olivia. Miranda helps Jaxx and Olivia understand their place in the ALL and the difference between Nothing and Everything which is very helpful to the reader.

These characters mostly behave like humans, eating, sleeping, having sex, working, and participating in a fantastical soap opera directed by Satan.

In Part Three we go to The Upstairs, a part of Hell, and a place of decadent pleasure. Cassamodia (Cassy) manages The Upstairs which is a hedonistic nightclub for every species in the galaxy. It’s where everyone comes to party in Hell. It’s also a place where they have a tough time keeping staff but when Cassy hires a human named Evangeline (Eva) she soon finds not only a capable, loyal employee, but after a long Ebezzian courtship, a life partner as well. Eva has an AI chip she calls Hal installed in her brain and it helps her to figure out how to win Cassy’s heart.

Wen, God of Chaos, is a Titan who stands between chaos and order. Her mother is Ashe, aka God. Her best pal is Beelzebub, the Chained God, who does anything he wants and makes the impossible possible. He hangs out in The Upstairs where he enjoys teasing the hell out of Eva.

In Part Four – Dragon, we’re introduced to Hugh and Alexa Nash (nee Conroy) who met in 1587 at the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots and married soon after. Hugh Nash works for the Devil at H-Corp as a lawyer who lies for a living. And Alexa works there too. They are still working for H-Corp in 2002 and have been taking care of Aja’s body while she has been comatose. After two months in this state, Aja awakens to discover her inner Dragon who she soon discovers is her identical twin, intended as a weapon of mass destruction. Dragon keeps Aja’s body alive and teaches her that lightning is hers to command and that she can do anything she likes, even go to Mars.

Alexa (aka Lexxi) tells Aja about the true nature of her father, but Aja has trouble believing that he’s the Devil. And I mean really, who wouldn’t?

Aja meets John, a handsome young man who she discovers is a Bool joined with Yennifer, a female human, and Gia, a female two-thousand-pound polar bear. Aja is attracted to John and stalks him until she bumps into him. John can shift into Yennifer (born approx. 900 AD and raised and tortured by Silver before she turned Yennifer into Bool) and he can see the past and all possible futures. He can also shift into Gia and that is when things get remarkably interesting.

Establishing all the characters, their relationships and their place in the ALL takes up almost half the book so one must be a patient reader because the main plot point concerning Aja isn’t revisited until Chapter 16 in Part Four. I haven’t even mentioned all the characters here. There is little action in the first half of the book but this is Book #1 in The ALL series so the author intends for there to be lots more action to come.

This self-published fantasy novel has been very well edited, has striking, colourful cover art that may lead one to believe this book is for Young Adults (I would never let my children read something like this if I was a parent), and there is no denying the clever twisted mind or ambition of author, Scott. He has included a warning on Amazon to let readers know that this book is intended for people 18 years or older.

It turned my stomach to read this passage:

“Excitement coursed through Silver when she conducted her experiments. She touched herself when torturing others. The amount of animals, sentient animals, and human species the Titan tortured, raped, maimed, and murdered would have left Charles Manson vomiting and begging for it to end.”

I was afraid to read further because this isn’t the kind of content I like or am interested in, but I pushed on anyway. And that’s not all. Silver hates all cats and tortures kittens. Ugh. Silver and Lucifer help each other but as often as they do, they also screw each other over, figuratively, and literally because Lucifer only wants to make Demon Bool while Silver creates the Born Dead. They kill their assistant and lover, Dr. Susan Baker via sexual torture. The story contains considerable profanity including the F-word and C-word, so read it at your discretion.

As someone who believes in a Higher Power, reading a book like this feels like bad juju to me. It’s like watching a graphic horror movie that I must turn my head away from because I don’t want to go there anymore. The world we live in is horrific enough. However, then the author writes statements like “No abomination can stand in the Light of God.”  I’m curious as to what comes next, so I proceed. By the end of this book, the tone shifts, and the reader is left to wonder about the answers to many unanswered questions asked by Olivia. We’ll just have to wait for those answers until Scott publishes God of Everything: Book #2 The ALL.

If you read all the above and still want to read God of Nothing: Book #1 The ALL,  then this book is definitely for you. I didn’t read the Amazon warning before I read it, but I would have given God of Nothing four stars if the areas I found offensive had been toned down. All in all, Shane Scott is a writer to be reckoned with.

Fantasy Book Review and Author Interview: A Drowned Kingdom (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 1) by P.L. Stuart

Fantasy Book Review


Title: A Drowned Kingdom (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 1)
Author:  P.L. Stuart
Publisher: FriesenPress
Released: February 2, 2021
Pages: 404
ASIN: B08VS15WTR
Book Reviewer: Christine Bode
Stars:  4

Othrun, son of King Atalan the Falcon, the Second Prince, and estranged half-brother to Erthal, the First Prince (sons of the pear-shaped island kingdom of Atalantyx), narrates this epic tale of a people who believe in “the one, true, Single God.”

Othrun is jealous of his brother and incensed when during a spy reconnaissance mission to the island of Acremia, in the Kingdom of Norsoon, in the lands of the Sanaavians, its ruler, King Mag gifts Erthal with his youngest daughter, the beautiful, tall, raven-haired heathen, Dira. It doesn’t take long for Erthal to forsake his knightly vows, and he spends the entire trip rutting with Dira and subsequently falls in love. As Erthal carries out their father’s mission for the expedition to discover its troop sizes and defences of fortifications, he finds no glory as the Second Prince upon their return to Atalantyx. The Atalanteans sent to Acremia to determine how they could conquer its pagan people, steal their land (although it was essentially only a massive pile of dirt occupied by pig farmers) and make them succumb to their belief in the one, true, Single God.

Erthal and Dira are bound to each other in a pagan handfasting ceremony, and he takes her back to Atalantyx and hides her in its foremost, western port city of Havenshur. That drives the chivalrous pragmatic knight, Othrun, mad, and he becomes more determined than ever to find a way to undermine the First Prince and claim the High-Chair and the Tri-Crown for himself. All too aware that King Atalan has always favoured Erthal over Othrun even though both of their mothers died giving birth to them, Othrun, Second Prince and Lord of Surtyx, allows envy to get the best of him while vowing to become a warlord.

The epic tale of the destruction of a continent commences. Othrun believes this is a result of the wrath of the Single God for the pagan sacrifices of many citizens of Atalantyx. Othrun and his 1,800 exiled followers are the last of the Atalanteans. They sail to Eltnia on the continent of Acremia, where Othrun begins what he believes is his life’s purpose, to eradicate paganism and rule all Acremia.

I am always in awe of writers who create fully realized extraordinary worlds in which to tell their tales. P.L. Stuart has achieved this with his debut novel, A Drowned Kingdom. He made an interesting choice by making his protagonist a deeply flawed human who must evolve to survive. I had a hard time liking Othrun. He was arrogant, vain, self-righteous, and sanctimonious, and at only nineteen years old thought he knew everything about what was best for his people.

I also found that the old-fashioned language Stuart used to narrate parts of the story was often tedious, but I am not a fan of thou, thee, and thus, and I certainly understand the intention behind its use.

Stuart describes in detail the world he has created, including Othrun’s favourite part of it, the Circle City, which would remind us Game of Thrones fans of the capital of Westeros.

Othrun and the last of the Atalanteans embark on a tumultuous, dangerous journey with King Wely, King of Lynchun, and Hert, Crown Prince of Carthlughe, to lead their people to their new home in the Golden Valley of South Lynchun in Eltnia. Fraught with deceit and betrayal, they are bound together to form the strength needed to defeat their enemies as they become embroiled in battles for leadership and land ownership. This story ends with a cliff-hanger that will ensure readers return for Book 2 in the series, The Last of The Atalanteans, which P.L. Stuart is currently writing.

In A Drowned Kingdom, Stuart has written a fantastical page-turner that includes some remarkable battle scenes interspersed with much discussion about and planning for how the characters will get out of the predicament they find themselves in. It also recounts the history of the royal lineage of the main characters and sets the stage for what is undoubtedly more drama and adventure to come.

My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough sex or romance in this book to light my fire. However, I did love the character of Lysi, the Crown Princess of Nyrimia. A beautiful red-haired, powerful mage, and feared warrior, Lysi is the strong female character I hoped for. She steals every scene she’s in and adds enough sexual tension between her and Othrun (who is married to his cousin Aliaz whom he loves) to make me want to know what’s going to happen with them next.

Fantasy fiction fans, take note of author P.L. Stuart. His work dazzles us and makes us think about some of the most crucial issues humans have faced throughout the ages. As bestselling British author Bernard Cornwell added A Drowned Kingdom to the Reading Club page on his website, we are guaranteed that P.L. Stuart is a force to be reckoned with.

Interview With Author P.L. Stuart

What inspired you to write A Drowned Kingdom?

Three things inspired me to write A Drowned Kingdom.

First, I wanted to write an epic high fantasy reminiscent of my favourite fantasy authors: J.R.R. Tolkien, G.R.R. Martin, T.H. White, Bernard Cornwell, N.K. Jemisin, John Gwynne, and others. That is the kind of fantasy I love to read, and that is what I have always wanted to write.

Second, I wanted to write a book that had its origin story as my version of the legend of Atlantis.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, I wanted to write a book that examined various significant and timely themes, like racism, misogyny, colonialism, and more. I wanted that kind of book centred around a person who came from privilege and prejudice and to examine how (if) such a person could change. To use the vernacular, “woke.” I wanted to explore the journey of someone becoming “woke”—that is to say, aware, alert, and engaged in social justice issues like racism, after being the opposite. What better context to look at this than having the potentially “woke” person as a spoiled, privileged, obstinate nobleman at the very pinnacle of society? Such a transformation would be engrossing to read, in my opinion.  

I look at my book like a hard-boiled egg. The shell is your very traditional epic high fantasy book, with all the trappings one has become used to when reading that type of book. The white of the egg, the big part of the egg, is the tale itself, which I think is an entertaining, engaging, and highly detailed story, including my version of the Atlantis myth. The yolk is about the difficult themes I spoke of. That’s the heart of the egg and the heart of why I wrote A Drowned Kingdom. Many of the bigoted, homophobic, sexist things Othrun says are things I have heard with my own ears. Those things have been angering, troubling, and hurtful. They have also been inspiring and motivating, an opportunity for dialogue, and driving hope for change in the world.

So when you read any book in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, realize you’re not just reading a typical high fantasy book about queens, kings, princes, knights, mages, political intrigue, and battles. You can read it like that, and still enjoy it if you like. The book is yours, once you purchase it, and everyone’s interpretation and aspects that they enjoy will be subjective.

However, I would ask that you at least consider looking at my books as more than about my version of the Atlantis legend, cunning mages, or a flawed prince. There’s lots of deeper meaning there, for those who want to see it. So, I would request that, as the reader, you consider not just writing Othrun off as someone you can’t like, so therefore you can’t appreciate my book. I understand it may be hard to like a book if you don’t enjoy the flawed voice that narrates the book. The choice will always be yours, but I believe that if you give my series – and Othrun – a chance, in time, you may be pleased that you did. Othrun, and my books, I think, both have lots of redeeming qualities.   

Were you a big fantasy fiction fan before you decided to write this book?

Fantasy fiction was my first love in terms of preferred genre, and I pretty well read exclusively fantasy and science fiction at this point in my life. I went through a stage where I read predominantly thriller and police procedural fare. But I always kept coming back to fantasy as my go-to read. Now, being a fantasy author myself, it thrills me to read the incredible work of my fellow creatives. There are so many fabulous fantasy authors out there, both self and traditionally published. My “to-be-read” list is way too long because of this!! So many amazing books to read.

Did you have a fascination with the legend of Atlantis?

I am utterly fascinated by the legend of Atlantis. Obviously, I am far from the only one. I have written about that in one of my blogs, on my website, here:

https://www.plstuart.com/blog/is-a-drowned-kingdom-about-the-legend-of-atlantis

The original legend, created by Plato, has so many compelling elements. Former glorious empire, supreme military, and navy, that has become the metaphor for the ultimate Utopian society, eventually destroyed, sunk beneath the ocean, perhaps by its hubris, or the gods, or both? It’s a timeless story, and how many people might be out there, right now, believing Atlantis existed and trying to find out its location? Atlantis can become a bit of an obsession, and I completely understand it! I always loved reading books about Atlantis and planned one day to write one myself. Well, I’ve done it! 

Are you someone who played or plays games involving fictitious worlds?

When I was far younger I played a little Dungeons and Dragons. I had a family early in life and with a busy career, there wasn’t much time for that sort of thing. Maybe I will take up gaming in retirement! I know it can be lots of fun, and completely immersive!

Can you tell us a little bit about your life before you became a writer? What did you do for a living?

I currently work in Federal Law Enforcement. I am honoured and humbled to have the opportunity to protect Canada and know that I am blessed, every day I put on the uniform. My colleagues are a group of extremely dedicated, selfless people. The job is so intriguing—something different every day. I love my job, but I am winding down that career, and my writing career is now beginning. I would love to retire early from law enforcement and be able to write full-time. I’m working on it!

How did you go about creating the world in which the story is set?

My world-building is kind of backwards compared to many other writers. I build the world from the inside out, rather than the outside in. That is to say, I created a main character first. Then, because my narrative is first-person, and all about Othrun, I built the world he inhabits, the history of that world, the other characters, outward from Othrun. Because that is how it works in real life. Everyone’s perception of reality is individualized. So we see, hear, smell, touch what Othrun touches. We perceive what history is, based on his knowledge. We see others, based on his assessments of them. It’s limited, but it also fits the story for the purposes for which I wrote it. Since, consistently, readers have told me they find my world-building really inventive and absorbing, I guess I must be doing something right!

What kind of research did you do?

To be honest with you, minimal research was required to write A Drowned Kingdom. Most of my research involved ancient warfare, which I already felt I had a fairly good grasp of from many years of reading about it, and my educational background, which included history, and medieval literature. That’s the beauty of writing fantasy! It’s all made up! I have so much respect and admiration, especially for my fellow authors who write in genres like historical fiction. So much research, and an emphasis on accuracy. Kudos to them!

Did you storyboard the settings?

I didn’t storyboard the settings except in my head. Certain chapters play out like movie scenes in my brain, and I write those scenes down on paper, as soon as they come to me. I tend to write the most difficult part of the books first—things like the ending, or big battle sequences.

Then I write the easier, more fun (for me) chapters. Again, out of order, but I’ve spoken to some fellow authors and apparently, I’m not alone in doing things this way! Some others do the same!

Did you create maps of the world before you wrote the story?

I created my maps of the world concurrently as I wrote the story. As I noted when asked about creating the world in which the story is set, I created the world around Othrun, rather than the other way around.

I am certainly not a great artist, but the professional artist enhanced my original maps, rather than changing them too dramatically. 

Did you write a series of characters and keep track of all their names and descriptions separately as you were writing?

Most of my characters had different names when I started writing A Drowned Kingdom. As I reflected on some of the names, sometimes there was that feeling that some of the names did not suit the characters. So I changed them accordingly.

I do have a system for creating names. I won’t get into it in detail, but suffice to say, i.e., the Atalanteans and Anibians have the posh-sounding, longer names, and the Acremians have the simpler names. After compiling all the names of the major and minor players, eventually, I came up with the list of names you see in the Appendix of the book. I have a much larger, more comprehensive appendix for my use, with all the characters that will appear in all seven books in the series.

I don’t have descriptions of them, because frankly, I have them all in my head. I know what they look like, how they talk, walk, what their tastes are, etc. That may sound daunting, but I have a crazy imagination and a fairly good memory for all that.

You wrote a wonderful fight scene in Chapter 18 between Othrun and Hor the Horrific. How did you prepare to create something both believable and exciting? I love the last sentence in the chapter: “Fools fall for tricks. Fools then fall.”

Thank you! A lot of readers seem to love that confrontation!

It’s weird, I never aspired or thought I would be praised for my battle scenes, but that seems to be consistent feedback from readers and reviewers. Everything I have read about fighting and ancient battle, everything I have experienced in my law enforcement training, and my use of force encounters on the job, comes into play when I write battle scenes.

Fights are quick, brutal, messy. Seldom are the combatants able to sustain a fight for more than a minute, with all the exertion. A minute is an eternity in a fight. That would exhaust even the best-conditioned fighters, weighed down by armour and wielding heavy weapons. There are seldom many blows struck. Someone typically wins, and swiftly.

I have the fight scenes all mapped out in my head, and then I normally experiment a bit, live, where possible. For example, I enlisted my lovely wife for the fight scene between Hor and Othrun. I got to play “the good guy” (writer’s prerogative)! My wife played Hor (she certainly is NOT horrific, but she drew the short straw). We choreographed the fight moves as they would have happened, to ensure realism and accuracy. 

As for that last sentence, it’s very insightful you picked up on that one. That’s very much Othrun’s game. He’s a bit of a daredevil, can be cocky, and likes to think he’s smarter than others. He enjoys the feeling of outsmarting other people. He sees himself as a bit of a trickster. He doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does, but he is quite clever and skilled.  

Can you speak to the themes of religion, religious intolerance, and religious persecution throughout the story?

I consider myself spiritual first and foremost, rather than formally religious. My beloved mother is very religious, highly devout, and I was raised Anglican. I feel more confident in my faith than ever before in my life. But it’s so much more about my relationship with God, rather than attending mass, for me. One of the things that I am particularly sensitive to, through that relationship with God, and all my life experiences, is the need for acceptance of others. I have never been more sure that all of us in humankind need to be far more embracing and respectful of people who practise different faiths—or non-faiths—from our own.

Organized religion has been such a force for morality, charity, and hope in the world, throughout the ages. Humankind may not have survived and evolved to this point in the absence of organized religion. Conjointly, because religion is the human-made construct around faith, it can be subject to human flaws. Brutality, subjugation, persecution, torture, war, and many more atrocities have all been done in the name of organized religion. Being a religious person does not necessarily mean one is a morally upright person, nor does it provide a license to disdain the beliefs of others.

One of the most terrible things, I believe, we as humans can do, is condemn non-religious people, or people of different religions. Therefore, I wanted to send a message about this in The Drowned Kingdom Saga. I wanted to highlight that we need to look carefully at how we think about the religions (or denominations/sects) of others. Othrun believes his religion is the only correct one, and that has given him, and historically his society, free rein to be contemptuous of other faiths. Othrun thinks that forced conversion of those not of his faith is the greater good. This attitude is typical of most colonial imperialists, throughout history, pick your empire. Atalantyx was certainly one of those empires. Such civilizations always believe they have the right answers, and everyone who doesn’t agree with them is wrong and needs to be set right.

This is perhaps one of the most dangerous attitudes that can be encountered in the world today. Does such an attitude bring us closer to Godliness? Are we so confident in what we believe in, that our beliefs must necessarily invalidate the beliefs of others? Are we “doing good” by trying to convert others to our religion? Those are some of the questions I pose in the novel.     

What do you think Othrun’s greatest lesson is in Book 1?

Othrun’s greatest lesson in Book 1 is that the world he thought existed, based on his privileged upbringing and narrow-minded viewpoint, may be a fallacy. Othrun was raised to believe Atalantyx was essentially the centre of the known world, and that its culture, sophistication, religion, military, etc., were unmatched. He believed no one could be nobler, more intelligent, more powerful than the Atalanteans. His beliefs have been begun to be challenged in Book 1, by the people he meets in Acremia, and this will continue in Book 2, and throughout the series.

What will his greatest challenge involve in Book 2?

Othrun’s biggest challenge will be simply to survive in Book 2. He’s placed himself in grave danger. Those who’ve read Book 1, I’m sure, will agree. And since he’s the best hope for the Last of the Atalanteans to survive, he’s risking a lot when he risks his safety. It’s one of his more admirable traits, his courage, but so much is riding on Othrun for his people. If he fails, it might not be only his death, but the death of all he holds dear that may be the result. 

Is there anything you want readers to know that I haven’t asked you?

I hope my readers can appreciate that my protagonist, Othrun, will undergo a journey where he’ll evolve, and change. He’s not always likeable. He’s a snob, a bigot, patriarchal, etc. Overall, he’s flawed. But even ordinary flawed people can change. We’re all redeemable. I want that message to shine through my work. More than that, I want people to understand that all the speculation, fascination—even angst and horror, about Othrun and his prejudiced ways is by design, and integral to the story. Through creating such a character, I wanted to stimulate discussion about things like racism, homophobia, violence against women, sexism, classism, privilege, religious intolerance. We see all this, by looking at someone like Othrun.

Other than the global pandemic, we are in the middle of one of perhaps the most turbulent times in terms of these issues we have ever faced. Movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter did not arise, out of nowhere. We confront systemic issues in society that we are confounded on how to address, and continually shocked and appalled at the depths of these issues. The one thing I have noted as both participant and observer in these unprecedented times is that we still struggle to even discuss these issues with any level of candour or clarity. Books like mine can potentially help, in that regard.

We are challenged to admit just how many Othruns live among us, how pervasive some of these attitudes and behaviours are, and that these Othruns are sometimes people who are close to us and that we care about: friends or even family. At the least, they are people who live right alongside us in the world. Do we simply write such people off? How do we communicate effectively with them about these concerns, attempt to influence them to open up their thinking, perhaps inspire them to think differently? Those are questions posed by my books. I don’t claim to have all the answers, yet I think the discussion is important, relevant, and timely.

Readers have commented on Othrun’s ability to reason and potentially be very open-minded and accepting, as the novel progresses. He doesn’t always consistently exhibit those positive traits, and it’s never a complete about-face from his core beliefs. That in itself is realistic. People typically don’t just change overnight. To paraphrase what one reader said to me about Othrun, “I don’t like him, but I have the potential to like him because he has the potential to be better. He has to do better before I can like him.”  But if there is a chance for someone like Othrun to change—even just a little bit—people in our modern era can change too.

Because, if we can’t move the needle on such change, we’ll still be plagued by the same problems in centuries to come. If Martin Luther King Jr., one of my icons, were alive today, I believe he would be troubled that, despite substantial progression made since his lifetime, many things have sadly stayed the same, about five decades later.

Where can readers find your book?

FriesenPress, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop.org, Chapters.Indigo, Amazon Kindle, Google Play, Nook, Apple Books, and Kobo, to name a few.

When do you plan to release Book 2?

The Last of the Atalanteans is scheduled for release in Spring 2022! All the books in The Drowned Kingdom Saga should be released approximately a year apart. With seven books planned in the saga, that will bring us to 2027 for the conclusion of the series!

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Book Cover for The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One

The synopsis for The Name of the Wind on Amazon reads: “The riveting first-person narrative of a young man who grows to be the most notorious magician his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard. It is a high-action novel written with a poet’s hand, a powerful coming-of-age story of a magically gifted young man, told through his eyes: to read this book is to be the hero.”

Book Review
Title: The Name of the Wind
Author:  Patrick Rothfuss
Publisher: Daw Books, Inc.
Released: April 1, 2008
Pages: 736
ISBN-10: 0756404746
ISBN-13: 978-0756404741
Stars:  4.0

The journey begins on an evening in a small village at the Waystone Inn on Felling Night where locals gather to listen to Old Cob’s stories about the most famous wizard ever known, Taborlin the Great, who had been locked in a tower and stripped of his tools by a mysterious group of seven supernatural beings known as The Chandrian. The young innkeeper is a quiet man with flame-red hair and dark green eyes who listens without comment to the tale. We learn that the locals not only believe in demons but that they appear to be lurking in their midst when a man named Carter walks in, smeared with blood, and tells them that his horse has been killed by a monstrous spider-like creature known as a Scrael, that is only one of many that threaten the townspeople. Thus begins our initiation into the fully realized medieval world of Rothfuss’ creation, known as the Four Corners of Civilization, in which something wicked this way comes, magic is not only possible but practiced, and iron kills demons.

The Name of the Wind is narrated by the protagonist, Kote, (a man who is known by many different names) as he tells the story of his life to a scribe called Chronicler, while his servant, apprentice, and friend, Bast, a dark, charming ladies man who calls Kote by the name Reshi, listens. Kote revisits his adventurous and often tragic past when he was known by his real name, Kvothe, and how as a teenager of 15, the poor but brilliant orphan that he was managed to get accepted into the University (the aforementioned legendary school of magic), to study to become a Master Arcanist.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully written epic fantasy story by Patrick Rothfuss – which won a Quill Award and became a New York Times Bestseller – I thought it would be more “high-action” than it actually is. One must be patient with this slow burn of a tale, as this book is the first in a trilogy that has not yet been completed, even though The Name of the Wind was published in 2007. I will definitely read volume two of The Kingkiller Chronicles, The Wise Man’s Fear, this year.

For me, this book is about the art of storytelling, the love of knowledge and music, as well as one man’s quest to find his way back to who he once was. The fact that the main character, Kvothe, does not initiate the quest, but rather his Fae friend Bast does, is something the reader doesn’t know until the end. Bast is my favourite character and I look forward to anything else that Rothfuss has to share with readers about him. He should have his own book if you ask me, but as fans of these books have already been waiting for 14 years for the last book in the trilogy, I won’t hold my breath.

I am truly intrigued and invested in the story of Kvothe, who I adore, although I was hoping for more magic, and at least some sex in this book. However, one of the things I love most about The Name of the Wind is the fact that Kvothe respects women and that there are no less than four significant women in his life, so far: Denna, Devi, Fela, and Auri, who are all interesting and complex characters. Auri even earned her own story in The Slow Regard of Silent Things. His story begins when he is a young boy, but the romance of this tale is both palpable and restrained and Kvothe’s restraint was as excruciating for me as it was for him.

That being said, it is Bast’s words that deeply moved me, in this part on page 716:

“No, listen. I’ve got it now. You meet a girl: shy, unassuming. If you tell her she’s beautiful, she’ll think you’re sweet, but she won’t believe you. She knows that beauty lies in your beholding.” Bast gave a grudging shrug. “And sometimes that’s enough.”

His eyes brightened. “But there’s a better way. You show her she is beautiful. You make mirrors of your eyes, prayers of your hands against her body. It is hard, very hard, but when she truly believes you…” Bast gestured excitedly. “Suddenly the story she tells herself in her own head changes. She transforms. She isn’t seen as beautiful. She is beautiful, seen.”

I think the reason that I love this passage so much is that I experienced that very thing only once in my life, and it has remained one of the most profound experiences of it. Kvothe states that there are seven words that will make a woman fall in love, and there are many possibilities within these pages but no definitive declaration. For me, they are, “I love you for who you are.”

Like it is written on the back cover jacket of this book, this “is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man’s search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.” It’s a story that contains adventure, magic, monsters, friendship, a nemesis, romance, heroism, and heartbreak, and for me, all the best stories do.

I can’t wait to find out what happens next.