And also for Fly-fever, Focals and Freehold


Fly-fever: infectious sickness resulting in high fevers and death in infants or those who are physically weak.

Focals: name given to the five chief practitioners of Grafting in the Eastern Canopy.

Freehold: fortified villages, remnants of independent states in the Eastern Canopy. The Freeholds have peace treaties with the Priest’s Council, however this does not stop the Argosians from conducting periodic raids, or some Nurians on the Freeholds from planning rebellion.

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Under the hood…

I’m interested as a general rule in complexity in secondary worlds, rather than simplicity. I want to find shades of grey in surprising places. I’d rather not just tell the story of the good guys versus the evil empire; I want to know about the guys who wind up being part of the evil empire because they think they’re doing good, and the good guys who commit evil actions as a result of stubbornness, personal suffering or sheer bad luck. Even the Argosians were not always as they are now: their civilisation passed through a period of growth and flowering just like that of the Nurians. They only gradually became intolerant and power-hungry.

If someone were to say, “so, in your story the Nurians are the good guys, right? Focals and Freeholds vs the imperial power of Argos?” I’d have to disagree. On the surface of it, the Nurians are the underdogs here. They’re the slaves who rebel, the victims of repression. But a thousand years ago, they had the most powerful empire in the Tree. And they didn’t behave much better than the Argosians.

I’ve tried to create over the course of these three books a sense of a complex world containing no easy solutions. Whether I’ve succeeded or not is for readers to decide, but I did enjoy the process!

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6 Responses to And also for Fly-fever, Focals and Freehold

  1. Bahiyyih says:

    You have succeeded beyond yours and our wildest dreams… It’s a brilliant, rich and obsessively fascinating world. Like our own.

  2. Helen Lowe says:

    I’m looking forward to “Oracle’s Fire” in this respect, but I certainly think “Samiha’s Song” drove home that sense of a complex world.

    • MaryV says:

      So glad you did Helen! I certainly wanted to turn the ‘rebels vs evil empire’ thing on its head in that volume. 🙂

  3. Tyson Perna says:

    I think you mostly succeeded. For a true “no good guys” kind of story, you have to look at works like Song of Ice and Fire. Your books still have clear cut good guys, like Tymon, and clear cut bad guys. I get what you’re saying about the empires themselves, and we do see your freedom fighters doing bad things, for instance. So the complexity and shades of gray are definitely there. But I do think your book is a bit of a “throw back” style to the good vs. evil in a way that many contemporary fantasies are not. Also check out Joe Abercrombie for an example of stories with no clear good guys.

    • MaryV says:

      Hey Tyson,

      I didn’t say ‘no good guys’. I said ‘shades of grey’. 🙂

      Tymon is a clear good guy, but he makes big mistakes and his actions aren’t always effective. Jedda is a multi-layered character who can be extremely selfish – but she also grows and develops. I specifically did not want to create an amoral world (ie good and evil still exist, there are definite standards out there if you want to be heroic) but I did want a rich tapestry of human reactions. Even Wick has his moments of not-being-quite-an-idiot.

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