17 Novels: Avenger

Good news! It’s October of 2018, which means the next installment of my Sikander North stories is heading for a bookstore near you. Look for Restless Lightning in your favorite local spot sometime around October 23rd. Four years have passed since Valiant Dust, and Sikander finds himself assigned to a squadron stationed in a distant alien empire falling into decline—think along the lines of the US Navy’s Yangtze River Patrol or the Royal Navy’s China Squadron. It’s a bigger story, with more characters, more action, and more epic battles; I’m pretty proud of it!

(The title refers to the Rudyard Kipling poem “The Islanders,” in case you’re curious. Worth a read.)

Next cool thing: I got to meet David Weber the other day. He came through Seattle on a book tour to promote the new Honor Harrington book, so I took a couple of hours Monday evening to go attend. Since he gave me such a nice endorsement on Valiant Dust, I brought a copy and asked for an encouraging word. So, I now have a Valiant Dust with a “well done!” from David Weber on the title page. Naturally, I also picked up Uncompromising Honor and had him autograph that, too!

Okay, on to my next retrospective, and the penultimate book I wrote in the Forgotten Realms: Avenger.

Avenger

The conclusion of my Blades of the Moonsea trilogy, Avenger pays off on the big cliffhanger I presented at the end of Corsair (mild spoiler alert): Despite his success in meeting the threat of the Black Moon pirates in Corsair, Geran finds that Hulburg has fallen into the hands of his enemies and the Hulmasters have been driven into exile. His old nemesis, the elven mage Rhovann Disarnnyl, rules Hulburg through a puppet king, and he’s determined to ruin everything Geran loves. When Rhovann and his allies strike at Geran’s family, Geran resolves to bring down Rhovann or die trying (hence the title of the book).

As I noted in my previous two entries in this series, one of the techniques I use when I’m brainstorming out my story ideas is to think about mashing up genres and classic stories with the setting and characters I have on hand. Swordmage was a Western dressed up as a Forgotten Realms story, while Corsair was an Edgar Rice Burroughs-style “save the princess” pirate tale. For Avenger, I wanted a revolution—a story of plucky, outgunned rebels standing up for the common folk against the evil overlords. Examples abound in literature: Robin Hood, the Scouring of the Shire, Zorro, the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, etc., etc.. I hadn’t seen many Realms stories built on that familiar chassis, and I thought I could bring something new to the Moonsea with the collision of characters and storylines I’d established in Hulburg. I had a lot of story threads to tie up in Avenger: the relationship of the Hulmasters and Aesperus the lich, the clouded circumstances under which Geran left Myth Drannor at the beginning of the trilogy, Warlock Knight Kardhel Terov’s plots against Hulburg, and of course the resolution of the romantic storyline between Geran and Mirya.

(I noted before that I’m fond of Westerns; one from a few years back that I’m fond of is Open Range, not just because it has a great shootout scene, but because I find the romance between Charlie Waite and Sue Barlow to be touching, authentically awkward, and true to the setting. There’s a bit of Charlie and Sue in Geran and Mirya, if you look closely enough.)

Looking back on Blades of the Moonsea, I think those books are where I really developed my own natural style, voice, and approach. Wizards’ Book Department gave me carte blanche to tell any story I wanted to tell with any characters I wanted to; the Geran Hulmaster books are in some ways the most creative of my Realms novels, and the least concerned with codifying or highlighting other things that had been done in the setting. It’s sort of a shame that some Realms fans viewed the books only through the prism of what 4th Edition D&D meant for the setting, because if they could look past that, they’d find some solid fantasy tales with strong characters and interesting relationships. Or so I think, anyway.

Next Time: I’ll take a look at my last Realms novel: Prince of Ravens. And then I’ll probably move on to other topics, since it just wouldn’t feel right to “retrospective” Sikander North yet: That’s still new!

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