The country of Lescar was carved out of the collapsing Tormalin Empire by ambitious men who all felt entitled to seize power for themselves. Now six rival dukedoms are ruled by their descendants, who all lay claim to the crown of high king. Dukes pursue their ambitions through strategic alliances and strength of arms while their duchesses plot marriages and discreet pacts.
As long as the battles stay inside Lescari borders, neighbouring powers are content to buy up whatever the dukedoms can produce and sell their rulers whatever they can afford by way of luxuries or necessities. Amoral opportunists come from far and wide to seek their fortunes in the mercenary bands who ride the successive tides of warfare.
All the while the ordinary people struggle to raise their crops and families amid the turns and chances of uncaring uncertainty. Many leave, preferring to live abroad as exiles, poorer but safer. Those who can afford to send whatever coin they can spare back to family and friends still labouring to pay the dues and levies that the dukes demand.
Now a mismatched band of exiles and rebels are agreed that the time has come for change. Can a small group, however determined, put an end to generations of intractable misery? Perhaps. After all, a few stones falling in the right place can set a landslide in motion. But who can predict what the consequences will be, when all the dust has settled?
I’ve always been fascinated by divided societies; what causes those initial mutually destructive hatreds and what sustains them through subsequent generations. This was given particular focus with the realisation in my teens that the Irish history I had learned at my Granny McKenna’s knee as a small child was so very different to the version I was being taught in an English girls’ grammar school. As an adult, I have friends who’ve lived and worked in the former Yugoslavia and later in Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia and I’ve had the opportunity to talk to people involved in the Israeli-Palestinian strife that’s been a constant in the news all my life.
So often people shrug and say that nothing can be done. But history shows us time and again that in the right time and place, the right people can and do change their world. That was the story I wanted to tell. Along the way, I could explore some of the issues underlying the sorrows besetting divided societies. I can do that in fantasy fiction whereas I would be impossibly burdened by readers’ assumptions and preconceptions if I were writing a novel set in our own world, looking at the troubles of the British Isles, the Balkans or the Middle East. Never mind the impossibility of trying to do something like that as an outsider and all the inconveniences of historical fact so inimical to fiction.
As a writer of epic fantasy, I am always looking for new perspectives on the genre’s classic themes. With this trilogy I set out to turn the affairs of kings and wizards on their head, by looking at the causes and effects of world-changing upheavals from the perspective of the common people, through the prism of historical reality, not least the economics of revolution.
While this new series is carefully written to be wholly accessible to readers coming fresh to this world, a few of the characters will be familiar to fans of The Tales of Einarinn. Others return after first appearing in Turns & Chances, a novella set in this war-torn country, available from PS Publishing.