03 May, 2012

Guest Post - Janny Wurts Introduces The Wars of Light and Shadow

Earlier this week, I reviewed The Curse of the Mistwraith by Janny Wurts (review here). This is the first book in the epic series, The Wars of Light and Shadow. As you may have noticed, I heartily enjoyed this first book and that means I'm very much looking forward to reading the rest.

This series is unique in many ways - the writing, the story, and even the structure, so I thought it would be good to hear from the author herself to find out what we can expect. She was kind enough to oblige.

Thanks to Janny for visiting our humble blog and for this great introduction.


A few notes on the series from Janny

Bryce, your take on the style as 'immersive' is bang on. I aimed to deliver an experience, as though the reader had been present, living the events with edges and full sensory impact. This requires full focus and no skimming, and not much room for inattention or the fluffy fuzz of ambiguity. I am not writing pablum, or aiming for middle ground, or striking to engage everyone. Sorry: No Elves. No Orcs. No Darklords. For those fond of 'simple' or 'short,' I suggest picking something else from another phase of my career.

Each book is built for a slam finish. The finale makes the story, and many things that look maverick, or even, present first as ordinary tropes will only fall into place and explode into sense in the latter half. I've always preferred a careful build that converges into hard action and an unforgettable ending, instead of the front loaded beginning that peters out and delivers predictability. Every volume also has a 'two punch' climax - a half-point shift that rips into a gutsy finale. That is part of the series' signature, except for volume two and three, which became a 'split book' - Ships of Merior and Warhost of Vastmark were designed to be a single title, but due to length, the publisher divided the story at the half point shift...the two books are more powerful taken together. Left intact, the spine of the paperback was going to rip in two, anyway. The decision was made to keep the book classy, and the binding intact for posterity, or, if you like, for a more satisfactory bang for the book-tossers who pitch fits, when a story ticks off their personal taste.

In addition to the creative formatting, there is an arc format to this series - it may help if new readers are prepared - the arcs are not self standing, but mark distinct phases of the story. Each arc moves the markers - everything read earlier will shift meaning. The story won't tell a reader what to think, the reader must constantly discern and restage their previous opinions for themselves. And new insights will flip pat assumptions, left and right, so best ditch your rose colored glasses and prejudice, because sympathies are going to flip sides.

Arc I, Curse of the Mistwraith - sets the stage, introduces the series and opens the conflict.
Arc II, Ships of Merior/Warhost of Vastmark - deepens the characters and intensifies the conflict to another level entirely.

Arc III, Alliance of Light
Fugitive Prince, Grand Conspiracy, Peril's Gate, Traitor's Knot, Stormed Fortress - takes the conflict to 'world view.' Things you assumed in the earlier arcs will NOT be what you thought. This is anything BUT 'medieval' Europe!

Arc IV, Sword of the Canon
Initiate's Trial (now released), Destiny's Conflict (in progress)
stages for the Mysteries

Arc V, Song of the Mysteries - last vol, finishes the series entire, brings the story threads to closure.

Each ARC, taken as a whole, also has a build, and a tipping point, and a roller-coaster rush to a grand finale. So the pacing of the books in each sequence will reflect this. Each arc start 'gears down' a little, then builds pace again, with the readers' former assumptions graphically rearranged - so that in the middle arc (five volumes/one story), the middle book frames its own tipping point, and the last TWO volumes converge at a gallop.

Due to 'nothing being what it seems at the outset,' expect every volume will deepen and unveil new angles of view, rather than sprawl into 'additional territory'. As epics go, the cast of characters stays tightly focused, it is the intensity and scope that shift the value and perception of what is happening. Characters will change, and as their viewpoints shift, everything they stood for may turn upside down. The story also shifts contour, depending where the reader stands in life. This book is not for a YA audience, I get notes all the time from folks who tried it too young, and crashed out, only to 'rediscover' the thrust of it several years later - that it is both an extroverted story, and an introspective one, all rolled into one.

When the entire series is finished, the whole plan will be apparent. Meantime - I DO NOT CHEAT THE SYSTEM BY WRITING CLIFFHANGERS. Each volume has a satisfactory stopping point. The books play best if read in order. The arcs were not meant, or written, stand alone! For the impatient: I have seen some dauntless spirits plunge in at Traitor's Knot (where arc III converges) and just get sucked into the action straight away. But if you take the daredevil leap this way, be warned: you'll hit pay dirt for spoilers!


Unknown said...

I remember Curse of the Mistwraith as the first fantasy book to really challenge me, both in terms of my expectations and in terms of the narrative language. I admired it, but wasn't sure I liked it. It wasn't until I finally moved onto Ships of Merior many years later that I realized I was ready to immerse myself in the world and enjoy it.

Thanks for this introductory post, Janny, and for the books themselves!

Unknown said...

*adds to basket*

Thanks! :)

Bryce L. said...

This post really gets me excited for the rest of the series. I loved the first, but to hear it gets even better? Can't wait for more.