Chronicles of a Cosmic Warlord - A new Fantasy series
|The first two novels of the Chronicles of A Cosmic Warlord series|
I love going into a bookshop - be it Waterstones or The Works - but my favourite place to go is the Waterstones in my home city of Wakefield. I've been visiting the shop since it was an Ottakars years before, and I visit at least once a week.
Martin and I also walk past the shop regularly, giving me a good chance to look at the signs by the door and keep an eye on the store's 'news.' It was last spring when I walked past and saw a poster heralding a book-signing. I'd never attended a book signing before (the ones I was interested in being too far away in the past) so I stopped for a proper read. The book was called Empire of the Saviours, by an author called A J Dalton. I'd never heard of the man - I'll put my hands up to that straight away - but the book was a fantasy novel so I was immediately interested. The signing was a few weeks away, so Martin suggested that I download a sample on my Kindle to see if the book suited me. I tend to use my Kindle to map my way around the Indie world, but the ability to download a sample of a book before you buy it continues to be one of my favourite features. As soon as we were home, I hunted out the sample and downloaded it. I read it straight away, wanting to give it some thought before I met the book's author.
|Empire of The Saviours (Or Book One)|
With these thoughts in mind I went to the signing, happy in the knowledge that I had found myself a decent new fantasy novel to feed my reading 'habit' - and as a particularly special bonus, I would have to opportunity to meet a fantasy author: someone who actually lives my dream!
The only downside to the time of this signing was that it coincided with the time when the only books that existed were the infamous Fifty Shades series - or at least that's how it felt. With these three dominating book sales everywhere, a reasonably unheard-of author would surely struggle.
So I wasn't surprised to find that the signing was a reasonably quiet event, but that served as an advantage for me (and more people turned up - including neighbours of ours - after we had finished).
|Apologies for my blurry camera skills!!!|
So it came about that I met A.J Dalton, after admitting we had come to Waterstones with the intention of getting a a nicely signed book (which he dutifully signed straight away), we started chatting about the book. The first thing I learned was that Dalton was not happy with the book design for Empire, mainly because of the appearance of Jillian, his protagonist and the young man on the front cover. He felt that Jillian looked far too feminine to be the character he created, but told me that this end result was much better than the first cover design, which he thought looked like it belonged to a different type of book entirely!
|The result of the first signing!|
Dalton himself is a very nice man. The only fantasy author I have ever seen before this is Sir Terry Pratchett, who also seems to be a very nice man, but I've only ever seen him on television. Dalton was the first author I had met in person, and I'd had no idea what to expect. He was kind enough to listen to me telling him that I also wanted to be a fantasy author, and even offered to give me advice on my own writing if I wanted. He even enjoyed an equally lengthy conversation with my husband - a man who will readily admit that he is not a reader at all - which Martin was very pleased by.
If I had come away from this, and then found the book to be either bland or not to my tastes, I would still have been happy. But after I quickly re-read the first chapter and moved on to chapter two I felt that would be unlikely. With the introduction of Freda, who quickly earned her place as my favourite character, I found myself utterly hooked.
The plot is addictive, and has been arranged well. Rather than a continuous story, broken only by sudden changes in scene, Empire has been separated into nice, sensible chapters, making it easier for readers to break off to deal with annoying necessities, such as eating, sleeping, bathing and (that greatest of reader's agonies) going to work. The chapter headings, which look set to continue throughout the series, are particularly pretty, and when read together make up a nice little poem that (to this reader at least) has some similarities to a certain poem that begins with Up the Airy Mountain...
If you do not enjoy a plot-line which owes too much weight to a religion, you may not enjoy this series as much as I do. However, most fantasy novels have some emphasis to gods, demons, and the rites that link them, so most should enjoy it. Besides that, the religion in these books is tied in nicely with the plots and schemes of the eventual main antagonists. I can't explain it without giving too much of the story away, but it isn't a story about religion, so don't let what I have said put you off. There is plenty of action to be had, magic in many glorious - and occasionally gory - forms. There is humour in abundance (with some characters) and even a snuggly little chunk of romance for those who like that kind of thing without it dominating the entire plot.
But the real triumph of the book is its wonderful characters. Good character development is the real success reason for a book's success, and this was no exception. Empire of the Saviours contains a wealth of rich and varied characters, who will quickly leave strong impressions on the reader, be they good or bad.. The main protagonist, Jillian, who makes for a believable hero, will really resonate with most readers. He's not a typical hero, and from his point of view at least, has only become a hero whilst events pushed him along for the ride. Another character who deserves special mention is Torpeth, a pagan holy(ish) man who is as troubling as he is hilarious. I doubt that many people will be able to read about him without smiling. He, is however, also a very important character, with a rich background that readers should enjoy. As well as comic relief, Torpeth also plays the role of precautionary tale, warning the younger characters - mainly Jillian and Aspin - of what could happen to them. Aspin is perhaps the most under-appreciated character in the book, which is a shame. He is a young pagan warrior, caught up in a bizarre scheme of Torpeth's, who has the fascinating ability of being able to 'read' people's true intentions and identify if they are good or evil. He gets some more focus in the second book, but he is a quieter character that I think could be easily overlooked in favour of the other, livelier characters.
Readers will not be disappointed by the antagonists: an empire of alien beings known ultimately as the Declension, but known more often as the Saviours. In Empire, we are introduced to four of them: D'Zel: a Saviour who acts quickly to protect his own interests but is the least involved in the story; D'Shaa; a female Saviour whose comparative youth and inexperience makes her seem vulnerable despite her sense of preservation; D'Selle: an ambitious and vicious character who would think nothing of destroying his own kind to further his interests, and finally Elder Thraal, the apparent leader of the Saviours.
The Saviours have control over a region of the world, using their self-established religion, and maintain control with a Saint, who acts as a holy representative to the 'blessed saviours.' D'Zel has Saint Goza: a grotesquely corpulent figure who will literally eat anything in sight and is not above cannibalism (although he does prefer cooked food). Goza does not appear in the book for long, but he is memorable enough. D'Selle has control over the beautiful Saint Izat - a vain and entirely oversexed woman who expects that her good looks and seductive charms will get her anything she wants. She is by far the most comical Saint, but I particularly enjoy the way she refers to D'Selle as "Divinity" rather than the traditional "Holy One." Meanwhile, D'Shaa has control of the Saint Azual, known particularly as the Mad Saint, who is the main monster of the story. Because of this we learn his tragic back-story, and Dalton pulls out all the stops to take us through Azual's descent into madness as his hunt for Jillian grows evermore desperate. He is a perfect villain, one who readers will love to hate and maybe even feel sorry for. His only unforgivable flaw? Praxis! Whilst Azual's decisions lead to some hilarity when Praxis meets Torpeth, they also lead to Praxis continuing to be...Praxis.
Elder Thraal does not introduce a Saint of his own, but he is responsible for the introduction of a much more fascinating character - The Peculiar.
I can't really say too much about this character without spoiling the plot, other than:
1. He has more names than most readers have socks, and
2. He really is too good to be true.
However, I must stop to tell my readers about the character who I think is the true star of the book, if not the whole series: Freda. The whole of Chapter 2 is devoted to introducing her, and had me hooked from the first sentence. Freda is a woman who can travel through rock - or the thickness, as she calls it - like water, and is believed to suffer particularly from a condition called the rock blight. She suffers in direct sunlight, and can barely see, but has phenomenal strength. In truth she is the daughter of the pagan god, Gar of the Still Stone, and is perhaps one of the most powerful characters in the book. On top of this, she is an honest, kind-hearted and loving character, who will do anything for her friends and agonise if she cannot. Sadly, certain characters are quick to take advantage of her generous nature for their own means. If Jillian is the focus of the series, and Torpeth the comical side, then Freda is its heart. She is a lovely, unique character who needs a much bigger fanbase.
The book concludes with a fast-paced and dramatic stand-off against the completely demented and fanatical Azual in Jillian's home-town of Godsend, leaving plenty of continuing story threads and unanswered questions that earned Dalton a firm fan in myself, and left me going berserk waiting for the second book...
|Book Two - Gateway of The Saviours|
Gateway of The Saviours was released in book-stores last March, and in Wakefield a copy was snapped up very quickly. As the title suggests, the second book involves a lot of travelling to other worlds. The first chapter, rather than telling the reader what Jillian is doing, introduces us to a brand new character: Ba'zel, a young saviour living in the dire and shadowy homeworld of the Declension. Ba'zel believes that he is unstable: a term deliberately italicized due to its dreadfulness. His unstable character makes Ba'zel a danger to his world, as he is likely to unravel all their hard work unless he is destroyed. Turns out the saviours in Jillian's world are just living in an outpost, and their people are an empire of leeches. Reading the first book will have prepared you for this, but it would appear that they do not understand the concept of over-farming. Their objective as a result is to continue inhabiting new worlds to ensure their survival. Fandoms all over the imagination multi-verse will be able to provide examples of similar races, although none quite the same, as the Declension. Ba'zel's father - a somewhat haughty Saviour by the name of Elder Faal - is making the honourable decision of destroying his son, and Ba'zel seems to have resigned himself to this fate. But beneath the pitiable exterior there would seem to be a tenacious little character, for Ba'zel escapes his home realm, defies his father, and embarks on an increasingly destructive and fast-paced adventure through the Declension's empire. Whilst he turns out to be a tenacious and resourceful character, it is revealed (with the introduction of the Declension's disturbingly sensible leader), that he is nothing more than part of a great (sensible) plan...
Meanwhile, Jillian is tricked by the Peculiar and Freda agonises over her involvement, Torpeth and Aspin are forced to leave their home in the mountains, and the town of Godsend prepares for retribution. In a sad turn of events, Praxis is still alive (boo!), some idiot has made him a Saviour, and I really miss Azual. To top it all off, he becomes a junkie of the disturbing variety, which leads to some disturbing scenes. I expect that some readers may like the change it him, and it certainly adds a different feeling to his involvement in the book.
This book follows a much faster pace than the previous, as Jillian (having fallen victim to one of the Peculiar's nastier tricks) has left Godsend and his beloved Hella behind to find Haven. Praxis takes full advantage, culminating in a violent, and scary, battle that isn't without tragedy.
As for Aspin, he's forced to leave his village and hopes of marrying his beloved behind for a second time. Fortunately (or not) he's now accompanied by Torpeth, whose past - brought into focus at the end of the last book - becomes more apparent as they travel through the lands of the dead and into the territory of ancient gods.
Freda is still Freda, as wonderfully honest and decent as she ever was. Her fans will get to see her indulge in even more heroics, agonising personal dilemmas, and also the beautiful revelation of her true identity.
Gateway had a little disadvantage in that it is preceded by Empire, so fans already expect things from it. But thankfully it delivers, even offering a fresh side-line with the introduction of Ba'Zel. There is a darker side in this second installation, and a lot of character exploration - not to mention Izat's vibrant sexuality. Watch out for the most beautiful conversation between Torpeth and Izat, which would be completely out of character if it wasn't for the history that is revealed between the two. It's probably one of the most fascinating exchanges in the series so far, and is masterfully written.
The third installation, Tithe of the Saviours, is progressing well, although there is no official date for its release. The best information can be gathered from Dalton's own website, along with details of other publications, contact details, and anything else he chooses to put there. I for one am keeping a firm eye on the site for the release date, and no doubt others will too.
I hope I haven't been too fangirly, but this is a series I would definitely urge you to try!