Book 1 of The Sundered Web trilogy. Why I chose this as my debut novel?
I have written two books, but I decided this was the one to launch myself with as an author of high fantasy. The reason for it is that I feel this book will delight and entertain a far wider audience. I loved writing it so much, I am eager to complete Book 2 of this series. It is not a cumbersome epic, though I love those, too. Its main character is both young and earthy; the type that gets under your skin, as she did with me. Initially, this was meant to be a stand-alone book. But by the time I finished writing it, I knew I could not let her go as yet.
This story explores an ageless fear and choice most of us will face in our lives: Do we stay and fight for our place, or do we leave all we know and love for an uncertain fate? What if both paths might lead to death? What if one is our salvation?
Here is a teaser from the opening pages:
The Bridge to Magic
“To understand the history of our realm of Seramight, we must first understand the nature of the world we live in. Three realms of life circle each other in the dark Abyss, bound together by the Great Web. The celestial realm is ruled by the gods, the ethereal by the tsaren. Our own earthly sphere was ruled by the Kings of the Sacred Crowns for three thousand years, before Tsarin Reval destroyed their houses in the Sundering War.”
History of Men, Gods and Magic, By Priest Oderrin
All stories began and ended at the Bridge to Magic.
So it has been for six hundred years — the story of this age, the story of the battle against magic and its banishment after the Sundering War. And Elika’s story, too, began with the bridge. Were you to ask any man, woman or child, they would say their earliest memory was the first time they beheld its dark path or heard whispered tales of it in their cots.
There was a time before the bridge was forged, but those stories had been mostly forgotten. The dark history of that bygone age was now buried in the archives of the priests. Only the echoes of it remained on the tongues of minstrels and drunks. Elika had heard them all and each tale seemed more unimaginable and terrible than the other.
Those were dismal times of endless wars — men against magic, magic against men. The time when even the winds and rains were at the mercy of magic and its fickle moods. It might snow in the summer, or the winds might carry sand upon them and bury entire cities. Honest travellers feared to ride through the forest, lest the trees attacked them. A farmer might wake up to find his river flowing the wrong way or dried up altogether. Those days were gone now and might have been forgotten, but for this stark reminder before Elika’s eyes.
And who had not stood before the dark bridge in their last moments, facing that choice they all must one day make?
Like that hoary, old codger in the ale-stained uniform of the city’s Blue Guard who had stood before the bridge for nigh on an hour; unsteady on his legs, his sour breath steaming in the crisp, winter night, drinking deeply of the cheap gin, which was as likely to kill him by morning as what he now faced. He took a long swig out of his bottle as he braced himself for the unknown fate ahead.
Elika sat huddled in the doorway of an abandoned house, watching him, needing to know whether he would reach the other side or die crossing. Her ears filled with the howling winds rising from the great chasm, and she did not need to imagine what he was thinking, staring as he did at the monstrous bridge and the lifeless bank beyond, for she was thinking the same — surely it is better than what remains at our back. Better than what approaches.
She clutched the cloak tighter around herself against the icy gust of wind trying to rip it from her. She had scavenged the woollen cloak some days ago from a dead beggar, and it still smelt of his mustiness. She pulled up her knees to her chest and clamped her icy hands under her arms. The stone wall was cold at her back. Her breath steamed. She waited and watched the old guard take another wobbly step towards the bridge, seeking courage in his gin-dulled mind. He took another gulp, stared at the empty bottle in surprise, then threw it aside with a foul curse. The bottle hit the frozen ground and rolled off the edge of their world into the chasm, to fall for eternity in that endless darkness.
It had been a long and depressing day, and Elika was almost glad the old guard was finally here. Only that day everything had changed. Only that day they had learnt that Terren, their city, now stood alone in the relentless advance of the Blight.
That day, as the sun was rising, Elika was there, high above the gathered crowds, watching from the rooftops as the Blue Guard rode through the city gates, whilst melancholy bells announced their return. This old guard was amongst the rag-tag force who had left not twenty days ago to scout the boundary of the remaining lands still untouched by the Blight. Sent out by the king, they had set out to discover the fate of the only other remaining city, to find out why the trade caravans from Drasdark had not arrived that summer whilst those that left Terren had not returned. Now, the Blue Guard had finally come home.
They rode silently, their faces haunted, the desolation in their eyes as stark as the lands beyond the bridge. The same desolate silence had engulfed the crowd, and the slow clip-clopping of hoofs on the street seemed loud and final.