Character-driven high fantasy in the vein of Robin Hobb, Janny Wurts and Steven Erikson
'Storm in the North'
a fantasy novel by Halla Williams
Ashari falls from the sky in the midst of a storm. Silver-haired, and with a voice too powerful to use, she could be an avatar of the storm god or something entirely new. But all her memories are gone. She must evade those who wish to control her and learn what she can do... before whatever is following her catches up.
Captain Tyril lives in the shadow of her predecessor, Crag. On the eve of civil war, the king and queen want him back. But a discovery in the forbidding marsh will make that rivalry the least of her worries and Tyril must decide the fate of the nation.
Former courtesan Gerna would like a peaceful life with a good man. She will use all her wiles to get Crag to be that man. But we don't always get what we want. Gerna's dark past will come back to haunt her. Literally.
The North's grievances go unheard in the capital as King Marik overspends and the Wisemen corrupt magic. Old enmities are coming to the boil and ancient forces, held in check for so long, are about to be unleashed.
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From concept to novel
These characters have been in my head for about 15 years. When I left English teaching in 2017, I had the time to get them to the page.
As soon as I started writing, the mysterious young woman, whose powers would be key to the series, threw a spanner in the works and decided she wasn’t going to waste her powerful voice by actually talking to anyone. That provided quite a challenge as I really enjoy dialogue!
But other characters decided the story wasn’t going to be just about her. Captain Tyril marched herself right into the centre of the story and former courtesan Gerna stole a crucial plotline.
And suddenly I was also writing from the point of view of four others: Crag, the retired soldier who finds the silver-haired young woman; the ageless mercenary captain, Westorr, who kidnaps her; his aide, the diffident Griff; and Bealian – bard, messenger and spy.
So it’s a multi-perspective novel set in a time of both political and magical upheaval. The question of who Ashari decides to be and what she can do is the arc of the whole series.
Book one really concerns the pressures Tyril faces and how she will deal with the various difficult positions she is put in, personally and professionally.
[very mild spoilers] Her father has a new ‘daughter’, her tact fails her at crucial moments, her freedom is taken away, her sanity is threatened and she has an uncomfortable new title to fulfil. [end of spoilers]
The whole story, from chapter three onward, evolves over only a few weeks and the plot-lines are closely tied together. Key events are shown from different perspectives.
I use flashbacks for crucial backstory so you really understand why some of them act the way they do. I hope it feels pacy and tightly-plotted, with characters that have depth and react to each other in interesting ways.
I’m what Brandon Sanderson calls a ‘discovery writer’. I’m starting on book two now because I just have to find out (and tell you) what happens next.
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Here's to more magic, machinations and memories in 2020.