Marc Aplin at Fantasy-Faction has been working on an interview series involving over twenty people, where he asked ‘superfans’ to talk about their favourite fantasy books/authors. He has very kindly asked me to participate and in return I wrote him some very long responses, talking mainly about Mark’s Broken Empire and Red Queen’s War trilogies, and even a little bit about The Red Sister books. With Marc’s permission I’m posting here one of my responses prior to Fantasy-Faction featuring it on their site. All opinions are welcome.
Could you tell us something about the series you think is overlooked or not fully appreciated?
One thing that is often overlooked or just simply not understood is how The Broken Empire sits much closer to literary fiction than traditional fantasy.
In literary fiction characters generally come before the plot. While in fantasy literature we mostly get to know characters based on what they say and what they do, the dialogues and actions essentially becoming the plot itself, literary fiction also puts a heavy emphasis on what they think and how they feel, which often slows the plot. In The Broken Empire not only does the character come before plot but the plot in fact serves to illustrate/exercise the character.
The poetic, profound and masterfully crafted prose we find in the trilogy is also more of a ‘requirement’ of literary fiction, genre fiction readers being generally more interested in the story itself.
Finally, works of literary fiction are known to deliver a deeper reading experience, with themes depicting what it means to be human running under the surface of the plot. The characters undergo experiences which make the readers think and question certain aspects of life and with answers not provided they are expected to come to their own conclusions about them. In The Broken Empire one of these themes is how atrocities experienced in childhood may form the personality and how the person handles, grows around these hurts with time.
Children severely traumatized early in life do not easily bond with other people. They often cannot love or accept love, they can become children without conscience, who can hurt or even kill without remorse.
In The Broken Empire some of the questions we need to find our own answers for are whether such characters after all the violence and damage they caused on others might be still forgiven, whether they deserve any sympathy or at least, an understanding.
It’s also worth noting that while in The Red Queen’s War trilogy the plot gains a stronger position, the above elements still echo through it. The main character might be more shallow, rendering the prose less profound and philosophical, giving way to humour in turn, it is still very much character driven with much emphasis on the protagonist’s personality, – both as a consequence of childhood experiences and as something to be further refined on the anvil of the story.