Today, we have a short piece by Freda Warrington, who reflects upon her Jewelfire Trilogy. Originally published by Earthlight (Simon & Schuster), the series is also now available as audiobooks via Audible:
- THE AMBER CITADEL (1999)
- THE SAPPHIRE THRONE (2000)
- THE OBSIDIAN TOWER (2001)
Meet the Bhahdradomen:
They consume life to the bare bones, even consume space itself, but at the end of it they are still thin, still hungry.
It’s strange to reflect on backlist books that came out around 20 years ago. I came across parts I don’t even remember writing! And the thought process that brought them to fruition is hazed by time. While I’ve written in different subgenres, the Jewelfire series is my only truly traditional Fat Fantasy Trilogy – well, we all have to write one, don’t we?
After writing various other things – vampires, supernatural, one-offs and contemporary fantasy fiction – various factors made me decide it was trilogy time. And I wanted to make mine a bit different, not the usual fare of elves, wizards and dark lords. Of course there has been an explosion of fantasy series since then, in every possible permutation – not least “grimdark”, which covers all the pearl-clutching territory where Tolkien dared not tread – but 20-something years ago, I suspect that different approaches were thinner on the ground. THE AMBER CITADEL of course has a dark lord, but is he truly evil or trying to regain territory that his people, the Bhadradomen, lost in battle centuries ago? And this land, Aventuria, has a king who is not lost but who has lost the plot, to put it mildly. Here’s a short summary of the story:
Two hundred and fifty years ago, humans defeated the shape-changing Bhahdradomen in the War of the Silver Plains. Although they are exiled, the shapechangers’ hatred and jealousy of humans live on. Now, in the failings of a human king, they find a way to assuage that hatred. Meanwhile a third race, the mysterious Aelyr, although they also consider the Bhahdradomen enemies, keep apart from human realms.
Tanthe and Ysomir are sisters, living in the village of Riverwynde, two thousand miles from the capital city Parione. While Ysomir is in love with Lynden, son of the village leader, Tanthe is bored with rural life and longs for the wonders of Parione. But the growing madness of King Garnelys and the Bhahdradomen’s wiles soon lead to terrible events, the abduction of Ysomir, and the beginning of a long journey for Tanthe, Lynden and his brother Rufryd, as they set out for the Amber Citadel of Parione.
THE AMBER CITADEL was well received. It was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Society Award for Best Novel 1999, and Waterstone’s review magazine described it as, ‘By far the best mainstream fantasy I’ve read this year!’
THE SAPPHIRE THRONE – Book Two. I really enjoyed writing this book. It’s not a volume of filler between books one and three; on the contrary, all the characters are on voyages of discovery and meanwhile… the Bhahdradomen are rising! Because I didn’t have to build the story to a monumental climax – I still had the final novel to do all that – I was more relaxed in the writing of it and I think my enjoyment shows. Quick summary:
The destinies of Tanthe and Ysomir, sisters whose journeys from their village home of Riverwynde had a massive impact on the war, have driven them apart. Ysomir is held in the Citadel, accused of murder. Tanthe is pulled through a portal to the realm of the mysterious Aelyr who have schemes of their own. Rufryd, meanwhile, rages against the world and becomes Helananthe’s ambassador to the Bhahdradomen on the island of Vexor, where a terrifying fate awaits him.
This also received some approving comments, despite Tanthe not always making the best decisions! David Langford wrote, ‘Warrington plays ironic games with fantasyland expectations… Even the traditional quest for a cache of ultimate weapons against evil goes unexpectedly awry… By the end, after multiple betrayals, Aventuria is in blacker trouble than ever. Warrington’s trickiness and energy breathe life into the sometimes tired genre of mainstream commercial fantasy.’ And a reviewer from Helensbookshelf.co.uk also enjoyed the adventure: ‘The story is exciting and well paced and Freda Warrington throws surprises in almost every chapter. She turns the expected fantasy storylines on their heads and writes something a bit different with a strong personality – often sorely lacking in the fantasy realm. The ending leaves things in such a desperate state I NEED to get my hands on the next book to find out what happens.’
There wasn’t too long to wait for Book Three, THE OBSIDIAN TOWER. All seems lost, of course:
The shape-changing Bhahdradomen have invaded their lands and usurped their Queen, aided by the Aelyr lord Falthorn. Queen Helananthe has been forced to stand down or see the deaths of her mother and brother.
Tanthe, imprisoned with her friends in the Amber Citadel, must face great peril as they make desperate plans to escape. But even if they succeed, her sister Ysomir is still imprisoned at the mercy of the terrifying Bhahdradomen leader, Vaurgroth. One by one all strands of hope are cut. Deserted by allies, betrayed by Falthorn’s dark machinations, the Nine Realms appear doomed. Human, Aelyr and shape-shifter alike are haunted by visions of the final portent, the mysterious Obsidian Tower; a Bhahdradomen myth, a place that may or may not exist, and the heart of Tanthe’s darkest fears.
Here it is, then, the grand climax of the trilogy, which weighs in at a whopping 708 pages! I think I produced a fitting end to the story… I certainly put heart and soul into it. If there’s anything I’d change about this book – without spoilers – I would make the ending rather less bleak. I think I went too far with one of the characters. However, maybe I should stick to my guns; after all, in real life, untimely and tragic deaths do happen. In mitigation, I should add that this wasn’t meant to be the end of the Aventuria tales… it was always a case of ongoing struggle rather than happy-ever-after!
So will there be any more from the Jewelfire world? I honestly don’t know. However, these are the last of my backlist novels yet to be reissued in eBook formats. Reissuing means a fresh read through, plus re-editing and polishing. It may even mean small changes to the plot, putting right bits where the author thinks, ‘Gaah, I wish I’d done that differently!’ You might think of reissued novels as the Director’s Cut!
Watch this space.