Friday, 18 December 2015

What makes Fantasy dark?

I find this an interesting question particularly about the fantasy genre because often the conflict in a fantasy story is good versus evil, light over dark and that implies that some nasty things happen in the story. A fantasy world or setting can be light and bright and inspiring and yet threatened by something that will destroy it all. It wouldn’t necessarily be called dark fantasy because bad things happen. I’m thinking here of Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant or Mordant’s Need ot McMaster Bujould’s The Curse of Challion and Paladin of Souls would also fit into this light and bright fantasy even though there is some nastiness in them.

I’m thinking this dark fantasy label has to do with the tone of the story as well as the degree of nastiness in the content. George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is in the dark category. It doesn’t start off too pretty and devolves from there. Your favourite characters aren’t safe from execution. Darkness can be in the setting, dark gritty streets, dark gritty battles, anti-heroes  like Abercrombie and Laurence.  In recent years, dark fantasy has become a bit of thing. I’m not sure it’s a new thing but it’s a bit more out there and talked about.

My fantasy series, Dragon Wine, definitely fits into the dark fantasy space. One reviewer labelled it ‘grim dark.’ A tad more nasty that your every day dark fantasy, perhaps. I believe the grim dark label is more related to Warhammer 40K. There is a bleakness to the 40K worlds and a lack of optimism. In my readings in 40K sphere the thing that lifts these stories up from their dark, desperate universe is the camaraderie amoung the space marines, or the other characters. While it’s a dark future setting, human relationships count for the most part.

I’m not sure why Dragon Wine came out so dark, but I think it does reflect some aspects of our current society-fear of terrorism, the reality of terrorism and the darker side of human nature. I think the premise of a post-apocalyptic world, no law and order and humankind at a low ebb feed into that darkness very well. At the get go, it’s not going to be light, bright and shining. Yet, there is hope there and a layer of light which I think brings it back out of the grim dark and into the dark fantasy realm.

The dragons too are not run of the mill, or so I’ve been told. No good luck dragons here. They are pretty feral and scary.

There is violence, torture, sexual violence and depictions of humans doing awful things to each other. Something I’ve coped flak for. I can only say that’s how the story came, that’s what the world inspired in me to write. Luckily not everything I write is this dark.


If this has piqued your interest here is the blurb for the amazing (yes, it's brutal and beautiful at the same time!) Shatterwing - 

Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.

Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.

The most precious of these resources is dragon wine – a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.

There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison’s best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.

Currently, Dragon Wine: Shatterwing is free in ebook for a short time. As part of spreading the word about Shatterwing being available for free Donna is doing a blog tour and offering a give away of a hard copy of Shatterwing. Winners will be drawn from people who comment during the blog tour. So leave a comment to be in to win people!

Dragon Wine Book 2: Skywatcher, the follow on book is also available in ebook and print. This one is on my TBR for the holidays... I am buzzing with anticipation to dive in! Remember to click this link to get your FREE copy of Shatterwing. Trust me, it's great!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Best of 2015!

Hello Groovers!

It is again that time of the year... raging shoppers are crowding the stores... Michael Buble has crawled out of his cave to release yet another Christmas album... and we here at Smash Dragons have decided to nominate our five best reads of the year. 

Now it wasn't easy... 2015 has been one hell of a year for speculative fiction. There have been some cracking debuts, along with the return of some old hands with new releases. It was incredibly difficult to narrow it down to just five... but in the end there can only be one! (err.. five). 

So here goes...

5) The Vagrant by Peter Newman

Want an insanely trippy alien post apocalyptic world with filled with demons and magical swords... then go no further! The Vagrant is one of the most original, fun, and glorious stories I've ever read. Period. And the protagonist doesn't speak! Peter Newman is the future of English speculative fiction. 

4) Uprooted by Naomi Novik 

I don't even know where to begin explaining just how great this book is. Incredibly magical and consuming, Uprooted is enthralling and terrifying at the same time. A must read for all fans of the genre. 

3) The Traitor by Seth J. Dickinson 

If you like stories that challenge you then you will adore the Traitor. Be prepared... Dickinson will draw you into a world filled with economics and conspiracy and then suddenly rip your heart out with a blunt spoon. The Traitor is one of those books that comes along only once every decade or so. Truly brilliant. 

2) Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher

Holy fuck balls... what a book. Beyond Redemption is brutal, and packed to the brim with adventure, action, and violence. It also, amidst all of this mayhem, offers a fascinating insight into the notions of power and difference. Truly the best fantasy debut I've read in the last decade, and the new standard bearer for the Grimdark movement. 

And ladies and gentleman... the best read of 2015 here at Smash Dragons... 

1) The Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan

Magic, heroes and villains, and a brewing conflict that threatens to erupt into all out war. Hogan has done something wonderful with this book by taking all of the things that I love about traditional fantasy and putting a new spin on it. I adore this book, in ways that no one else but me can ever fully comprehend. I recommended you all run out immediately and buy a copy... you won't be disappointed! 

Honourable mentions... I mean come on... it was tough to pick a top 5!

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley
The Builders by Daniel Polansky
Gemini Cell by Myke Cole
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
Hunt for Valamon by D. K. Mok
The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley
Abduction by Alan Baxter 

It has truly been a wonderful year for all things speculative fiction. I want to thank everyone who has supported this blog throughout 2015. Next year is already shaping up to be a good one... filled with lots of new releases, interviews, and competitions. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. Laugh lots... drink more... and enjoy each other's company.

And remember... keep on reading!