This book was sent to me by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review.
24.01.19 / Gollancz (Orion) / Historical Fantasy / Paperback / 400pp / 978-1473217713
About Miles (Christian) Cameron
Miles Cameron is a fantasy novelist who currently lives in Toronto, Canada. He is a military veteran and has a degree in Medieval History.
His debut novel (The Red Knight), first in The Traitor Son novels, was one of the most acclaimed fantasy debuts of 2012 and nominated for the David Gemmell Morningstar award. It is followed by The Fell Sword,published in 2014.
He also writes highly acclaimed historical fiction under the name Christian Cameron.
About Dark Forge
Only fools think war is simple.
Some are warriors, some captains; others tend to the fallen or feed the living.
But on the magic-drenched battlefield, information is the lifeblood of victory, and Aranthur is about to discover that carrying messages, scouting the enemy, keeping his nerve, and passing on orders is more dangerous, and more essential, then an inexperienced soldier could imagine . . . especially when everything starts to go wrong.
Battle has been joined – on the field, in the magical sphere, and in the ever-shifting political arena…
Q&A With Miles Cameron
Thank you Miles for taking some time to answer a few questions about book two of your Masters & Mages series, Dark Forge. Could you give us your own personal overview the series of what we should expect in within Dark Forge?
Book One ‘Cold Iron’ has been described (a dozen times) as a ‘slow burn.’ That was a calculated risk from the author; I wanted to do a careful, deliberate set-up of the world and the events that would drive the narrative of the rest of the series. I wanted to immerse the reader in Aranthur’s world so that the rest of plots could be both complex and grounded. I say that’s a risk, because some readers don’t like a slow opening… I thought it was necessary.
The slow burn is over. From page one of ‘Dark Forge’ the action should feel relentless as the characters and the plots interact at the speed of a cavalry charge. Dark Fore (like Cold Iron) opens with a prologue from an entirely new point of view that will reveal that there are things darker and deeper than Aranthur had imagined.
Can you give us a few insights about where characters are at the beginning of Dark Forge’s narrative?
Aranthur and his friends, Dahlia, Ansu, and Sasan are in an army camp on the morning of a decisive battle… All of them have different anxieties and fears; all of them will have to face a battlefield that features both mortal foes and horrifying sorcery. The battle, it’s results, and the weeks immediately following fill the narrative.
What was your initial inspiration for the Masters & Mages series?
I wanted to write a ‘Renaissance’ fantasy, and I wanted to write a ‘Mediterraneo-centric’ fantasy that took us away from the tropes of Northern Europe and offered something a little different; Ottoman Turkey, Saffavid Persia, Venice and Byzantium and Mamluk Egypt were all inspirations. But the book really sprang to life in my mind while visiting the Agha Khan Museum in Toronto and seeing an Exhibit called ‘Living in Old Cairo;’ there was a film about the Old City, and suddenly I could see what Megara and El Khaire looked like. Aranthur Timos came out of my reading about the Greek Revolution, Dahlia was inspired by a close friend who is an expert swordswoman; Ansu and Sasan were also inspired by real people, both martial arts enthusiasts; Iralia came from my reading about Venetian courtesans combined with a woman I knew in Bahrain.
How does it feel to have published the second instalment of the series?
You probably know this, but it takes a ton of work by a dozen people to publish a series as rapidly as Gollanzc is turning out the ‘Masters and Mages’ series. It feels wonderful; its not my first rodeo (when Bright Steel comes out, book three, it will be my 40th novel) and yet this is something very different for me, both in scope of design (an all new world that’s pretty much all out of my head) and speed of production. So yeah, it’s amazing.
Is there any particular element of the series that sets it apart from your other work?
In a way, no; by which I mean that my hallmark is to do a ton of research, and I sure as shootin’ did a ton of research for these books. But that said, it IS different, mostly because it’s the first world that I made up entirely. Sure, there are historical analogues, but they are not in any away exact correspondences; Sasan’s Safir is NOT Safavid Persia, but its own culture and history… inspired by Persia, certainly, but very different. Likewise, all new religions (four of them) that took a huge amount of time and thought. Hey, I’m real world religious, and I’d make the point the most of the people wo have lived ont his planet are (or were) religious; I don’t think (as an historian) that you can really imagine human beings functioning without belief systems. But the systems we have are incredibly complex, nuanced, irrational (I’m allowed to say that, I’m religious) and yet functional and organic.
The other day, a reader asked me what Sofia’s ‘sign’ was and how she was actually worshipped in her chapels and temples; a couple of days later, the same issue cropped up in my RPG. Think of how complex Hinu temple worship, or Anglican or Catholic services are… anyway, there was a lot of ‘design.’ And the effort anfd success (or, gulp, failure) of that design is what makes the series really different for me.
How did you approach writing Cold Iron and Dark Forge?
The same way I write anything. First I do 6 weeks or more of research. I’ve probably read 200+ books for this series; Venetian Opera, Synagogues in 17th century Europe, books on trade and economics, books on casting bronze guns, books on the function of the papal inquisition…
When I’m done researching, I sit down at my local coffee shop and start writing from an outline. I write 5-9 hours a day without stopping, every day, until the book is done.
What sort of challenges did you face when approaching the writing of this series?
I’ve already mentioned the challenge of writing religions. To that I’ll add the challenge of writing martial arts. I was inspired at the start to write a series that had a sort of secret message;’ where every scene had a ‘lesson’ for the martial artist, and every fight scene held a different challenge and a different set of responses. That’s a fantastic idea…it was and remains very challenging to actually write.
Why did you choose to write fantasy and historical fiction over other genres?
I’m so tempted to say ‘for the money.’ But, OK, seriously; I read those genres. But I also read mystery and thrillers and I’ve written those, too (eight of them). I’m a writer; I can write anything. I have no idea why these pigeon holes are so important to critics and readers… I read everything, and I like to write everything. I write horror (never tries to sell any, but I do it as an exercise) and poetry, both rhyming and blank verse’ I have a Western short story; I will eventually write some ‘literary’ fiction.
But… fantasy. I’ve read fantasy since I got The Hobbit at age 7 and it remains my ‘home’ and I sort of ‘think’ in fantasy.
Are there any authors that directly influence your writing?
So many that I can’t probably list or remember them all. But here’s a few; Alexander Dumas, Patrick O’Brian, Dorothy Dunnet, JRR Tolkien, Lois McMaster Bujold, CJ Cherryh, CS Friedman, Robert Heinlein, ER Edison, William Morris, China Mieville. But I’m influenced right now by some great writers in the current generation;, Dan Abnett, Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, Nick Eames, John Gwynne, Anne Smith Spark, Tasha Suri and a dozen more.
Have you got a hobby/activity you do to wind down from all the writing?
Let’s see… I’m a fanatic historical reenactor; I reenact the late 14th century and also Classical Greece. I do martial arts, and I teach sword fighting. I fight in armour at tournaments. I lead wilderness camping trips both winter and summer. I like to fly fish and sometimes I even catch something. I love travel, and I drag my family around Europe and the Middle East to see the sights I need for my books.
Also, I like to drink good red wine and pet cats.
Finally, have you read a book/article recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this post?
I’ll offer two very different books. John Gwynne’s ‘A Time of Blood’ came in the mail on Friday. It’s a tour de force and I’d recommend it to everyone who likes epic fantasy, a nd now I can’t wait for the next one! And in a completely different direction, Joan Conelly’s ‘The Parthenon Enigma’ was the most moving, most influential piece of non-fiction I read last year; about the building of the Parthenon and the importance of sacrifice in democracy. It’s not dry and dead; It’s about us, in the time of Brexit and Trump.
Thank you Miles Cameron for some amazing insights into Dark Forge and you spectacular career as an author. You are clearly dedicated to the craft and invest so much time and energy to flesh out your stories which makes them so much more immersive.
Thanks everyone for stopping by to support Dark Forge, Miles Cameron and Gollancz’s Blog Tour, I really appreciate it. There are plenty more stops on the tour so please take the time to check out the other bloggers taking part (poster at the top of the page). If this is the calibre of fantasy we are looking at in 2019 then we are in for an exceptional year.