This book was sent to me by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review.
27.06.19 / Gollancz / Fantasy / Hardback / 448pp / 978-1473224612
Target Audience: Fantasy readers who love bold and interesting settings populated with unforgettable characters and as much comradery and magic as you can handle. For readers who want invest in a series, a whole band of characters and learning about new worlds and the lore hidden within.
About Tom Lloyd
Tom Lloyd was born in 1979 in Berkshire. After a degree in International Relations he went straight into publishing where he still works. He never received the memo about suitable jobs for writers and consequently has never been a kitchen-hand, hospital porter, pigeon hunter, or secret agent. He lives in Oxford, isn’t one of those authors who gives a damn about the history of the font used in his books and only believes in forms of exercise that allow him to hit something. Visit him online at http://www.tomlloyd.co.uk.
About Knight Of Stars
Lynx and the rest of the Cards are heading south. There’s money in their pockets, beer in their hands and a simple job ahead – sun, sea and not getting shot at much. Throw in the prospect of a bar fight and it’s almost a holiday.
But the volatile Mage Islands are a powder-keg, one just waiting for a spark. A bloody-handed exile perhaps, or the agent of a foreign power preparing for war. Maybe even a bunch of trigger-happy drunks who’ve upset the balance of magic across the Riven Kingdom.
Or all three together, that’d definitely work…
Thank you Tom for taking some time to answer a few questions about your next novel in The God Fragments series, Knight Of Stars. Could you give us your own personal overview of what readers should expect in within the book?
Thank you for having me here! Knight of Stars is no 3 in the God Fragments quartet and a book I’ve jokingly subtitled “What 43 Armed Drunks Did On Their Summer Holidays”. Our heroes have a new job, one that will help their patron’s boss while at the same time being miles from the people who really want to kill them. It really is a simple job, but being a bunch of mercenaries who wade blithely into any situation they’re not likely to make any friends. This time round however the events of Princess of Blood mean things soon get out of hand.
Where did your initial inspiration The God Fragments series come from and did Knight Of Stars turn out as expected?
I built the idea out of disparate pieces that were rattling around in my head. I didn’t want to world-build very hard, which may sound odd to say, but after careful and detailed background work for my last two series I wanted something freer, more fun for me, that would challenge me to weave as I wrote. Among various things I’d been thinking about there were: a diverse army unit, whether I could be bothered to research gunpowder weapons, Lara Croft in the mines of Moria, and I had two story stories I’d never managed to write. Those had a man waking up in a cell and a damsel who really wasn’t the one in distress – I didn’t know what would happen but I decided to start with the first and let things play out.
At first, Knight of Stars didn’t turn out as expected. I had a basic plot and it was… okay on paper, but I knew there was a big something missing. Unfortunately I had a baby in the house by then and was too tired to fix it. As a result the first five or six chapters were just dull and I make sense of where I was going. I wasn’t having as much fun as I had in the previous books where, if I wasn’t sure where to go I just sat them down and got them talking. This time round, that bit just didn’t flow so I took a break. That let me to write something completely different and 9 months later I returned to Knight whereupon it started to fall into place!
If anyone’s interested, I’m crowdfunding publication of what I wrote during that break – you can find it here: https://unbound.com/books/verona-in-autumn/
What sets The God Fragment series apart from your other works like the Twilight Reign and the Empire Of A Hundred Houses novels?
I always set out to write something a bit different to last time, to keep myself interested as much as anything else. The Twilight Reign is a big meaty epic, the Empire books more of a fantasy conspiracy thriller – this meant both were quite complicated. This time round I wanted to simplify, focus more on having some fun and blowing stuff up. Guns, monsters and booze. Lynx is a man who’s trying to be a good person. Toil is a woman who’s making no such effort. The rest of the world’s just trying to kill them.
Could you give us some insights into what Lynx, Sitain and Toil face in the Mage Islands?
One simple job – and this time round, it pretty much is. Aside from the fact that Toil always has an ulterior motive and one of the company has some unfinished business in the Mage Islands… But now the Cards are the catalyst to a world-spanning upheaval and everything they touch spins out of control.
Does Knight Of Stars have a different tone and atmosphere compared to Stranger of Tempest and Princess Of Blood?
I don’t know exactly – it’s hard for me to judge that! I think it fits the fun, slightly riotous brief I’d originally imagined, perhaps better than Princess did. In that we’ve got politics, a labyrinth and full-scale battle so there’s a lot to deal with. In Knight we’ve got a clearer mission and more monsters, while events are focused directly on the Cards. There’s more booze too come to think of it.
Your passion for fantasy is inspirational! How did you come to have such a fierce and exciting respect for the genre?
I’ve always been a daydreamer as a kid, far more interested in SFF than the rest of my family. Growing up in the country fantasy seemed just an extension of the world around me. It helps that there’s so much life in the genre these days, much more vibrant that really it ever seems to have been before, so after years in this job the horizons keep expanding.
What was the most challenging parts of writing about the Mercenary Decks new abilities and influence and how the balance of power has shifted within the group?
Balance has become a tricky thing – not so much with their powers as only three of them are markedly different, but it’s been tough to rebalance the company as a whole. Toil is one of them but also their employer, Anatin was considering retirement not long ago, plenty of the Cards aren’t a fan of their abrasive new employer despite her money… it’s an ensemble book (though with a primary, secondary and even tertiary focus) so making it work wasn’t easy. Once I’d done that, I had to go back and ensure the reader DIDN’t have to work hard, which if anything is an even harder prospect!
How long did it take you to write Knight Of Stars compared to the other novels?
A little longer, thanks to that slow, stuttering start. I’m just not that fast a writer so even once I’m rolling it’s never going to appear in two months, but it’s my job too. The words have to get on the page one way or another and I get a second wind when I’m editing so if any bit is missing the love I can add it there!
Is there a part of Knight Of Stars (or the series in general) that you are particularly proud of? Do you have a favourite quote you can share with us?
For entirely my own childish amusement, I’ve named pubs in the book after children’s books we have at home. I also found reason for a “hold my beer” moment, little things like that add to the fun, so long as you take a long look at them in the edit! I’ve also tried to make it a goal to use a childish or crass first line to make people laugh (as well as establish the less-than-entirely-serious tone). This time round it’s “We’re here to drink beer an’ fuck people up, but we ain’t halfway through the beer yet.”#
Did you always have your eye set on being a writer/author and what sort of books did you grow up reading?
Not really. I got out of the habit for years as a kid because my teachers had complained my reading age was so far ahead of most of the class it was derailing their lessons. Foolishly my mum reined in how much they read with me and I got put off by the really simple rubbish I was given by the school. When I got back into it, I read what was available mostly, which was often a patchy selection. The house was stuffed with books, but varied and often quite old, so I got bits and pieces from all around – random SFF that somehow crept in, cold war thrillers, historical fiction. Pratchett came into my life not long after and I started to discover there was an actual proper genre of stuff I liked. My parents are these days mostly bemused by my shelves, but approving of how stuffed they are.
Like many people I suspect, when I was young I never thought much about the people who got to write books. I just assumed they had to be clever and witty, loftily learned and at very least above average in English class. Discovering they were a bunch of weirdos who drank too much was something of a relief.
Have you got a hobby/activity you do to wind down from all the writing?
Does getting yelled at by a 3-year-old count? These days hobbies are hard, there’s not really the space for them, just stuff that’s vital for mental health. So walking the dog is vital as is playing tennis, but I’ve turned my xbox on twice in the last 18 months. My day job is negotiating contracts however and it uses a very different bit of your brain so that’s helpful, even if it’s also dull. My wife and I are at that stage in life where the idea of luxury is to be able to sit in a pub together, not talking much as we read our books.
Finally, have you read a book/article recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this post?
Absolutely! Can I remember what I’ve read recently? Not so easy. One of the most recent fantasy books I’ve read is the Ninth Rain however, by Jen Williams. I didn’t get on with her first novel but everyone recommended this and I’m really glad I read it, it was excellent! The book I’m excited to read next is Ed Cox’s Song of Sycamore, but that got delayed when my proof copy got lost in the post.
Thank you Tom for taking the time to delve in Knight Of Stars and how it continues this epic series. I loved Stranger Of Tempest and Princess Of Blood. Making my way through Knight Of Stars is so cool because Tom Lloyd has outdone himself again with the world building, lore and magic aspects of the series. After the events of Princess Of Blood, the band want some R&R but there is no rest to be had in the Mage Islands. I can’t wait to get through the second half of this novel later on today as it is leading the mercenaries to their biggest tests yet. Tom Lloyd has an infectious passion for fantasy that will draw you in with ease so check out this series as soon as possible. Thanks for coming by to check out yet another Q&A and I hope you enjoy these books as much I have!