18.11.19 / Malcolm Down Publishing Ltd / Fantasy / Paperback / 200pp / 978-1912863273
About Oron Amular #1: The Call of the Mountain
The news goes far and wide. The Keeper of the Mountain has broken his long silence. Oron Amular, home of the fabled League of Wizardry, had been lost to mortal memory, but suddenly the legends are awakening again. Lords and princes, heroes and wanderers, all have felt the call of the Mountain. Curillian, the restless king of Maristonia, receives an invitation that cannot be ignored, knowing that invitations have also gone to his allies and adversaries alike. A Tournament is to be held, the like of which has never been heard of. The contestants can only guess at the purposes of the Keeper; all they know is that the prize on offer is Power Unimaginable. All are eager to claim the riches of a lost ancient world, but who can even find the Mountain, let alone survive what awaits them there?
When the maps are blank and the loremasters at a loss, another way must be found. Such is the hour when a mysterious stranger crosses the threshold of Maristonia’s capital, someone with a call of their own to answer.
Michael J Harvey Guest Post – An Introduction To Astram
Astrom is the world I have created. It is an imaginary continent on a fictitious planet, very like our own. Astrom is one of many continents with stories to tell, but it is the most distinctive, the oldest in conception, and the main setting for my novels. It is home to many diverse landscapes of epic proportions, from soaring mountain chains to exotic forests and from desert oases to spray-drenched cliffs and coastlines.
As be seen from the accompanying map, it is loosely diamond-shaped: stretching up from the hilt-like peninsula of Lurallan in the arid south, through crab-like Maristonia, so close to my heart, past the main torso of Aranar and Hendar, with the sharp jutting projections of Ithrill in the west and Kalimar and Ciricen in the east, before finally up across a haunted isthmus to the ragged frozen expanse of Urunmar in the far north. For the traveller, it is over 4,000 miles from north to south and some 1,700 miles from east to west. In terms of square area, as accurately as I can make out, it is slightly over 5.6 million square miles – which would make it half-way between the size of Europe and Russia. It is a vast canvas on which to act out my drama, and which took countless hours to fill with landforms, flora and fauna.
Incidentally, it is while writing stories on such a demanding backdrop that I realised the requirement facing the fantasy novelist to have a working knowledge of most things, in order to make their world realistic and believable. Of course, it is make-believe and can bend the rules when necessary, but to really draw the reader in it must ring true most of the time. I suddenly found myself having learn about different types of tree and rock, the locations of different kinds of minerals, the history of various civilised activities like mining and medicine, and so on, covering a vast encyclopaedia of knowledge in subjects on which I had hitherto mostly been ignorant.
Quite a lot of research was required for this, in which my historical expertise came in very handy, for history touches every other realm of human endeavour. But the names and landmarks were my own creations, needing no research, but simply an unleashing of creative impulses. Inevitably, my long love-affair with Middle-Earth lent a certain Tolkienesque flavour to what I created, but for this I make no apology. We are influenced by, and drawn on the work of, others, Tolkien no less than myself. My first forays into fantasy were in part homage to his legacy, but even my profound respect for his work can’t allow him a monopoly on things like elves, dwarves, orcs etc., for these races are the ubiquitous actors in fantasy everywhere.
Thus it is that Astrom is peopled by all such folk, and by mortal men and women, trolls, dragons, wolves and other beasts even more fantastic. I have tried to give them my own unique slant, and only the reader can judge my success in this. My one new addition to the list of races is the armists. When reading Oron Amular, fans might like to check out my website – worldofastrom.com – where there is a wealth of background information on my races, characters and places. For now, suffice it to say that armists are a stocky, mountaineering folk, half-way between dwarves and men in stature and character.
In Astrom there are thus four main civilised species, who between them occupy nine distinct countries or kingdoms: elves in Kalimar and Ithrill, mortals in Hendar, Ciricen, Aranar, Lurallan and Urunmar, dwarves in Carthak, and armists in Maristonia. Between them they speak a variety of languages, but the most developed of my philological creations is Kinyar, the ancient high speech of the elves, spoken alike in Kalimar and Ithrill, although with different dialects and inflections. Édulyar is the elvish name for the language that mortals devised for themselves when they first came into being, and for many centuries its various forms existed alongside elvish before a common tongue gradually evolved. I have even devised a working alphabet to go with Kinyar, meaning that true elvish writing would have to be both transliterated and translated in order for the reader to understand it.
With this unique canvas I have given myself an epic setting for my stories. Each novel will be like a jewel woven into the backdrop of a tapestry of history. This overarching narrative history, comprising ten thousand years, has been a labour of love for me for many years, and it is proving a fertile seedbed for stories and ideas of all kinds, though most have yet to be written in anything beyond bullet points.
Some outline blogs of the History of Astrom will be going up on worldofastrom.com soon, but I hope for now that this post has given a flavour of what Astrom is like.
About Michael J Harvey
Michael Harvey is a fantasy novelist with a degree in Ancient & Modern History from the University of Leicester and a Masters in Medieval History from the University of Cambridge. A blogger, adventurer and traveller, his foremost passion is writing. In Oron Amular, his debut novel, he invites us into his epic world of Astrom and the great adventures that await there. A committed Christian, Michael lives in Cambridge with his wife Lucy and two sons Ethan and Luke.