Saturday, January 3, 2015

Fantasy Walkthrough: The Pillars of Natura Vol 1

Opening Statements

Ask anyone. I don't do indie fiction. 

Bear with me on this. I promise it's not as bad as it sounds. 

First, I feel that many indie authors don't pay much attention to the craft. Indie publication is an option to anyone who can operate a computer and has a friend that knows their way around a Kindle Fire. For some indie publishers, suddenly getting published isn't about talent. It's all about money. Suddenly, it's about who can make the most off their swag and e-books without selling out to a publisher. Suddenly, we've set the bar really, really low. This leads to my second problem: there is almost always a lack of accountability to the craft. Of the few indie novels that I've read up until this last one, they were not edited as closely for plot holes and clerical errors. I once read an indie novel (I won't say whose or the title of it) that was co-written, and you could actually tell when the other author took over. The writing was that bad from one author to the other. I'm a professional reader; I expect to be wowed, not irritated. I feel like the Gordon Ramsey of novels: if you've read something that sucks, it's not a damned shame; it's bull crap because you've paid for it. 

This is not to defend authors who publish through traditional means that simply can't write, or flop artists whose publishers lost on a gamble. It doesn't mean traditional publishers don't appeal to the lowest common denominator of people, or else (I've heard) Stefanie Meyer would never have gotten very far. Not everyone is Scott Lynch, and for that, I thank you all because that means I have a chance. 

Indie publication gives aspiring authors a chance to spread their wings and test their work on a real market and gain useful experience. Everyone has to start somewhere. However, we should be holding authors we pay money to produce artwork for us--either on Kickstarter, indie publishers, or traditional publishing houses--to higher standards. There is nothing wrong with writing, and there's certainly nothing wrong with publishing, even if you have to publish your work yourself. There is nothing wrong with sticking it to The Man and turning from that last slammed door to announce to the world that if no one will take you seriously at the top, perhaps it's time to appeal to the people. Stephen Crane self-published Maggie: A Girl of the Streets at the age of 22, and we're still reading it in college American Literature courses to this day. We should be holding our indie publishers to the same standards as Lee Aarons, a professional graphic designer and part owner of Realmwalker Publishing Group. He is also the author the The Pillars of Natura, the first part of The Realmwalker Chronicles. 




Realmwalker Publishing Group

RPG is a consultancy dedicated to Aarons' dream of bringing the Realmwalker to life, and to every author's own dreams of success. RPG, and Lee Aarons' team of editors and illustrators, have successfully self-published a novel in serial that has all the high fantasy adventure of a Lloyd Alexander novel with the hardships endured in The Hunger Games

Table top DM, former writer for Game Informer, and occasional RPG gamer, Lee Aarons has spent his free time cultivating an imagination immersed in the incredibly large worlds. Aarons played D&D as far back as First Edition. Even I've only played as far back as Second Edition. I'm still rolling low. The problem with that is that now I suck at table top gaming. 

Many successful authors got their start in gaming, Margret Weis and Tracey Hickman to name but two. Gaming is a great outlet for creative processes that are as yet unformed, but taking shape every round, with every toss of the dice and every new dungeon. Until that illithid comes along, and your group is only level four, and the healer stepped on a trap after failing a perception check. 

"Being a DM is what really lead to my writing desires," Aarons said over Twitter.  

Thus, the Realmwalker was born--minus the illithids. 



Fantasy Walkthrough

The purpose of this fantasy walkthrough--the first of it's kind for The Squealing Nerd--is to take the reader inside the Realmwalker story with a comprehensive examination of the world, the characters, and where possible, the author's style. Read along with the The Squealing Nerd as you explore and experience the life and times of the Realmwalker, Raine, and her Successor and twin brother, Rennick, in The Pillars of Natura. 



Setting the Stage: The Realm of Natura, The Pillars of Natura Vol. 1


Fantasy writing is difficult. Not only do you have to develop characters step by step, but each step they take lifts the fog of war on a new world that is developing as you type. From one page to the next you must plan your plot, your map and your endgame. Planning your plot and endgame are hard enough. Now, plunk your characters down in a world entirely of your making. It doesn't sound hard when I say it, but when I began writing my long fantasy epic two summers ago, I put it down for this very reason. I was still getting to know my characters. I let them wander around in the sand box for a while, and like an easily frightened, overprotective parent, I snatched them back out and made them all wash their hands.

Lee Aarons has painted a broad playing field for his characters, a world called The Realms of Erta. The Realm of Natura comprises the setting on the first installation. The Pillars of Natura are a mountain range in which the temple of Erta--goddess of the realms--resides, and from which the novel takes its name. The maps depicting this fully-imagined world are illustrated by Spenn--in fact, the whole novel is illustrated, offering original insight into the world, the characters and their surroundings.
Landscape of Shadow of the Colossus

The best way to describe Natura, I feel, is if you wander around the world of Shadow of the Colossus for a few minutes. The atmosphere, the cut of the characters' clothing, the symbols of each society, and each inherent gift of the De'Lani reminds me of the beautiful, simple scenery, the vast landscapes, the unforgiving, and unwavering ritual of resurrection. Natura is vast, and though the exposition leaves little to surprise the reader about the nature of their own realm or the others, the fact that the two main characters, Rennick and Raine, know so little of their world is inherently frightening, especially given the social and political divisions of each realm and each De'Lani.   

World building is not just about landscape. The social interactions of the people that make up a world, the magic system and the religious or ritual practices of a people separates the authors from the kids that just want to watch a vampire and a human comport themselves awkwardly for the duration of a novel. 

Aarons' magic system is tied directly to the religious devotions to the goddess Erta. This is at once confining and easy to keep track of. Each of the different sects of the Realms of Natura possess a different power called a Lani. The states, or De'Lani, of Natura are divided into the D'ware, Halen, Maior, and Nym. Each De'Lani has a set of inherent Lani powers that accords with the spirit of the realm. Natura's Lani are powers of Beings, Creatures, Plants and Time. For example, the Nym Lani allows the practitioner to communicate telepathically with plants. No member of the De'Lanis may marry outside of their heritage. The powers are genetic, and do not mix. In fact, a racial slur for those who do marry outside their people is "Mixer". 

The offspring of such mixed unions are considered counter to Erta's will and the whole family are relegated to sect of people who are ostracized by the rest of the Realms called the Neph. Neph children must be purified before they can enter the world, which means they pose no threat because they have no Lani powers. However, Neph children that undergo purification who have manifested Lani powers usually die--painfully. I will give a more detailed analysis of the De'Lani and the Lani powers as we move further into the story. 

Assigned to enforce Erta's will are the mighty Seraph, warriors who are trained at their temple to use all of the Lani powers. Their job is to maintain the balance and safeguard the resurrection of Erta's will incarnate, the Realmwalker, wielder of the Diamond Sword of Angios.  

In addition to the Seraph are a group of incredibly powerful warriors known as the Cou'Rali. Their missions are honor-bound to their souls, making the success of the honor mission, the Gran Shiga, a mission of life or death. At this stage, only one character knows the nature of the Cou'Rali, and that's the Seraph Kanias. 



The Characters

The main plot centers around the revelation that a pair of Neph twins, Rennick and Raine, are indeed the long lost and long-awaited Realmwalker and Successor.

The hero of this story, as it stands, is not really the hero at all. The hero of the story is Raine, the new found Realmwalker, but the story is not focused on Raine. The story is told in third person limited through the eyes of her brother Rennick, the Successor, the person who will take up the Sword of Angios in the event of the Realmwalker's demise (timely or otherwise). Rennick is a young man of eighteen. As he and Raine prepare for their eighteenth Yelta Luna, they also prepare for their purification. Their parents were Nym and Maior. Rennick is nervous, knowing that if either of them were to manifest either of their inherited Lani, they would die that very evening. Their rescue by Kanias in the course of their own rescue of a young boy of their village, Domo Vale, sets the twins on an altogether new path. This does nothing to ease Rennick's mind. In fact, this character, who sits on the fence of admirably ambitious and frustratingly naive, now worries not just for himself, but his sister, whom he believes to be a danger to herself at the best of times and downright reckless at the worst of times. I'll build on Rennick and Raine's relationship in the next installment.

Raine has manifested as the Realmwalker, Erta's Chosen, the Realms' messiah. Beautiful and intimidating at once, she is the embodiment of the Aspect of Erta. She can control a crowd with her voice. She is visually arresting and will go on to train in the different Lani powers of the Realms at the Temple of Erta. If she survives that is. The Realmwalker has been missing for over a century, giving those who would claim dominion over Erta's Realms a foothold to stand in. The Realms are on the brink of war, and Raine has her work cut out for her.  

Kanias, the twins' guardian and a Seraph of Erta, must get the Realmwalker and her Successor to the safety of the temple before both the rising evil of the land--heretofore unknown--and the rival factions of dissenting Seraph can stop them. 



General Reading Observations

Lee Aarons' work has much to recommend it. His writing is succinct and his plot moves quickly, it just doesn't feel like it because the novel is written in serial. The release of the novel in serial is somewhat jarring, as I'm used to waiting for the next novel, not the next few chapters. It leave the reader on the edge. It's also a little easier for the casual reader to digest. I attribute my initial frustration to how quickly I read. When I have the option of reading for longer than 20 minutes before I go into work, I can finish a whole novel in only a couple of days. I'm a binge reader by nature. Having to stop, for me, is frustrating, but it's a marketing tactic that works. 

The dialogue takes some getting used to. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, and that's what bothers me. The two teens don't speak like teens. There is no difference in dialect, no real language barriers to increase tensions. So many races and so many provinces across the realms are bound to have language variations, and though that's a logical assumption for me to make, it's not necessarily something an author wants to focus on, so this is a minor detail. It will not really detract from your overall enjoyment of the book. 

The Cou'Rali and the Seraph are interesting characters. They seem to possess the same powers, but the Cou'Rali Adepts are fighting machines, where the Seraph are a force for good. A Cou'Rali is honor-bound to complete their Gran Shiga by any means necessary, while the Seraph preserve the balance in accordance with Erta's will. It will be interesting to see how the Cou'Rali relate to the Seraph as the novel progresses. 



Conclusion

The Pillars of Natura is Lee Aarons' debut work. The novel in serial is available both on Amazon.com (free up until the first as a holiday present, though it is likely back to its original sale price) as an e-book and as a trade paperback. I suggest downloading it, as a portion of the proceeds will go to benefit the nation-wide literacy program Reading is Fundamental after their goals are met. It's a good cause, and a great story.

You can find out more about the Natura De'Lani, as well as the other Realms, catch up on news and get up to speed on everything The Realmwalker Chronicles has to offer at http://www.realmwalkerchronicles.com/ For more information about Reading is Fundamental, visit http://www.rif.org/

Join me next month for the next installment, The Pillars of Natura Volume 2

No comments:

Post a Comment