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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sarah Ash's Eclectic Word of Artamon (Article by Mihir Wanchoo)


Visit Sarah Ash's Website Here
Read Sarah Ash's interview with Fantasy Book Critic Here

Author Introduction:
Sarah Ash first got published in 1995 with the release of her book Moths to a Flame since then she has published 8 novels to date.

Almost all her books seem to be located geographically in the same world. The Tears of Artamon trilogy, The Alchemyst’s Legacy duology and Songspinners are intricately connected to each other by intermingling of characters, locations, world history and conflicts. The other two books Moths to a Flame and The Lost Child are rather sparsely connected to the earlier novels as only the mention of certain lands and similar theological aspects connect them to the earlier ones.

Sarah Ash has a background in music. This is reflected in her stories where music seems to play an intricate role in the story and sometimes has an influencing factor on characters. She once commented that there is a secret musical track to go with every book of hers and that it would be lovely if the readers could get to hear it as well. But for this to happen I believe all of her readers will have to happen upon the “Accidie” phenomenon as described in Songspinners.

She currently cultivates her time by writing in the fabulous world of Artamon (the world in which she has created in her books) and running the local school library.

Sarah Ash has been a personal favorite of mine since I first discovered Lord of Snow and Shadows nearly 3-4 years ago. The story concept captivated me when I read the back flap of the first book of the Tears of Artamon trilogy. As I noticed that the trilogy was complete, I picked up the first book with the idea that if I enjoyed this first book I wouldn't have to wait to continue the trilogy and finish the story. The first book appeared to be pretty standard fantasy fare to me, however it wasn't until the middle of the book that I started connecting the story and character and by the end of the book, I was hooked onto the tale with its vast cast and east-European feel.

World of Artamon Overview
Tears of Artamon Trilogy:

Lord of Snow & Shadows, the first book in the Tears of Artamon trilogy, opens with an assassination then proceeded to introduce the reader to the primary characters of the book.

Gavriel Andar, who discovers that he is not just a simple painter but heir to the land known as Azkhendir. After his father’s death he has become the titular figure known as Lord Drakhaon and thereby has to return (rather forcibly) to govern the land. What he does not know is that the title is not just figuratively used but literally, as the Drakhaons of Azhkendir have access to a terrible power with a Faustian cost.


Readers are also introduced to Kikiu, a maid in the service of the Drakhaon of Azhkendir. Kikiu does not know of her past or who her parents are. She soon will be introduced rather violently to her heritage which might prove to be a boon or bane, depending on the circumstances.


The third main character is Prince Eugene of Tielen who has ambitions of forging an empire like the old Artamon Empire and he will brook no opposition to his plans. He has established an armed force utilizing both science and magic to establish himself as an emperor. Though all these points lead us to believe that Eugene will be the titular villain of the piece, it is hardly the case. There are a lot more characters in the first book and against the background of an empire being formed is the clash which will occur between magic and science, namely between the Drakhaon of Azkhendir and the guns of Tielen.



The second book Prisoner of the Ironsea tower aka Prisoner of the Iron Tower [US] opens directly after the climatic events of the first book. Gavril Nagarian is trying to come to terms with his heritage and new found precarious condition. Eugene of Tielen realizes his ambitions can be achieved but at a price that he might not be willing to pay. Kiukiu also grows in this novel as she discovers more and more about her past.


The veritable cast is widened in this book as the author shows the reader the after-effects of Eugene’s actions in the world of Artamon in various locations such as Muscobar and Smarna. Also the religio-political scheming is deepened with the Introduction of Francia (Tielen’s rival nation), its religious order and their hunt for Kasper Linnaeus. Also introduced in this book is Celestine de Joyeuse who is a famed singer and the harbinger of the Francian religious order.


Although serving as a middle volume to a trilogy by setting up events and characters for the "main event", Prisoner of the Iron Tower; excels in other areas. It shows readers a panoramic view of the world and gives them just enough characters to root for and rail against. It also offers more background about the religious schism, which is fundamental to the plot line. There is enough information and events to satisfy the reader while at the same time leaving them hanging for the events that will happen in the third book.



Children of the Serpent Gate directly opens after the events of the second book and is the finale of the trilogy. As both Eugene and Gavril now have to deal with their subjects as well as the fate of the entire world. Kiukiu is experimenting with the boundaries of her powers - however the situations keep on escalating beyond her control. With the addition of the Francian nation in the power scheme, previous plans have started to disintegrate as the nations start squabbling amongst themselves. However there are far worse things than a totalistic iron regime as the world is approaching its end due to various plots and schemes from the previous book.

In this last volume of the trilogy, there is a juggling of sorts with a vast number of characters as they each try to achieve their own ends. The climax is deafening to say the least as all the major characters come together for the conclusion of this series of books. Many of the characters are given total uplifts as there are no clear villains or heroes, every character has a bit of a shade of gray as far as good and evil. Although, Sarah Ash ties almost all the various plot threads there are plenty of opportunities for future books as well.


Although Sarah Ash originally developed the world of Artamon in her first three books Moths to a Flame, Songspinners and The Lost Child. The full depth and flavor of Artamon can be fully appreciated in the Tears of Artamon trilogy, Ash gives readers the various landscapes and people of each country along with various information about each from their religious beliefs to their customs.


While this trilogy is fundamentally about a clash between two characters, Gavril and Eugene, it expands beyond that to encompass all nations and regions of the Artamon world. It allows us to see the theological aspect of the dominant religion of Artamon and allows readers to see the Drakhaons and the history of their entry into the world.


Alchymist Legacy Duology:



Sarah Ash also released a duology later on which ties into the Tears of Artamon trilogy. This time the viewpoint is from Celestine De Joyeuse, a minor character in the trilogy but now the main character of the duology.

Tracing the Shadow takes place before the events of Tears of Artamon, and is set in Francia. Several of the characters from Tears of Artamon make cameo appearances in this book. Readers are given a bit of background on one of the most enigmatic figures, Kasper Linnaius, who had to flee Francia on heretical charges.


Celestine's childhood and that of her companion Jagu de Rustephan are showcased throughout Tracing the Shadow. Also introduced, is Rieuk mordiern, a mage who worked with Kasper Linnaius but escaped the purge by courtesy of a punishment for his mistake. He sets out to become a crystal mage modeled on the person who becomes his savior and tries to locate the aethyrial spirit Azilis whom he released earlier. The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and leaves the reader tentatively poised to re-enter the conflict as showcased in the earlier trilogy.




The second book Flight into Darkness then begins amidst the events of book 2 and 3 of the Artamon trilogy and reintroduces us to Celestine, Jagu and Rieuk as they try to settle in their new roles and duties. Readers are given a detailed ending, going beyond the events of the original trilogy to gives us a comprehensive closure to the tale even though 2 of the 3 main characters in the trilogy make a “barely-there” appearance. The ending of this book will give readers a different view of the same events told in Tears of Artamon, however the reader is now equiped with new information and now can have a more thorough understanding to events.

Stand Alone Novels:

Sarah Ash has written some stand alone books: Moths to a Flame, Songspinners and The Lost Child. Of these three Songspinners is the most connected to the tale detailed above as in it the main characters are from the world of the Alchymist’s Legacy duology and have cameos in them. It is a book about music, the nature of oppression and the freedom to pursue one’s happiness. It is my favorite book amongst of all her books as it details a world of composers, music and inherent conflict. The main story focuses upon a young girl, Orial, who is cloistered from music due a certain condition which was both; boon and bane to her mother. Amaru Khassian is a talented music composer who is forced to flee his homeland after his creation is deemed heretical. Acir Korentan is the soldier-priest sent to collect Amaru and bring him back home to either his spiritual redemption or death. Sarah Ash creates a fabulous situation which deals with notions of choice, truth and freedom. The ending of this story while a bit fantastical does deliver a strong punch and therefore is tale closest to my heart. Its characters and themes also reminded me a lot of David Gemmell’s work.

Short Stories:
Sarah Ash began her career by writing short stories. As of to date, she has written 7 short stories. Of those stories: Airs From Another Planet and Divina are the most connected to her main body of work namely Artamon. Both these stories are related to the story set in Songspinners and are set in lands of Sulien and Bel’Esstar respectively. Prince Ilsevir of Allegonde[ a character from Songspinners and Alchemyst’s Legacy] makes a brief appearance in Airs.

Her other short stories are:
Mothmusic
, one of her first published short stories, is an earlier version on the theme prevalent in the story Moths To A Flame”(1995).

Brief Flare and Merveille are original stories which aren’t connected to any of her other stories.

Ninufar's Kiss
is part of the prologue of a tale which is Sarah’s unpublished Byzantine fantasy novel.[For more information check Q.12 of the FBC interview with Sarah Ash over here ]

Timeswitch is a part of an anthology about real-life supernatural experiences.



Future Plans for the world of Artamon:
Sarah Ash has many plans for the world of Artamon. She plans to write a "vingt ans apres" trilogy to the original Artamon trilogy. This will be a great addition as many readers will be able to find out what ramifications happened on the world of Artamon after the events of the Alchymist's Legacy duology and the Tears of Artamon trilogy. However at the current time due to the recession there is no immediate date for this project.

Another project Sarah Ash has mentioned is the writing of a trilogy set 140 years before the events of the Artamon trilogy. It would focus on Kasper Linnaius, perhaps the most enigmatic character of the entire saga, as he is part-scholar, part mage, and could be the scariest person in the whole series of books. It has also been hinted that this trilogy might feature dragons as a part of the world setting.


Conclusion:
For every reader their beloved author’s books are like Beethoven’s symphonies, once hearkened they become delectably addictive, a similar case presides here as well! Sarah Ash’s writing style is very lyrical and lucid and often features a vast array of characters that showcase the whole spectrum of humanity, the whitish-hued, the blackish-toned and largely the grayish-scaled. She shows humanity as they are; a flawed species but capable of greatness and ghastliness at the same time. The intrigue and twists in her tales might not be the same as compared to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, however in my mind and in those of her countless fans, they have a special place and are just as enticing to read. Her works are mostly comparable to those by James Clemens, Robin Hobb and David Gemmell for their similarity in vivid storytelling, competent characterization and broad spectrum of emotions displayed.




4 comments:

Derrick said...

Just bought "Lord of Snow and Shadows" from the Sony Store [I'm a 505 man myself] and I am really looking forward to reading it...

The Reader said...

Hi Derrick

Glad to hear it & I hope you enjoy the book.

Mihir

MNat said...

Mihir,

I'm so glad someone gave a shout-out to one of my most beloved authors. I think Sarah Ash is truly one of the unsung heroes of modern fantasy. I only wish the publishing companies would agree with me. I'm dying to read the sequels to Tears, and when I heard she was planning a Linnaius novel, I nearly fainted. He is, unquestionably, my favorite character of hers (next to Acir Korentan, of course. Songspinners is my favorite of her novels as well!). Perhaps one day, I'll be able to read those stories that remain locked inside Sarah's head!

Thank you so much for helping spread the word about this amazing author and her novels. It really warms my heart.

The Reader said...

Hi Marcelle

I'm glad to meet another SA fan. Her books are truly captivating. Hopefully we"ll all get to read the remaining Artamon stories.

Btw here's a tidbit which Sarah shared, in the month of May, she'll be releasing a short story of hers featuring Gavriel & Kiukiu(set after the events of TCOSG) in an anthology featuring authors from her group The Write Fantastic.

I'll be reviewing that anthology over here. Thank you for your comments, take care :)

Mihir

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