Wednesday 16 January 2013

Coming Up In 2013 #4: The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch

As I mentioned the other day, there are a number of epic fantasy books for children and young adults scheduled for release in 2013, and this is the second one that I am showcasing as part of my 'Coming Up In 2013' feature. The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch is a book I have been looking forward to reading for a long, long time as I first read details about it last June when Amy very kindly volunteered to work with one of my sixth formers for her A-Level graphic design project.

Today, Amy has joined us to tell us a little about The Oathbreaker's Shadow, and also reveals to us the story behind the idea. The Oathbreaker's Shadow is scheduled to be published in June by Doubleday, and I for one cannot wait to read it. And check out the stunning cover at the end of Amy's piece!

My first book – The Oathbreaker’s Shadow – is due out in June, and it’s an epic fantasy adventure set in an alternate Genghis Khan-era Mongolia, filled with bows and arrows, an enormous desert and a little bit of magic. Being the author, I find it almost impossible to compare it to anything, but if you like the Dothraki scenes in A Game of Thrones, Dune, and Avatar: The Last Airbender (that’s the Nickelodeon cartoon, not the blue-people movie) you might get close to a picture of what it’s like. But where did my idea come from? I think I’m unusual in that I can remember almost to the hour when the idea for The Oathbreaker’s Shadow first popped into my head!

It was March 23, 2006, the day before my 20th birthday. To celebrate, I was at The Lord of the Rings musical in Toronto. I was… well, excited is probably putting it mildly!

I remember sitting in the balcony before the curtain was due to rise, daydreaming as hobbits chased butterflies across the stage and through the audience. My mind was elsewhere: I was working on two essays for university, one based on Chaucer, the other on Genghis Khan’s successor Kublai Khan and the Mongol Empire. My mind was a jumble of medieval customs, both Western European and Mongolian — and although in many ways the gulfs between the two were vast and incomparable, one common thread kept jumping out at me: the emphasis placed on loyalty. In many of these societies, pledging fealty to a lord or khan or king was a normal social interaction — although whether those oaths were enforced by the romantic notions of honour and loyalty above all, or something far more practical like not losing your home or head, is another matter. In that moment, all the jumble and mixing of societies and ideas and philosophies and languages all crystallized into a single image in my mind, and I remember thinking: What if that pledge, that vow of fealty, had a physical consequence when broken? What if that consequence was a hideous scar or a haunting shadow - or both? How would that affect a person? And then my main character, Raim, sprung to life almost fully-formed: a young boy who has lived in this world, who had grown up prizing honour and loyalty above all else, and who accidentally breaks a promise. How would he handle that?

Then the curtain went up and the idea left me for three-and-a-half hours as wizards, orcs, elves and one uber-impressive Balrog took to the stage. But, like all good ideas, it stuck in my mind, waiting for me to be ready to exploit it.

I wrote the very first word of The Oathbreaker’s Shadow the next day. Almost 7 years later (!) and it’s going to be a real book, the first of a two-book series – and I can’t wait for people to delve in.

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