Many epic fantasy worlds are loosely based on medieval Europe – for example the bulk of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. There’s lots of reasoning for this, and, personally, I like reading this type of setting. However, it’s always refreshing to read fantasy worlds set in, or inspired by, non-western settings such as Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
My new fantasy novella, The Sand Scuttler, is set in a desert. The action takes place in Parchad, capital city of the desolate, desert country of Drome, as well as on Jhabia Ridge, a snaking length of rock that juts out of the sand not far from the city.
The inspiration for this setting has come from my travels around the world, and my time living and working in the Middle East in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Below I round up some of the specific locations and experiences that have helped me bring my world to life in The Sand Scuttler.
Jakira sat in the black desert and willed the Sand Scuttler to her. She was running out of time. Her first blood was upon her and when it ran dry, the master would have his way.
Tonight was the last time Big Bulai would allow her out and soon Jakira would be required to warm beds for Master Rasheed, his sons, his male relatives and friends. And then to pleasure Big Bulai. The thought repulsed her, so she quietened her mind and willed it to her.
She knew the creature existed. It had to…
Book Review: Art of War anthology, edited by Petros Triantafyllou (published by Booknest.EU)
This fantasy short story anthology features forty (yes, FORTY!) stories from an incredible selection of self-published and traditionally published authors. All proceeds from the sale of the book are being donated to the charity Doctors Without Borders, which makes this anthology all the more special.
Audiobook Review: The Eighth God by Paul S. Lavender (published by Paul S. Lavender)
This grimdark fantasy audiobook was a good listen. It tells the story of a world full of elves, humans, orcs that has enjoyed an uneasy peace for thousands of years, after a mighty battle where seven elves were granted the power of seven Gods to decimate an orc army. Since that time the orcs have kept to their lands and the humans and elves to theirs. But the orcs are twitchy, and spurred on by mysterious allies, they decide to invade.
Book Review: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey (published by Pan Macmillan)
Wow! This book puts the EPIC in epic fantasy! There’s complex political intrigue, devastating betrayal, high stakes, great escapes, dangerous sea travel, large scale battles, love, a touch of magic and plenty of sex.
Stefan M. Nardi is a fantasy author and the editor of the Beyond The Deepwoods fantasy short story anthology which includes my story The Tunnel Runner.
Stefan kindly agreed to answer a few questions for me about his process with his writing partners, more about his novels, his story in the anthology - and more!
Book Review: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (published by HarperCollins)
This psychological thriller really packs a punch! The agoraphobic Anna Fox lives as a recluse in her New York City home, never venturing outside. Her only entertainment includes watching old black-and-white movies and watching – and sometimes photographing – her neighbours. When she sees something horrific through the window of her newly-moved-in neighbours’ home, her world begins to crumble.
Chattergoon paused and held up his hand. Behind, his companions stopped and fell silent. He lifted his lantern and held it in front of him, lighting the pitch black of the tunnel a few paces ahead. But there was nothing there.
He cocked his ear to listen. After a few heartbeats, the trivial quarrelling between two of his men, that had been incessant for the past week, started up again.
I was blown away by the brilliance of blockbuster Marvel movie Black Panther! In particular I loved the sub-Saharan African setting.
It made me think what adult fantasy and science fiction novels are out there with similar settings. So… after a bit of digging around the internet, Goodreads, Reddit r/fantasy and Amazon, here are 11 books that I’m going to be checking out and one that I’ve already read that I definitely recommend. Majority are fantasy, but all are either set in Africa or have African inspired settings.
Recently a reviewer described my novel Melokai (In the Heart of the Mountains #1) as grimdark. I’ve been calling it epic fantasy, but as it does fit with the grimdark sentiment, I’m embracing it wholeheartedly! So, just what is grimdark?
Audiobook Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (published by HarperCollins)
I absolutely loved the audiobook narration of this one. The actor Jeremy Irons did a brilliant job bringing this mystical tale to life, with the character’s voices and with the flow and pacing. It’s a shame that I didn’t love the story more.
Visiting new places, travelling around the world or venturing into areas near where you live for the first time can all spark your imagination and help you write more compelling, vivid descriptions of settings, characters and dialogue.
I’ve been very fortunate to travel around the world for long periods at a time, as well as live in the Middle East, and all of these new peoples, cultures and landscapes have filtered into my fiction.
Book Review: The Mirror Empire (The Worldbreaker Saga #1) by Kameron Hurley (published by Angry Robot)
The Mirror Empire confused the crap out of me! But the worldbuilding was refreshingly unique and weird. So, although some of the time I wasn’t sure entirely what was going on in this epic grimdark fantasy, I really enjoyed it.
Book Review: The Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoria #1) by Anthony Ryan (published by Orbit)
This is one dense fantasy novel! There’s a lot going on, and a lot to take in but I really enjoyed it. The Waking Fire is set in a world where there are still ‘empires’ in the traditional sense but also ‘empires’ in terms of a corporate entity that has grown big and powerful. Both the empire and the corporate empire are after the same thing – drake blood, or ‘product’.
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