Synopsis

SYNOPSIS: Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead

Brief Blurb:

In a land where no stars appear in the night sky, a group of strangers whose ancestries reach back to an earlier catastrophic disaster come together to track down a resurrected corpse whose very existence may bring about the End of the World…

Backcover Blurb:

In a land where no stars appear in the night sky, a group of strangers with ancestries reaching back to an earlier apocalyptic disaster come together to track down a resurrected corpse whose very existence portends the End of the World. Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead is an epic tale of greed, dying magic, distorted monstrosities and a motley group of heroes, with a strange and breathless climax you won’t easily forget.

Detailed Synopsis:

Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead is a dark fantasy novel set in a world contained within a solid firmament — a seed-like emanation, it is said, of the ancient god who sleeps beneath it. It is known as Tharenweyr to most of its inhabitants. The sky of Tharenweyr boasts no sun or moon, no stars, no direct access to the infinite void of space. A wave of energy moves across the firmament from south to north, creating day and night. Ancient writings and general belief place the abode of the worldly gods, the Raashyr or Guardians, in the far north; at the southern-most extremity there is a realm of chaos and monstrosity, the home of the Dark Gods. With the passing of each Wave of Day coming from that place, the structural stability of Tharenweyr is further compromised, however minutely. In the end, it is said, monstrosity will triumph throughout the world.

During the time in which Fragments is set, the largest city on the central continent is Ko’erpel-Na, the capital of a vast commercial empire. Over uncounted centuries it has become a sprawling metropolis, re-built many times following the apocalyptic destruction that ends each epoch and heralds the next. It is a focus of significant historical currents that are ill understood even by its greatest scholars. Cultural memory of earlier epochs is dim, objective data on each pre-apocalyptic period being largely unobtainable. Only scraps of largely mythological and legendary history exist, along with individuals whose genetic heritage may or may not be traceable. Such individuals are rare.

Tashnark, a commercial slaver’s bastard son, is having nightmare visions: these involve an otherworldly warrior named Bellarroth, who is battling for his life on the shoulders of a vast cosmic monster. The dreams are becoming more frequent.

Prior to one such dream, Tashnark meets Remis, a newly graduated spellbinder, though it is only retrospect that makes the meeting seem significant. He seeks her out in order to alleviate his growing obsession with her and discovers that she has accidentally released an undead corpse from its talismanic death-sleep, and in so doing has become the focus of a deadly hunt. Though Remis knows nothing of it, the acolytes of a Dark God lord named Worjaren Rehemon believe she is the key to finding a legendary object — one said to offer limitless power to whoever conquers it. Worjaren Rehemon and his masters seek this artifact for its reputed power — despite tales that tell of the apocalyptic devastation unleashed by any who try to control that power … or perhaps because of them.

Various attempts by these Dark God acolytes to gain their objective merely succeed in driving Tashnark, Remis and an old friend named Arhl Mogarni, to seek sanctuary within one of the city’s major Temples. They are taken under wing by Shaan, who claims to be a Raashenti, demi-god Seed of the Guardians, driven now to thwart the Dark Gods in their attempt to find the object. Prophecy has it that should they succeed in finding it and attempt to control its power, the World of Tharenweyr will end.

Conflict escalates as Tashnark and Remis acquire new comrades, all with apparent connections going back to the previous occasion the object’s power was unleashed. At the same time Tashnark’s connection to Bellarroth becomes stronger and more demanding, while the forces of darkness close in. What’s in store is worse than any of them ever imagined, as the principle of monstrosity that has plagued the world from the beginning gets more and more personal, affecting not only their flesh but also their thoughts and memories.

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Is FRAGMENTS A Zombie Story?

Is Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead a zombie story?

Well, that depends which tropes you use to define “a zombie story”. In fact, Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead is an epic fantasy novel, albeit in a dark fantasy mode. It features a zombie-like character that isn’t the protagonist, but is central to everything that happens. His name when he was alive was Valarl.

Valarl is one of the living dead, though he’s neither cannibalistic nor infectious. He is, in fact, a corpse whose unnatural movement is driven not by infection but by what amounts to a curse, a curse that compels him to find and recover a mysterious object that was once in his hands and which he lost in a long-distant apocalyptic event. The object is greatly desired by all and sundry as it is reputed to be the source of ultimate power. The corpse (the titular Valarl) follows the path the object took through history, inexorably retracing where it was taken. Driven by the curse, Valarl only gets violent if someone gets in his way. He has no will of his own and only a faint recollection of himself as a human being. When other seekers of the object realize that Valarl will sooner or later catch up with the object in time, he becomes the central focus of their search. But of course nothing is what it seems and the problem with an Ultimate Power is that the one who finds it may discover they didn’t really want what it has to offer after all.
Naturally I think Fragments is a compelling and quite unique novel, albeit appearing at first glance to be in fairly straight-forward fantasy mode. Jack Dann has described it as “one of the strangest and most interesting visions to come out of the modern horror/fantasy genres” and I hope others will agree. I have no exact date for its release yet but there is a nascent website where anyone who wants to follow its progress can come to check what’s happening: http://fragmentsnovel.undeadbackbrain.com/. No one should expect a standard zombie story though.

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