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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Fragments Wins Best Novel Award

Continuum X — the National SF Convention for 2014 — was a special one for FRAGMENTS OF A BROKEN LAND: VALARL UNDEAD. At that convention it won the Ditmar Award for Best Novel.

Ditmar1This is wonderful in itself, but the icing on the cake, as it were, was the context in which the Award was announced. My partner Cat Sparks had already won the Best Collected Work and Best Short Story Awards — for her superlative collection The Bride Price (Ticonderoga Press) and a story from it, “Scarp”. That was exciting enough. As it happened, however, Cat had been asked to present the Best Novel Award. So, without having any prescient knowledge of the winner, she made the announcement and presented me with the Award. I will always remember her excitement on opening the envelope — and that of Jack Dann, who was sitting next to me and has been phenomenally supportive of the book for a long time. There was much shouting and hugging, then and later.

Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be any pictorial evidence of me in my new suit (which I had brought not because I thought the book might win, but because I had been asked to present an award myself, earlier in the evening — and was required to dress in my “Oscars finery”).

Here is the full list of shortlisted works for the Best Novel category:

  • Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead, Robert Hood (Wildside)
  • Ink Black Magic, Tansy Rayner Roberts (FableCroft)
  • The Beckoning, Paul Collins (Damnation Books)
  • Trucksong, Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet)
  • The Only Game in the Galaxy: The Maximus Black Files 3, Paul Collins (Ford Street)

I was honoured enough to be among such worthy nominees.

The full list of Ditmar Award nominees and winners can be found on Locus Online.

Writers know we have to be content with the value of the work itself, to believe in it, and not to place too great a reliance on positive reviews or to take negative reviews to heart. True worth lies in the words, in the endeavour. But often, deep down, we struggle with insecurity and … well,  it’s hard to function in a vacuum, to get minimal response or sometimes never get even a glimmer of audience reaction to our work. Is anyone reading it? Does anyone care? Negative reviews are bad enough, though at least you may be able to learn from them. Being ignored can be the worst. When the work concerned is one that was deeply felt and the making of it had drawn blood, sweat and tears from the writer for (potentially) many years, such silence can be debilitating. So despite the problematic nature of awards in general (and arguments about them tend to proliferate throughout the writing community), the recognition offered by awards such as this one, both for winner and nominee, goes a long way toward ameliorating the pain of silence.

Fortunately Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead has been blessed with some wonderful and insightful reviews, even if the major magazines and review sites have been less than generous with their attention. But the dark gloom falls at times. Now this Ditmar Award for Best Novel comes like a burst of light in the darkness, a sonic boom in the silence. My thanks to everyone who voted for it — and were so generous with their congratulations and best wishes afterwards.

Addendum: Cover of The Bride Price, Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga Publishing). Trust me… you want to read this book.

bride price

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