Sometimes in fantasy novels, less is more.
Sure, there's nothing like getting lost in a series of 10 or 20 books filled with magic and wonder. But it’s also nice not devoting the better part of a year to finishing them.
Which makes Brian Staveley’s “Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne” a nice compromise. The trilogy, which wrapped up earlier this month with The Last Mortal Bond, tells the story of three children of an assassinated emperor — a monk, a commando, and a politician — as they attempt to unravel the conspiracy behind their father’s murder and restore order to the throne. With globetrotting events and multiple points of view, it packs plenty of action and intrigue on a grand scale, despite only having three volumes.
But Staveley, who visits The Poisoned Pen on Saturday, April 2, to sign copies of The Last Mortal Bond, admits it wasn't intended to be a mere trilogy.
“Actually, I originally pitched a seven-book series,” he says by phone from LA, shortly before his West Coast book tour kicked off. “I’m forever grateful to my editor, Marco Palmieri, for almost laughing me off the phone line. He explained very gently that I was (at that point) a totally unproven quantity as a writer of fiction. I had no novels out, no short story credits, nada. He said I could have three books and I could like it.”
“And let me tell you, sticking the landing with a trilogy proved tricky enough!”
The decision worked. Staveley’s trilogy has resonated with readers, earning nominations for Goodreads and Locus awards. The first novel, The Emperor’s Blades, even won the prestigious Gemmell Morningstar Award for best debut. And he hopes that the final volume does justice to the expectations of the readers who have discovered his world of Annuria.
“I’ve been thrilled with the way readers are reacting to the series. Nothing makes me happier than the e-mails I get saying, ‘I hate you. I’m falling asleep at my desk right now because I spent all night reading your book,’” Staveley says. “I know that feeling so well, of being so engrossed in a story that you forget to sleep or eat or perform any of the normal functions of adulthood, and it’s a delight to realize that other people are finding that same emotion when they come to my books.”
Part of the charm of the trilogy is that it manages to inject some light into the relentlessly bleak “grimdark” style that has dominated recent fantasy novels by authors like George R.R. Martin and Martin Lawrence.
“I think that any good, complex piece of fiction ought to explore the full range of human emotion. Too much tragedy and suffering is as boring as too many puppies and hugs,” says Staveley. “There are some brutal moments in this final book, but also what I hope are some funny ones, and some real triumphs for a few of the characters.”
But with that quick resolution of the story comes an inevitable let down. Readers want more adventures and more stories, and they don’t want to say goodbye to those characters they’ve come to love.
And authors often don't want to let go of them, either.
“There are a lot of secondary characters that have become fan favorites over the last couple of years, not to mention weaseling their devious way into my heart as well,” he says. “Right now, I’m eager to tell their stories, probably in a series of stand-alone novels. I’m delighted to have signed on with Tor for four more books, at least some of which will be set in the world of the Unhewn Throne.”
According to Staveley, he is finishing up the manuscript for his next novel, narrated by one of the side characters from the original trilogy.
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“I can’t quite go into the details of the next book yet, but I can say that the manuscript is due in two months, it’ll come out in early 2017, it follows a character you know well, and I’ve seen Richard Anderson’s sketches for the cover art, which are gorgeous, as always,” he says.
So it’s not goodbye to Annuria just yet.
The Last Mortal Bond is available in hardcover for $28.99. Staveley will be signing at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, with Sam Sykes.