Enough with the superheroes.
This may just be a matter of taste, but too many fantasy novels are about extraordinary people. The prince who has special powers because he was the seventh son of the seventh son, the prophecized one who in a matter of weeks becomes the greatest swordsman in the land, the boy who never knew his parents and learns he alone has the power of the force… you get the idea.
These are certainly traditional heroes going back since story-telling began, but you know, when these people complete their quests, it’s kind of inevitable.
When I created Terin Ostler for ARCH ENEMIES (and its soon-to-be-published sequel THE AXES OF EVIL) I didn’t want to do that. Terin is an ordinary kid with big dreams, but he’s not the son of a god or the chosen one. The only problem he has is that everyone thinks he is.
I thought it would be fun to take someone and throw them into one of these epic stories involving a prophecy and see how they would react. For those of you reading this who have not read ARCH ENEMIES, Terin is grabbed and told he must complete a quest because he is named in a prophecy, but the prophecy doesn’t say exactly why he was chosen or even what he is supposed to do. He’s a complete coward with no magical skills or weapon skills. He’s just an aspiring bard who wants to only sing about adventures.
He then must try to live up to the expectations everyone has for him. He goes through a series of adventures largely involving avoiding the bad guys trying to prevent him from completing whatever-it-is he’s supposed to do, and in the end, he accomplishes his goal not through his amazing magical powers or fighting abilities (neither of which he has) but by being brave, honest, and clever.
I think this is why people (including my publisher) have compared the book to Harry Potter, and I can understand this in some ways. Like the Potter stories, Terin has a number of mysteries he has to figure out to reach the final quest, and he has to find that inner bravery in order to do so. (Unlike Potter, however, Terin doesn’t have any secret magical protection or powers above and beyond anyone else.) I like this concept, as it says to all of us that we can accomplish great things with intelligence, honesty, and bravery.
In a future blog post, I’ll discuss why I think honesty is the most important quality a person can have and how I worked that concept into the plotline.