A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians

A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAGICIANS explores the ways that magic might have intertwined with slavery, trade, and politics during the political upheaval of the 1790s. Also, there’s dark magic. And vampires. And they storm the Bastille!

But you knew that last one already.

In Parry’s past, “commoner” magicians are prevented from using their magic with heavy silver bracelets, monitored by the Knights Templar. Europe lives under the fear of another Vampire War, like the one that devastated that continent 300 years ago. And the sense that people should have the right to practice their own magic freely is growing.

A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAGICIANS follows several prominent figures through the events of the last turbulent years of the 18th century. The novel begins as William Wilberforce, who would become a key figure in the drive to abolish slavery, is searching for a cause to dedicate his life to. William Pitt, the future prime minister of Britain, must hide who he really is for fear of reprisal. Maximilien Robespierre, a provincial, French lawyer with a strong sense of right and wrong chafes against the increasingly tyrannical rule of the french monarchy. And in the British colony of Jamaica, an enslaved woman named Fina discovers she is a powerful magician as she fights against the magic used to prevent slaves from revolting.

While the French revolution and the movement to abolish slavery provide a natural flow to the narrative, the driving emotional through line comes from two sets of remarkable friendships: William Wilberforce and William Pitt in England and Maximilien Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins in France. These historical figures were forceful and compelling in their own right, but Parry succeeds in the task of making them vibrant characters in her novel. Indeed, while the 1790s gave us some astonishingly compelling political drama, the parts of the novel that made me say “oh no” out loud (this is a good thing) were all rooted in character relationships.

Although the novel spends less time with Fina, her journey is also interesting and I suspect her narrative will become more central in the second installment of THE SHADOW HISTORIES. In particular, Fina’s trusting yet difficult relationship with Toussaint Louverture, the leader of the uprising in Saint Domingue (modern day Haiti) promises interesting developments.

A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAGICIANS covers a relatively brief time span, but Parry covers A LOT of history and she does it remarkably well. Even as I found myself becoming slightly weary of keeping track of factions in the French revolution, I was simultaneously impressed that Parry was able to simplify the historical narrative enough to make a fun novel, while still guiding her readers through complicated historical events. The history and politics read easily and smoothly.

Parry has a very specific story of friendship and magic to tell, and it’s one that she tells successfully. But I couldn’t help wondering as I was reading if she couldn’t have pushed her narrative to center different, vital voices. Historical fantasy can be tricky. Where do you deviate from events–only in magical ways, or do you alter history as well? Do you allow magic to change gender dynamics, or to defocus narratives away from the predominantly white male perspectives? If we are changing history so profoundly as to add vampires and magic, why not also add perspectives from women and people of color? I don’t expect Parry to answer all these questions, but they were certainly in my mind as I read through the novel and wished occasionally that the majority of the perspectives were not white men.

There’s no word yet on when the second book in THE SHADOW HISTORIES might be published, but when it does I’ll be marking my calendar for the release.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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