the axis trilogy

Guest blog: Sara Douglass returns to Tencendor and tells us why

the-serpent-bride-2nd-editionI swore years ago I would never return to Tencendor. I wept, I wailed, I’d had enough. I even blew the blasted place up so I wouldn’t have to go back. However … ten or so years later … I just sort of got curious about the concept.

Ten years had given me enough time to get over the entire Tencendor experience. I’d been very, very tired by the end of those six books. Partly it was the books themselves, partly it was because I had written them all so very quickly, and partly it was because at that stage I was extremely ill (I wrote the final three books when I was at my sickest and, looking back on them now, it shows). All in all, I was at my lowest ebb since I’d been a teenager.

Everything connected with Tencendor had been tainted.

So I walked away from it and swore I’d never return.

But these things happen. I began to think about Axis again. He’d been such a wonderful character, so heroic, so flawed, so powerful, so selfish to the point of destroying the lives of those he loved the most. I thought I had taken him as far as I possibly could in the original six books, but now … now I was beginning to wonder. What if Axis was taken out of his world and put in another? How would he react with a different set of characters? A different problem? What if, distanced from his beloved Azhure, he met another woman? How would he manage? (Of course, all those who know and love Axis know for certain that he would talk himself into another love affair just because he would think it his right.)

There was another character I’d never developed to his full potential either – Axis’ father, StarDrifter. So I began to toy about with the idea of bringing back those two characters, and into a different world, and what better world and character to meet them up with than Maximilian Persimius from Beyond the Hanging Wall? I’d never taken Maximilian as far as I wanted, as well … and before I knew it, there was Threshold beckoning too, and suddenly I found myself constructing a new series based on three of my former worlds, Tencendor, Escator and Ashdod. I’d never been very keen on doing sequels to any of these worlds individually, but doing them together – that was a challenge I could not resist. Then HarperCollins got keen, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I am having enormous fun with Axis in this series. Currently only one book is out, but book two, The Twisted Citadel, is due out shortly, and I am writing the third now, so for me the series is almost complete. In book one Axis doesn’t have as much exposure as the lead character in that book, Maximilian, but books two and three feature Axis heavily. His relationship with his father is, as always, a problem, especially as StarDrifter soon has another glorious son to occupy his affections. Axis also (how could I resist?) meets another woman. I loved Azhure in the Tencendor books, but I had no qualms about not bringing her back this time. I wanted to give Axis a fresh challenge, and what better challenge than to fall in love with a Skraeling? (Well, okay, a half Skraeling, but it is enough.) Given Axis’ history with the Skraelings (who are, of course, back in their full hateful force this time, too) this is bound to be problematic.

I’m also enjoying developing the Skraelings. I have never done much with them apart from having the silly wraiths mass about in ghastly hordes and attach themselves to the most evil lord they can find. But where did those Skraelings come from, and what is their history? In the first book you meet the Lealfast, who are half Skraeling, half Icarii. They are beautiful, magical creatures … and much of that magic appears to come from their Skraeling blood. How? What was it that the Skraelings had to bequeath them? So by book three (tentatively titled The River Angels but I am almost certain you can expect that to change), you will get the chance to really delve back into the Skraeling past … and find a few surprises.

Naturally, it is bound to upset Axis!]

Now I have become carried away — which just shows how enthusiastic I am about the new series. I am truly enjoying saddling up my horse and travelling with Axis again, and I am equally as certain that once DarkGlass Mountain is done, there will be new worlds waiting for him to explore. Axis is looking for peace, but he won’t find it in the battle for Elcho Falling.

Oh, as a final note, where in the world did the name Elcho Falling come from? I had developed the idea of this enchanted citadel rising from the past … and I had to find it a name. One evening I was browsing through a British book of photography, dating from the 1930s. One photograph was of that quintessential scene, the lazy English afternoon tea party on the lawns of the country house. The caption under the photograph named the people within, and one man was identified as the Lord of Elcho. Oh, I just fell in love with the name right there and then, and ‘falling’ just ‘fell’ in beside it (I wanted something fairly sad and evocative). Thus Elcho Falling.

Sara Douglass

For a limited time only, The Serpent Bride, and the three books of the Wayfarer Redemption trilogy – with beautiful new covers – Sinner, Pilgrim and Crusader are available each throughout Australia.

sinner-2008-edition  Pilgrim-2008-edition  crusader-2008-edition

©2008 VoyagerOnline Blog. You can read the original article and the comments here.

Redland Times: BattleAxe

battleaxe-1steditioncover-TonyPyrzakowskiAustralian author Sara Douglass has written what could be the first of one of the most popular science fantasy trilogies to arrive in the last few years.

BattleAxe has all the ingredients of such fantasies – magic, battles and intrigue as well as the most evil of people and creatures.

What makes it work so well is that Miss Douglass, a lecturer in early modern European history at Bendigo University, understands her characters and makes them very believable.

Axis is the bastard son of a Princess, who has been taken by a religious order and turned into a fighting machine to protect the kingdom – the so-called BattleAxe.

He commands the best fighting force available, while his evil half brother Borneheld bides his time as WarLord.

A thousand years before these people had driven out the ‘others’ – the winged Icarii and the Avar and burned and destroyed the forests these people loved.

Now a new evil comes from the North and is driving these forbidden people before it and back into the Kingdom of Achar.

Axis has a mission to turn back the evil, but on his way to his destiny finds that he himself is more than he realizes.

This is a cracker of a book and instantly lands Douglass among luminaries like Stephen Donaldson and David Eddings.

©1995 Dennis Neville / The Redland Times. Reviewed by Dennis Neville for the The Redland Times, first published on Friday July 28, 1995.This review originally appeared on Sara Douglass’s website in full.



The original BattleAxe cover

The reprint of BattleAxe with cover by Shaun Tan.

The reprint of BattleAxe with cover by Shaun Tan.

Did you know that BattleAxe went into reprint before it had been released? A second reprint has just come out with a cover by the marvellous artist Shaun Tan (seen below to the right) depicting Axis and a line of Axe-Wielders approaching through an icy landscape towards an exceptionally evil looking Gorkenfort. Thanks Shaun, great job!

How (and why) did I write BattleAxe? Well …

BattleAxe was my first foray into fantasy — I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I wrote BattleAxe some time ago when I simply could not find anything to read one weekend and decided I’d write something myself. Because I wrote BattleAxe for such a tiny audience of one, I’m constantly surprised that anyone else should find it interesting — apparently the dark spaces of my mind are more crowded than I originally thought.

The entire concept for the novel came from a miniature axe I found on a chair in a shop in Adelaide one day. I had sat down, waiting to be served, when I discovered I was sitting on a tiny axe. No-one knew to whom it belonged, so I took it home and, the day I decided I would try my hand at a fantasy novel, pulled it from my purse and stuck it to the casing of my computer — where it rests to this day. I sat down … stared at the axe … and began to type. Once I started I found I could not stop; I wrote BattleAxe in a flurry of activity over five weeks’ worth of evenings and weekends (and many thanks to Louise Thurtell of HarperCollins for finding the book among all the flurry).

The only planning I did for the book was to write some brief notes on the three main races of Tencendor — Acharites, Icarii and Avar; I thought up a plot as I went to suit the characteristics of these races. Axis, StarDrifter, Rivkah and Azhure were the only characters I had any firm idea about; all the others, like the plot, simply got made up as the need and occasion arose (the actual Prophecy of the Destroyer was the last thing I wrote–and, according to one reviewer, I shouldn’t have even bothered then).

Faraday is the best example of a character I constructed on the spur of the moment. When I wrote the scene of Priam’s banquet I needed two minor characters to discuss the characters at the royal table as a ploy to introduce the main players; I never thought to use either of the two again. Devera has sunk without trace, but the moment I finished writing the scene I knew I couldn’t ignore Faraday. So I had to find something to do with her. I sat back and stared at the axe … but for once that wasn’t any help. So I focused a little further afield to the framed print of J.W. Waterhouse’s Circe Invidiosa (1892) hanging above my fireplace — and there I had Faraday, her gown, the Lake, and the magic of the water bowl. The original painting hangs in the Art Gallery of South Australia, so go along and have a look if ever you’re in Adelaide, you’ll recognise her instantly. (Turn to the left from the foyer, and follow the galleries through to the Victorian Gallery — about 2 in. Faraday hangs on the immediate right. Of course, knowing my luck, she’s been shifted by now.)

(Azhure I found recently in Allyn Fisher’s Fine Art Gallery here in Bendigo. She’s a bronze bust by Diedre Walsh-Fitton, and quite extraordinary … as befits Azhure.)

Much of the inspiration for the world of Tencendor came from my daily toil as a medieval historian. The medieval Catholic Church provided the basis for the Seneschal; all of the beliefs of the Seneschal (especially regarding attitudes to landscape) come directly from medieval Catholic teachings. The Avar once wandered eastern Europe, and I use an amalgam of pagan European culture for their religion — much of which remains in modern western culture. We still worship the (Christmas) tree at Yuletide, while Beltide (May Day, again worship of the tree — the may-pole) and Fire-Night (Midsummer’s Eve) are still marked in many areas of Europe. The Horned Ones were gods of pagan Europe, as was Artor the Ploughman — I have used a bit of artistic license to link him with the medieval Church’s alter-ego, the Seneschal. Some of the Icarii culture owes something to Greco-Roman myth, but that will become more obvious in Books 2 (Enchanter) and 3 (StarMan); I promise never to fly StarDrifter too close to the sun. All of my students can read BattleAxe and recognise six months’ worth of my lectures! (Of course, all of my students should be so busy studying they shouldn’t have time to browse these pages.)

The hardest thing I found about writing BattleAxe was thinking up original names — oftentimes I dipped into medieval poetry and legend for inspiration (as Raymond Feist and Stephen Donaldson have done). Many aristocratic names are Saracen characters from The Song of Roland, while most of the Smyrton peasant names came from the little village of Myddle in England (immortalised in Richard Gough’s The History of Myddle). Rivkah was a name I spotted in the credits of an American soap, while Axis is an obvious derivation from ‘axe’. Place names usually sprang unannounced into my head — but you’ll find one or two Tolkienish references, while South Australians can revel in local names! Some names have been changed from the original manuscript — most notably Gorgrael who I named originally Sathanas (from The Song of Roland).

Coping with patterns of speech, time and distance was also hard. As far as speaking went, I had to be careful not to have characters speak in phrases or use words that are too associated with our modern world — no ‘okays’ for instance. As for curses! Well, the ‘by Artor!’ was okay, but I had to be inventive as far as cursing went (and some of the best got cut — damn!). Using time was also hard; patterns of time are so ingrained in us it is almost impossible to have the reader accept any major changes. The Tencendorian year, like ours, has twelve months, and it was all right to have characters use expressions that used natural divisions of time (a day, or a morning, for instance) but I tried to avoid too many small or artificial distinctions of time like hour or minute — although sometimes that couldn’t be helped. Distance — leagues have the right feel about them, although I may have made them a bit long, but small distances (what we would use centimetres or inches for) were a nightmare!

By the way, the wrong scale got onto the map of Achar. It should have been smaller, thus increasing distances.

My favourite character? Azhure — by Book 3 you’ll know why.

©1995 Sara Douglass

Follow this link to see the maps of Tencendor and Escator, the realms where The Axis Trilogy, The Wayfarer Redemption, Beyond the Hanging Wall and Darkglass Mountain trilogy are set.

Editors note: BattleAxe is Book 1 of The Axis Trilogy. Overseas it was called The Wayfarer Redemption and The Axis Trilogy was the first half of the series of six books.