Sunday, September 1, 2019

Romance In Fantasy Fiction: A "Beauty & the Beast" Riff In Julian May's Saga Of The Exiles


Intro: #RIFF #YOR

I'm excited to get to to the 7th instalment of my Year of Romance (#YOR) post series on Supernatural Underground. Specifically, that is, Romance in Fantasy Fiction (#RIFF) and most specifically of all, romances that I've enjoyed over many years of reading. #JustSayin' ;-)

Today's feature is a series that was pretty big in the 1980s (or so I believe!), just to stay on track with my intention to switch between older and newer works. 

That series, as the title above has completely given away is Julian May's Saga Of The Exiles, or as I think of it, The Many-Colored Land Quartet — The Many-Colored Land being the title of the first book in the series.

Julian May's Saga Of The Exiles — A "Beauty and the Beast" Riff with the Tale of Katlinel & Sugoll

In point of fact, there are many romances in Julian May's Saga of the Exiles, some of them more central to the main story than that of Katlinel and Sugoll  — but I've always liked their particular riff  on the Beauty and the Beast romantic theme. And as I've said from the outset, this post-series is all about my favourites. :-) 

First, though, I think I have to provide a basic outline of the Saga of the Exiles storyline. In the not-too-distant future, humanity has become part of a Galactic Milieu of civilizations with psychic capabilities. Human beings who cannot adjust to this enlightened new world order, are permitted to time-travel back in time to the Pliocene Era, approximately six million years ago, in quest of a simpler life.

There's only one little problem. Unbeknownst to everyone in the 22nd century, there are already two other cultures present on Pliocene Earth: the Tanu and the Firvulag. The Tanu resemble a cross between Celtic sidhe and the Norse gods, while the Firvulag are more closely aligned with races such as dwarves and goblins, ogres and dark elves. Both are highly magical beings and committed to an aeons-old battle for dominance, part of which is expressed through ritualized combats.

At the outset of the story, the Tanu are controlling the arrival of human time-travellers into the Pliocene. Those who have no psychic or magical capabilities are enslaved for labor, military, and reproductive purposes. Those who do possess such abilities, however, are co-opted into the ranks of the Tanu, some of them rising to high positions.

Katlinel, also known as Katlinel the Darkeyed, is the daughter of a Tanu father and human mother, and one of the Tanu elite in terms of power. Sugoll is a Firvulag, but of a subtribe known as Howlers, whose dwelling place and sensitivity to radiation has led to hideous mutations. As the leader of the Howlers, Sugoll is seeking a solution to reverse the mutations. Part of his qualifications as leader are that he is the most powerful but also the most grotesquely mutated Howler...

Although Katlinel and Sugoll are on opposite sides of the Tanu-Firvulag divide, they meet during the truce and Fair that precedes one of the major ritualized combats between the two species. In it, Sugoll uses his magic to manifest as a handsome prince, a magic too strong for Katlinel to completely penetrate, although her own abilities lead her to recognize it as illusion. Regardless, the two fall in love and Katlinel, defying the Tanu-Firvulag divide. goes to live among the Howlers and work to reverse the mutation effect.

One of the significant aspects of the Beauty and the Beast storyline is that as the story, and their relationship evolves, Sugoll ceases to resort to illusion when with Katlinel. Their love is strong enough for him to appear as his true self in every way. An important part of that is because his character and personality resemble his illusion-self and Katlinel sees to the heart of that truth.

Although their relationship is not the most important one in the series, it is nonetheless significant. I've always liked it, too, because Katlinel and Sugoll are the first individuals to step beyond the traditional enmities and bridge the Tanu-Firvulag-human divisions that are core to the book's conflicts. And although there are other relationships in the series, theirs is one of the most truly equal and also based on a positive expression of power, to an end that transcends personal loyalties and ambitions.

In fact, Katlinel and Sugoll are definitely one of the power couples you'd most want to be around in the Pliocene — and maybe in any era. Again, #JustSayin' ;-)

List of Year of Romance in Fantasy Posts (so far):

Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry; she also blogs and occasionally interviews fellow writers. Her first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night(The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013.Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and is also on Twitter:@helenl0we.


Kim Falconer said...

Wonderful post, Helen.

I'm so excited to be introduced to Julian May's Saga Of The Exiles. #havenotread!

On my TBR list now.

Cheers. :)

Helen Lowe said...

Hi Kim,

I'm glad if the post has introduced you to this series, because I feel you *may* enjoy it. Aside from the storyline & characters, it's also of interest because it's a series that bridges the SF - Fantasy divide.

Nicky said...

I love this series and these two were a great power couple, yes. I always picture Sugoll looking like actor Billy Zane from 'Titanic'.

Helen Lowe said...

I'm so sorry I missed your comment earlier, Nicky.

But yes, I too love the series:)

I'm not sure about Billy Zane, though, for my mind pic. I see handsome (illusion) Sugoll as fairer, because she thinks he's Tanu at first and they're mostly fair. But not all, so Billy Zane (as per Titanic) would totally rock a movie part. :)