Thursday, December 1, 2022

What Makes A Hero #10 -- Camaraderie & Characters



Well, here we are, at the conclusion for the What Makes A Hero? in Fantasy series – but I’m also delighted to be welcoming my friend and fellow Supernatural Underground author, Kim Falconer (currently writing as AK Wilder) to ensure this final post rocks. J


AK Wilder @ the Amassia series

In addition to last month’s Calm and Chaos post (What Makes A Hero #9) I also featured a post from another series (Having Fun With Epic Fantasy) that highlighted the Band of Brothers in myth, legend – and, of course, Fantasy fiction!

Last Kingdom: an archetypal "band of brothers"

Camaraderie and a diverse cast of characters are key to any band of comrades-in-arms – but I also really value the camaraderie of our “happy…band” of fellow authors here on Supernatural Underground.

And characters, of course, lie at the very core of our authorial wheelhouse – so I could see no better way of concluding the series than having Kim join me to discuss our characters and the qualities that lead them to answer the heroic Call.

Answering the Call...

So welcome, Kim – with Curse of Shadows (AMASSIA #2) on the very cusp of being released (December 6 is the hot-hot-hot date, folks!) I’m really looking forward to hearing more about your wonderful characters today!

AK Wilder & Characters from the "Amassia" Series

Helen, I am so happy to be included in the final “What Makes a Hero” post. It’s an honour to contribute my thoughts on this most engaging topic.

Ash, a hero of the Amassia series

I love how, through the course of your blog series, you’ve covered so many aspects of the Hero and how these qualities might be expressed, subtly, consistently, sporadically, aggressively. There are a multitude of heroic styles out there in the Fantasy genre and I am fascinated by each one!

As a writer, I have created different kinds of heroes, those with flaming swords and egos to match, all the way to the unsung, undervalued, and shy. In the Amassia series, (Crown of Bones and Curse of Shadows) diverse heroes have emerged, and as you say, Helen, they are born out of circumstances, upbringing, personality, necessity and, well, magic. 

The most obvious of my Amassia series heroes is Marcus Adicio who was raised for the task. He readily answers the call, facing enemies and rallying his companions at every turn. But on the inside, Marcus struggles with a darkness he is in no way prepared to face. And because of all that is expected of him, he finds it near impossible to ask for help. 

And then there is Ash, not trained to be brave or wield charisma like a weapon, but to listen. She is a recorder whose ideas are often passed over for her lack of status and magical prowess. But because she won’t give up—though like Myr in Daughter of Blood, she is often terrified—Ash finds the courage to act on her convictions, and convince others to do the same. She is the moral compass of the group, at least thus far.

Ash & Kaylin (Ooh-la-la...)

Kaylin, the mysterious sailor, demonstrates all the outward qualities of heroism, fearlessness in the face of untenable odds, superior skills and strength, but what is he hiding? With all his secrets, it’s hard at times to know whose side he is actually on!

And I must mention my favorite character to write, Salila, who, truth be told, is an anti-hero for most of the story, serving her own needs and desires with guile and subterfuge, until she finds something worth fighting for. Something of the heart. There is nothing more glorious than to watch a hero be born. 


Helen Lowe & Characters from "The Wall Of Night" Series

Ash, Marcus, Kaylin, & Salila – they’re a great band, Kim—together with sidekicks such as the healer, Piper, and (the underestimated, I suspect) Tyche in Aku. I think we’re all looking forward to rejoining their adventures!

Epic or High Fantasy is often termed Heroic as well, and The Wall of Night series is firmly in that quadrant of the Fantasy ’verse. Malian, the central protagonist, is very like Marcus in that she has been raised to shoulder her duty, to lead, and to answer the heroic Call without complaint. She is coolheaded, clever, and unquestionably courageous. Or as Faro, one of the younger characters in Daughter of Blood expressed it:

“She was full of cleverness and secrets…Twisty, he thought.”


Unlike Marcus, the challenges Malian must overcome arise less from internal darkness as from the war-without-end she’s fighting, and the dysfunction of her own society – although both present plenty of ethical dilemmas she must overcome, along with smiting the various “big bads” that haunt her path.

Arguably, "Daughter of Blood" is Kalan's book

It would also be fair to say that circumstances make opting out difficult for either Malian or Kalan, the series’ second lead. Although not raised to lead, like Malian, he’s always aspired to be a champion—and where Malian sometimes struggles with ethical dilemmas, Kalan—like Ash, but also Myr in Daughter of Blood—has a strong moral compass. He’s also kind and naturally chivalrous, and no less smart, or brave, than Malian, but in a much more openhearted way.

As Faro reflects, he “is always bright, like the sun.”


The second post in the Heroes series addressed the part circumstances play in making a hero—and this is very true of Orth, who plays a heroic part in the defense of a bridal cavalcade in Daughter of Blood. Orth is a physical giant and able warrior, but his part in The Gathering Of The Lost (WALL #2) and earlier in Daughter, make it pretty clear he’s also cruel and a bully. He also hates Kalan.

Yet when the chips are down for the camp, it’s Orth who turns the tide against capitulation—because he knows what he would do once an enemy surrendered—and is in the forefront when holding the final breach. He’s unquestionably brave, and entirely because of circumstances and the survival imperative, answers the Call and rises to the Challenge.

Or as Kalan puts it:

He…could and would acknowledge that Orth had fought ferociously to the end—”


For his deeds, if not his motivation, Orth would be remembered as a hero in the songs and stories of the cavalcade’s defense.

The WALL series has a large cast of point-of-view characters, from Raven, whom one reader dubbed an “international man of mystery”, to Asantir (“Kickass-antir” according to another reader), and including Faro, our embedded observer quoted above, and Myr, whom Kim likened to her own Ash – definitely the “crown of good company” for both characters. 

There’s Rowan Birchmoon, who has left home and people for love, but also to save her world; and a herald pair that have answered the Call long before the story opens and sacrificed almost everything to do so. So, too, has a ghost, keeping watch over a Cave of Sleepers—because as it tells a young Malian:

“My dear…it is not that I am old. I am dead. I died a long time ago, so that they might live.”


All “sorts and conditions” of heroes, whom we hope readers will enjoy reading about as much as we enjoy recording their adventures – but I’m going to close with Kim’s words, which I feel encapsulate our post today, and the series. J


Be it the call, courage, circumstance, challenge, charisma—all the qualities that go into a hero—each can be mixed in an infinite variety of ways, creating someone unique and engaging to lead us on our next step of the journey. ~ Kim Falconer


About the Authors

Kim Falconer:

Kim Falconer, currently writing as A K Wilder, has released Crown of Bones, a YA Epic Fantasy with Curse of Shadows coming out December 6, 2022.

Kim can be found on  AKWilder TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Throw the bones, read your horoscopes or Raise Your Phantom on the site

Helen Lowe:

Helen Lowe is an award-winning novelist, poet, and lover of story. With four books published to date, she is currently completing the final instalment in The Wall Of Night series.

Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we.


Saturday, November 26, 2022

Curse of Shadows Giveaways

Curse of Shadows - December 6, 2022 just received a ⭑ Starred review ⭑ from School Library Journal. 

VERDICT Recommended for all fantasy fans and ­especially those who enjoyed the “Shadow and Bone” trilogy by Leigh Bardugo and “The Bone Witch” ­trilogy by Rin Chupeco.–Susan Catlett

You can jump on any number of giveaways now!

💙 But first, thank you to everyone who has shown their awesome support by pre-ordering Curse of Shadows. As I said before, this early enthusiasm can make or break a book, so my heartfelt gratitude is flowing for the response.

 And now, to the GIVEAWAYS!

💙 As for Worldwide giveaways, check Writerspace with an ongoing giveaway happening now.

💙 More Upcoming Worldwide Giveaways for your calendar include:

💙 The Fresh Fiction Title Challenge (up on December 8th)

💙 The Harlequin Junkie Spotlight (up on December 9th)

Some of these giveaways include two books, both Crown of Bones and Curse of Shadows - just in time for a fun holiday season gift. 

💙 For members of the Wilder New Moon Newsletter, I'm giving away several copies of Curse of Shadows (Hardback, ebook or Audio as you prefer) and one set of both books in the series. To Jump In just Email Me with your country and preferred format. I plan to pick a winner from each country entered!

Good Luck Everyone,

And thanks again for all that magnificent pre-ordering support! You are the best!


Kim Falconer, currently writing as A K Wilder, has released Crown of Bones, a YA Epic Fantasy with Curse of Shadows coming out December 6, 2022.

Kim can be found on  AKWilder TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Throw the bones, read your horoscopes or Raise Your Phantom on the site 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

What Makes A Hero? #9: Calm and Chaos


Here it is #9 in the What Makes A Hero in Fantasy series! A little later than usual, but still with plenty of reading time left in the month. ;-)
What makes a hero?

And of course, a Having Fun With Fantasy (tropes) post on the "Band of Brothers" by way of an off-course substitute. I do hope you've enjoyed the additional reading goodness. :D

Last Kingdom: the "band of brothers"

So where are we up to with the What Makes A Hero series? I started by focusing on what I considered essential elements in the making of heroes, from the Call through Commitment, to Courage and meeting the Challenge

More recently, I've been checking out qualities that may be more optional. To date, I've canvassed Charisma, Chivalry, and Clever vs Clueless. Today I'm taking a closer look at Calm and/or Chaos.

What Makes A Fantasy Hero – Calm and Chaos

At face value, an appropriate subtitle could be Berserker vs Stone Killer except for the niggle that killing and battle are not the beginning or end of heroism. 

Aragorn as healer, in "The Lord of the Rings"

As discussed under Courage in particular, the risk faced may also comprise:

"...unjust imprisonment, loss of standing and/or livelihood within a society, or outright exile from family, community, nation or species."

Consequently, answering the heroic call may require:

 "...physical and mental, or moral courage—or all three."

So I feel that Calm or Chaos is the better starting point. In other words, a protagonist may emulate Kipling's famous If,  and keep their head "when all about ... [them, others] ... are losing theirs", or hurl caution to the winds and charge headlong into the face of overwhelming odds.

Furiosa -- berserker hero

In that context, "berserker" still has its place and one of fantasy's more famous berserker heroes is the outcast Rek, who becomes the Earl of Bronze in David Gemmell's seminal Legend. His counterpart is Druss, a famous axeman and legendary hero: Druss the Legend, in fact. 


Druss is not a stone killer, and he's not really a warmaster either, although circumstances require that he steps into that role in the defence of the fortress of Dross Drelnoch. (Fortress aside, think a Thermopylae and the Three Hundred-style story.) Druss is unquestionably coolheaded, though, and keeps his calm in the thick of battle, while still taking the fight to the enemy.

Dalinar Kholin, in Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive, is an interesting example of a warrior who has been a berserker-style champion, but deliberately chooses to contain that part of himself, instead pursuing a warmaster's role.

Gideon and Harrow(hark), in Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth, are another chaos-and-calm combination. Where Gideon likes to hurl herself at an adversary, preferably wielding her broadsword, Harrow retains her cool--although that may be a be a matter of dire necessity in order to work her necromancy. 

Zeetha, in Studio Foglio's Girl Genius series, is another warrior who likes to hurl herself into the thick of every fray, and Agatha Heterodyne's  extravaganzas of mechanical creation are very berserker-like in their frenzy. Gil (Gilgamesh) on the other hand, is a far cooler-headed character, although just as much a "spark" genius. 

When it comes to outright mayhem, NK Jemisin's Nahadoth, in The One Hundred Thousand Kingdoms,  is a chaos god, and wreaks havoc when his power is unleashed. By contrast, the con artist Nahriin SA Chakraborty's City of Brassrelies on her wits, no matter how challenging the circumstances. 

One of fantasy's most interesting characters, in terms of the calm-chaos continuum, is JRR Tolkien's Galadriel, a continuum that has been illuminated in series one of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. In The Lord of the Rings (LoTR) proper, Galadriel is an elder statesperson and great power of the elven realm, who epitomizes calm. The Silmarillion, however, makes it clear the young Galadriel was decidedly hawkish and something of a fireeater. 

Galadriel: The Lord of the Rings

Over the intervening millenia, she has clearly changed a great deal, with the LoTR Galadriel displaying a wisdom that the young Galadriel lacked, which she demonstrates in refusing the ring.

Consideration of Galadriel's arc leads to another class of hero, that does not slot neatly into either the "calm" or "chaos" categories. This is the individualor "band of brothers"who is not necessarily trained to lead nations or armies, or overcome challenges, but is forced by circumstances to confront them.

Avatar, the Last Airbender -- another "band of brothers"

In many ways, this is one of fantasy's oldest tropes (which I've called "A Farmboy/Gal Goes On A Journey" in another post), but it's also the basis for "David and Goliath" tales that are enduringly popular in folklore and legend.

Nori Brandyfoot -- an everyday heroine

Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, and the four hobbit comrades of The Lord of the Rings, are probably the most famous example of ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. They certainly don't hurl themselves headfirst into peril, and when peril finds them anyway, they would rather tun and hide than stand and fight.

Yet when in the thick of things, they stumble or crawl to do what needs to be done. One of the great examples is Merry, on the Pelennor Fields. He is dazed from being flung from a horse, but will not let Eowyn confront the Lord of the Nazgul alone, and so crawls to her aid. The result, between Eowyn and Merry, is one of the great deeds of the war, and turns the tide of the battle.

A desperate Merry stabs the Lord of the Nazgul

Myr, "the Mouse", is a similar character in Daughter of Blood (The Wall of Night, Book #3.) She is not a warrior and has no overt superpowers, and she is frequently terrified, but has the moral courage to walk a true course amid turmoil, and to avert destruction by remaining true to herself and those she loves.

It is because of characters like the hobbits and Myr, but also Galadriel and Dalinar Kholin, that this post is titled Calm and Chaosbecause it's a continuum that depends on circumstance and personality. Regardless of confusion or clarity, circumstances are also likely to create situations where both the cool and hotheaded heroes have their place.

The crows: cool, hotheaded -- & somewhere in between

So as with charisma and chivalry, calm and/or chaos are optional qualities for a fantasy hero, though eitheror a combination of bothmay greatly assist in getting the heroic job done.

© Helen Lowe


Previous Posts:

January: Looking Forward To An Heroic 2022

March: What Makes A Hero -- and The Call

April: What Makes A Hero #2: Circumstance

May: What Makes A Hero #3: Commitment 

June: What Makes A Hero #4: Courage

July: What Makes A Hero #5: Challenge

August: What Makes A Hero #6: Charisma

September: What Makes A Hero #7: Chivalry 

October: What Makes A Hero #8: Clever or Clueless? 


About The Author:

Helen Lowe is an award-winning novelist, poet, and lover of story. With four books published to date, she is currently completing the final instalment in The Wall Of Night series.

Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we.