Somebody asked me (jokingly, I think) on Twitter the other day whether I could sum up my new epic fantasy, Sunstone, in one word. I was, like, uh… no, not really. How can you condense 160,000 words into one? Epic? Or maybe… fantasy?
He pressed me, though, so I trawled through a variety in my head. Adventure? Courage? Battle? Medieval? Journey? Love? Loss? Triumph? None of these seemed to sum up the story to my satisfaction.
I eventually came up with one, though: Cycles.
No, I don’t mean the sort with two wheels and a handlebar. I’m talking about the cycles of nature. Birth, death, and rebirth. The rising and setting of the sun. The phases of the moon.
These themes were an integral part of book one of The Elemental Wars, Heartwood. Legend says that the tears of the god Animus fell to earth and formed the heart of the holy tree, the Arbor, which controls the flow of energy across the land via its roots. Heartwood is about how the characters learn that the land and its people are one, and the giving and receiving of energy—including a sacrifice to the great tree—is essential to keep the land fertile and the tree strong.
Sunstone takes these themes and explores them further. Where the enemy in Heartwood was the element of water (the Darkwater Lords who rise from the ocean), fire is on the rise in Sunstone, and the king of the Incendi fire elementals is a firebird. In Greek mythology, the firebird symbolizes rebirth and resurrection, and the rise and fall of people and societies forms the central story of Sunstone.
The story is set across three separate timelines—one set 22 years after Heartwood, one five hundred years later and one over a thousand years after that, and these plotlines interweave, linking occasionally including at the end in the “Apex,” an event that connects and concludes all three stories. Life is an ongoing cycle of growth, decay and regrowth, and the story really explores this and shows that when you are down, it’s only a phase and the wheel will eventually turn and you’ll be on the up again. And when things are good—you should make the most of them while they last.
So to sum the story up in one word? Cycles.
Another option might be… long. Haha!
Freya Robertson is a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy, as well as a dedicated gamer. She has a deep and abiding fascination for the history and archaeology of the middle ages and spent many hours as a teenager writing out notecards detailing the battles of the Wars of the Roses, or moping around museums looking at ancient skeletons, bits of rusted iron and broken pots.
She has published over twenty romance novels under other pseudonyms and won prizes in fifteen short story and poetry competitions.
Freya lives in the glorious country of New Zealand Aotearoa, where the countryside was made to inspire fantasy writers and filmmakers, and where they brew the best coffee in the world.
Freya Robertson’s Sunstone was released by Angry Robot Books on March 25th. It is the sequel to Heartwood. Here’s the synopsis:
The Incendi elementals that dwell beneath the mountains have found a way to tap into the Arbor’s roots, which stretch not only across the land but also through time, and King Pyra is determined to crush the ancient tree.
Twenty-two years after the defeat of the Darkwater Lords, Chonrad’s widow Procella and their three children are drawn back to Heartwood to investigate the rumour of strange fires springing up across the land. Across three separate timelines, the heroes must battle to join together their ancient sunstones, to overcome the Incendi threat, and to protect the Arbor and make earth victorious once more.