Title: The Broken Heart of Arelium
Author: Alex Robins
Genre/Themes: Epic Fantasy, Action & Adventure,
Military Fantasy, Gridmark, Dark Fantasy
Publication Date: 16th March 2021
Publisher: Bradypus Publishing
Our oversized reading lists are always going to be full to bursting, and that won't ever change despite whatever year we might be edging and easing into. With a monstrous list of books I don't believe I'll ever get to devour in this lifetime, I'm left with the option of both fitfully making as big a dent as i can in my collection while also casting a net into the minds of the writers that write these enchanting stories. So I'm happy to start this fresh new year off with an author interview! Fantasy author Alex Robins' War of the Twelve series might just be another selection to cram into your already-packed TBRs. This action adventure trilogy has all the markings of an epic fantasy, and as a new-on-the-block read, it hasn't failed to entice with risk, thrill and peril. While you decide on whether this looks to be a read worth its weight in fantastical temptation, I'll leave you with an interview I had the pleasure of coordinating with the author himself! Keep reading to see what Alex had to say about his lush epic fantasy that is The Broken Heart of Arelium...
Vaishali (V.L. Book Reviews): Hi Alex, it's great to be speaking with you! Tell us a bit about yourself and your series opener for the War of the Twelve series?
AR: What's always fascinated me in medieval-inspired fantasy is how everyone (from the lowliest peasant toiling in the fields to the richest noble) seems to know everything about these hundred-year-old legends. How is history recorded in these stories? Word-of-mouth? A collection of dusty scrolls? How can that be irrefutable? Add to that widespread illiteracy and isolationism (voluntary or not), and you can imagine how difficult it must be to find reliable information ...
This is what first sparked the idea for the series; a scattering of breadcrumbs throughout the first novel that things are not quite as they seem. As one character remarks to another "History is a malleable thing, changed in an instant with a stroke of the pen."
My basic outline hasn’t really changed from this original idea. A few things have been shifted very slightly, but the premise remains the same.
V: Talk us through your experience as a debut author; what was it like to write your first published book and to join/become a member of a vast community of writers?
AR: It was a very strange experience because I started writing thinking I would probably never publish at all. Firstly, as I assumed publication would be horrendously expensive, and secondly, because I didn’t believe the quality of the writing would be quite up to scratch. Both of these things, I am happy to say, turned out to be false!
There are many, many writers out there, and 95% of them are incredibly hard-working, passionate people. Very few authors are successful enough to be able to rely on writing as their only source of income, so it’s often a case of juggling a day job, family, and finding time to write and market books. You have to have a lot of commitment to pull that off.
I think the altruism also surprised me. Fellow authors are quite happy to share what worked (and what didn’t!) when self-publishing, and there is a huge amount of useful information available online for less experienced authors like myself to dive into.
V: I've always believed that a story without its characters is akin to arid land. To feel invested in a protagonist and the story that becomes their own is something of a crowning centrepiece for me. What do you think charms a reader to a story and do you think this is something you've achieved with The Broken Heart of Arelium?
AR: I absolutely agree with you. If the characters don’t appeal to the reader, then the story will inevitably fall flat, no matter how well-written it is. Apart from the characters, I think pacing is incredibly important. This is a subjective opinion, of course, as some readers prefer slow-paced, descriptive books. Personally, I love books that make me want to keep on reading, page after page after page. Books that, when you get to the end of a chapter, make you say to yourself “I can’t stop there, I’ll just read one more …” This is certainly something I’ve tried to achieve with my own books.
V: Do you believe that a protagonist has to be likeable or relatable, and how do you think your leading protagonists' compare?
AR: Relatable? I think so. Likeable? Not necessarily. There are reasons why Severus Snape in the Harry Potter books, or someone like Jorg in Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns, are beloved by so many readers. It’s because they are flawed but charismatic.
We all have our flaws, and characters in a novel, no matter the genre, should have them too. It’s what makes them human and, consequently, more believable. The three main characters of The Broken Heart of Arelium all have their problems. Merad Reed is short-tempered, disillusioned, and convinced he has wasted his life. Jelaïa, the Baron’s daughter, lacks self-assurance and doesn’t believe she can continue her father’s legacy. And lastly, Aldarin, the Knight of the Twelve, is aloof and secretive.
V: Is there anything about yourself or your lifestyle that might impede your ability to write, and if so, how is that something you work through?
AR: Oh, plenty of things! As CEO of my tech firm, the length of my day can vary depending on the workload and time of year, which sometimes slows my writing down to a crawl. I also have two young children (five and seven) who demand a lot of time and attention!
I don’t believe that other aspects of my life should suffer due to my writing so it’s always family first, then work, then writing.
V: What gets easier with each book release and what gets harder?
AR: The actual writing does definitely become easier from one book to the next. Authors will tell you the “flow” of words comes faster as they get into the habit of constructing sentences around their thoughts. Marketing and publishing also are less of a struggle as time goes on.
The hardest thing is unquestionably imposter-syndrome. People buy your books. People tell you your books are good, but you don’t really believe it. Even now, three books in, I still don’t understand why people like what I’m writing. That is certainly getting worse as my career continues and more people are reading what I’m putting out.
V: If you could select just one feature of your series that you feel most confident with, what would it be?
AR: If I’m proud of anything, it’s the action scenes. I love a good fight (in a literary sense, of course!), and I worked hard to make the various fast-paced parts of the book convincing, from one-on-one duels, to skirmishes, to the massive siege that takes up the latter half of the story.
V: If you were planted in the fictional world you created, what role would you play in your own book?
AR: Well, I’m useless at fighting, so probably something more bookish, like a scribe or an accountant :)
V: If your chosen genre didn't exist, which would you choose to write in?
AR: Horror. Definitely horror. The Broken Heart of Arelium has some dark moments in it, but it isn’t a horror book per se, more a gritty fantasy. I’d love to write a real horror story one day.
V: I often read about the bold and the brave; characters more courageous than they believe. If anything, what have you learned from/about your own characters?
AR: Yes, good point. There’s a certain tenacity in all three of my main characters. They grumble and question themselves, but they ultimately end up doing what’s asked of them and surpassing their own expectations. I don’t outline in great detail before starting, so the characters grow fairly organically as I write them, which has led to some interesting developments, to say the least!
V: Do you currently have any fresh ideas/concepts that you plan to explore with further books?
AR: I do! That’s all I’ll say about that.
V: If you could recommend a fantasy novel(s) to a reading rookie, what would be your suggestion?
AR: My favourite all-time fantasy author is, without a doubt, David Gemmell. If you’re looking for some great, fast-paced, traditional military fantasy, he’s the author to choose. Probably start with Legend, which is the first in the Drenai series, then go on from there.
For a more recent take on military fantasy, John Gwynne is an absolute master of the genre. His Faithful and the Fallen series is the benchmark a lot of debut authors like myself aim for.
V: What is it like to have your books out there in the wild, free for any reader to chance upon; what does it mean to you to have your work accessible for public consumption?
AR: Equally nerve-wracking, exhilarating, satisfying, and terrifying!
THE BROKEN HEART OF ARELIUM
THE BACK OF THE BOOK
None can resist the ravages of time. Knowledge is lost. Memories fade.
But some things must never be forgotten.
Over 400 years ago, twelve great warriors united the beleaguered armies of men and scoured the war-torn lands of evil, pushing the enemy back into the underground pits and caverns from whence they came. To ensure their legacy, each of the Twelve founded fortress monasteries to impart their unique knowledge of war and politics to a select few, the Knights of the Twelve.
But now the last of the Twelve have long since passed from history to legend and the Knights, their numbers dwindling, are harbouring a dark and terrible secret that must be protected at all costs.
Merad Reed has spent half his life guarding a great crater known as the Pit, yearning for some escape from the bleak monotony. Then the arrival of Aldarin, one of the few remaining Knights of the Twelve, sets off a chain of cataclysmic events that will change Reed forever.
To the north, Jelaïa del Arelium, heiress to the richest of the nine Baronies, must learn to navigate the swirling political currents of her father’s court if she hopes one day to take his place. But the flickering flames of ambition hide the shadow of an even greater threat.
And deep within the earth, something is stirring.
A big thank you to Alex for getting in touch and participating in this interview!
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L e a v e a c o m m e n t a n d l e t' s t a l k...
Born in the UK
Raised in the UK
Lives in the UK
But whose truest homeland lies between the pages of an indulgent book.