Author Bradley P. Beaulieu wraps up his “Lays of Anuskaya” fantasy trilogy with novel The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, and on the occasion of its release, he’s moved to look back on the entire trilogy and think on what it means to him, and how it relates to our own real world.
BRADLEY P. BEAULIEU:
The Flames of Shadam Khoreh concludes a trilogy that began, at least in my head, some eight years ago. In it, a prince and princess of a Russo-inspired Grand Duchy join forces with members of a violent extremist group whose stated goal for decades has been to destroy the Grand Duchy and its influence in the region. Unlikely allies indeed. Much of the story is about healing a world that is broken, but another part, a much more layered and nuanced part, is about seeing the world as your enemy sees it.
The Lays of Anuskaya is centered on a group of three elemental sorcerers who centuries ago attempted to bring the world to a place of enlightenment. They not only failed, they failed in spectacular fashion, and the world itself paid the price. As the trilogy opens, one of those very sorcerers has been reborn. Through his dreams, and through the brave efforts of others, we find the source of the world’s ills: the fabric between the material world and the world of the elemental spirits has been weakening. Rifts have begun to form.
The true nature of these rifts, and how they might be fixed, is a matter of some debate. The rifts are causing blight and disease and war throughout the Grand Duchy and the neighboring empire, and still the dukes bicker amongst themselves, causing delays at a time when the world can least afford it. The Flames of Shadam Khoreh begins as the pain and destruction from these rifts is becoming dire. Everything now depends on the ability of one boy, the sorcerer reborn, in finding the truth of how the rifts might be healed once and for all, for if he doesn’t, the entire world will suffer the consequences.
One thing I’ve rarely talked about is the fact that 9/11, the Iraq War, and the surrounding conflicts were one of the primary sources of inspiration for this story. Like so many people—not just Americans, but people all over the world—I was greatly affected by the events of 9/11. There was rage and confusion and a deep desire to “get to the bottom of it,” to understand why the perpetrators of that crime had done what they’d done. The more I searched for answers, however, the more I realized that it’s an endless story with endless causes and endless consequences.
Look, I’m a pragmatist. There are hard truths in our world. I’m fully aware that there are legitimate reasons to use violence to achieve an end, but it also seems that too often violence (or the threat of violence) is the first thing we reach for in our arsenal (a funny word to use when you’re trying to broker peace, but somehow it seems apropos; and by the way, when I say we, I mean the entire human race). So much of our politics is posturing and refusing to give in for fear of being seen as weak or “appeasing” the enemy.
This is true in many conflicts around the world and was true of the conflict in the Middle East, and as I watched the conflict unfold, it built within me a frustration that was hard to reconcile. It was in that frustration that the seeds of The Winds of Khalakovo, the first book in the trilogy, were laid down. Those seeds started to bear fruit as I fleshed out the conflict that’s told in the story, one that has roots in generations past but that’s coming to a head just as Winds opens.
The heart of the story—a tale of irreconcilable differences—didn’t change very much in the telling. It continued to be the primary driver of what happened. But I was able to show where some people, if they try hard, can meet in the middle, and I was able to bring that new perspective to several different characters. That was one of the more gratifying things for me, to show a tale in which the characters learn and come to understand another culture from a perspective that was beforehand very limited. Not everyone ended up agreeing with the other side—that wouldn’t be a truthful story—but they certainly understood more if nothing else, and all of that came from my inner desires for us, in this world, to do the same.
So what’s the Big Idea? The Lays of Anuskaya isn’t about our world. It isn’t about the conflict in the Middle East. But it was born there, certainly, and so it’s hard to escape some parallelism. I suppose if I had to formulate the roiling of inner desires that led to this book, I’d say it’s a plea for us to look further than today.
It’s a plea for peace, as told through a tale of war.