The Big Idea: Ryan Van Loan
In Ryan Van Loan’s third installment of The Fall of the Gods series, the author sheds light on an important fact: being smart doesn’t guarantee being wise. This makes a world of difference for the protagonist of The Memory in the Blood.
RYAN VAN LOAN:
My Big Idea for The Memory in the Blood began with a fundamental character flaw: intelligence.
I know, I know, (high) intelligence isn’t usually seen as a character flaw, but stick with me for a moment. You see, the main protagonist of my series, Sambuciña “Buc” Alhurra, is a whip smart streetrat who taught herself to read, proceeded to devour entire libraries’ worth of books, and invented the term ‘autodidact’. In leveraging her newfound literacy to become the first private investigator in her world, Buc discovered a potential pathway to upending her corrupt society and giving everyone a fair shake in her world. All she had to do was solve a mystery empires had failed to unlock, face down pirate queens, mages, and the undead, and institute a hostile takeover of the most powerful trading company in the world. Oh, and kill the Gods that pulled the strings of the aforementioned empires and trading companies.
To get that far, though, Buc was determined to use anything and anyone. When wits wouldn’t serve, she turned to her blades or her trusty slingshot. She had a partner in crime-solving, Eld, but as I wrote about for the series debut The Sin in the Steel on John’s blog in 2020, Buc has never believed she needed anything or anyone. And it showed. Time and again Buc is five moves ahead of everyone, but she is also her own worst enemy. Believing herself superior to everyone else, she discounts her adversaries’ smarts. She runs roughshod over would-be allies, ignoring potential opportunities if it means giving up control.
And it makes perfect sense, because she grew up on the streets where trust was simply another sound for death. Which brings us back to that misnomer: intelligence. Buc rivals Sherlock in intelligence, but (depending on your Sherlockian version) she also has a similar flaw entwined with that wonderful mind: wisdom.
She lacks it. Bigly.
That was at the heart of my Big Idea. Through the first two books in The Fall of the Gods Series, we see Buc’s mind at work and we see her just snapping victory from the jaws of defeat–often in spite of, not because of, her intelligence. Buc doesn’t ken the difference between the two and at first it didn’t matter, but when you aim to reshape the world, smarts (and blades) will only take you so far. Coming into The Memory in the Blood Buc has achieved everything she set out to do save the last bit: kill the Gods.
She’s also lost just about everything she didn’t realize she held dear and in that loss, she realized something profound. The Buc of The Sin in the Steel is too close to the streets to trust anyone, the Buc of The Justice in Revenge is wrestling with her newfound power, but the Buc of today is weathered, beaten, but not defeated. Through those earlier trials she gained something that birth and proclivity did not provide: wisdom.
I had a lot of fun watching Buc grow across the series and I hope you did, too. In writing this book think I came to the same realization Buc did, early on in The Memory in the Blood, at about the same moment: wisdom means understanding that no matter how many cards you’ve got hidden up your sleeve–tucked beneath a blade or three, no matter how righteous your cause, no matter how hard you’ve worked for something…when the Gods are at the table, all bets are off. A portion of wisdom lies in that recognition, a greater portion comes in knowing that it doesn’t matter.
Injustice must be fought to the last.