The Big Idea: Ryk Spoor
Author Ryk Spoor is back on the blog for the debut of his new novel, and first book of The Spirit Warriors trilogy, Choosing the Player. How does this trilogy fit in with and intersect with his other works? Read on to find out.
The publication of Choosing the Players – the first volume in The Spirit Warriors trilogy – signals the completion of something begun with Phoenix Rising (the Balanced Sword trilogy) back in 2012: three separate, simultaneous adventures by three groups of heroes that might intersect with each other, but who had different missions to accomplish, each of them saving the world in a completely different way. Thus the Balanced Sword trilogy, the Godswar dualogy, and the Spirit Warriors trilogy all take place at the same time, but face completely separate adventures that nonetheless crossed each other at various points.
In addition, each one was to have certain similarities – dictated by the fact that they were in the same universe, and involved in worldshaking events that would inevitably interact in some fashion – while being quite different in their essential nature. The Balanced Sword was intended to be a mostly-standard epic fantasy adventure that would showcase the world of Zarathan at the same time that it showed one of the most crucial sets of events in that world’s modern era. Godswar was a salute to a specific subgenre (what I call the God-Warrior anime subgenre) and a plot hinging on a single prophecy’s misdirection – since what’s a fantasy world without a little prophecy?
The Spirit Warriors is what I have always called “crossover fantasy” and which is these days often called “isekai”, with the heroes coming from a version of our world and finding themselves stuck in a fantasy universe that seems to somehow echo our own books, games, or movies. It also gives us the best look at the manipulative mage Konstantin Khoros, the prologue showing us his origin and motivation. People have often commented on Khoros’ actions, and in Choosing the Players we get his own view of his work:
Xavier snorted. “You know, if you’re supposed to be the good wizard, you’re really doing a sucky job of it.”
“I am most certainly not ‘the good wizard’, though I am a very skillful wizard – and other things as well,” Khoros said emphatically. “Understand this, my young friends: I intend for you to do good. My ultimate goals will achieve good. I am an enemy of all that is evil and dark. I have spent centuries upon centuries fighting the darkness. But I am in no other sense a good man, and Aurora’s anger and mistrust of me is fully justified.”
This is part of the challenge that the five – Xavier Ross, Nike Engelshand, Toshi Hashima, Aurora Vanderdecken, and Gabriel Dante – must face. Khoros has set them an apparently-impossible task – one that even he cannot accomplish – and given them hardly a lick of instruction.
Yet it is vital that he do it this way, and another point of The Spirit Warriors is to show that the operation of an epic universe such as this is a matter of multiple layers and balances that make it, paradoxically, much wiser to start your heroes out with as little knowledge and power as feasible than it is to try to train them up and throw them directly at the adversary.
Because the adversaries that will most concern a given force are the ones on their own level. The beings threatening the world, or large pieces of it, must focus their operations on the relatively few others on their level that might oppose them. Sure, there may be a new group of heroes out there who will eventually come to be a threat – but there’s a lot of potential heroes. How to know which group’s potentially your nemesis? In a world with a thousand gods, everyone’s got a protector – and a manipulator – that can obfuscate the truth. Perhaps you even have access to a true prophecy… but do you really properly understand what it’s telling you?
The readers of course know who the heroes du jour are, but fortunately their opposition don’t have the ability to break the fourth wall and read the book.
This means that the layer that confronts the protagonists is almost always something at, or near, their current level of capability, unless a more powerful being is already involved for other reasons. Kyri’s true enemy made use of this approach, because he actually wanted Kyri to become stronger, become the actual focus of the faith Kyri fought for.
Khoros makes use of it in the other direction, putting his Earthly pawns on the board and ensuring that they will develop their own capabilities out of sight of the other major players until it’s too late to prevent the Five from reaching their true levels of power – in fact, he manipulates events and people that the Five will reach those levels at the precise locations that the sudden appearance of a powerful and unknown adversary will utterly disrupt the plans of the hostile forces.
But all this rests on the Five being very, very specific people, and it is the people that truly matter here. Xavier Ross, nearly killed by his own stupidity, his personal quest for justice interrupted by Khoros. Nike Engelshand, a competent and rational girl fleeing from bulletproof monsters to find herself … elsewhere. Gabriel Dante, a cheerful player and son of a swordmaster, steps from cherry blossoms into a cold and dark otherworld; Toshi Hashima, his coldly determined suicide averted by impossibility; and Aurora Vanderdecken, who finds her parents’ long-held delusions were nothing of the kind when three steps take her from her home streets to the doors of a towering castle.
Each of these five has their own issues to address, and by being thrown together, they are forced to rely on each other in a totally alien world. This builds a connection, a trust, between five teenagers who would otherwise never have met, and never have seen the strength waiting to be summoned from their unlikely association. For the readers, they also provide a new view of Zarathan, one drawn from the outside rather than from people who have grown up immersed in the magic until it has become commonplace, and one with, perhaps, unique insights that those born here would never have seen.
Join the Five, then, as they first encounter the World of Magic, and begin their journey to truly become the Spirit Warriors.
Choosing the Players: Amazon
Read an excerpt.