Mackay Wood

Novels by Mackay Wood

Humans have always told tales of the fantastic.  Fantasy is the Ur-fiction, the beginning.  Dragon- like creatures inhabit nearly all cultures’ myths.  The epic of Gilgamesh is fantastical, even if Gilgamesh himself was likely real.  Beowulf (try Seamus Heaney’s glorious translation) is an enduring fantasy. 

The Mabinogion and all Arthurian literature have bones and skins of fantasy.  “Fairy tales” became children’s fodder only in Victorian times; before that, they were simply the stories people told each other and passed down.

I write fantasy, in particular fantasies set in the past, because history fascinates me … but in fantasy, I can write history as it should have been.  And a little magic never hurts.

The Books:
Song of the White Sword duet
Book 1:  The Book of Three
Book 2:  The Vagabond Prince
Three unlikely comrades—a native-born girl, a blacksmith, and a prince with a price on his head—are thrown together by civil war.  Janey the miller’s daughter befriends Val, a youth of the high-born race.  She soon discovers his dangerous identity:  Val is the hated missing heir to the Horned Throne of Salix.  But Val is nothing like the vicious beast of rumor and wants only to escape his birthright and the magic that threatens his sanity.  The baron who killed Val’s parents hunts him with beasts spawned by corrupt magic.  Helped by blacksmith Dickon, Val and Janey flee.  But the only real escape for Val or his friends is to unite the oppressed native race and wrest Salix from the evil powers the regicide baron has leashed to his command.

(A big departure from the world in Wolf’s Cub and Gryphon King—these were fun to write, especially Janey’s first-person voice.)

Riddle of the God
In an age of blind faith, the rigid powers of orthodox religion limit magic, and new beliefs spark hatred and a savage holy war.  Trapped in a doomed siege, Laudrie de Jouyere, an idealistic young squire, has his faith, his gift of augury, and the music that fed his soul crushed by vicious imprisonment.

Laudrie emerges from the dungeon of Rigord retaining only his wit and the crippling pain of his injuries.  A promise sworn in desperation binds him to an empty life, while a nascent skill for intrigue make him the ideal tool for his avaricious king.  He rises high, feared for his political power and scorned for his debauchery.

With the war not yet won, his king sends Laudrie to oversee the army’s affairs.  His disinterested efficiency makes him the most hated man in two realms, though in fact he is working toward peace.  And in the enemy’s sunny land of poets and troubadours, Laudrie sees glimmers of a life worth living—and a magic that challenges all he ever believed.  But first he must overcome the old religion’s secular powers and its magic—and sacrifice personal happiness to a destiny that terrifies him.  A destiny for which he is wholly unsuited....

(If The Scarlet Pimpernel were crossed with Lymond of Crawford in a setting resembling Provence of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, you’d get Riddle of the God.)

Shadow Player 
Ballard Rameau defines himself by a soldier’s duty and honor, and he owes his life to the man he helped make king of Falernia.  When the king asks for a dire and unsavory service—an assassination—Ballard cannot refuse.

His mission takes him through a realm blighted by war and dark magic, until he finds himself at his remote childhood home amid painful memories and the remnants of his broken family.  Surrounded by mysteries, beset by attacks from blood-cannibals in the Hills of Night, Ballard closes in on the man he’s been sent to kill.  But the closer he gets, the more his loyalties stretch.  He must choose where true honor lies:  in fulfilling his king’s mission or following the biding of his heart.  If he doesn’t act, Falernia faces catastrophe, but whatever his choice, Ballard himself will lose.

(The vision here wasn’t character but setting, the glorious landscapes of Burgundy and the Morvan in France.  To people that world required asking what if? and who?—something I’d not done before.)

If classical Athens had possessed a monopoly on magic, so Persia and Sparta never loomed as threats to its hegemony, what might Athenian democracy have become?  One possibility shows in the world of Nempthor—where Ash, a magos whose magic make him one of the best sculptors in the world, is accused of treason for teaching a woman how to use her powers.  Ash is bridled by the city’s Archons, who wield him as an instrument of terror to maintain their rule.  To fight against the crimes he is forced to commit, Ash must delve into the secrets of archonate power and the very roots of magic itself.

(Work-in-progress, so stay tuned.)

And after that, as they say, so many books, so little time.