A Sacred Storm by Theodore Brun #GuestPost #BlogTour

8th Century Sweden: Erlan Aurvandil, a Viking outlander, has pledged his sword to Sviggar Ivarsson, King of the Sveärs, and sworn enemy of the Danish King Harald Wartooth. But Wartooth, hungry for power, is stirring violence in the borderlands. As the fires of this ancient feud are reignited Erlan is bound by honour and oath to stand with King Sviggar.
But, unbeknownst to the old King, his daughter, Princess Lilla, has fallen under Erlan’s spell. As the armies gather Erlan and Lilla must choose between their duty to Sviggar and their love for each other. 
Blooded young, betrayed often, Erlan is no stranger to battle. And hidden in the shadows, there are always those determined to bring about the maelstrom of war… 

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for A Sacred Storm by Theodore Brun today. Many thanks to the author, publishers and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me.
 A Sacred Storm looks like just the sort of fantasy novel I enjoy and I'd love to read it in the future but in the meantime, I'm thrilled to welcome Theodore Brun to Hair Past A Freckle today. Theodore has very kindly written a guest post about fantasy, myth and reality which I'm delighted to share with you.

Fantasy, Myth and Reality: Blurring the Lines

Writing about the so-called Dark Ages is both harder and easier than writing about other historical epochs. Harder, because you have far fewer facts to go on. Easier, because you have more freedom to make up a story of pure imagination. I love working that balance.

There are sources for the Old Norse world I’m writing about, of course. Ancient sagas and mythological poetry – which range from fantastical stories about gods and giants through legendary tales of heroes and monsters into events which - if they are still legendary - may yet dimly reflect something that actually happened. Then there’s the archaeology... 

When you look at all this and start wondering how to weave a story out of it, it immediately throws up an important question: What is real and what is illusion? Or more profoundly - what is reality? And what is fantasy? 

To answer these questions, worldview is all. (By that, I mean a person’s conception of the world.)

Writers of fantasy have to build their world, that’s taken for granted. World building is part of their skill. But telling a story set in the actual world, albeit in a period about which not a lot is known for certain, one has to decide what are the rules of that reality? This is where the fun begins.

There are three worldviews, at least, at play in any book: the author’s; the reader’s; and that of the characters in the story. Let’s say you have an author who believes that God, miracles, demons and the devil are an irrefutable part of reality. And her reader believes in none of those things. To introduce a demon, say, into her story, the author may be describing reality as far as she is concerned, whereas the story now becomes pure fantasy to her reader. 

What if the characters understand their world in yet a third way? There are gods and magic in the world, the barriers between certain categories are fluid: between man and beast; between the material and the spiritual; between the realm of the living and the realm of the dead. 

For me, the matrix of these different understandings of “what actually is” becomes the grist to an author’s mill. And writing about an age like the very early Viking period in Scandinavia - thin on historical fact but quite rich in an understanding of how these folk made sense of the world – provides a brilliant opportunity to play around in this matrix. 

Readers seem to be more generous in allowing the rules of reality to be distorted in this epoch of history. Whereas a demon or a shape-shifter can happily slip through the net in a Dark Age epic, it might cause a reader to put the book down if they popped up in a contemporary thriller. So the licence for ambiguity is there and (I have to admit) I love taking full advantage of it!

For example, in my first novel A Mighty Dawn, there is a scene in which a character called Grimnar - a shaman living in the woods - uses his magical powers to overcome our warrior hero and his sidekick. Does he really have magical powers or has he simply hypnotized them and can make them see anything he wants them to see? The way I write it is ambiguous: a reader could take it either way. Another example: Princess Lilla’s practice of retreating to the woods in order to “see” into the spirit world through the portal of “Urtha’s Weed”. Is she mastering an ability to manipulate and foresee events in other spiritual dimensions or is she simply a teenager with a dope habit? Again, I leave it deliberately ambiguous. 

But I have to admit my own worldview inevitably comes into play too. For example, I happen to believe some people have a genuine prophetic gift – they have special insight either into people’s nature or else into the way lives and events are going to pan out. I am often tempted back to this device. So I have to police myself, making sure I don’t overuse it, particularly as it could seem forced to many readers.

On the other hand, one sometimes has to take the characters’ own beliefs at face value, and the effect that these have on events in their world. The Old Norse folk were obsessed with dreams and their interpretation. And of course their belief about the after-life had a profound influence over their actions in this one. Most of us have heard of Valhalla. In my latest novel A Sacred Storm, it is King Harald Wartooth’s obsessive fear - that unless he dies in battle, he will not be chosen by the god Odin to join him in the halls of Valhalla - that threatens to send thousands to their death.

But all of this is what keeps me interested. The blurring of the lines - not only between fact and fiction, but also between myth and history, reality and superstition, magic and illusion. With a bit of luck, it’ll keep my readers interested too!

Thank you so much, Theodore. It's so interesting to consider that each reader's own personal worldview will colour their own experience of reading fantasy. I wish you every success with A Sacred Storm, it really does sound a fabulous read.

A Sacred Storm is the second book in The Wanderer Chronicles; published by Corvus Books, it can be purchased here.
Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Theodore Brun studied Dark Age archaeology at Cambridge, where he graduated with a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology and an MPhil in History.  He also rowed in the Boat Race for the university.  Professionally, Theodore qualified and worked as an arbitration lawyer, in London, Moscow, Paris and finally Hong Kong.  In 2010, he quit his job in Hong Kong and cycled 10,000 miles across the whole of Asia and Europe (crossing 20 countries) to his home in Norfolk. Theodore is a third generation Viking immigrant - his Danish grandfather having settled in England in 1932.  He is married and divides his time between London and Norfolk. A Sacred Storm is his second novel.