Written by Jason Denzel
Over the years, I’ve often described The Wheel of Time as being like a heavyweight boxing champ. It’s big, bulky, powerful, and capable to blasting you to the ground with a massive uppercut of prose and conflict. The upper echelon of characters command titanic powers, making them almost god-like in stature. Balefire roars from their hands. Mountains and oceans fall from the sky when they gesture. Whole armies move at their command. Even dreams submit to their will, making no enemy safe.
More than that, the story, 4 million words long, spreads across fourteen novels (plus a prequel), commanding respect. Nobody is soon going to usurp WoT’s crown as the biggest, most expansive epic of our time. Even George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive are unlikely to unseat the champ in terms of sheer volume.
Robert Jordan created a world that can be used as a textbook example of thorough world-building. (If you want evidence of that, look no further than The Wheel of Time Companion. Love it or hate it, if you can survive 14 rounds (err, novels) with it, The Wheel of Time will leave you flat on your ass.
You would think that, with all its heft, and given the mighty presence it’s played in my life, the WoT would be the most inspiring force behind my own writing. But you’d be wrong. It certainly plays a huge role—there’s no way, after living and breathing Jordan’s world for twenty years that it couldn’t influence me—but the book that I most often come back to as the one that lights me up from inside is Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea.
Where WoT is the reigning heavyweight champ, I’ve always seen Earthsea as that stoic kung-fu master who can floor you with a single finger. The book is only ten chapters long. Under 55,000 words in length. Yet the impact of Le Guin’s masterpiece is equal to the slam of Jordan’s magnum opus. With perfect prose, flawless style, and a timeless message that pierces straight to my heart, Le Guin crafted a story about a young man learning to become an apprentice wizard. About what it’s like to find power from within. And likewise, it’s about how our greatest enemies are ourselves.
Mystic is my response to those ideas. It draws inspiration from both Jordan and Le Guin while striving to be its own thing. This is my take on what it’s like to have to fight for your birthright when others would deny it to you. It’s about finding your true self, and in doing so, finding your inner heavyweight boxing, kung-fu master.