Written by Blake Charlton
In epic fantasy, a good prophecy is unpredictable. The prophecy must come true, but it must come true in a novel way that most readers might have, but did not, imagine. The science fiction analogy to prophecy might be precognition. There’s a bit of Houdini in authors who insert prophecy or precognition into their series; they ostentatiously bind themselves in the cliché, implicitly promising that, at the end of the pages-by-the-pound epic, there will be a refreshing twist on and escape from the prophecy cliché. Or, at least, that’s how I’ve always felt.
Sixteen years ago, when I started the Spellwright Trilogy, I aggravated about how to lock myself into an ostensibly simple epic fantasy prophecy. Now that Spellbreaker, the third and final book in the series, is about to publish, I’m anxious to learn if readers approve of the results.
In the first book, the protagonist, Nicodemus Weal, was thought to be the proverbial Chosen One, prophesized to rebuff a demonic invasion via great skill in magical language. Unfortunately Nicodemus has a profound learning disability–akin to dyslexia–and any contact he makes with a magical spell causes it, literally, to misspell. Things go rather spectacularly wrong, quickly.
Now in the third book, the world is a different place. The prophecy of an impending demonic invasion has been proven true. All of humanity has been preparing. There’s only one problem: The demonic invasion is late. Thirty years late. The order of the world is fraying; disastrous war between human kingdoms looms. Spellbreaker opens in this precarious environment with Leandra Weal, Nicodemus’s roguish daughter, who has a dangerous interest in prophetic magical language. The novel’s first sentence, I hope, demonstrates Leandra’s proclivity for dangerous situations: “To test a spell that predicts the future, try to murder the man selling it; if you can, it can’t. That, at least, was Leandra’s rationale for poisoning the smuggler’s blackrice liqueur.”
Sometimes authors find their own objectives aligning with those of certain of their characters. Leandra is my ally in the exploration of prophecy and precognition. She gets her hands on the above-mentioned prophetic spell, but something goes spectacularly wrong. (In novels, doesn’t it always?) She learns that in one day’s time, she is destined to either die or kill someone she loves. The problem is she doesn’t know who. This puts her in a unique situation–a sort of inverse murder mystery. As Leandra asks herself, “How can one investigate a murder that hasn’t yet been committed? And how, exactly, should such an investigator proceed when she will become the murderer?” As you might suspect, this investigation turns out to be intertwined in prophecy. Things become even more fraught when she learns that both her parents–whom she thought safely thousands of miles away–have recently arrived in her city.
The different books of the Spellwright Trilogy take place decades apart. So Spellbreaker can be read as a standalone, but it will also provide the returning reader with plenty of new backstory. For example, early in the book, Nicodemus learns that his daughter is worried that she might try to kill her mother. His reaction hints at how the novel will explore the past as well as the prophesized future: “‘Oh damn it all,’ Nicodemus groaned, ‘not again.’”