*Book Review and Guest Post* Ashael Rising by Shona Kinsella
Book synopsis for Ashael Rising;
Ashael is a hunter-gatherer woman, apprenticed to Bhearra, the healer and spiritual leader of their tribe.
The Zanthar are invaders from another world who extend their own lives by stealing the life-force of everything around them. They were last seen on KalaDene 200 years ago. They have returned, looking for The Vessel, a being prophesied to hold the life-force of the land.
Iwan is a slave to the Zanthar, descendant of the folk that were taken as slaves the last time the Zanthar visited this world. He is sent out as a spy, while his mother is held hostage to ensure his compliance.
When Iwan and Ashael meet and she invites him to stay in Oak Cam, neither of them realise that she is the one the Zanthar seek. The fate of KalaDene and all of its people rests on Ashael’s shoulders.
Ashael Rising is a fantasy novel with a real spirituality at its core, you get the feeling that the main players in the story are at one with the world built by Kinsella, they actually belong there. This was the true triumph for me, and some thing that I haven’t found in many fantasy novels.
I am a sucker for the protagonist eventually realising their abilities and developing as the story goes on. Ashael was exactly what I wanted from Kinsella, a ‘chosen’ one who is yet to realise her full potential, it got me!
My favourite thing about Ashael Rising is the world created by the author, a true natural society that is at threat from an ancient yet advanced evil race. What Kinsella does best is make you, the reader, go all in on on the underdog, you actually care who wins and who loses, just what I needed. This is high fantasy meets sci-fi in a fusion that won’t leave you disappointed, a definite recommended read. It’s safe to say that I really enjoyed Ashael Rising and I will be looking out for the rest of the series.
Now on to the brilliant guest post provided by Shona, a closer look at ‘world building’!.
Where to find Ashael Rising;
*Guest Post* Approaching World-Building by Shona Kinsella
One of the most enjoyable and most challenging parts of writing fantasy is the world-building. There are fantasy writers who spend years creating a world before they feel ready to write a story set there. They have maps, detailed histories, notes of the flora and fauna and knowledge of political factions in every country – but they don’t have a book.
I’m very different from this. I’m what is sometimes known as a pantser (as in flying by the seat of the pants) although the term I prefer is discovery writer. What this means is that I discover the story, and the world, as I write.
When I sat down to write Ashael Rising, I knew very little about KalaDene. In fact, it didn’t even have a name until the third draft or so. My world-building was all done as I went along. I once heard an excellent description of the process; it explains just what it feels like to me so I’m going to share it here. World-building for me is like walking through a tunnel (the world) with a torch (the story) so I can see as much of the world as the story shines a light on and a little bit around the edges but everything else is just fuzzy shapes in the darkness, with maybe a puff of cool air indicating that there might be a door to somewhere else off to the left.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. For example, sometimes I could spend most of my writing time for the day trying to figure out how the limits to the magic system worked or whether the climate I’ve described would support the plants that I have my characters eating. That’s not a particularly efficient use of my time and would not have come up had I built my world in advance. On the other hand, people who have created an entire world before writing a book will often find that they have wasted time in building details that they do not need for the book – time that could have been spent writing.
The only major drawback that I’ve experienced is that, since I make things up as I go along, I have no idea what will end up being important and I must try and keep the elements of an entire world straight in my head – something the planners don’t have to do. I have taken to keeping a world-building file open while I write, somewhere to make notes of characters that I’ve introduced, plants that I’ve made up along with their uses, distances between places and so on. The thing is, I’m pretty bad at actually updating the file. While I’m writing, I’m too involved in the story to keep stopping and starting and switching files. More than once I’ve found myself having to search back through the text to check how I spelled something a few chapters ago or whether or not I said a particular plant was poisonous or what someone’s name is. Again, not the most efficient use of my time. Still, efficient or not, it is the way that works for me and it’s the way I’ll continue to work for the time being.
I’ll leave you with some worldbuilding advice that has been invaluable to me:
1 – Use your worldbuilding details like seasoning; a dash here and a sprinkle there enriches your story but too much of anything is overwhelming.
2 – Your reader is looking through the character’s eyes. What’s important to the character? Those are the details they’ll notice. How the character reacts to the world tells us a lot about both.
3 – Worldbuilding should serve the story, always. No matter how cool something is, if it doesn’t serve the story, you don’t really have space for it.
About Shona Kinsella
Shona Kinsella is the author of Ashael Rising, (Unbound, 2017) the first in her series, The Vessel of KalaDene. She is also one of the editors of the British Fantasy Society’s fiction publication, Horizons. When she is not writing or wrangling her three children, she can usually be found with her nose in a book.
Where to find Shona Kinsella
Click the link below for your chance to win a signed paperback copy of Ashael Rising!