With Fortress Of Magi (paperback, Kindle), writer Mirah Bolender is concluding The Chronicles Of Amicae trilogy of urban fantasy novels she began in 2018’s City Of Broken Magic and continued in 2019’s The Monstrous Citadel. In the following email interview, Bolender discusses what inspired and influenced this finale.
Photo Credit: Troy Freund
Let’s start with some background: What is The Chronicles Of Amicae trilogy about, and when and where do these books take place?
The Chronicles Of Amicae takes place in an alternate, post-industrial world — in a city called Amicae — that utilizes magic for what’s basically powerful rechargeable batteries. The problem is, an anti-magical monster can grow in those empty batteries, and if it gets big enough it can start devouring anything around it. The trilogy centers around the Sweepers, who work to exterminate those monsters before they can do too much damage.
And then what is Fortress Of Magi about, and aside from being the last book of the trilogy, how does it connect to the second book, The Monstrous Citadel?
The first two books of the trilogy built up the role of Sweepers, following through the threat of the monsters and into political entanglements both within the city of Amicae and between its neighboring city-states. The Monstrous Citadel featured a clash specifically with the militant city of Rex, and some of its citizens become major players when Fortress Of Magi picks up a month later.
When in the process of writing The Monstrous Citadel and the first book, City Of Broken Magic, did you come up with the idea for Fortress Of Magi, and how, if at all, did the plot change as you wrote these novels?
I always had the idea that The Chronicles Of Amicae would span multiple books, so I did have a bare bones draft for Fortress Of Magi even while beginning work on The Monstrous Citadel. That being said, the aim of the finale has changed pretty drastically. Fortress Of Magi was originally cluttered with subplots that edits to The Monstrous Citadel scooped up and tossed away. Editing the first books always shifts the foundations of the later installments of the series, and it was particularly obvious here through all the rewrites. It makes for a much more satisfying read now, but sometimes I pull up the original draft and laugh about how different it is: two of the new characters have basically swapped personalities from the original draft; it gained much more tension, between the fate of other cities and the emergence of an internal enemy; and the final showdown has relocated from the wilds into the very heart of Amicae.
In the previous interview we did about City Of Broken Magic [which you can read here], you said that novel was an urban fantasy story but with technology that’s, “…caught somewhere between steampunk and dieselpunk.” Is that how you’d describe Fortress Of Magi as well?
I think I’d still agree with that, simply because I struggle to find a more fitting term. Perhaps “excessively magical dieselpunk”? It’s definitely alternate universe, and it’s post-industrial. The technology level is caught somewhere around the Prohibition era, though of course it developed differently.
So are there any writers or specific stories that were a big influence on Fortress Of Magi but not on City Of Broken Magic or The Monstrous Citadel?
Not really. My influences in writing anything are basically a smorgasbord of different media that I pass by on a day to day basis. It can range anywhere from “Ooh, I really like this character archetype” to “they will eat this strange food,” and anywhere in between. It’s honestly hard not to pick up influences.
How about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games; did any of them have a big influence on Fortress Of Magi?
This is more for The Chronicles Of Amicae than Fortress Of Magi specifically, but I was absolutely influenced by anime and sci-fi shows. One of The Chronicles Of Amicae‘s biggest inspirations was the Boktai video game, in which you play a vampire hunter with a solar-powered gun.
One interesting thing that came up in our previous interview was that your editor had noted similarities between City Of Broken Magic and the movie The Hurt Locker, but that you hadn’t seen that movie when you wrote Magic. Have you seen it since then?
I have. If I hadn’t been looking for similarities I don’t think I’d have noticed them, but there were pieces in all those characters that matched up with Amicae. There wasn’t anything really overt — beyond, you know, reckless bomb-defusing — but it felt very similar.
So then was The Hurt Locker an influence on Fortress Of Magi?
I didn’t pull from it much for Fortress Of Magi since the scope has changed somewhat from the bombs / amulets themselves to what’s causing them.
As we’ve been discussing, Fortress Of Magi is the third and final book of The Chronicles Of Amicae trilogy. Some writers of trilogies expand upon them with side stories or sequel trilogies. Are you thinking you might do that as well?
At one point I thought the series could go on longer, potentially following other characters after Fortress Of Magi‘s end, but I haven’t come up with anything solid enough to have a real story. I’m working on some other unrelated projects at the moment, but that could always change in the future.
There are undoubtedly people who have been eagerly awaiting the release of Fortress Of Magi so they can read all three books back-to-back. Do you think this is the best way to experience this saga?
I think it’s really personal preference, but I personally prefer to have time in between the books — it gives me time to think back on the events so far, so I have some excitement and anticipation when I get the next installment. I’ve read some trilogies back-to-back, and even when they’re wonderfully written, they can kind of mush together in my head and the experience feels like it’s over too fast. The Chronicles Of Amicae boos go chronologically, so it should be easy for readers to keep track of things if they want to read it all in one go, though.
Now, something else we talked about in our previous interview was how you thought the best way to adapt this story would be as a limited run TV show. First, has there been any interest in doing this?
At the moment no, but the fact that you asked is exciting in itself.
Do you still think a limited run TV show is the best way to go?
Yes, I still think a limited run TV show would be good — I’ve seen too many books crammed into movies that flop, so a limited run TV show would give the time to expand on the story without having the need to add any filler.
And do you still not have any suggestions for who they should cast as Laura, Okane, and the other main characters?
I don’t really have preferences. I’m more of a word-thinker than a visual-thinker, so when I’m writing the characters are kind of ghostly in my brain. So long as the actors would have the little specified pieces of the character — Laura has a ponytail, Clae has a dusty coat, Okane is taller than them both — and can pull off the personalities, they would work perfectly for me.
Finally, if someone enjoys City Of Broken Magic, The Monstrous Citadel, and Fortress Of Magi, what urban fantasy trilogy of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?
What immediately springs to mind is the Shades Of Magic series by V.E. Schwab. It’s a gaslamp fantasy, so closer to the modern day, with heavy magical elements and vivid characters.
To read an excerpt from Mirah Bolender’s Fortress Of Magi, please click here.