Just because you end a saga doesn’t mean people are done with it. And that includes its creator. Take epic heroic fantasy writer Anthony Ryan, who finished his Raven’s Shadow trilogy with 2006’s Queen Of Fire, but is now expanding upon it with The Wolf’s Call (hardcover, Kindle), the first in a new but connected series, Raven’s Blade. In the following email interview, Ryan discusses how The Wolf’s Call and the Raven’s Blade books connect to the Raven’s Shadow trilogy, what influenced this epic tale, and his plans for it moving forward.
I’d like to start with a little background, if I may. What is the Raven’s Shadow trilogy about?
Blood Song, the first book in the Raven’s Shadow trilogy, charts the early life of my main character Vaelin Al Sorna from the moment he is inducted into a militant religious order and trained to become the most fearsome warrior of his age. The next two books, Tower Lord and Queen Of Fire, broaden the scope of the narrative to include other characters and their role in a near-genocidal war between nations.
And then what is The Wolf’s Call and the Raven’s Blade series about, and what is its relation, both narrative and chronological, to the Raven’s Shadow trilogy?
The Wolf’s Call is a mostly single point of view narrative continuing Vaelin’s story five years after the end of Queen Of Fire. It concerns Vaelin’s journey to the Merchant Realms of the Far West, a region in this world roughly analogous to China in the Ten Kingdoms period. Vaelin is mainly concerned with seeking out Sister Sherin, the woman he loved and lost in Blood Song, but soon finds himself embroiled in a vast barbarian invasion of the Merchant Realms led by a man who believes he’s a god.
Where did you get the idea for The Wolf’s Call and the Raven’s Blade series, and when in relation to writing the Raven’s Shadow trilogy did you come up with it?
I knew writing the last Raven’s Shadow book that I wanted revisit the characters in my first series, but it took a couple of years to gain a clear idea of the story. I’m rarely if ever able to pin down the moment of inspiration for a story but, like most of my work, the setting and plot came out of my reading of history. I wanted Vaelin to journey to an unfamiliar land where his legend isn’t that well known so the Far West seemed the perfect place.
Like the Raven’s Shadow trilogy, The Wolf’s Call and the Raven’s Blade series are telling an epic fantasy tale. But are there any other genres or subgenres or combinations of them at work in them as well?
I tend to think of these particular books as “epic heroic fantasy.” Heroic fantasy really begins with the work of Conan creator Robert E Howard, but probably reached its apogee in the books of the late David Gemmell, who has been a big influence on my work. I explore many of his themes but on a somewhat larger canvas.
I also think fans of military fantasy will probably find a lot to like in these books as I spend a good deal of time researching the martial aspects of the story.
Are there any writers or specific stories that had a big influence on The Wolf’s Call but not on the books in the Raven’s Shadow trilogy or anything else you’ve written?
Every writer I read and enjoy probably has some influence on my work to some degree. Recently, I’ve been highly impressed by the way Mark Lawrence constructs a narrative and the world-building of K.V. Johansen, amongst many others.
How about non-literary influences; did any movies, TV shows, or video games have a big impact on either what you wrote in The Wolf’s Call or how you wrote it?
I’ve been impressed by the battle scenes in the most recent crop of Marvel movies, so the increased sense of scale in that element of the book probably owes a big debt to the Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, et al. I’ve also been trying to approach some plot elements and characters from unexpected angles which could be ascribed to my love of long-form binge-worthy TV shows, particularly Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
As we’ve been discussing, The Wolf’s Call is part of a new series called Raven’s Blade. What can you tell us about this series in terms of whether it’ll be ongoing or a set number of books, and why is it whatever it is?
I’m a firm believer that series should only be as long as they need to be. There may be some scope for shorter works in the same setting or time frame, something I did with the Raven’s Shadow series, not sure what they’ll be yet though.
So, how many books are you planning the Raven’s Blade series to be, when might the rest be out, and what are they going to be called?
Raven’s Blade will be a duology, i.e. two books. I’m currently writing the second book and on course to finish by the deadline, so it should be out in July 2020. The title is yet to be finalised — these days there tends to be a lot of back-and-forth with my editors before we settle on a title.
Now, as you know, some people will wait until both of Raven’s Blade books are out and then read them all in a row. But is there any reason why someone should read The Wolf’s Call now? Or that they should wait?
I think there are quite a few Vaelin fans who won’t be able to resist diving back into his story, some have been waiting more than three years for the next instalment. That being said, I’m pretty relaxed about how people choose to read my books: one at a time, when you feel like it or waiting until the series is finished are all fine with me.
Earlier I asked if The Wolf’s Call had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or video games. But has there been any interested in adapting it or the Raven’s Shadow and Raven’s Blade books into some movies, a TV series, or a game?
There is currently an option deal in place for a TV/film adaptation of the Raven’s Shadow series. I should stress that this doesn’t mean it’ll get made, just that a production company has the option to write a script and try to make it. There was another attempt a couple of years ago that didn’t work out, so we’ll just have to see what happens this time round. To be honest, when it comes to possible adaptations I’ve learned it’s best to just say, “thanks for the check and good luck.”
Do you have a preference as to what form it takes?
Given the length of the books a TV series would probably work best, but I can also see how it could work as a movie trilogy. If they can successfully make The Lord Of The Rings, they can make anything.
No calls from any games companies yet, sadly.
If these books were adapted into a TV series or some movies, who do you think they should cast in the main roles?
Like most writers, I’m lousy at casting. There’s a reason why it’s a specialist job. I’ve never seen an actor who looks anything like my idea of Vaelin or Lyrna, so I can’t cast them. As for the others, the only names that come to mind are Olivia Cooke [Ready Player One] as Sherin, Sam Claflin [The Hunger Games] as the grown-up Nortah and Pierce Brosnan [Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again] as King Janus.
As for games, readers have suggested it could work as a Total War style strategy title or something along the lines of Skyrim. Personally, I’d like something character and story driven along the lines of a fantasy version of The Last Of Us or Horizon: Zero Dawn.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Wolf’s Call, and they’ve already read the Raven’s Shadow books, which of your other novels would you suggest they check out while waiting for the second Raven’s Blade book to come out?
I have a whole trilogy, The Draconis Memoria [The Waking Fire, The Legion Of Flame, and The Empire Of Ashes], to read in the meantime. It’s still epic fantasy but a bit of a departure from the Raven’s Shadow world as it takes place in a post-industrial era, but with dragons and magic.