Exclusive Interview: Trial By Treason Author Dave Duncan

In the following email interview, writer Dave Duncan discusses Trial By Treason (paperback, Kindle), the second book in his historical fantasy series The Enchanter General after 2017’s Ironfoot.

Dave Duncan The Enchanter General Ironfoot Trial By Treason

For those unfamiliar with this series, what are The Enchanter General books about, what is Trial By Treason about, and aside from being the second book in the series, how does Trial By Treasonconnect, both narratively and chronologically, to the first book, Ironfoot?

The Enchanter General is the story of a male Saxon sorcerer in 12th Century England. In Ironfoot, we meet him as an apprentice enchanter, frantically trying to solve a series of murders. He meets King Henry II, who agrees to finance the rest of his education, with the proviso that he gets first call on Durwin’s services when he graduates. In Trial By Treason this happens; Durwin is enlisted to help a French knight, Sir Neil d’Airelle, whom the king has sent to investigate a report of treason in Lincoln Castle. Durwin is perhaps a little too sure of himself as a fully-fledged enchanter, and their collaboration gets off to a bad start. As you may guess, things go downhill from there. In Merlin Redux [the third book, due out October 2019], Durwin is about fifty, an old man by Medieval standards, forced to deal with King Richard the Lionheart, Henry’s son, who does not believe in magic. So we find ourselves embroiled in the Third Crusade…

What inspired the plot of Trial By Treason, how different is the finished novel from that original idea, and when in the process of writing Ironfootdid you come up with this idea?

Zounds! You expect me to remember all that? It was five years ago.

When I start a book, I always have a rough idea where I’m going, but I make up the scenery on the way. Um… Scratch “always”and read “usually.”The ending of Merlin Redux surprised even me.

Trial By Treason, like Ironfoot, is a fantasy novel. But is there a subgenre of fantasy, or maybe combination of them, that describes this story better?

Definitely. This is historical fiction, and whenever I could, I worked with historical fact. In the opening of Trial By Treason, King Henry dies in France. Richard succeeds and at once sends William Marshall to inform Queen Eleanor that she is now free from her long captivity. When he arrives in Winchester, England, after injuring his leg on a boat, Marshal finds that the queen already knows. Durwin told her: he’s a seer. Apart from that, this is historical fact.

Are there any writers, or even specific stories, that were a big influence on Trial By Treason but not on Ironfootor, for that matter, any of your other books?

No. I am inspired by my own genius…and money, of course. I do read historical fiction, probably more than I read fantasy these days. I greatly admire C.J. Sansom and Hilary Mantel, but they are writing to much higher standards of historical research than I am.

What about movies, TV shows, and video games; did any of them have a big influence on Trial By Treason?

No. Those are not among my vices.

Dave Duncan The Enchanter General Ironfoot Trial By Treason

You’ve said that The Enchanter General series is a trilogy. Is that still the plan, or are you thinking there may be four books or five, or maybe a sequel trilogy?

This is definitely it for Durwin. He does not die at the end of Merlin Redux, but the series is obviously completed there. I still have two books scheduled by my Canadian publisher, a sci-fi one in January 2019 and a Blades story in February 2020. Check my webpage for details. And I continue to scribble away, so who knows what else I may complete?

You’ve done a couple series where there were also sub-series. The Pandemia books included the four books in the A Man Of His Word series and the A Handful Of Men quartet, while The King’s Blade books were followed by the Chronicles Of The Kings Blade series and The King’s Dagger trilogy. Why did you decide to set The Enchanter General books in its own fictional universe as opposed to part of the Pandemia series or The King’s Blade or some other series of yours?

All the series you mention are set in fictional worlds. The Enchanter Generalis set in this, the real, world. All I have invented is the magic. I have never done this before except in my three Alchemist books [The Alchemist’s ApprenticeThe Alchemist’s Code, and The Alchemist’s Pursuit], which were set in Renaissance Venice, and in some parts of The Great Game. My YA series about Ivor the Runner purports to be set in Dark Age Scotland, but the resemblance is pretty fuzzy. I believe an authentic background adds to the impact of the story.

Some people wait until every book in a series is out, and then read them all in a row. But is there a story-based reason why you’d suggest someone not wait until Merlin Redux is out before reading Ironfoot and Trial By Treason? Or that they should?

That’s up to individual readers, as they prefer. Each of the three books is a complete standalone novel.

Personally, I think it’s a mistake to binge on too many books by the same writer. Their styles tend to pall on you.

As we mentioned, Trial By Treason and Ironfoot are not your first novels. But do you think they are indicative of your style? Like if someone enjoys them, will they like other things you’ve written, or are they very different from other stuff you’ve done?

Judging by readers’ comments in Amazon and similar lists, a lot of fans claim to have read everything I have written — about sixty books plus or minus — so I think I am fairly consistent.

So do you think The Enchanter General books would be a good place to explore your oeuvre?

Sure! Jump right in. I am willing to stake my reputation on these books. I can’t turn down the chance to brag that Ironfoot is short listed for this year’s Endeavour Award.

Dave Duncan The Enchanter General Ironfoot Trial By Treason

Finally, if someone enjoys Trial By Treason, and they’ve read Ironfoot, what book of yours would you suggest they read while waiting for Merlin Redux to come out?

If Durwin really grabs you, then try Alfeo Zeno in the Apprentice trilogy. As I mentioned, they’re historically based. Like Durwin, Alfeo writes in the in the first person, and he’s also a whiz with a Tarot deck.


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