Series overview

originally posted by Brent Dubroc

I tried my best to type up an overview of the series and arc structure while also trying to be as spoiler-free as possible - how did I do? This will also be showing up on a Reddit post the week after New Year's as part of a greater post about The Wars of Light and Shadow.


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Don't view The Wars of Light and Shadow as a series in eleven volumes.

While each volume is structured to have a distinct beginning, middle, and end, all the while exhibiting Janny's distinct 1-2 narrative punch, the series was first envisioned as a story in 5 arcs. Each arc features its own distinct narrative arc, climax, and resolution, and if it weren't for the limitations of publishing then each arc would be fully contained beginning-to-end under one cover and one volume.

Arc 1 consists of Curse of the Mistwraith
Arc 2 (The Ships of Merior) consists of Ships of Merior and Warhost of Vastmark
Arc 3 (Alliance of Light) consists of Fugitive Prince, Grand Conspiracy, Peril's Gate, Traitor's Knot, and Stormed Fortress
Arc 4 (Sword of the Canon) consists of Initiate's Trial and Destiny's Conflict
Arc 5 will consist of Song of the Mysteries

To get more in-depth:

Curse of the Mistwraith is the introduction, the stage setter, the foundation upon which the rest of the series is built on. It introduces us to the world, the main characters, and establishes the major conflict that drives the entire series forward from here on out. What seem to be at first insignificant details will turn out to be the fulcrum on which future explosive unveilings hinge, although if you aren't feeling the series it does have a good climax and enough closure that you can treat it as a standalone, if you wish to do so.

Arc 2 was originally published under one volume in the initial hardcover release, but it was too big for paperback and and so it was split into the two paperback volumes Ships of Merior and Warhost of Vastmark that we have today. As such, expect Ships of Merior to be almost all setup for the breakneck climax that is Warhost of Vastmark. This arc serves to deepen the main characters in addition to introducing a handful of secondary ones that prove to be crucial to later arcs, and it also raises the stakes of the series spanning conflict to new heights - the climax is such that, at the time of its release, many thought that it was the end of the series, that's how explosive Warhost is. But those readers couldn't be more wrong, as now the stage is truly set for the explosive reveals and unveilings of the next couple of arcs to begin.

While spread across 5 volumes, the Alliance of Light arc is really one giant story that was too large to fit fully in one cover. Fugitive Prince functions in much the same way for the Alliance of Light as Curse of the Mistwraith did for the entire series, and so the pacing gears back a bit for foundational set-up - but the series doesn't sprawl here, and all the extra detail proves to be necessary by the time Stormed Fortress rolls around as it all comes back to pay off in spades.

Arc 3 is where the series expands into world view - where we start to go really indepth into the various factions, the rules of law, the magic, the Law of Major Balance, the Compact, the Paravians, even Athera itself - and this is where the major unveilings really start to take place. This is where the series starts to shift and really deepen, and if you're only reading for the surface level plot - if you're only reading for 'what happens', and pay no mind to thinking about 'why it happens', 'how it happens', 'what are this character's motivations, what are they thinking', 'what is the purpose of this faction, what is their moral high ground, what guides them as a whole' - this is where you might start to get lost, because unless you're willing to engage the work at the levels that it asks you to, you might find yourself thinking that, for example, 'nothing happens throughout this series' - when this sentiment couldn't be further from the truth.

Peril's Gate is the tipping point in not only this arc, but for the entire series as well - this volume provides the 1-punch for the entire series, with the space only speeding up from here not just in the rest of the Arc 3, but for the rest of the series, too. Stormed Fortress is basically a 239k long climax for the Alliance of Light, where all the threads converge into one location - and of course, it's such an explosive arc finale that many people once again thought the series was ending here back when it first came out.

So do you remember when GRRM planned to have a 5 year timeskip after A Sword of Storms, only to reconsider and write those events out anyway, resulting in the next couple of volumes scattering all the plot threads to the four winds? Janny avoids this quite nicely with Sword of the Canon, where instead of picking up right after the climactic convergence of Stormed Fortress she instead jumps ahead to the next hot nexus of change in the story.

This shift of perspective not only keeps up the pace as the series charges ever onwards towards the finale, but a certain character's perspective lets us view events during this time jump as they become relevant, with the result of us getting reveals both backwards AND forwards in time, carrying more levels of plotting as we not only start to get the answers to important questions and mysteries that have been going on all series, but also sets everything up for the grand finale that will be Song of the Mysteries, which Janny has promised will be all denouement, with no stray threads left unraveled from the greater tapestry, no single mystery left unsolved, no question left unanswered by the time the last page of Arc 5 is turned.

Whew - so that's an overview of the arc structure of the series. It went on for a bit longer than I intended it to, but I hope that's enough of an overview to allow you to see how the underlying structure of the series works.

Nice overview! I have three minor suggestions which you can feel free to ignore:

1. It might help to add a warning at the top about the level of spoilers in the text. I was impressed at how few there are – but the readers who might benefit from this write-up could see something this long and immediately presume that there are spoilers, then skip it.

2. I wasn't sure what you meant by Stormed Fortress being "239k long" Is this e-book file size? If so, maybe a qualitative description would be better than emphasizing length. Wars of Light and Shadow is already a commitment to read, so "why it's great" will always be a stronger selling point than "how long it is".

3. You can also consider linking to Janny's Series Roadmap (link in forum sidebar) for a visual aid to go with your post. Hotlinking is just fine!

Regards,
BU

originally posted by Brent Dubroc

Hi Brian, thanks for responding!

1) This is going to be part of a larger overview about the Wars of Light and Shadow series that I'm going to post, and at the very beginning I'm going to state that there's going to be a little spoilers as possible, and I'll be covering much more than just what the arc structure is like - some of the headings I have are Pacing, Plot overview, Characters, Worldbuilding, Themes.

2) 239k refers to the word count of the volume (perhaps I didn't make that clear enough), but you're right, maybe referring to Stormed Fortress in that context as "a narrative climax the length of a standard fantasy novel" would be a more apt description of it.

3) I shall indeed include a link to the series roadmap in my final Reddit post!

Thanks,
Brent

I think what you have is excellent - not my part to steer a reader's (or poster's) enthusiasm…because what I thought I wrote becomes a different experience for every reader/and it will 'shift' again after life experience changes perspective.

The NAV sheet Brian mentioned - has carefully tailored little 'thread summaries' of what the underlying strand is, for each volume and arc, very pared down and simplified. And a 'great statement' on the whole series in general - these may be valuable?? Because: layers and levels are in there whether seen or not.

The main conflict shifts as the emphasis grows on the surrounding 'conflicts' until the series has multiple drivers; it's much more than two half brothers story - many readers have not read far enough to see the whole tapestry. Many more have not re-read to experience the changed landscape of what is important in Vol I - so that, in fact, Mistwraith becomes quite another story.

These books are not YA and not for black and white plotlines. The protagonists at the start are already grown - and they change immensely as the series moves forward. (Aragorn at the end of LoTR is basically the same character…only his kingship is revealed) whereas with this series we see the growth and change of each characters' perspective.

I'd not want to see you overweight what you've done, so don't feel any such insight is necessary.

Some readers who have aphantasia (inability to visualize in the mind's eye) are going to find the read 'rough going' because the visual scope is included in the experienced narrative. Honestly, I think that may spark off some of the polarized reviews, where the reader just can't hack the style, who knows?

Sometimes readers do well with a reference to something they've read and loved - that long comparison I wrote on Light and Shadow VS Malazan gave them a clear contour to follow…what is different Exactly about this series from LoTR (no orcs, no elves, no Big Bad Evil Overlord, no clear good vs EVILE/Way of Kings - prose style is way deeper/story is not linear or quick take/A Song of Ice and Fire - Everybody Isn't Out for Themselves, it's dark and light, not straight dark/Realm of the Elderlings - the main characters are decisive/they encounter stuff and they change) etc…

Just a general question:

WHY do people on forums declare that there are no Wurts audio books???

I do have five titles available from Audible:

Master of Whitestorm, read by the Golden Voice/Audie winning narrator, Simon Prebble, who also did Narnia, Shackleton, and Dr Strange and Mr Norrell by Suzanna Clark. He knocked it out of the park on Whitestorm…yet almost nobody has 'found' it.

Sorcerer's Legacy - narrated beautifully by the Audie award winning Emily Gray…likewise, it seems nobody knows it exists.

All three titles for Cycle of Fire are in audio, narrated by David Thorpe.

And if you include the Empire trilogy, Tania Roduiguez killed it - amazing job.

It is ONLY Wars of light and Shadows that lacks audio (barring Destiny's Conflict) and the other standalone, To Ride Hell's Chasm. These rights belong to HarperCollins, and that is where the pressure needs to be applied.

Sales of the other titles would also give them incentive.

It beats me why people say there are no Wurts titles in audio…any guesses, because this one has me pulling my hair out.

In every case, I helped pick the narrator (sometimes getting my first choice, yay!). In every case, I provided a typed and a recorded pronunciation list to help the talent selected to do the read.

In every case, there are CHAPTER LONG excerpts available on my website, that readership can download in Mp3 to kick the tires/see if they like the style.

As a post script, I am thrilled to even see these conversations happening!!

What else could I be doing?