The verdict: Scott gives it four stars.

More importantly, he touches on several items I considered critical while working on The White Tree. Biggest of all is the friendship between Dante and Blays, Blays wasn’t a big factor in my early plans; my focus, really, was on Dante, the expansion of his powers and the deepening trouble his ambitions bring them. But the moment Blays showed up on the page, the story changed.

Some authors talk about their characters coming alive, writing themselves, as if the writer is just a stenographer for these people no one else can see. My experience wasn’t quite like that. I was still the one doing the writing. But Blays’ persona was so clear to me and he was such a perfect companion for Dante (ready to call him on his BS, almost as good at getting into trouble as he is in getting out of it) that I hardly had to think at all. I just knew. I knew exactly what Blays would say, what he would do. Just thinking about them makes me want to start writing about them right now.

Scott picked up on something else that emerged between these two characters: “Dante and Blays are both willing to do what they have to do to achieve their goals regardless of the legality of their actions.” Yeah. Indeed. Over the course of the book, they lie, cheat, steal, and kill. They do a lot of bad things. I wanted to challenge them, to regularly put them into murky moral situations where the answer’s far from clear. I wanted to keep as far away from the Good Vs. Evil tendency of epic fantasy as possible. I wanted the questions Dante and Blays face in their world to be just as impossible as the ones we face in ours.

Lastly, he mentions the “rich mythology.” That damned mythology! I wrote pages of notes on the mythology behind The White Tree–not only did I have to compose my own Zodiac, complete with its own subsets of signs, signifiers, meanings, and embedded legends, but Dante eventually discovers the myths have changed over time, meaning I had to track all that, too–which symbols have changed and how, how later writers misinterpreted the early legends, etc. etc. etc. Good lord. Just thinking about it makes my brain want to crawl out my ear and hide under the porch.

I try not to call a ton of attention to the historical contradictions within the world’s mythology. For the most part, it’s peripheral to the main story. Picking up on these little clues won’t change your entire reading of the book. They won’t teach you to sprout wings and flap to the oasis on the moon, either.

But it could change your perspective on their world’s history just a little. With that understanding, the conflict between the two kingdoms and their religions might look a little sadder.

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I am a Science Fiction and Fantasy author, based in LA. Read More.
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