Titles for works of fiction often cause authors a good deal of soul-searching. Ideally, we want to give potential readers clues about content, theme, style, and storyline. Not easy in anything from one to maybe a dozen words. Of course, the best titles are revealed as obvious choices once a book’s been read, so this series is largely for those who’ve yet to read the books featured.
‘Joinings’ is the first book in an epic adult fantasy published under the series title of ‘A Seared Sky’. My original intended title for the trilogy was ‘Skyfire’, but a search of Amazon revealed that title had already been used may times. That means, in a search, readers would have a problem finding the book they really want to read.
Why ‘Skyfire’? The event that kicks off the action of the whole series, and remains central, is the unexpected early arrival of a what is considered a repeat comet, a ‘fire’ in the sky. The religious myths of the society on this invented world, mean the High Priest is then required to set out for the homeland of the ‘Followers’ who are island disciples of an early prophet these people consider a holy leader. ‘A Seared Sky’ seemed an appropriate alternative title for the trilogy.
The books deal with many themes, including religious hypocrisy, inadequate and self-centred leadership, slavery, sexual liberty and prohibition, justice, love, courage, tenacity, the ills of social injustice, and self-sacrifice, among others.
The covers of all three books are similar, and feature as a background the map I created as a guide for me to keep track of where various individuals where at any time. Each cover is slightly different, but the series is united by this device, as suggested by my publisher, Fantastic Books Publishing.
So, why is Book 1 titled ‘Joinings’? The religion of the Followers was set up by a sexual deviant, but the priests who followed him as leaders of the sect avoided telling their congregation. What resulted was a series of religious rites based on sex; these leaders understood the power of such activity over a population of ill-educated peasants. Sexual intercourse was labelled ‘Joining’ and, for certain landmark life events, was public. The story opens with the main two protagonists required to gather with their peers at a sacred site on their island and there to pass certain initiation rites before Joining in front of their assembled parents and families in order to become a married couple. All mature people present also Join with whoever they wish. It’s a metaphor for the power of suggestion that can so easily exist when those perceived as spiritual leaders invoke religious custom and tradition to persuade worshippers to act in ways that might rationally be described as evil, abhorrent, perverse, or undesirable. Many examples of this type of coercion exist in religious communities all over our own world.
The story then follows the journey of the female lead protagonist, Tumalind, falsely ‘Chosen’ as one of three ‘Virgin Gifts’, a traditional offering from the High Priest to the current occupiers of their original homeland. She, along with her two other Virgin Gifts, is not permitted to join with her betrothed. The group of pilgrims, led by the High Priest, must leave their island, Muhnilahm, cross the wide ocean and several lands to the country of Choshinahm, where the sect originated before it was discovered as reliant on an evil doctrine and therefore expelled. However, Tumalind’s overly pious father, Aglydron, and her intended betrothed, Okkyntalah, notice a deception in the ‘Choosing’ ceremony, which replaced the High Priest’s own daughter with Tumalind. Aglydron, a ‘by-the-book’ adherent of the sect, decides he must prevent what he sees as a sacrilegious mistake, which he fears will bring down the wrath of their god on the population, and therefore sets out to force the High Priest to replace Tumalind with the High Priest’s daughter, Jodisa-Li. Aglydron agrees with the plan to perform the swap, but only because he’s desperate to rescue his beloved Tumalind.
So begins the central quest of the fantasy, as the official party is trailed by would-be religious hero, romantic hero, and reluctant captive, Jodisa-Li, across wild seas, over foreign lands, and through much threat and danger, to put right the wrong.
The story is told from the points of view of several characters as the two journeys progress. Meanwhile, the absence of the High Priest brings conflict between his appointed deputy, a self-serving sycophantic hypocrite, and the High Priest’s renegade son who wishes to bring the island population into a more just and modern civilisation. He has encountered the enigmatic Ivdulon, a gifted and wise being from the mainland with whom he converses telepathically using the gift of ‘Mindtalk’ known to a select few.
Frequent tensions develop between Jodisa-Li, Aglydron, and Okkyntalah. The ‘pilgrims’ attending the High Priest and Virgin Gifts, as they make their journey back to the homeland, are also beset with problems. Joinings are required of those eligible each day at sunset, and this, considering the odd make-up of the chosen party, causes many disputes and dangers.
This first book holds 682 pages of relationships, action, adventure, dangers, joinings, conflict, love, punishment, romance, corruption, and betrayals. If I’ve whetted your curiosity, you can find a little more detail here. Or, if you’re intrigued enough to plunge into reading the book straight away, you’ll find it here. And, for those who like to consult reviews before deciding whether to read a book, you’ll find a number of those here. Enjoy! Oh, and if you do, please consider writing a brief review so other potential readers have a clue about what you think of it. Thank you.