Oblivion’s Forge is an intricate work of dark fantasy which follows three key characters in the world of Aona. An ancient force is returning from the void and this return is stimulating the restoration of Old magic in the world. Caught up in this we have Vornen, who has the ability to see the gates through which the forces arrive; Amethyst, who has been cursed to seek out a mysterious woman; and Jaana, a healer who finds her healing ability becoming ineffective in face of the forces stirring in the world. The three characters plot lines ultimately crash together in a superb finale and along the way we encounter a range of colourful characters- thieves, assassins, wizards and monsters.
There were a number of aspects to this book that appealed to me. First of all it is an intelligent work. You are dropped into the plot with little background and the details gradually unfold as we travel with the characters. I’ve always liked that aspects in a book- it stimulates you to read more. In that way I was reminded of Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson, where you are ‘WTF’ for the first hundred pages, but by the end you feel satisfied about what’s going on.
The second big draw was the tortured characters that Simon has created. It is a skill to write fantasy and avoid the stereotypes of the genre, the most prominent of which must be 2-dimensional characterisations. The characters of Aona are detailed, realistic and interesting. Reading this book made me think about my own characterisation a great deal—and if a book makes you think, you know it’s worth the time you invest in it!
I threw a couple of questions at Simon about the Aona series and his writing:
Me: Your book mixes fairly dark fantasy with elements of sci-fi. I was reminded at times of Moorcock and Gene Wolfe. Who would you say are your biggest fantasy-SF influences?
Simon: Oddly enough, when I first started writing Oblivion’s Forge, it was much more “traditional” fantasy but it did gradually evolve a darker, “harder” work. I’d say my main influences have for many years been the likes of Tad Williams,George R R Martin, Cecilia Dart-Thornton and Ian Irvine, although I’m not sure how much those influences come through. I love the way Ian Irvine mixes a certain amount of tech into his gritty brand of fantasy, so perhaps his influence is the most visible.
When I was a kid I read a lot of Celtic and mythological fantasy, which actually inspired me to become a writer of the wider genre- I shall always be indebted to Alan Garner, Susan Cooper and C S Lewis for that reason.
Me: What drove your decision to self-publish rather than pursue traditional or small press routes?
Simon: I found myself quite disappointed with the attitude many writers’ agents displayed-I guess they get so many submissions that they can afford to have that attitude, but it was a little dispiriting! I guess I also decided at around the same time as I was sending out manuscripts, that I could instead be the master of my own destiny. Self-publishing has actually spurred me on to become a lot more productive- Oblivion’s Forge took around 13 years to complete, believe it or not, but it’s sequel, Secret Roads, has taken about a year, and the third book is also well underway already. Perhaps the fact that the first book is “out there” and there’s been an increasing level of interest in the series has helped give me the kick up the backside I needed!
Me: Unlike many self-pub authors your book is only available in print. Are you planning an e-version?
I am. I’m hoping to have a Kindle version available in a month or so.
Me: Your characters are very diverse and intricate.Which is the one you identify with the most and which did you enjoy writing?
Simon: I guess in the first book I identified with Vornen the most in a way, although I think many people might see a part of themselves in his personality- he comes across as a bit of a dreamer or a no-hoper sometimes, and lurches from disaster to disaster- and we all feel as if we’re jinxed from time to time in our lives (thankfully few of us could be quite as jinxed as Vornen!). I also enjoyed writing about Iyoth and Kian, both of whom feature a fair bit more in Secret Roads.
I think that Nia, who you meet briefly in the first book, is my favourite character in the second. Without giving away any spoilers, Nia is “special”(unique, possibly) and a deeply troubled personality as well as a conniving woman who appears to have no morals whatsoever. In Oblivion’s Forge she does some quite reprehensible things, and she continues to do so in Secret Roads- but I try to point out her motivation, the reason why she is the way she is. She certainly isn’t a hero, but I want readers to try and understand her or at least see the human being beyond and behind the actions. I’ve actually grown quite attached her whilst writing the second book, and hope that happens to some of my readers too.
Me: The magic system seems quite intricate in your book--is it elaborated further or is it a more major focus in your future books?
Simon: In the later books I definitely will be describing the witch / warlock / earthmagic side of things a lot more- it’s a major focus of the third book, The Endless Shore and in fact those characters who discover their innate powers in this area are absolutely pivotal to the whole concept of the Aona books. What I want to expand on a lot more is how dangerous the use of these powers is, for the wielder as much as anyone else. I want it to be seen as a “last resort” whose practitioners fear the possible effects of its use. I think that feeling of unpredictability is important.
At the same time I’ll be going into more detail about the mysterious Seven who rule in Luudhoq, and the quite different powers that they possess.
Me: Why do you think the anti-hero is so popular in fantasy and SF genres?
To put it simply, the anti-hero (or better yet, the random character who could have been anyone plucked from obscurity) tends to feel more real. They are much more interesting to write about and to read about. I stopped writing about the traditional idea of “heroes” many years ago because it just didn’t do it for me- I felt as if I was just embellishing a stereotype and I didn’t want to do that. I couldn’t identify with characters like that because they didn’t act in the way I or most other people would act in the given situation. I think the vast majority of people, placed in the situations you see in the Aona books, would be fearful, angry, suspicious, desperate a lot of the time- and their actions would inevitably be questionable or even abhorrent some of the time. It’s how they somehow work their way through these challenges (or not as the case may be!) that I find great to write about, whether they’re anti-heroes or simply non-heroes.
Simon's book is available on Amazon or more simply ordered direct from the Completely Novel website via clicking here.
Simon's websites are the World of Aona website and his own author site at SimonWilliamsAuthor.com
Simon Williams is the author of the Aona series of dark fantasy books. The first book in the series, Oblivion’s Forge, was published in the summer of 2011 and the second, Secret Roads, is due out at the end of March 2012.