Druid treads lighter path through fantasy
Juliet Marillier was born in the same year as George R.R. Martin but, when it comes to writing fantasy, that’s about their only similarity.
Marillier, an awardwinning Australian writer of fantasy and historical fiction for the past 20 years, says she has seen dramatic changes in the world of fantasy writing thanks to the likes of Game Of Thrones.
“There is a darkness now,” Marillier says.
“Not only Game Of Thrones but writers like Joe Abercrombie are creating much darker, grittier worlds. There’s a taste for that and perhaps less of a taste for clearly escapist and comforting fantasy.
“I like reading that sort of work — the difficult, violent, confronting stuff — but I wouldn’t write like that.
“I have too much belief in the goodness of human spirit and how
there’s a path through darker things. I’m more interested in how the characters forge their way past these terrible challenges. As a druid, my world view is too different.”
Marillier is a member of OBOD (Order Of Bards, Ovates And Druids) and this is both a theme in her work and influences her writing.
While GoT has exposed fantasy to a much wider audience, Marillier is confident it won’t mean all fantasy has to be packed full of dragons, bloodshed and lashings of sex.
“It will change the fashion for a bit but fantasy won’t collapse in a heap forever,” she says.
Marillier didn’t watch the TV series because “I’m not keen on in-your-face sexual assaults and violence” and hasn’t read the books because “I fear I’ll become addicted and should be spending that time writing”.
Yet she is familiar with the story and the characters through friends and the online buzz — and well aware of the outcry about the ending and how the author has said the written finish of the series will be different to the television version.
“It must be very frustrating for (Martin),” Marillier says. “I’ve never had any of mine optioned but there were some discussions and my agent told me that once you sell your film rights, you bid your story farewell — unless you are J.K. Rowling! “I would find it very hard.” Marillier has won five Aurealis Awards and four Sir Julius Vogel Awards, as well as the American Library Association’s Alex Award and the Prix Imaginales.
Her latest book, The Harp Of Kings, is the start of a trilogy and is out this month.
Her US publisher has billed it as “James Bond in medieval Ireland” and Marillier says it is about three young people training as musicians and fighters who are sent out to find the missing symbol of kingship because musicians and singers make “good spies” in this world.
“They are young people being thrown into a much-wanted situation — and finding out it is much harder than they expected,” she says.
You don’t have to have read her earlier works but Marillier has hidden a few “Easter eggs” in this story for her long-time readers to enjoy.
And if you loved GoT and are thinking about reading more fantasy?
“The message is branch out and find something that broadens your horizons,” Marillier says. “If you like action and intrigue and a strong personal story then mine is good.”
Acclaimed fantasy author Juliet Marillier and (right) her new book The Harp Of Kings.
THE HARP OF KINGS BY JULIET MARILLIER, PUBLISHED BY Y MACMILLAN AUSTRALIA, $ 29.99