Druid treads lighter path through fan­tasy

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER -

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.


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