My first series, The Tales of Einarinn, took the epic fantasy focus away from kings and princes to look at ordinary people threatened by warfare and wizards. So why did I decide to write my next story about that archetypal fantasy figure; the absolute feudal ruler? Because I was getting very tired of commentators insisting that epic fantasy is conservative, consolatory and uncritically, if unconsciously, advocates old-fashioned, hierarchical political systems.
As someone moderately left of centre in British political terms, that's so very much NOT what I write. So I decided to take a good, hard look at the realities of absolute rule, in particular its fatal flaws. Because it's no surprise that most societies aim for democracy (with all its imperfections) as far as they can, and that the world's currently seeing the mass migration of people desperate to escape tyranny.
With great good fortune, I'd already introduced the autocratic, autonomous warlords of the Aldabreshin Archipelago in the Tales. So I set about exploring and expanding that particular society, creating the backdrop for an exciting, intriguing fantasy series that would incidentally explore that particular hinterland. This process soon involved consciously including elements to make a reader think 'Wait, what?!'