Andrew Rowe is joining us today to talk about his novel, The Torch That Ignites The Stars. Here’s the publisher’s description:
After concluding their first year at Lorian Heights, Corin and his friends catch a train from their native Valia to the distant country of Caelford. For most, this would be a simple vacation. Corin has other plans.
-Meet Anabelle Farren, the eccentric owner of Farren Labs, and learn about artificial attunements.
-Seek out Warren Constantine, a previous Arbiter, for training and a potential alliance.
-Find the visage Ferras herself to seek a cure for Sera’s condition.
Of course, Corin is Corin, and there’s absolutely no chance he’s going to be able to stick to a list.
…And even if Corin miraculously developed a sense of focus, he isn’t the only one with plans.
The Blackstone Bandit.
Everyone’s favorite mysterious book entity.
The aforementioned Farren.
A vacationing professor.
The mirror of a figure from Keras’ past.
When their plots intersect, Corin and his friends are, predictably, stuck at the center.
It’s going to be a long vacation.
What’s Andrew’s favorite bit?
When I first started working on Arcane Ascension, I wanted to dig into a subject that I hadn’t seen explored to my satisfaction in other fantasy works — the many varying methods of gaining magical power.
In the innumerable fantasy works that are out there, magic comes in a variety of forms: people are born with it, learn it through study, earn it through tragedy or happenstance, accept it from a powerful being, or any number of other methods. In most settings, whichever method people gain power is generally accepted as normal, without a whole lot of analysis of how fair, equitable, or ethical that system ends up. Some of my favorite stories — things like Sanderson’s works and the web serial Worm — show some of the inherent unfairness in specific power acquisition systems, but very few of them make that a central part of the narrative.
As a corollary to that, anyone who attempts to distribute powers outside of the normal methods of acquisition in any given setting is almost universally regarded as a villain. If you see a character handing out or selling the ability to use magic or superpowers in a setting where normally people are born with it or gain it through other means, that character is usually an antagonist. We’re generally given reasons to hate and fear anyone who wants to distribute magic or superpowers to the average person. (See: The Power Broker in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, or even in the Marvel comics, for a very traditional depiction of this subject.)
Any attempt at improving humanity beyond a normal baseline is generally seen as suspicious if not downright corrupt in most forms of western media. This is often true in science fiction works as well — cybernetic improvements are more likely to be seen in cyberpunk dystopias than more optimistic works (with some rare exceptions, such as Geordi la Forge — and even in his case, his visor is a treatment for a disability that he eventually hopes to have cured). Figures seeking to extend human lifespans beyond a strict baseline are generally villains, too.
So, with all that in mind, I decided to explore a world with inequitable distribution of magic and people within it who seek to upset that status quo.
In Arcane Ascension in general, we see the unfairness of various different magic systems — from the standard “born with magic” lottery on Mythralis, to children being sent to face deadly challenges to earn a shot at magic through climbing monster-infested towers on Kaldwyn. In the latter case, the risk factors of the towers are only one element of the inequity: another element is the financial component, since only the wealthy can afford to take the tower challenges easily, and the inequity of preparation (where noble families are given advantages in knowledge and preparation). And even for those that earn magic, their opportunities to improve it are vastly different based on their social status: wealth leads to more resources for increasing magic power, and ancient families hold secrets to gaining new and greater varieties of strength.
In The Torch that Ignites the Stars, we explore the first of many alternatives to this traditional fantasy formula. We explore Farren Labs, where a corporation makes artificial attunements —marks that can be applied to anyone to grant them magical powers, without the necessity for being born with advantages or taking a test in a death trap tower. But will this research lead to a decrease in inequity, or will it simply provide more advantages to the wealthy who can afford to supplement their power further? In this part of the story, I hoped to show a little more detail on how a corporation like that might function, beyond the generally surface-level “villain that sells superpowers” approaches in many existing works.
Similarly, we see another possible method of power acquisition through the shrines in the Unclaimed Lands, and the bitterness of Warren Constantine, a man who hoped to change the world and failed.
As Corin, our protagonist, learns more about them, he’ll have a chance to start building his own ideas for how to make a better future. Will he succeed at making something better than the systems of the past? Will he innovate, but create as many problems as he solves? Or will he fail to even make it that far, abandoning an attempt at progress entirely?
For that, you’ll have to read the books and draw your own conclusions. I hope that readers enjoy seeing these subjects explored in The Torch that Ignites the Stars, as well as many future works. This may be the third book in Arcane Ascension, but Corin is just getting started with his journey.
Andrew Rowe was once a professional game designer for awesome companies like Blizzard Entertainment, Cryptic Studios, and Obsidian Entertainment. After successfully launching the War of Broken Mirrors, Andrew transitioned into working as a full time novelist. He’s launched several additional series since then, including Weapons and Wielders, How to Defeat a Demon King in Ten Easy Steps, and his most famous – Arcane Ascension, which hit the New York Times Bestseller list. His latest novel in the Arcane Ascension series, The Torch That Ignites The Stars is now available on audio from Podium.