Droll’s audition

From time to time, characters from my stories turn up unbidden in my mind, and perform scenes for me that they think I may wish to include in my books; or new characters turn up for the first time, and show me what they can do, and ask me to find them a place. The character you are about to meet is one of the first kind. I have known him for many years; he comes in at the middle of The Grey Death, the long-delayed second book of The Eye of the Maker.

He is a little fellow, not much over four foot high, with a marvellously shabby and scruffy beard, a mass of tufts pointing in all directions; he insists that he is a Dwarf, of the ancient and legendary mountain people, though of course all right-thinking folk know there are no such things as Dwarfs, and he is merely a midget with delusions of ancestry. His name is Droll Yocrin. The first name is tolerably obvious, and seems to suit him somehow; the second name is thoroughly obscure. There is a folk-etymology to the effect that ‘Yocrin’ is derived from ‘yoke-ring’ (for the O is long), but what on earth a yoke-ring may be, not even the folk-etymologists can tell me. Droll himself insists that it is a Dwarfish name out of the ancient mountain-language, but that his father did not teach him enough of that tongue to interpret it properly.

I hope you like him. He invited me just lately to visit him in his workshop – for he is a jeweller by trade – and see how he passes his Yule holiday. Yule in Pyrandain is more like the Scottish Hogmanay than anybody’s Christmas; it is the eve of the New Year, and an occasion for various festivities to break up the long cold darkness of deep winter. But there are glimpses here and there of something more—
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Stephen J., one of our 3.6 Loyal Readers, has posted a review of The End of Earth and Sky on Amazon.com. I reproduce it here without comment, except to say that I am touched and delighted:

It says something about the current state of fantasy that The End of Earth and Sky can be accurately described as a refreshing change from what has become accepted as the modern norm, and that may well be to the story’s ultimate benefit; if it had been published fifteen or twenty years ago it might have gone unfairly overlooked or dismissed as the work of another Tolkien disciple in the vein of Kay, Brooks, McKiernan or Eddings. Instead, thanks to a modern genre field crammed full of the bleakly violent cynicism of Abercrombie, Morgan and Erikson on the one hand and butt-kicking urban fantasy or steampunk heroines on the other, Simon’s short but elegant first novel is like coming unexpectedly upon an oasis in the desert.

Superficially a standard coming-of-age bildungsroman, Simon’s tale of reluctant and not-especially-talented wizard’s apprentice Calin Lowford starts with an unexpected burst of violence and then, startlingly, features no violence at all for almost the entire rest of the story; likewise, the magic that Calin learns is a slow, painful process of question and answer that winds up revealing far more about the world Calin lives in than we realize at first glance. Calin’s mentor Rijeth may be the first “Eccentric Mentor” figure since Gandalf to successfully impress not only the protagonist but the reader with his knowledge, which is critical as they are the two most deeply developed characters in the book; likewise, Simon may be the first writer since Tolkien to deploy his fantastical “elder language” with enough skill and character to convince the reader that the tongue actually exists and could be learned, a vital part of the process of subcreation. Simon’s English prose also displays the same understated elegance as his constructed language, and Calin’s voice (in which the story is told) is an entertainingly wry perspective that does not skimp on admitting the narrator’s flaws and foibles. Finally, Simon has grasped the mythic element of fantasy in a way that many more “realistic” writers like Martin, Rothfuss or Erikson do not, and does not shy away from simply presenting fairy-tale impossibilities of geography with a convincing matter-of-factness that still leaves their elfland glamour intact. He also gives a sense of metaphysical and philosophical depth to his world that blessedly never yields to any temptation of “deconstruction” while still at the same time feeling wholly plausible and human.

While the story’s atypical paucity of traditional action scenes may be held as a flaw by some (though not by this reviewer), a more telling complaint – and really the only serious one in this reviewer’s opinion – is in the development of most of the other characters. However, Simon has what might be called the opposite of the usual problem; it is not that his secondary characters feel bland or unmemorable – every person who appears on stage is drawn with sufficient energy and precision to feel real – but they are most of them interesting enough that they are missed when the action abruptly shifts in the last part of the novel to concentrate on Calin and Rijeth alone. With the book’s cliffhanger ending, the lack of resolution for the rest of the cast is a perceptible gap; we are left wondering what happened to Calin’s father Hallin, or his former coworker Iriel, his friend Håkar, the arrogant noble Gram Loris or even his mentor’s rival Conin Dane, and the prospective wait for the sequel and the answers bids fair to be greatly frustrating.

Notwithstanding this complaint, The End of Earth and Sky may be the first high fantasy since Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry to really capture both the mythic grandeur and the practical intelligence of writers like Tolkien or Lewis, and aficionados of the field will not only enjoy this immensely but find themselves agog for the next volume. (Hint, hint, Mr. Simon.)

But I tell a lie: I do have a comment. The sequel, The Grey Death, is once again in leaf and flower, and I hope to release it not long after my experiment with serial fiction, Where Angels Die. I shall be very busy for the rest of this year, if my health holds up.

Selections from the Octopus

Strange are the tongues of mortals: you say so much that you do not mean, and yet mean so much more than you say.

—Talanel, seeress of the yrani, in The Grey Death

Notes from Pyrandain

Two men cannot wield one sword.

Draking proverb

THE END OF EARTH AND SKY: Free at Amazon, March 12–16

Starting Tuesday, March 12, The End of Earth and Sky will be available for free at Amazon stores worldwide. Please do check it out if you haven’t yet — and spread the word! Blog about it, review it, let your friends know it’s free.

The promotion ends at midnight Pacific time, Saturday, March 16.


Reviews of The End of Earth and Sky are beginning to trickle in. I have the particular honour to call your attention to two:

Sherwood Smith offers a fine and perceptive (and favourable) review on Book View Cafe:

‘New Discoveries — The End of Earth and Sky’

Jonathan Moeller reviews it on his own blog:

‘The End of Earth & Sky, by Tom Simon’

Encouraging news, to be sure.

‘Say to the seers, See not’

Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:
That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord:
10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
11 Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.
12 Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:
13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.
14 And he shall break it as the breaking of the potter’s vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.

—Isaiah 30:8–14 (AV)

This passage, just as it stands, could serve rather neatly as a Leitmotiv or ‘argument’ for The Eye of the Maker as a whole. I shall not use it for that purpose, since Isaiah and Israel belong to this world and not to that one. Still, mutatis nominibus de his fabula narratur.

The calendar of Pyrandain

Joseph Ebbecke has the honour of being the first reader to ask (in writing) a question about the world of The Eye of the Maker after the publication of Book I. His question:

I clamor for calendars, appendices, glossaries!

Are Sheaftide and Scythetide months or seasons?

My reply:

Calendars, appendices, glossaries still to come. Be of good hope!

Sheaftide and Scythetide are not months or seasons, they are weeks, like Holy Week or Whitsuntide in our own calendar. [Read more…]

The End of Earth and Sky

The Eye of the Maker

Book One



Now available exclusively from Amazon


Young Calin Lowford sees his best friend slain by a creature not seen in the land since the ancient wars.  Forbidden to join the fight against these foes, he is sent as servant to the wizard Rijeth, to learn of strange magics and stranger omens. His quest to avenge his friend will lead him through sorcery and peril to a secret at the end of the world — the mysterious Eye of the Maker.

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The Next Big Thing

Jonathan Moeller has tagged me for The Next Big Thing. I am nearly as susceptible as a dragon to flattery (although, unlike Smaug, I am painfully aware of the weak points in my armour); what is more important, I am stuck on the all-important cover copy for the Octopus, so I can answer these questions as a sort of rehearsal. [Read more…]