Culture & Criticism Since 2003
There is, of course, nothing new in placing supernatural fiction in the context of a historical setting. Two of the best-known examples of this are A Song of Fire and Ice by G.R.R. Martin and Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. Combining accurate historical milieus with fiction is also quite common: I recently reviewed a fine example of such, Who Killed Willie Lincoln? by Burt Solomon, for The Electric Review (read it here). However, trying to combine fantasy with a real-world twist is a difficult and demanding task. To succeed, you must have two levels of “book-reality” intertwining, and it has to work in such a way that the “real” world remains real to the reader, who usually is well-aware that their actual world doesn’t contain faeries, magic mirrors or dragons. Moreover, combining fantasy with a historically accurate world, as Michael Livingston has done in his three-book series culminating in The Realms of God, is even a notch more difficult. Here, the writer has to avoid weighing the work down with historical verisimilitude while simultaneously adding color and elements from a by-gone era. But in Realms, Livingston has done a superb job of threading those literary needles. The result is a well-paced narrative filled with solid characters who take us on an engrossing journey through a land where even the demons don’t sound like refugees from a deMille film. As mentioned, Realms is the third book of the series, and fans of the genre will be well-served to search out the first two installments (The Shards of Heaven and The Gates of Hell) to see just how we got here.
Zepp Jamieson was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and spent his formative years living in various parts of Canada, the UK, South Africa and Australia before finally moving to the United States, where he has lived for over 40 years. Aside from writing, his interests include hiking, raising dogs and cats, and making computers jump through hoops. His wife of 25 years edits his copy, and bravely attempts to make him sound coherent. Reach him through The Electric Review.