Books of Influence: An Occasional Series

This is the first in an occasional series of posts about the books – mostly classic fantasy and science fiction – that have most greatly influenced my own writing and world-building.  First among these are The Chronicles of Tornor, by Elizabeth A. Lynn.

The Chronicles of Tornor, published in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, consist of three books: Watchtower, The Dancers of Arun, and The Northern Girl. All take place in Arun, a land of city-states and northern keeps, grasslands and mountains, a land where certain psi powers, dance and warfare as two faces of one discipline, and a wider acceptance of differing forms of sexuality and love evolve over the several hundred years separating the three books. The first book in the series, Watchtower, won the World Fantasy Award in 1979.

Hailed at the time of publication as “an adventure story for humanists and feminists” (Joanna Russ) author Elizabeth A. Lynn’s spare, evocative prose and finely tuned characters made me long to be in Arun, but more importantly taught me how less is more in writing. The facets of sexuality revealed in her characters in this trilogy (and in two other of her books from the same general time, The Sardonyx Net and A Different Light), while common-place now, were still challenging readers at the time they were published. Important to her world (and ours), the sexuality of her characters is not an issue; it is an unremarkable part of the society and culture of Arun.

Each book can stand alone, but all are linked by the land in which they take place, the lineage of the characters, and a set of cards resembling Tarot cards. While there is physical action in all three books, it takes a back stage to the psychological and emotional change and growth that happens in the protagonists; it is these battles that are the focus of the stories, and hold the meaning. Lynn brings the story full-circle over the three books, beginning and ending at the northern keep of Tornor.

I first read this series in my early-to-mid twenties – now over thirty years ago- and of all the books I have read and will write about in this occasional series, The Chronicles of Tornor had the most direct influence on my own fictional land and some of the themes explored in the Empire’s Legacy series.  My paperbacks are tattered and torn, and one is a replacement, but they are books that will always have a place on my shelves.

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