No Unwounded Soldiers

In war there are no unwounded soldiers.

This quote from José Narosky is written in large letters on the whiteboard in my study. Its purpose is to focus me on the main theme of my work-in-progress.

three spinesIn all the books in the Empire’s Legacy series, the titles reflect the main themes of the book. In Empire’s Daughter, the theme  was duty, and how that is perceived by a daughter of a mother, a village, a country. My mother served in the British Army in WWII, as a teletype operator, both in London and in France. After the war, and after emigration to Canada, she was a member of an organization called the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE).  I don’t remember what that group actually did, but from its name, and my mother’s own attitudes towards volunteering to serve, came the title of my first book.

Empire’s Hostage looks at the concept of being held hostage, both physically and intellectually; hostage to ideas and concepts, reflecting the growth we all make in determining what aspects of our upbringing we accept, and which we reject. I’m just old enough remember the end of the Viet Nam war, the protests and anger, but I am also very aware of the damage done to veterans who had served, in patriotism or in conscription, who returned to be repudiated and vilified for what they had done, sending them into a form of exile in their own country. From that came the title and theme of the third book, Empire’s Exile. Its title refers to exile in its many forms: physical, emotional; exile by choice or by decree, by forgetfulness, by history…and whether redemption from any of these is possible.

Exile is a longer book, divided into four sections. Each section  has a quote heading it, defining the sub-theme of that part. The final section, which deals with battle and sacrifice, was the easiest to find a quote for. Fittingly for a historical fantasy series set in an analogue of Europe in the days after the decline of the Roman Empire, it is from MacCauley’s Lays of Ancient Rome: And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his father and the temples of his gods?  The quote also brings the series full circle, to the themes of the first book: what is duty, in the face of war?

The work-in-progress, tentatively entitled Empire’s Reckoning, examines the price paid – by soldiers and civilians and nations – for war. It’s not proving to be an easy book to write, but that’s all right. It serves to remind me, on this Remembrance Day weekend and every day, of the truth in Naroksy’s words: In war there are no unwounded soldiers.


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