The importance of names

Daniel writes an extended review of A THRONE OF BONES on Recommend:

Names are important in A Throne of Bones, and I’ll highlight two: Selenoth, the continent upon which the action takes is, a nod, I believe, to the element selenium, which occurs naturally in volcanic areas. Considering the photosensitivity of the material, it seems natural that the land provides an elemental basis to the development of Selenoth’s primeval magic. Even more interesting, however is the name of the main country: Amorr. Yes, it is a play on the legendary “secret name” of Rome, which provides a clever signal that this strange society will in some way mirror the Roman republic.

However, more deeply, it is also a direct tip to the Latin word for “love” and this is where, if the magic of Selenoth draws the bow, the arrow of Amorr strikes the heart. Day is, after all, an incorrigible romantic, and not of the hopeless variety. The nostalgia, realism and richness of Selenoth is crystalized through the lens of Amorr, and, to put a fine point on it, love is all around.

Love in degraded, if happy, form in the camp followers and brothels among the soldiery. Love between sibling reavers on a mission to draw former victim states into an alliance against certain doom. In a scene stunning, dreadful, long-coming but still shocking scene, love grips in stoic, complex anguish.* The raw and needful love between man and wife. Long-distance love between the clever (yet earnest) and the cruel (yet sympathetic). Love of complex relational intrigues. Love of language. Love of order. Love of family, of honor, of duty. Love of dragons. Love of gold. Love of knowledge. Love of good men, of good life, of good death. A love of the hope that all things, not some or most, will pass away, and yet that all things, not some or most, will be restored by the hand of the Almighty.

Every page, for its grit and realism, its tragedy, folly and danger, the thwarted plans, curses, whoredom, brutality, the death of youth, the loss of ideals, the temporary victory of murder and evil, is an out and out love letter to the Immaculate. Death, in all its towering, all-consuming bleakness, is small, and soon to be swallowed by a love so great it lays its life down, and in defeat, quite literally overcomes all.

A Throne of Bones is doorstopping fantasy for far more than its physical dimensions. Metaphysically, it shuts the door to the world we know and provides an escape to a better reality, and one far more dangerous than the one in which we now dwell. It expresses longings (to master dragons, to find treasure, to save the world on a mission from God, to restore and enjoy the family, to live abundantly and in reality, enjoy and defend the relationships that matter, and many, many more) in such richness of detail.

One of the things I enjoy most about writing books is discovering, after the fact, what others perceive I put into it. Sometimes, absolutely no one recognizes it. Sometimes, I simply fail what I set out to do. And sometimes, people perceive more than I had originally thought. But that doesn’t mean they are necessarily wrong, because the truth is that the writer isn’t always aware of everything he is doing or what all of his intentions are.

Well, perhaps some writers are, but I’m not. I just sit down and do it, one chunk at a time, until the whole edifice is finally constructed and I’m hoping that the whole thing more or less holds together. And since I seldom go back and re-read anything, sometimes I don’t even know what it was that I wrote, especially in a book this size. Perhaps that is what John C. Wright is talking about when he discusses his Muse, I don’t know. We lesser writers are not touched by the Divine Fire; where they soar on the wings of their mighty inspirations, we trudge along, one step after another, until we suddenly realize that we have arrived at our destination.

Book II is coming along slowly, but surely, and I think it is a better book in some ways than its predecessor. But then, that isn’t for me to say.