Welcome to my stop on the Escapist Book tour for The Many Shades of Midnight by C. M. Debell! For my part of the tour, I will be sharing a guest post written by the author herself! You will also find information about the author and her book, The Many Shades of Midnight below.
Title: The Many Shades of Midnight
Author: C. M. Debell
Intended Age Group: Adult
Published: February 1, 2023
Publisher: Self Published
Isyr. Stronger, brighter, more beautiful than other metals. Once the most desirable thing in Ellasia, now it is priceless, the pure Isyrium needed to produce it mined to exhaustion. What’s left is controlled by the powerful mining syndicates, and such is the demand for their Isyrium that even kings do their bidding. Yet just as the beauty of Isyr hides a deadly secret, so too do the syndicates.
A terrifying enemy is spreading a plague across the land, a sickness that kills or transforms everything it touches. Unable to contain the outbreaks, the King of Lankara begs the aid of the disgraced former Duke of Agrathon, Alyas-Raine Sera, a man who has spent years fighting syndicate expansion and whose resentment over his exile makes him an unpredictable, dangerous ally in the power struggle between the rulers of Ellasia and the mining companies.
Attached to the envoy to recall the duke, the apprentice surgeon Brivar finds his skills and loyalty tested as his service to his new patron uncovers secrets about Isyr and the plague that link it to the mining of Isyrium – and threaten the life of the man it is his duty to protect.
In their own separate ways, Alyas and Brivar must take on the might of the syndicates and confront the greed, murder, betrayal and impossible choices of a crisis that has been decades in the making – and the price of their failure could be everyone and everything.
Themes in The Many Shades of Midnight
At the end of 2020, I watched the David Attenborough documentary Extinction. It was at the height of Covid. In the UK, we had just had Christmas cancelled at the last minute, and our much-anticipated family reunion had turned into meeting my brother in a carpark in North London on Christmas Eve to share out the food we had bought so we each had something to eat for Christmas dinner. It was all a bit depressing.
Then I watched Extinction, which was, let’s face it, never going to be the jolly pick-me-up that Christmas needed. It was about the sixth mass extinction – not a prediction of the future but where we are now. The programme was an hour of dire warnings, tragedy and devastation that could have been avoided, and one that wasn’t afraid to point the finger of blame at the pursuit of profit at any cost. It made me cry. It made me angry. And it made me feel helpless. Helpless because it portrayed a situation so dire that surely governments, corporations, individuals would recognise the need to stop, to change, to take urgent, desperate action to save what is left to be saved.
Except that’s not what’s happening, because it was the pursuit of profit over everything else that got us into this mess, and it is the pursuit of profit in the face of disaster that is preventing us from turning things around.
It was the sense of helplessness that made me feel so angry. Sure, we can all do our bit to buy less, use less, drive less, recycle more, and I have to believe that matters, but the things I cannot change – the actions of massive global corporations or (the inaction) of governments – are the things that will, arguably, make or break the future of the planet. So, what did I do with that anger? I wrote a book.
Not a book about climate change. A secondary-world fantasy that takes many of the traditional themes of fantasy – friendship, loyalty, betrayal, good v evil – and puts them into the context of a world on the brink of a manmade catastrophe, a catastrophe with strong parallels to our world but with a fantasy twist. A story that let me explore the themes in the documentary that made me so angry – the greed that puts profit before everything, and the lies, corruption and self-interest that allow it to flourish even knowing what the consequences will be.
Of course, putting all that in a book left me with a fictional crisis, much like climate change, that was so big and complicated it felt impossible to solve. And that is another theme of this book. When the problem is so huge, when its causes are so tightly intertwined with the way we live our lives and expect to be able to continue to live them, what do you do? It is paralysingly enormous. But if we can fool ourselves that we still have time to respond to climate change, there’s no such luxury here. In my fictional world, there’s no time left. It really is do or die for these characters. It simplifies things. It doesn’t make choices easier, but it does give them a degree of clarity that can be so hard to find in the real world.
Fantasy is an ideal genre to play with these themes and the backdrop to them because fantasy is all about confronting people with impossible choices. So much of what make fantasy great, for me, is the way it explores the big questions at a human level, and at its heart, this is a story about friendship and family and protecting the people we love; about taking a stand and having the courage to take action when no one else will; about fighting back and fighting for change. It is also, in its own way, a story about hope.
I’m a parent. I’m terrified by what the future holds for our children, about what we have done and are doing to the world they will grow up in. That fear, more than anything, is what inspired this book.
Author Bio & Information
Fantasy fan since forever, coffee-obsessed, cake-loving Londoner, wife, mother, journalist, editor, designer, and cowrie collector.
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