Turgonia was the place I chose to feature for the letter T of my world-building themed A to Z in 2016. This year I’m doing flashbacks from the seven challenges I’ve undertaken. The A to Z Challenge is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.
T is for Turgonia, the main city in Lindsay Buroker’s fabulous Emperor’s Edge series. Since it’s Saturday, it’s book review day, but since it’s the A to Z, I have to focus on world-building. My review is of Conspiracy, book 4 in the series, which starts with The Emperor’s Edge, continues with Dark Currents, and then Deadly Games.
Click those titles for my reviews and you’ll find me raving about each one of them. So I’m going to try to do a review without spoilers for the series to date, which is pretty difficult!
Turgonia is a city, or empire, with a steampunk feel, but it’s more fantasy than that – shades of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, but with a woman in the lead and a hot assassin at her side, or stalking her, or fending her off…. She leads a motley gang including a self-important dandy who believes she is irresistibly attracted to him, a bookish wimp who became an outlaw by accident, and a light-fingered all-purpose useful ne’er-do-well who’s keen on magic. They are actually an attractive bunch, and they work really well together – even those who can’t cook and would like to kill one of the others (or more than one). The leader suffers from a compulsive wish to be pardoned for the misunderstanding that led to her becoming an outlaw, and so she intends they should defend the emperor and save him from all sorts of dastardly deeds being dreamt up by parties within and without the empire. Some of which involve magic, which is totally outlawed in the empire.
All that, as I have read, absorbed and lived them – aren’t books wonderful?
The quality of Ms Buroker’s world-building is such that everything not only rings true, but can be conjured up by an avid reader months after reading the last book (and I have a notoriously bad memory at present). I have strong visual references for the world of Turgonia, as well as sights, sounds and a vague map. The hierarchies within the city I’m a bit vague on, but the politics are so complex you really need to keep a clear head to follow them. The plots are strong, and the subplots even stronger! Ms Buroker’s machines (and her magic) are superb, everything links and works, and one day… [spoiler deleted]
I wrote all that before I read Conspiracy. Like all the others it’s brilliantly written with a convoluted tale where plot twists slide out of the shadows at you like the slippery dank alleys of the Turgonia dock area.
Now for the interview!
[I have edited this for 2019 – click the ‘first posted’ link at the end for the whole interview]
Thanks for visiting today as part of my A to Z romp through well built worlds. What did you set out to achieve when you invented Turgonia?
I’d grown up reading a lot of fantasy based on a medieval European framework, and I mostly just wanted to do something different….
I also wanted it to feel like a world, or at least an empire, in transition. With our own world changing so much from decade to decade, especially in regard to technology, I think it’s tough for us to identify with those bucolic fantasy worlds of old. So, I set my adventures in a capital city of a million people in the middle of an empire on the verge of finding a new way (propelled by the actions of our heroes, of course!).
What was your favorite aspect?
I gave the empire a male-dominated, warrior-loving militaristic society, but I also gave woman some power, since in Turgonia, the saying is that “men go to war while women mind the store.” Someone had to keep the books while the men were off at war, after all. Thus the ladies ended up being educated and more likely to be the ones running businesses. The stories are set in an era where business is becoming more global and more important, so women are rising in power.
Even though my outlaw heroes are too busy running from the law and trying to uncover plots against the emperor to notice much of the antagonism this sometimes created as the sexes clashed, it was fun to have in the background and to touch upon.
What key messages would you give to budding world-builders?
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not one to create a whole world bible before I sit down to start writing — sometimes, especially if it’s for a stand-alone novel, I’ll world-build on the fly — but it’s worth remembering that characters have to be a product of their cultures. Whether you create the world or the protagonist first, you need to make sure things are logical and that the character you’ve created makes sense for the culture that he or she comes from.
Everyone wants to create “strong female characters” right now, which isn’t wrong, but if your heroine comes from a society in which women are considered property and aren’t educated, then you’ve got to come up with a very convincing backstory as to why your heroine is so different from the norm!'characters have to be a product of their cultures... make sure the character you’ve created makes sense for the culture that he or she comes from.' Lindsay Buroker T for Turgonia #atozchallenge Click To Tweet
Ah! So you’ve noticed I’m busy building backstory to fend off criticism of the women in The Perihelix who are basically still slaves at the start of the series! Have you any new books you’d like to mention while you’re here?
I’ve just published he second book in my Chains of Honor series Snake Heart. You can read an excerpt from the first book on my site: http://www.lindsayburoker.com/fantasy-novels/warrior-mage-epic-fantasy-adventure/
Good luck with that, and thank you very much for talking to me, Lindsay.
Thanks for having me on your site!
Author image from Amazon.com
First posted 23rd April 2016