The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack

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A Note on How I Came to Write The Fire Islands

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 30, 2022 at 11:30 PM

I’ve been reading fantasy novels since at least the sixth grade when my mother bought me The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. That interest led me to pursue degrees in history where I was introduced to many wonderous periods in the human past. Eventually, I began to wonder why most fantasy literature was grounded in something akin to the European Middle Ages and one morning while listening to Mike Duncan’s podcast, The History of Rome, I found myself wondering what a fantasy series based loosely on the Roman Empire might be like.

 

And that’s the birth of my Legionnaire series. My Aquila is not Rome, but it shares a lot with that historical entity—especially its culture, its internal political problems, its border troubles, and of course, its amazing legions. Aquila and its world also differs mightily from Rome in a few regards—most particularly the existence and widespread practice of magic and an empire which includes and abuts places very different than those the Romans actually encountered.

 

My initial ideas for the story revolved around the second and third books in what would become the Legionnaire series. I wrote the first short novel to introduce the characters and the border provinces of Aquila before the story would take me elsewhere. In doing so, I got to play with something you don’t see so much in medieval-based fantasies—the critical importance of well-disciplined soldiers (legionnaires in my case) acting under competent officers and operating in a military tradition with centuries of success behind it. I also got to show what happens when that discipline breaks down due to poor leadership. And I get to do all of this while exploring the culture of my legionnaires and their subjects in The Fire Islands. Throw in some truly monumental magic and a threat worthy of an epic hero and his companions, and you get the kickoff novel of a series I’ve come to love as much as I do any of the great works of this genre.

 

I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.

 

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