Continuing Characters: A series of interviews featuring continuing characters and the authors who know them best.
The Artifacts of Empire series by Gwen Perkins begins with the novel The Universal Mirror (2012), newly available from Hydra Publications in paperback and Kindle format. Planned subsequent volumes will be the novels The Jealousy Glass and The Funeral Ring, and a novella entitled Paper Armor. The books share a common universe, but are designed to be readable both as a series and as stand-alones.
(cover art by Enggar Adirasa)
Asahel Soames rose from obscurity to become a magician. Part of a merchant family, Asahel struggled through adversity as he went through training with others who believed him incapable of performing magic because of his low class. He formed a bond with Quentin Mathar Gredara, a nobleman, during these years and that friendship forms the basis of conflict in both The Universal Mirror and its sequel-in-progress, The Jealousy Glass.
"People are the same whether they believe in a higher being or not. I shouldn’t see that having a god absolves anyone of responsibility. Rather, it ought to give them more of it." --Asahel
(character portrait by Wilson Fabian Saravia)
Questions for Asahel
Q. How did you feel when you realized the full extent of the consequences of defying the laws of your land, which prohibit magicians from leaving their homeland, and casting spells on the living?
I hadn't realized before the depth of what it was that we were doing or what it meant to other people. When I first agreed to help my friend Quentin learn to heal others, I thought only of the good that it would mean. I didn't understand the path that we'd need to take to get there nor where he'd want to go.
Quent hasn't got an understanding of what life is like for those who don't have money. He thinks that it's acceptable to treat the poor as if they're not the same as he is. Easy for him to say when he's never missed a meal in his life nor really spoken to many who did. Life doesn't have the same consequences for him that it does for me. The experimentation that we were doing—it meant exile for him if he was to be caught but for me? It meant death. It wasn't until he made the suggestion that we perform our experiments on the poor that I truly understood how much was at stake.
Q. In The Universal Mirror you play a supporting role to Quentin in his personal quest, but in The Jealousy Glass you play a more central role than Quentin. How do you feel you have changed between books in this series?
A long time has passed. I'm not sure that I feel I'm as much of a man as I used to be. I stood up to Quentin and made difficult choices before. In the aftermath, however, I let myself weaken when I should have been strong. I'm worried that I gave up one friendship to maintain another that perhaps wasn't as valuable as I once believed it to be.
I'm still discovering who it is that I am. A person never really stops learning that, I know, but it's easier to find when you step away from shadows cast taller than your own.
I've used a few different techniques to make this second novel work as a "stand-alone" while playing with the concepts introduced in The Universal Mirror. The Jealousy Glass takes place a year after Mirror concluded which gives the events a little space and also sets the stage for a different conflict to take place. Because so much time has passed, this puts the reader who has followed the series on a more equal footing with those who have not. Those who've read Mirror are likely to notice subtle nuances in Jealousy Glass from moments in the first book but it won't be necessary to read both books to enjoy either first or second.
The second book also takes place in the Anjduri Empire, a larger nation that has a conflicted history with Cercia, the island that The Universal Mirror is set on. Although Asahel and Felix (book 2's POV characters) are familiar with Anjdur, neither has ever been off their island before and because of this, they're discovering the country at the same time as the reader.
Presently, I have three novels and a novella planned in the Artifacts of Empire series. The Universal Mirror is the starting point for the novels and the two subsequent novels, The Jealousy Glass and The Funeral Ring, take place in sequential order right after that one. Paper Armor is the novella that I'm planning and that will actually be an origin story for Felix and Tycho, two characters who play pivotal roles at varying points in the series.
So far as points of view, what I tend to do is have two points of view per novel. (I don't believe this will be the case with the novella.) Asahel is a planned POV character for all three novels while the second POV rotates for each. In The Universal Mirror, it was Quentin, his best friend, whereas in The Jealousy Glass, it's Felix, a swordsman, and in The Funeral Ring, it will be Catharine, Quentin's wife. You see many of the same characters from book to book but the POV won't be the same.