First, noting the tags, I want to apologize for a number of things.
I did not intend to write a series of books that would break in the middle this way. What kind of an idiot writes a series that requires another entire series to be read in the middle? Apparently, me. Had I realized, when I finished Hidden City, that there would be three books that would cover one arc, I would have called the series something else, and had one “early years” trilogy.
I like to believe that I learn from my mistakes. I promise that I will never make this one again.
It didn’t occur to me, while writing Hidden City, that people who hadn’t read The Sun Sword would actually be reading these books. I am enormously grateful that they are — but it wasn’t something that I considered at the time. I know I should have. I am, I think, a clearer writer than I was when I first started writing The Sun Sword, but one of the things I’ve struggled to accurately understand is how much needs to be said for clarity’s sake. But when it became clear to me that I had new readers for this series, I was left with a large problem: How could I make the actual House War make any sense to people who hadn’t read The Sun Sword? I wrote several versions of a first chapter in Skirmish in an attempt to cover the story-so-far in a way that wasn’t intrusive.
But I realized, with each variant attempt, that it was a lost cause. I couldn’t do it in the book itself unless I changed the start point, and I couldn’t do that because the events are written, published; they can’t be conveniently moved or changed – and so, for better or worse, I didn’t, but instead, decided that I would have a summary, a story-so-far, for people who hadn’t read The Sun Sword.
When I approach a novel, I know what it’s going to be about. I have a plan. I don’t know it in every small detail; I know the world, I know the characters, I know what they want — but there’s an alchemical reaction that occurs on the page when two characters actually meet and talk. Whole conversations veer in directions I hadn’t anticipated, because people are like that. It’s like when you introduce two of your best friends to each other. You love them both; they love you. You naturally assume that they will love each other because it makes sense.
Except that they don’t, always. You know them. They know you. But what happens between these two people you know and care for is outside of your control, and often confounds your expectations. Writing is like that, for me. I know a lot about things in stasis. But things in action (where action in this case means the actual writing) move or change in ways that surprise me while still remaining utterly true to what I know of the world or characters.
I sat down to write the story so far, and as usual, I had trouble summarizing. In part, I have trouble because what I know and what is in the text are not the same; the text is a subset of the knowledge. (The other part: I wrote six books when I thought I had two. I am so not the person to write a summary of anything). I dragged my heels. I worked on Peril and War. In my mind, it’s still the end of November. And yes, our Christmas tree is still up.
So: There are three parts of the story so far. The first is a simple point by point recount of events that involve House Terafin leading up to the moment Jewel leaves for the South. These events are largely contained in The Broken Crown and The Uncrowned King. I don’t think this will be of interest to anyone who’s read the actual novels: Skirmish Summary 01
The second is a conversation between Finch and Jewel on the night Jewel returns from the South: Skirmish Summary 02
The third, and by far the longest, takes place in the kitchen, between Jewel and her den. In Skirmish, Jewel does speak with her den in the kitchen; this is in some ways a longer version of that discussion. This actually takes place before the conversation between Finch and Jewel. It is the longest because it touches on the larger issues that affect Jewel and the Empire: the wild magics, the hidden paths, the gods. A much shortened version does appear in the book. Because I’m so late with this, and because it is not finished, at 15k words, I am posting the first part of the third section, and will post the last part tomorrow (or possibly the day after): Skirmish Summary 03.a
The reason parts two and three are written as if they were novel text, rather than point-by-point summary is selfish, in some ways. The first section recounts events that the den as a whole experienced. But for the last four books of The Sun Sword, Jewel is not with her den. She is with Avandar Gallais, Lord Celleriant, Kallandras and a number of other characters. Her life is not political; the events she witnesses and participates in do not reflect the increasingly dire situation in House Terafin at all.
Jewel doesn’t see what’s happened in her absence; the den doesn’t know what’s happened to her in theirs. It made sense to write these sections as if the characters were attempting to fill each other in on what occurred, when time is a constraint, but it also tells me what they know, and what they won’t say.