Sun
Jul 5 2009 11:59am

The Magicians’ Daughter...in 60 Seconds

Fantasy author S. C. Butler, whose latest novel is The Magicians’ Daughter, told Tor.com that the book—which is the third and final book in his Stoneways Trilogy—is basically a Prometheus myth.

“Because Reiffen is a Rightful Heir at the start of the books, a lot of reviewers made the mistake of thinking the book would be another Epic Fantasy about the Rightful Heir claiming His Throne,” Butler said in an interview. “Not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s not the direction these books take. Prometheus doesn’t necessarily triumph in the end, even if his people do. As it says on the jacket copy of The Magicians’ Daughter: In Reiffen’s Choice we learned how Reiffen chose magic; in Queen Ferris we learned what he did with his magic; in The Magicians’ Daughter we learn what his magic does to him.”

The genesis for The Stoneways came about forty-five years ago, the very first time Butler visited Moria with Frodo and the rest of the Fellowship in Lord of the Rings. “I didn’t want to leave those mines and caves; so, when I decided to write a fantasy, I decided it was going to be about Dwarves, not Elves. And caves,” Butler said. “Plus I wanted to write a book about the beginnings of magic. In most fantasies magic is an ancient art, but that’s not true in The Stoneways. At least not for humans.”

The books follow three protagonists, Reiffen, Ferris, and Avender. “Reiffen drives most of the action, but his two friends have to deal with the consequences as much as he does,” Butler said. “At the beginning, they are twelve-year-olds living an idyllic life in a high mountain valley. By the end they’re in their sixties (sort of), and trying to sort through the damage they’ve done to each other.”

Not much research was involved in the books. “[But] I did try to give a certain biological sense to the magic, i.e. traveling mirrors are connected by, among other things, their aspenwood frames, aspen groves being a wonderful example of interconnectedness,” Butler said. “[Also, there was] a little technological research for the different cultures in the book. How industrialized would the Dwarves have to be in order to manufacture hydrogen for use in their airships? When were water wheels developed? But mostly I made it all up.”

The Magicians’ Daughter was the hardest book in the series to write. “From the start I wrote the books for readers of all ages, but there is a lot in the third book—adultery, madness, marital problems—that aren’t of particular interest to twelve-year-olds,” Butler said. “Trying to keep that book balanced between the two needs of not boring younger readers who loved the first two books, while also reasonably conveying what was happening to my now adult characters without overdoing it, was extremely difficult. I hope I pulled it off.”

Butler said he feels his characters’ joys and losses very keenly, even when he’s treating them like dirt. “That’s one of the reasons I’m a slow writer,” he said. “Often I have to write scenes over and over, circling in on exactly how a character reacts and feels to the particular set of circumstances I’ve stuck them in. In a way, it’s like I’m living their lives.”

The Stoneways was originally conceived as one long novel. “As such, the story is wrapped up completely by the end,” Butler said. “There are no hanging threads. There are other stories that can be told about the characters, both prequels and sequels. I’m actually writing an odd little one right now tentatively called Avender in America, which describes what Avender may or may not have been doing during a certain period skipped over in The Magicians’ Daughter. But, other than that, it has nothing to do with The Stoneways. Reiffen’s Choice, Queen Ferris, and The Magicians’ Daughter, stand alone.”

2 comments
Ian Tregillis
2. ITregillis
I was very fortunate to be able to read The Magicians' Daughter in manuscript, and I was blown away by the emotional power of this book. I found it a magnificent and bittersweet finale to the Stoneways Trilogy.

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