I wrote Twilight of the Wolves back in November of 2011, a few weeks before I left Korea and returned home. Back then it was called To Live, which is a title I still love. To be precise, it looks like I finished it November 1st, 2011 and if you look at this post you can see how quickly I wrote it. And if you want to get an idea of what was happening in my brain whilst writing the novel at that relentless pace, you can check out this post where I lost myself, just a few days before completion of the novel. It was actually incredibly illuminating to read that again. To remember what writing for two weeks almost nonstop will do to you. I sent it to Phil Jourdan, the genius behind Perfect Edge Books, last March, and the rest is me getting it ready for release.
The world of Twilight of the Wolves is immense, and it’s the setting of what will likely end up being several more novels. This is a world I’ve been constructing in my head since I was about ten, and I’ve been working on my first novel in this world for so long inside my head that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write it down. This novel, Twilight of the Wolves, was actually only meant to be about 20,000 words, and it was meant to be a complementary piece to that larger forever unfinished cathedral of a novel. It expanded exponentially in the writing, becoming so much more than I ever imagined. It began from a simple vision I had alone at night in Korea, while staring out into the mountains past my window. I saw a child following a man with wolf ears through a forest, and that’s still a central image to this novel, but so many more visions fell inside it, including the vision that’s in everything, but maybe I’ll talk about that another time. But this novel was meant to be short and quick and easy, and it was meant to be 1/5th as long as it is now. As you can see from those long ago posts, it became quite a different beast. In a sense, this is the world’s introduction to this fantastic world, but there will be many more. Hopefully soon.
It’s difficult writing down what is, in all seriousness, your Dream. The Dream that’s most deeply a part of you.
But that doesn’t yet tell you what this novel is about. I’ll give you the back cover copy first:
Twilight of the Wolves is an epic fantasy following a man cursed by a dying god’s blessing, a mute eunuch carrying the dead to the Goddess of Death, and a young girl saved from a burning metropolis only to be raised by the cursed man and two wolf gods. These three lives intersect and become bound together as they walk with gods, watch them die, and hide from the terror that is humanity’s lust for violence and destruction. Wandering across countries and cultures, the characters discover the cacophony and contradiction of visions and values that define humanity. They see the collision of cultures highlighting the definitions of civilization and try to find their place within and without them. The past, present, and future haunt the people of this world as they wander on, hoping to find an answer to the questions buried deepest.
So that gives you an idea, but this epic fantasy is one told by those who are powerless. You’ll find no kings and queens, no knights in shining armor or fancy lords and balls with pretty dresses. You’ll find the ugly grime of living in subjugation, of the impoverished, of slaves while a war raging across a continent tears civilisations apart. This isn’t the brutality of George RR Martin, but it’s certainly full of its own horrors. Of gods and demons and slaves and imperialism and war neverending. Despite all that, I hope that it’s beautiful. There’s a deep darkness in this novel but there are, I think, true and lasting moments of beauty, and I hope that you’re left with some hope and love when you close this book.
I think the best novels to compare it to are Ursula K Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle, Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun, Samuel R Delany’s Neveryon, George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. So if you like those series, I think you’ll dig this as well, though I’m not egotistical enough to really compare my own writing to people like Le Guin, Wolfe, and Delany, who are among the finest writers in America. It’s darker than Earthsea, more focused than A Song of Ice and Fire, less academic than Neveryon, and keeps less secrets than The Book of the New Sun, but I strongly believe that fans of these novels will dig Twilight of the Wolves. It’s the longest thing I’ve written. Almost double the length of each of my other novels, but much shorter than all of these books mentioned in this paragraph.
It made me cry three separate times while I wrote it. And not just insignificant tears, but real sobs. I love these characters. I love all of them, and that’s why it hurt so much to watch them live in an uncaring world.
And here are a few blurbs for Twilight of the Wolves:
Like a Terrence Malick film set in a universe as rich as Game of Thrones, Twilight of the Wolves is a different kind of fantasy novel: endlessly inventive, thoughtful, and almost painfully beautiful.
Twilight of the Wolves is an unusual and poetic epic fantasy, with a world, civilizations, and mythologies all of its own, yet unmistakably reminiscent of our past and current world. Best of all, Twilight of the Wolves puts on center stage the people and socioeconomic classes who are often marginalized, suppressed, or overlooked in other types of epic fantasy and secondary worlds, in a passionate and compassionate study of love, languages, and humanness.
I think these two blurbs capture exactly how it feels to me, and exactly what it means to me. I’ve always said that I’m more influenced, stylistically, by film than I am by literature, and I’ve always strived to capture that beautiful cinematic poetry of Terrence Malick, and I think, with this novel, I finally reached it. It’s an aesthetic I’ve worked for years to reach, and Twilight of the Wolves is the most perfect representation of that. And then there’s all the postcolonialism surging up through the cracks in the novel. My whole life is in this novel. My entire heart. I’m so immensely proud of it that I want to share it with the entire world, but a part of me fears no one will love or understand it.
I hope this novel surprises you. I hope it surprises you over and over again. I hope it reminds you of beauty. I hope it shines over you and breathes new life into you. I hope it swallows that light. I hope it crushes you and tears you apart. I hope it changes you. I hope it’s something you’ll remember always.
As soon as Twilight of the Wolves begins, you know it’s music. Music made by the hands digging deep into the underground, into determined earth-dirtying of the senses. The symmetry of notes makes this crystalline, each clause engineered into mantra-like potential. “And then he fell away, his life drifted away, the vision inside him, growing, rebuilding, creating newness, wholeness out of neverness. The song, nothing but the song, and Her eyes, ephemeral and purple, galactic dust swallowing him, and he swam in that twilit world of nothings and nowheres until it thickened, viscous, and filled him again.”
An absorbing read that offers readers a grim, bleak and dark tale. It paints a word in flames, dying from within. Imagine a dark night sky, with a sole star. You know something’s there but you can barely make it out. Well that star will grow and become a brighter star and perhaps light up the night sky until it is day. Well, that star is Sao.
And then here’s the beginning of the novel:
He dug and dug and dug some more. He dug until his back was sore. His hands turned black and then they bled, his mouth grew thick and dry, his face wet with tears and mud. The scent of ash, of war and hate surrounded, and he dug, hole after hole. For a day and a night and one more day, through the rain and the darkness, he dug holes in the ground and laid them to rest. One by one and shovel by shovel, he buried the dead. The dead who were once brothers, who were once mothers, who were once fathers and lovers and sisters and daughters. For each body he dug a hole and for each hole he planted a stick. Covered in mud, in forgotten blood, with newly scabbed knees, with hands torn raw, bleeding, slicking the handle of his shovel. Holes and holes and holes. Dug and filled. The soldiers all gone but their wreckage remained, the stink of war in his lungs, in his eyes, in his skin, beating through his body, coagulating in his lungs. By the first nightfall, he no longer cried. By morning his lips no longer moved. By moonlight he no longer stopped. A constant pace, digging and digging and lifting and dropping and burying. Burying. Burying. Morning again, the air thick with rain, the scent heavy with Death, the Deathwalkers watched. Fifty crows scouring the ground, slow, crossing meaningful looks but silent, speaking no words, communicating through something beyond language. The boy did not stop but dug on though he could no longer hold the shovel. On his knees, elbow deep in mud, he dug, hand over hand, the mud caking on his face, filling the wounds of his hands, his knees. Covered in mud, shivering, digging, wet, alone, eyes wide and empty, they found him. The Deathwalkers surrounded and they sang. They sang their song. Tenebrous, haunting, a disjointed melody, a ghastly harmony, far away, like piano keys across a river. The notes swirled round the boy and entered, filling him, echoing through him, opening the doors within him, in the house he built inside, one shovel of mud after another. He opened and the song blossomed and bloomed, unlocking the boy he was two days before, releasing him in tears and screams and bloody hands and knees. The boy clawed at his eyes until a Deathwalker restrained him, kept his arms spread until the boy kicked and then other hands were on him, the Deathwalkers, surrounding, singing, holding him up, holding him against himself as he thrashed, screamed, his voice cutting through, a knife through water, the rain dancing against his skin, resonating with the notes, with the otherworld melody and he opened his eyes, staring at a bleeding moon and a girl, younger than him, with ravenhair and purple eyes at the shore of infinity. She sang with them but her voice was different, high where theirs was low, low where theirs was high, always in opposition, and his heart gave way, melted into his veins, his lungs on fire, seizing, then relaxed, full of water, drowning in the Ocean, the echoes of all the dead filling him, playing before his eyes, projected on the Oceansky behind Her, the Goddess. And then he fell away, his life drifted away, the vision inside him, growing, rebuilding, creating newness, wholeness out of neverness. The song, nothing but the song, and Her eyes, ephemeral and purple, galactic dust swallowing him, and he swam in that twilit world of nothings and nowheres until it thickened, viscous, and filled him again. And then he opened his eyes and he was nowhere but it was home.
Or you can listen to me read it here