Bonding To Hawks: The Magic System in my LonTobyn Chronicle
by David B. Coe
I am in the process of re-releasing my first series, an epic fantasy called the LonTobyn Chronicle. These are the Author’s Edits (like the Director’s Cut of a movie) of the original novels, which launched my career, won the Crawford Fantasy Award, and established me both critically and commercially. The first novel, Children of Amarid, was re-issued in July. The Outlanders, book II, has just come out, and the third and final volume, Eagle-Sage, will be released in December.
Not surprisingly, these books are incredibly important to me. I edited them before the re-release because I’ve learned so much about my craft in the nineteen years since the first book came out, and I wanted to apply what I’ve learned to this series. But the things I’ve loved about the books from the start remain the same: the characters, the storyline, and the world building and magic system.
This last, is particularly important because for many people it is the most striking and memorable element of the trilogy. The mages in my LonTobyn books draw their magic from avian familiars -- birds of prey with whom they share a psychic bond. This bond allows them to draw on the power within the birds to heal, to do battle and protect themselves, and to cast a host of other spells. The birds themselves are characters in the stories, and to this day people who can’t remember any of the titles will talk to me about how much they loved the books by saying “You know: the ones with the hawks and owls.”
I have been an avid birdwatcher since I was seven years old, and all my life I’ve been most fascinated by hawks and falcons, owls and eagles. I admire their grace, their strength, their stunning beauty. When I was planning this first series it seemed natural that I should incorporate raptors into the story in some way. And since there was a part of me that had always wanted a hawk of my own, this magic system struck me as the perfect expression of my passion for birds.
I did not actually use any of the hawks, owls, or eagles as point of view characters in the books, but many of my narrating characters are mages who share their consciousness with their familiars. So I needed to present the internal lives of their birds in a way that rang true, while also serving my narrative. Now, I know a lot about birds; I’ve spent most of my life watching them and learning about them. But I’m not a professional ornithologist, and even if I was I’m not sure I’d be able to interpret their thoughts, instincts, and emotions. So, being a writer, I tried to imagine what it might be like to try.
This was particularly challenging in the passages I wrote about mages beginning their bindings to their first familiars. The flood of non-human emotion, imagery, and memory overwhelms these characters. They have no experience with it, no way to process what the birds send their way. As I describe it in one character’s point of view,
“Through it all, clinging to the last scrap of his sanity, Jaryd fought to resist the tide, to impose some hint of rational order on the rush of chaotic thought. But there was too much to hold, too much to control. He was becoming more bird than man; he was drowning.”
In the end, he perceives a pattern in the deluge of thought conveyed by his bird, and holding on to that scrap of coherence, he manages to reconcile the hawk’s thoughts with his own. Eventually, as with all mages, he grows used to the bond he shares with his familiar. He finds that he is more aware of his surroundings, more attuned to the natural world. And when he wants to, he can instruct his familiar to fly and experience flight as the bird does, which was really cool to write.
Of course, I don’t know if sharing such a bond with a bird of prey would really be like this. As I said before, I’m not an ornithologist. I write novels, and my job is to imagine and create. I love all the books I’ve written, and I have tremendous fun with all my magic systems. But this first one, which drew upon my lifetime passion for birds, might well have been the most fun and the most rewarding. I hope you enjoy reading the books as much as I enjoyed writing them.
There is a tour-wide giveaway for 3 sets of CHILDREN OF THE AMARID and THE OUTLANDERS, and a $10 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Giveaway runs Nov. 10 thru Dec. 15th. If you’d like to share, the Rafflecopter code is below. a Rafflecopter giveaway
About The Outlanders
Four years after the insidious, devastating invasion by agents of Lon-Ser, Tobyn-Ser’s Order of Mages and Masters is riven by conflict and paralyzed by inaction. From the outlander, Baram, they have learned much about their neighbor to the west: Unlike Tobyn-Ser, which is served by the Mage-Craft of the Children of Amarid, Lon-Ser is devoid of magic. Instead it possesses a dazzling and deadly technology that shapes every aspect of its people’s daily life.
Frustrated by the Order’s inability to act, Orris, a young, rebellious mage, takes it upon himself to prevent further attacks on his homeland. Taking Baram from his prison, he embarks upon a perilous journey to Bragor-Nal, an enormous, violent city in Lon-Ser, ruled by a brutal, feudal-like system of Break-Laws, Nal-Lords, and Overlords. As Orris soon learns, however, Baram has been driven insane by his captivity. Upon reaching his strange and fractured homeland, the man abandons Orris.
Armed only with his magic, Orris is thrust into a world whose language he does not comprehend and whose technology he can barely fathom. Together with Gwilym, a man with strange powers, whose vision of Orris has lured him out of the mountains and into the chaos of the Nals, and Melyor, a beautiful Nal-Lord who harbors a secret that could cost her life, Orris must end the threat to Tobyn-Ser without getting himself and his companions killed.
THE OUTLANDERS is the second volume of the LonTobyn Chronicle, David B. Coe’s Crawford Award-winning debut series. This is the Author’s Edit of the original book.
About the Author:
David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of nineteen fantasy novels. As David B. Coe, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first two books, Spell Blind and His Father’s Eyes came out in 2015. The third volume, Shadow’s Blade, has recently been released. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and Dead Man’s Reach.
David is also the author of the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, which he is in the process of reissuing, as well was the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy. He wrote the novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood. David’s books have been translated into a dozen languages.
He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.