Tuesday 10 July 2018

The Dark Archer Blog Tour: A Guest Post by Robert Cano

Today we join the blog tour for the new dark fantasy release, The Dark Archer by Robert Cano, with a look at the book and a delightful guest post by the author. Enjoy!

The Dark Archer by Robert Cano

~The light had no equal in this place, no balance with which to suffer the loss of day, and she wondered about the nighttime.  Is this why the stars were crying?~

All he wanted was the safety of his princess. What he received was eternal torment. 
Bereft of a soul, a wraith who should have no ties to humanity, Bene wants nothing more than release from his twisted existence. Trapped between life and nothingness, he hopes to reclaim his soul and find the death he so desperately desires.
Bene finds rare solace in the company of Feorin, a satyr war hero who chose exile over continuing the centuries long war with the Fae. He doesn't look at Bene with fear or contempt, but rather hope. If a wraith can find a path to redemption, perhaps he could as well…

The Dark Archer is available for pre-order at Amazon.
Also available at Smashwords and at Amazon Canada 

It releases July 26th, 2018.

~He felt an overwhelming sense of dread at the prospect of what his life had become in such a short time. Once in service to the greatest kingdom in the world, he was now a literal nothing with a physical form.~

 Darkness by Robert Cano

The worlds we have all come to love and know, whether based in our own world, or based in some form of fantasy setting, require some level of darkness; something antagonistic, to counter our favorite protagonists.   What constitutes darkness may change with every tale, and we are required to ask again: What is light?  What is darkness?  Is there only pure evil or pure good to be found in either? Over the last century, or so, we have seen a trend where darkness is not the result of pure evil, but of the inconsistencies in the human soul. Today fantasy gives us an opportunity to explore the human condition in magical and fantastical ways, but make no mistake, we are still exploring humanity, even if wearing another face.
When we look at authors like Tolkien, or perhaps Lovecraft, with his Cthulu mythos and the world surrounding that, we see Big Bads.  Pure evil is in the form of something tangible, with honor strewn throughout the world, found in the people, in the little things.  Gandalf, in The Hobbit, said, “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found.  It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.  Small acts of kindness and love.  Why Bilbo Baggins?  Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”
And while there is a profound truth to be found in this statement, experience in the world teaches something quite different, doesn’t it?  What we find instead is that the evil resides within all of us, that the horrors of the world are of our own making, and not that of some devil or demons, that these demons are, in fact, our own, being manifested through the hells we have been made to endure as we traverse this life. 
Joseph Conrad once said, “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary, men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.”  Regardless of one’s personal belief system, any time spent on Earth will demonstrate the truth of this.  The greatest horrors and atrocities in the history of mankind were not done by the hand of God, perhaps in the name of one or more, but never by their hand.  Always it was at the hand of mankind.
In creating the darkness of a fantasy, we need go no further than the darkness of the human heart.  I have long believed that the beauty of Tolkien’s work was found in the light vs dark dichotomy.  In the idea that everyone is inherently good, and the evil of the world is found externally, from a specific source beyond ourselves.  That our evil can be traced back to the influence of that source.   However, there is a silver lining to be found in the evil of humanity, for then our tormentors wear a face we can fight against, but in that same vein, our tormentors can be anyone.
So how do we incorporate old world idealism with contemporary shifts in writing?  The idealism is no longer found in the light, but in the individual, within the actions one chooses to enact on their world, in the moment.  But herein also lies the darkness.  A choice, even a well-meaning choice, can easily lead down a path from which there is no redemption.  These are the ideas grounded in realism.  
I believe there are truly honorable people in the world, and I think George R. R. Martin does an incredible job of embodying this with Ned Stark’s character in the series, A Song of Ice and Fire, in which Lord Stark does what he believes is right, regardless of the circumstances.  But, there is a price for honor.  And usually that price is high.  The belief in one’s self actions as being that of utmost importance, or the idea that our role in this world is to embody the ideal, is something we see even in our current situation in the United States, and indeed much of the world.
The ‘us vs them’ mentality is spawned not from wrongness, but absolute belief in self, which is then worsened by surrounding oneself with others who think along similar lines.  The problem, then, is not light vs darkness, but a perceived light pitted against another perceived light, which are both also perceived darkness, from another’s point of view. 
Perception is everything.
When working on my stories I am keen to incorporate these aspects of thought and ideas into every piece of the proverbial puzzle.  It is important to question whether darkness is evil, or perhaps it is merely darkness.  Maybe darkness is a comfort: a source of something greater.  At the end, in my mind at least, the construct of good and evil is humanity’s attempt to explain away the evil within us all, with light and dark being of religious origin.
We have always been afraid of what we cannot see or understand.  Darkness is the purest example.  We fear new places, new things, we are frightened of the unknown.  Perhaps it is from this deep-seated fear that we find darkness likened to evil so often, especially in early texts…and this has bled over into today’s world, where we still hold on to superstitions en masse.  However, I think in today’s world, people are less inclined to believe the absolutes, and this has led to a desire to read something more realistic.

For the world of The Dark Archer, I created the concept of darklings, or those borne of dark magic.  They are often relegated to evil by the other races of the world, but they are what they are, and nothing else.  It is often said amongst writers that the antagonist is the hero in their version of the tale, an important concept to remember when trying to create believable characters. The darklings of this world include banshees, wraiths, and the Inklet (humanoid draconids).  The darkness in each of these species comes not from an existential evil, but from how their needs contrast with those of the rest of the world.
Hunger, that painfully stabbing hunger that overrides all functions of thought or reason…this is what a wraith is.  It will feed without pity, or remorse, or compassion, for it lacks all of these.  So then, is the wraith the antagonist?  Is it the conflict?  What is its purpose?  In lore, wraiths were pure evil, intent on stealing the souls of their victims, and this is where I pulled the idea of an entity without a soul.  For if you have lost something, the ultimate hope would be to regain it. 
This speaks to the conflict inherent in everyday life.  Whether the conflict is internal, or against nature itself, or between people (usually a mix of all three), our characters should reflect this fundamental element of life.  Struggles come in many forms, and exploring these struggles creates the most relatable characters, and isn’t that what we want?  To be able to see ourselves in the characters we love?  Or maybe we love these characters because we see ourselves in them…and not just the good aspects.
It is my duty as an author to keep these little life lessons in mind, close to heart, and to use them to the benefit of my readers, not only into the worldbuilding aspects, but into the characters themselves: into both the interactions between the characters and they with the world in which they find themselves.  Life is for the living, but in this world, it is also for those not willing to quite give up just yet.  For within the darkest times there is yet hope. 
And perhaps that is what hope is – a means of continuing even when the world has given up, even if forlorn and bereft of any real reason for hope, maybe, just maybe, it’s that perseverance that separates the hero, whether seen as good or evil, from the common man or the antagonist.  Or perhaps the protagonist’s worst enemy isn’t the antagonist at all, but his or herself…  After all, our greatest enemy is always ourselves. 

“Bene was not always a wraith, becoming a darkling was forced on him. He was once a captain of the guard for a kingdom, in service to his princess who betrayed his service and allowed him to suffer the greatest suffering known to the world.”

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