Artesia, Volume 1: The First Book of Doomsby Mark Smylie
In the Highlands of the Middle Kingdoms, where witches and warlords vie for power, a warrior-priestess named Artesia fights for her King against the rules of rival citadels. The Highlands of Daradja are dotted with ancient citadels and castles, held by petty kings and clans that war against each other and the brigand bands that plague the bleak mountains and… See more details below
In the Highlands of the Middle Kingdoms, where witches and warlords vie for power, a warrior-priestess named Artesia fights for her King against the rules of rival citadels. The Highlands of Daradja are dotted with ancient citadels and castles, held by petty kings and clans that war against each other and the brigand bands that plague the bleak mountains and valleys. Artesia, once a concubine to King Branimir of the Citadel of Dara Dess, has in time risen to become one of his chief war captains; a priestess to dread goddesses; and a magician like her mother once was, controlling warlike spirits. She and her captains carry the cause of their King against his enemies in the field, but afraid of her growing power, her King betrays her and takes new allies: knights from the neighboring Middle Kingdoms, who follow a foreign god, the Divine King, and persecute witches. And in the middle of betrayal and tragedy comes word that the Middle Kingdoms have been invaded by an ancient enemy to them all, the Empire of Thessid-Gola…
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'Artesia' is a phenomenal fantasy epic about a clash between two powerful nations set on a world simply called The Known World where magic and a pantheon of gods are involved in human affairs. The formidable heroine, Artesia, is a war captain, witch and concubine to a Highlands King whose Celt-like, matriarchal society, Daradja, worships an ancient female divinity, her sisters and her children. The neighboring patriarchal Middle Kingdoms, where worship of a Christ-like deity known as The Divine King prevails, have been invaded by a common enemy, the vast Empire of Thessid-Gola and their darkly sorcerous allies, the Isliklids. The Empire, while culturally Near Eastern-like, also worships the Divine King -- though with key dogmatic differences -- and long ago ruled almost the whole of The Known World under a great conqueror akin to Alexander the Great. The current Sultan is attempting to restore his land to its former glory with the dangerous and demonic aid of the Isliklids while his 472-year-old Emperor mysteriously lies in a mystic stasis called The Gray Dream. An accomplished enchantress, fearsome warrior and vigorous lover, Artesia finds herself at the center of paradigm-shifting, world-changing events as her company and the war spirits she commands are first pitted against their treacherous King and then summoned to the defense of their wary neighbor in a tenuous truce. Though she doesn't realize it, Artesia will be the key figure in a cosmic drama that will end one Age of her world and usher in a new one. Independent self-publisher and creator Mark Smylie has fashioned an immense story he intends to tell in 22 volumes of which the first 3 Trade Paperbacks have been published. The intricate back-story framing the events of the series is Tolkienian in scope and detail as Smylie has produced numerous maps, chronologies and essays to supplement the main adventure. The look is a very distinctive blend of Greco-Roman, Egyptian and Celtic mythos, 16th-century arms, armor and warfare, medieval social structures and issues, ethereal spirit imagery, and bone-crunching, dust-swirling, blood-spurting, tightly-packed battle scenes worthy of cinematic giants like Akira Kurosawa, Cecil B. DeMille or David Lean all illustrated using watercolors. The content is decidedly ADULT with graphic nudity, sexual situations and violence. I especially like how he uses real-world cultures as templates for his fictitious societies: Daradja is like Scotland and Ireland, the Middle Kingdoms like the Holy Roman Empire and the Empire of Thessid-Gola is like the Ottoman Empire with Gola being like Old Kingdom Egypt. Other powers in this dense and varied world watching and waiting on the periphery of this conflict include the mighty Palatian city-state and its protectorates (The Spanish Empire), the Hemapoline League of merchant princes (a combination of the Delian and Hanseatic Leagues, the Venetian Empire and the Dutch Republic), the Oracle Queens of the Isle of Khael (Delphi), the Horse-Lords of the Kessite Khanates (the Mongol Khanates), the desert-dwelling Sabutans (the African Empire of Mali), the tropical Samarappans (India), the Northern Wood-Kings of Panaghia (Scandanavia), distant Califa beyond the borders of The Known World (the exotic Orient set instead in the West) and even the lost proto-civilization Urune Dure swallowed by the sea (Atlantis). And this is only scratching the surface! I have never seen anything like this and was BLOWN AWAY! If you like J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, Frank Herbert's 'Dune', 'Xena', 'Braveheart', ancient mythology, 'The Mahabharata' or the revisionist 'King Arthur' by Antoine Fuqua, then this book is a MUST-READ!!! Included in this Trade Paperback edition are 12 plates depicting various Known World deities and 5 pages of essays detailing various aspects of Artesia's world.