This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Michael will be awarding an autographed print copy of Ignifer’s Rise to a randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
Katniss Everdeen showed us young women can fight. Twilight showed us young women can make their own epic, life-altering decisions. Divergent is showing us young women can change the fate of the world. And Harry Potter showed us boy-wizards, and of course also girl-wizards, can always get by with a little help from their friends.
What do these trends tell us? Does it matter?
To me, this is the modern state of Young Adult literature, and it matters a great deal. Stories are our culture, they inculcate our values, and have the greatest impact on the young. And these current trends in YA, all about empowerment, choice, self-respect and individuality through community, are working wonders in young minds. They are reaching out toward younger ages and toward groups perhaps not typically associated with power, choice, and individuality- all still recovering victims of the age-old mantra:
Children are to be seen, not heard.
Yah boo sucks to that!
This has got to be a good thing. It reflects changes in society, and I- an author, a reader – wholeheartedly salute it. That younger people are having input in what their culture has to say about them, to them, is fascinating, because it seems they’re choosing so wisely. It’s not for nothing that there’s been a rash of Disney/Pixar movies of late that put empowering female relationships at the very fore:
These stories tell all of us, me included, a 34-year old man, how important all manner of relationships in everyone’s life can be, not only one’s relationship to a man (or woman). Self-determination, YEAH!
I read Ender’s Game growing up, and loved it. I read a lot of heroic fantasy from the likes of David Gemmell, Dragonlance, David Eddings, Tolkien. Most of these were about adults, most were about men, all were about heroes and about what being a hero really means. Most of all though, Ender’s Game struck a strong chord with me.
Here was a boy with only his wits, smaller and weaker than everyone else, and through resourcefulness, cunning, and genius he rises up, all the while maintaining a near-infallible morality.
Man, that is a hero! I wanted to BE Ender Wiggin. And if I couldn’t BE him, I wanted to be like him. I really believe all young people reading, watching, enjoying this current rash of movies feels the same way. They’ll want to love their sister like Anna loves hers in Frozen, love their mother like the girl in Brave does, save those they love like Katniss in the Hunger Games.
As a writer, I wanted to tap into that feeling, and try and put out my own story of empowerment. My book, Ignifer’s Rise, is about an orphan boy whose own mother carved him with a thousand scars before she died. This seems like the most horrible abuse, but still he loves her memory, and still he strives to rise above it.
When he meets five wild children off the streets of his brutal city, each at turns manipulative, murderous, depressed, furious, aloof and disengaged, he seeks to understand why. What made them that way, what broke them, and can he help to fix it?
He wants to be good, and help others. In many ways this boy, his name is Sen, is like Ender: he’s resourceful. The five children that surround him, a girl who is far tougher and more street-wise than he’ll ever be, a boy made of rock who laments the slow calcification of his body and mind, face challenges he can’t always understand.
But together they try, just like Harry Potter and his odd-ball crew. And young women play a central role. The streetwise girl, Mare, is tougher than Katniss any day. But she’s also vulnerable in other ways. As a team, they strive to overcome.
In the book, what they have to overcome is the rise of an apocalypse god, coming for Sen and the world. Like the game for Ender, this is a crucible that tests them all. It gives them all a chance to shine, and show what they’re truly made of. I hope, for some readers at least, that they might be a shining example, like those stories were for me when I was a kid.
I also hope they enjoy it. It’s about heroes and heroines of all stripes, and heck we all need more of those in our lives.
The fate of the world is written in scars. In a bleak industrial city where marks in skin are a sentence to death, Sen is a child condemned. Cursed with mysterious scars carved by his own mother’s hand, he leads a fearful hidden life in the city’s last abbey.
Then the King’s brutal Adjunc attack, and Sen barely escapes with his life. Lost and alone in the city’s dark hinterlands, he begins an exhilarating race to find the truth behind his scars. In stinking black sewers and the lava-buried ruins of an ancient civilization, he uncovers a truth far stranger than he ever imagined, laid out by his long-dead mother: an apocalypse god is rising, and only the legendary hero Saint Ignifer can stop it.
But Saint Ignifer is dead.
Revolution rocks the city. The blood of all castes runs in the streets. With a storm of new faith raging out from the barricades, Sen must embrace the terrible fate his mother wrote in his scars- in the volcano’s caldera, at the end of the world- before the black jaws of the apocalypse descend. For the Rot is coming, and the Saint must rise.
Enjoy an excerpt:
Sen bolted into action.
His shoulder took the Spindle in the gut before he even knew he was moving. It drove a grunt from the taller boy and knocked him from his feet, sending them both tumbling across the dry spring grass. More images sparked through Sen’s mind, hands stretching through a fence that were his father’s hands, but not, a long and shameful walk led by bloodless Molemen, an overwhelming anger rising up.
Sen fought the images back even as he scrabbled in the grass, reaching instinctively for the weapon. He’d never fought before, but while the Spindle wheezed from the blow he managed to grasp the hard metal tool, wet with blood, and pried it away with both hands. Then the Spindle’s elbow found the back of his head.
It drove Sen face-first into the grass, head spinning. He felt the weapon snatched back out of his hand and rolled away, expecting another blow to fall, but none came. Looking up he saw the Spindle running away back down the path for the gates.
Sen lurched up, catching a glimpse of Sister Henderson closing in. There was no time. He started after the Spindle at a ragged sprint, down through the trail of white chalk dust the boy had left. His vision was blurry from the blow to the head, the world was turning, and his mind reeled from the strange images and anger, but he could still just pick the taller boy out. He was nearly at the gate, and all Sen wanted to do was hurt him. He pumped his elbows hard, thumped his feet down on the chalk, and reached the gates just as the Spindle was about to straddle the top.
He leapt, snagged the boy’s ankle with one hand, and wrenched him off the metal. The boy windmilled down with a thud into the chalk, and Sen threw himself on top, batting away the Spindle’s efforts to lash out, throwing his own wild fists at the boy’s long thin face.
About the Author: Michael John Grist is a 34-year old British writer and ruins photographer who lives in Tokyo, Japan. He writes dark and surreal science fiction and fantasy, inspired by authors such as David Gemmell and Orson Scott Card.
In his free time he explores and photographs abandoned places around the world, such as ruined theme parks, military bases, underground bunkers, and ghost towns. These explores have drawn millions of visitors to his website: MichaelJohnGrist.com, and often provide inspiration for his fiction.