Tag Archives: graeme brown winnipeg fantasy author

Wonderful, Wicked Queen Cersei

When Cersei Lannister ruled the pages of Feast for Crows, I found her to be one of the most intriguing character in the Song of Ice and Fire series. Martin uses this slower book to show us beneath the many facades of perceived evil and develop a theme that is as disturbing as it is enlightening. Peeling back layer upon layer, Martin takes us into the heart of a woman who outwardly is wicked, but inwardly is as vulnerable and terrified as anyone else. In Feast for Crows, we see in Cersei a steady decay, a growing desperation that feeds vanity and a false sense of invincibility. She generalizes people, she hates, she plots, but she also cowers, hides and frets. She is, at heart, a wounded girl who never learned to trust and has consequently built a life out of lies; she’s good, but she’s evil.

Cersei as a viewpoint character creates a bitter-sweet encounter with the unsettling truths Martin is depicting in his rich tapestry.  It is well done.  His writing challenges our concept of what evil truly is, and the relativity that exists behind the construct we know as morality.  “There is nothing either good nor bad, but thinking makes it so,” says Rosencrantz and Shakespeare both, and Martin in this modern day invokes medieval forms to show us the same disturbing truth.

When I read I like to be challenged not only by characters and their conflicts, but the truths I encounter. It’s not about escape, but about deepening my appreciation for the world and what it means to be human. Martin, in Feast, and through Cersei Lannister, does this fully, making us uncomfortable on the deepest of levels, yet at the same time shaking us with the resonance of profound chords of reality. He’s not out for shock, he’s not out to impress us. He’s simply devoted to the truth–not his truth or my truth or your truth, but the one that lies somewhere in between.

Like Melisandre’s Lord of Light, it’s one thing, bright and burning, but found through shadows; like the Many Gods, it comes in myriad forms. Thus it escapes us, but we can’t escape it.

(Based on a series of posts at Following the Footsteps of the Masters, a blog devoted to the things that make epic fantasy great)


Want to read more by Graeme? Check out The Pact, the first story in a dark epic fantasy series, now available for KoboKindle, and other ebook formats.

You can follow Graeme on Twitter (@GraemeBrownWpg) or on his blog, Fantasy Writing Journey, and if you like learning about a unique word each day, come check out Graemeophones



Filed under George R. R. Martin Series, Graeme's World

Talespin Tuesday: Exercise #4 – a Setting Sketch

Here’s the drill:

20 minutes. Fresh, free fiction (of the imaginative variety), based on a few preset parameters.

Every Tuesday, I’ll spin you a quick tale and give you something to think about. Call it a writing drill, an exercise in imagination. I spend nearly a year to get a book together, so what better than an opportunity to have something finished by the time I click “save”. Now I like that, and hopefully, so will you.


When I plan out a scene, I like to know the setting well. My favorites are the villages or towns, the places with character and stories lurking behind every cobblestone. I know ten times more than what I let on – after all, the story is moving through quickly. So tonight let’s have some fun and make a story out of a setting sketch.


Where the three roads meet, nearby the broken fountain, that is where The Tyrant first made his decree, so many lifetimes ago the years have been lost. To the merchants who now fill Ninepenny Square, such details are trivial, as uninteresting as gossip about the miller who pissed in last year’s grain.

Buildings crowd the Square, a row of steep-sloped roofs of red and brown tile. Narrow windows with purple curtains line the upper stories. Those are where the merchants live. The peasants make their beds in a network of hovels and covered pits that ring the village wall. Gerry is a wealthy town, full of taverns and inns and dens for gamblers. Not quite esteemed enough to draw the nobles, but the Scavenger’s Road passes no other way, hemmed in by the bogs and the swamps of Dhunival’s inland reaches.

Gerry is a place where many come to forget. Most of them are travelers, putting a rough journey behind them, preparing for a long march ahead. Dyers and silk traders, Burnside Men with their lantern peppers, and the ruddy Blackbeard smiths with their elaborate torcs – all bound for the High Cities; if only the whole expanse of the Outer Territories were as orderly as the Upper Realm, where the Fourteen sit.

There’re bards – the Blue Minstrels, the Three-Striped, and the High Numidians, heirs of the Former Blood. Gerry is full of their music, the air woven with mellifluous chords of lutes and cimbaloms, dulcimers and the elegant double-rowed harps. There’s also pipers, the ones as loathsome as paupers, who toot their melodies under the shade of the orchards, hoping for a silver coin. Gerry’s full of music and sound – laughter and shouting, the tap-tap of hammers and the clop of hooves on tiled roads. One man belches, two woman shout at one another. Three maidens giggle while a fat man runs naked through the street. On one street corner, under the painted sign of the Horse and Buggy, cads and gossips gather to exchange the news behind the shadow of a butt-size barrel.

The lord of Gerry is a drunkard who shows up once a year to collect his taxes. This year, they’re planning to collect him when he comes. Mel the Brawny is the best contender, but Fiddlehead and the one they call Fat Scott hold most of Gerry’s wealth. The peasants are already calling it the War of the Wooden Swords, since none of the merchants wish for the election to come to fighting. Whoever wins, it won’t matter for those who come and go, those who gather every day to trade – to buy, to sell, to go on living another day.

If only they all knew the true story behind Ninepenny Square, the real reason why the fountain lays in ruins. Perhaps they might all run away, move their happy town elsewhere. Another statue watches, from the other side of the Square, a squat man with a bushy mustache – the one they call The Hero. His stern eyes look out, making sure his people are safe.

That is what they all say, those who believe what was written in history.



Want to read more by Graeme? Be sure to check out The Pact, the first story in an epic fantasy series, coming May 6st.


Filed under Graeme Brown Setting Sketches, Graeme's World