A book fulfills many purposes: it is our friend when times are hard; it is our teacher when we’re of a mind to learn. It has the power in its pages to make us laugh or cry, to make us think, to transport us across the world or across the universe. A book can even heal us when we are broken. A Gathering of Ravens, which I hope you’ll soon hold in your hands, saved my life.
One of the first stories I ever conceived of, as an adolescent with aspirations to write, was a story about an Orc. I’d read and re-read Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and my younger self became enamored with these darksome creatures – and convinced they’d gotten the short shrift in the Professor’s expansive legendarium. I wanted to tell their tale, to rehabilitate them into something more than the expendable foot soldiers of an ambitious dark lord. Years later, when given the opportunity I wrote up a synopsis, and then another, but both lacked that ineffable spark which makes the prosaic seem unique. I put it aside to work on other things, but I never quite forgot about it.
Then, in 2010, I took a hiatus from writing so I might devote my time to caring for my parents – both of whom were terminally ill. Amid days filled with coordinating doctors’ visits and Home Hospice schedules, and long sleepless nights consumed with worry over the thousand details of two lives slowly winding down, this one idea refused to let go; through mini-strokes and falls, through MRIs and x-rays and the slow decay of dementia, the idea of this book became my touchstone. It became my escape. My Dad passed away in the spring of 2011; my Mom followed him six months later. Suddenly bereft, I descended into a labyrinth of grief-stricken madness and promptly lost my way.
It was an Orc who found me. His name is Grimnir, and I do him a disservice by calling him simply an “Orc”. His people are kaunar, and they did not inhabit some fairy-tale world of make-believe. They were here. In our world. Hiding in plain sight, he said, in the myths of the Norse, the Anglo-Saxons, and the Irish. And there, as we crouched in the darkness at the tangled heart of sorrow, he told me his tale . . .
Grief is a curious beast. It worms its way into mind and soul. It seeks what is good and comforting and it feeds upon that. Grief rends. It shreds the good in you and leaves you hollow. But if you can survive its talons, the beast will give you the tools needed to fight it. For me, it was a book about a profane, black-hearted bastard driven by rage and vengeance, but who does good in spite of himself. A book called A Gathering of Ravens.
I’d be honored if you’d read it.