About The Chronicles of Innisfail
Volume I: The Kinstrife
With his marathon 64 book Kirov Series finally concluded, author John Schettler is now turning hard to port in a new direction to open his next saga with an Epic Military Fantasy Novel. The Chronicles of Innisfail is, by the author’s own admission, heavily influenced by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It presents a sprawling continental sized late Medieval world in loving detail, and the author has created over 20 maps to let readers grasp the geography that is so important to the story.
As with his Kirov series, the Chronicles open with a twist, with the story beginning in the deserts of Tunisia in 1943 near the Mareth line operations conducted by Montgomery against Rommel. This is a device to introduce two of the main characters in the series, Corporal William (Wilem) Doran of the King’s Dragoon Guard and a simple Caravaneer trader, Kaspar Jakhad. In effect, we are led into the story through the experience of Corporal Doran, who is caught in an artillery barrage in 1943 and knocked unconscious. He awakens to find he is not in Kansas anymore. It wasn’t exactly time travel, but Wilem had been transported to a world he can scarcely imagine, at a place called Starfall. But the author has imagined it well, and he will use all his many tools and talents, descriptive prose, gripping narrative story telling, and excellent dialogue, to pull us into his new world too.
The trader, Kaspar, knows the land well, with a detailed map that seems wholly
accurate to Wilem, while his own map from Reconnaissance duty completely fails him here. Shocked and bewildered, Wilem slowly must accept that this is no longer Tunisia, and that he is …
somewhere else, in a world called the Alderenh according to Kaspar. Yet one thing hasn’t changed—there’s a war brewing here.
Wilem arrives in this strange new land with a few important assets, including
his Lee & Enfield SMLE-3 bolt action rifle, and a ready bag for the Bren light Machinegun he saw thrown from his carrier during the barrage. That weapon is also soon found nearby, tossed into the
salad with poor Wilem, yet with those two things, he suddenly possesses powers here that seem magical. A well trained sharpshooter with his “Smelly Three” rifle, Wilem has the ability to
kill a man at long range that astounds the strongest knights. The pistol in his side holster also allows him to seemingly just point his hand at a man and kill, or so it appears to the porters and
train guards in Kaspar’s caravan. To them, these abilities are magical, and Wilem is thought to be a Mage of some kind, even though he tries to explain that his odd looking spear (the
bayonetted SMLE-3) is just a mechanical thing.
They have come to the center of a great crater in the heart of the Desert, a
place Kaspar calls Starfall. The caravan is camping there this night because the barbarian war bands and raiders fear the place and will not enter the crater. That sets the backdrop of the emerging
war, as Wilem learns the Khazari, and Gorgessen tribes have come from over the western seas in a second great migration, and now they are marching north and east against the lands of free
men—against the longstanding frontiers of the Empire of Innisfail and its outland provinces.
For the first six chapters Wilem joins the caravan as its eleventh train guard
as they flee just ahead of this encroaching barbarian tide, and this is where the extensive world building begins. Schettler’s narrative descriptions of the land bring it to life and make it a
very real place. The map is everything to Kaspar, his way to choose the path ahead that can lead him to safety and profit, and we learn it as Wilem does. As Kaspar’s caravan flees before the
tide, we are all swept along with them while the barbarian war bands join to become an army that storms into the wooded lands of Lyndra and Lyngecel, a place much like Lorien in Tolkien’s
Then the focus shifts to the Western Outlands of the Empire, where the next
Major character is introduced, Morgin Grenfell, Duke of Rhaingoll. As with Wilem and Kaspar, the next six chapters are spent with Morgin, and this sets the political landscape of this world, tying in
with the subtitle of this volume, the Kinstrife. A powerful Outlord, Duke Morgin learns a renegade warlord backed by the Emperor’s troops has transgressed on his territory by seizing a vital
bridge on his frontier. That becomes a symbol of the friction between the core Empire of Innisfail and the Outland provinces, where Morgin has been organizing an illegal alliance spanning five
provinces called the White Company. It’s a civil war in the making. Yet with the barbarians putting pressure on the free lands in so many places, including Innisfail itself, both the Emperor
and this powerful Duke will not be able to continue their bickering over road taxes and other petty issues. The strength of the barbarian invasion will soon force the Kinstrife to subside, and both
sides will desperately need each other to survive the onslaught that is coming.
Chapters 13-18 then shift the focus to another main character, Frey, son of
Frost, a newly appointed Lord of one of two major clan groups of the Dwarrowkin people. Their description paints them much like the Dwarves of Tolkien’s world though they are said to be human.
Their history also saw kinstrife, a quarrel over succession between two brothers that saw one leave their northern mountain haunts at Irondale and march south to establish the realm of Delling,
taking half the Dwarrowkin with him. Frey is appointed the new successor to the throne of Irondale, and leaves Delling to make the journey north, which again leads us through more towns, cities, and
territories of this detailed world, and introduces some of the Kings and Lords that rule them. There are also barbarian tribes in the northwest, the Hunding and Gorg, and they have been preying upon
a relatively defenseless people the author calls the Wendfolk. The newly appointed Lord Frey will have none of that, and his first official act upon taking the throne is to muster the Dwarrowkin
clans to march in support of the Wends.
By this point, you are fairly well grounded in this world, meeting perhaps
twenty of the 80 characters listed in the front matter of this volume, which also presents the Gods of this world, and the months of the year named after them.
Then the story gets a bit darker… For like Tolkien’s world there is
both light and shadow here. Not one but three dark figures stand in for Sauron in this world. First there is Sonderin coming up from the deep south from his “Stone Den” with a marauding
army. Then his brother Luth in the northwest rules Dark Mornaland and Magamord, also lording over the barbarians of Gorgathor. I haven’t seen a fantasy world since Middle Earth where the place
names are so compelling. These armies have grim soldiers, and many of the things listed in the bestiary at the end of the book. Both Sonderin and Luth are called High Dreadlords here, and the things
they command are dreadful indeed. Lastly, this world also has a vast subterranean Underworld beneath the Valley of Soregor, ruled over by a dark Witch Queen, Morwenna. Should these three forces of
evil unite and throw their weight in with the savage barbarian invaders, the lands of free men will face a peril not seen for long ages in this world.
That is what happens here, and it precipitates a great war, where in this volume
alone, no less that twenty engagements and battles will be fought. Some are border skirmishes against barbarian or Imperial incursions, but this volume ends with a major set piece battle in the
southern frontier provinces of Innisfail that rivals Helm’s Deep or the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, a gripping action where Sonderin comes with his “Vile Host” on one side, while
the Khazar and Gorgessen invaders attempt to break into the empire through a long wall of red stone, called the Raedwall along Innisfail’s southern frontier.
This battle sees every Legion of Innisfail involved, and brings Morgin Grenfell
and other Outlords of the realm into the fray as well with their heavy mounted knights. The author calls his premier offering here a “Mythic Military Fiction,” and this story certainly
lives up to that billing. The knights are the tanks of this Medieval world, where others fight with spears, swords, axe, bow, tooth and claw. The bestiary at the end of the book lists all the
creatures that haunt this world, (but don’t peek, there are some spoilers there.)
So what do we have here? The six chapter segments at the outset dedicated to
introducing major characters get us well grounded. The geography of the world is fantastic, and the stories told to his train boy Ari by Kaspar give this world real historical roots. The maps posted
on the website are very helpful and keyed to each part of the story. The book is structured just like the Kirov Series novels, with 12 parts, each with three chapters. But many of the chapters are pushing ten to twelve or more pages, making this initial offering about 60 pages longer than a typical Kirov series novel.
So we get strong characters, excellent world building that is very immersive,
and a war that builds and builds to a great climax in the battle for Raedwalden, Hallowfield, and Llanishen provinces. A one chapter epilogue then twists the rope a bit at the end to set up volume II
in this series, where forces set in motion here will promise to bring chaos and mayhem to the ordered lands of men. It’s all here: the myth, the history of this new world, great story
telling, good characters, conflict, war and battle. And oh yes, there’s magic too when High Mages make appearances to contest the power of the Dreadlords. Duke Morgin also carries one of eleven
legendary “Gemswords,” each set with and named for a specific gemstone, and imbued with unearthly power.
By the end of this offering there are hints in the plot that a great dungeon crawl may be in the offing for Volume II in the series, The Coming of Shadows. And with his prolific pen, the author will not make us wait very long for Book II in the series. Asked if this will end up another marathon, John was unable to say.
“In truth, I never intended the Kirov Series to go as long as it did. But this is a story I first developed many years ago, and I’ve always wanted to give it serious attention in a series of full length novels. Yes, they’ll be linked as they tell the whole tale, but I’m also trying to give each one a standalone quality so new readers can jump in at any point they wish. I’ll take it as far as it needs to go, but whether that means three, five, or twelve books, I can’t say just now. I don’t think it will be 64, but I know there will at least be an opening trilogy, and that finished, I’ll see what remains to be said.”
Always the best point to jump in, don’t miss the Series Premier of John Schettler’s Chronicles of Innisfail, Volume I, The Kinstrife, available now!