"You are one, I suppose, to know we are not all mask and gala here."
My stories have never been completely happy. I think they have always had a just ending, maybe a little bitter-sweet, but most of the time pleasant, but the stories themselves, not since Book One with the magic coin and the dog and the yanking into another world, they have never been safe. My first stories were pretty dumb and very inexperienced, as most first stories will be, but I had a sense of uncertainty and danger even then, lying just beneath the fabric of friendships and shield-rings which, if the friendships and shield-rings did not keep a lid on them, would make a nasty doom for the characters in a very short amount of time. The world is a dangerous place, the mind still more dangerous; even at the start of my writing career I knew that.
"Never turn your back on your enemy. There's good advice in that. I never do: I keep myself under scrutiny at all times."
Those of you who have read The Shadow Things know that I don't always pull my punches. Those of you who have read The Shadow Things may laugh hard and wryly at the thought. Life can be hard. Life can be dangerous. No one goes through life without mishap, heart-ache, mistake, loss, and seeing the long shadow of sin falling across everything in this valley. In The Shadow Things there were beautiful moments - there was always truth - but Indi was always going about with the feeling of a knife at his throat. In Adamantine, with the world seen through the eyes of a naive, displaced young woman, the sense of danger is huge and formless, like the sense of a nightmare you wake from and cannot quite remember. It sharpens into clear relief from time to time, as happens in life when providence lets the protective veil grow thin, and it sharpens sometimes quite apart from the direct thrust of the plot because life, too, is like that sometimes. When you are pushing with your elbows into the thick of things, things are likely to push back hard, angrily, especially if you are bent on some sort of good, as Indi and Adamant both find.
I have spoken at length and with great vigour about the splendour and richness of Plenilune. I am completely in love with the characters, the setting, the history, the story itself. I have gone on, and I will go on, about how much I love it. But Margaret Coventry has been thrown into an "unequal war of men and devils" (have we not all?) and she finds old wars, old goodness, old evil longstanding before she quite finds her legs. Her new acquaintances are old friends, old enemies; she catches them at odd times with odd looks in their eyes, speaking to each other without words about things she does not understand and had not been there to witness. She is a late-comer to the Plenilune chess-board and she does not know what the war is all about. As she begins to creep out of her own shell of confusion, despair and self-pity, she finds everyone bears scars, a bitter twist to the lips, a veil behind the eyes which drops, of a sudden, at the merest, seemingly casual remark. She finds wounds, heart-ache, bitterness, wariness all around her and a sense of cold, gilt hopelessness in the air. The skeletal shadow of a familial war lies over an entire Honour. A woman is persuaded out of an engagement, leaving two hearts broken. A man is a domestic brute, rendering his wife a cold, cowed, beautiful husk. A man born prematurely is considered a bastard. A common-law wife is considered a whore. A woman was known to be insane. Two children are thought unlucky. A man is stripped of his family, his friends, his body, even his name. Turn a marble corner, push back a heavy golden tapestry, look, for one unguarded moment, into someone's face, and the angry red wound of life can be seen, waiting for the man with the healing power to wander back from Acheron's shore.
What is the secret that lies at the heart of the dark star?
What has no voice but is screaming to be heard?
When will hope wander out of the barrow?
When will death come to us all?