Empire’s Legacy #1
For twenty generations, the men and women of The Empire have lived separately, the women farming and fishing, the men fighting wars. But in the spring of Lena’s seventeenth year, an officer rides into her village with an unprecedented request. The Empire is threatened by invasion, and to defend it successfully, women will need to fight.
When the village votes in favour, Lena and her partner Maya are torn apart. Maya chooses exile rather than battle, Lena chooses to fight. As Lena learns the skills of warfare and leadership, she discovers that choices have consequences that cannot be foreseen, and that her role in her country’s future is greater than she could have dreamed.
Lena’s world, in the Empire’s Legacy trilogy, is imaginary, but at the same time it isn’t: it is firmly rooted in the landscape and history of Britain and Northern Europe. I started writing Empire’s Daughter with nothing more than an image in my mind, an image of a young fisherwoman, a fishing village, and the harbour and hills. But the picture in my mind wasn’t imaginary: it was Anglesey, Ynys Môn, an island off the coast of Wales.
So, when I picture Tirvan, this is, more or less, what it looks like in my mind. (Remove the modern aspects!) The fishing harbour would be where the beach is; the village houses close to the harbour (perhaps the cliffs aren’t quite so steep, at least in one area), and the meeting hall, the baths, the forge and the sheep-fields further up the hillsides.
This landscape isn’t unique to Wales; you’ll find similar coastal coves along much of the West Country of England, on both coasts, and throughout Scotland. And I’ve only been to Anglesey once, but still, it was that landscape that began the book.
And likely influenced its development. Anglesey was a holy island to the pre-Roman people of Britain, and associated with the resistance of these people to Roman rule, that resistance centred in their priests, the Druids. In AD 60, the Roman general Paulinus attacked Anglesey, destroying sacred groves and shrines, and in folk memory driving the Druids into the sea. It took a few years (and a few more battles for supremacy within Britain) but by AD 78 Anglesey was firmly under Roman control, the Romans building forts, mines and roads on the island. (At least one road is still in use).
I knew all this, from various courses I’d taken and books I’d read. So, when Anglesey arose in my consciousness as the referent for Tirvan, it brought with it all these Roman associations…which in turn led to me modelling the Empire’s military on that of Rome, and indeed the basic infrastructure of the Empire on that of Britannia (Britain) during its time of Roman rule.
Empire’s Daughter deviates completely from any known history. (That is why I call it historic fantasy; there’s no magic, which the word ‘fantasy’ usually connotes, but it certainly isn’t history! Maybe I should call it ‘imaginary history’!)
In the book, men and women lead very separate lives, the women living together, primarily in farming and fishing villages, the men in mandatory military service. Male children are taken at age 7 to begin military training; girls are educated in their own villages, and then apprentice to a trade. Where did these ideas come from?
There isn’t one source, one society that I borrowed from. The idea of male children being taken at seven into military training is from the social structure of the ancient city-state of Sparta, where exactly that happened. Spartan boys were basically cadets until age 20, when they took on greater responsibility in the military; they could marry at 30, but did not live with their wives, but stayed with their military comrades in barracks…and that was the germ of the idea of the men and women living almost completely separate lives, except for a couple of weeks each year.
The Roman Empire’s military structure also influenced how I envisioned the lives of men in the Empire. Roman soldiers served 25 years in the military and could not (officially) marry unless they were of officer class, although they often formed permanent relationships with local women. But again, it was that sense of a primarily masculine life that influenced how the men live in Empire’s Daughter.The lives of women were influenced by a number of sources: Icelandic and Viking women, for one, where women frequently were completely responsible for farming and fishing and all the other work while the men were at sea, either fishing (Iceland) or raiding (Vikings). The apprenticeship of girls at twelve to a trade is simply based on long practice throughout much of the world, for both boys and girls: even my own grandfather was apprenticed at age twelve to a coal merchant in England, in about 1896. (The photo of a female blacksmith is from England, c 1915-1920)
Now, as to why there is this tiny, isolated Empire at the edge of the world, underpopulated and ring-fenced by the Wall, the mountains and the sea… well, to say more would need a big SPOILERS alert. You’ll have to read the books to find out!
Photo: Porth Swtan, by Graeme Walker [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Roman soldier picture: By Pablo Dodda (Flickr: Roman Soldiers) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Woman blacksmith picture: Bain News Service; taken in England c 1915-20; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. No known copyright restrictions
Thank you, Marian L Thorpe and Rachel’s Random Resources.
About the author
Writer of historical fantasy and urban fantasy for adults. The Empire’s Legacy series explores gender expectations, the conflicts between personal belief and societal norms, and how, within a society where sexuality is fluid, personal definitions of love and loyalty change with growth and experience.
The world of Empire’s Legacy was inspired by my interest in the history of Britain in the years when it was a province of the Roman Empire called Britannia, and then in the aftermath of the fall of the Roman Empire. In another life, I would have been a landscape archaeologist, and landscape is an important metaphor in the Empire’s Legacy trilogy and in all my writing, fiction and non-fiction.
I live in Canada for most of the year, England for the rest, have one cat, a husband, and when I’m not writing or editing, I’m birding.
Social Media Links
Website is marianlthorpe.com
Twitter @Marian Thorpe
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/marianlthorpe