Good afternoon everyone!
If there is a word that no one likes to hear when it comes to published work it is retcon. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it means to alter an already published work. This is not something that I will ever do after I retail publish a work. When readers pay out of their pocket for a novel, I do not want to change something after-the-fact, leaving you with an out of date, and canonically useless tome. I am only doing this because my works are not yet final.
So here is the spoiler warning. I am about to discuss the ending to both Darkness Rising and Sea of Storms.
OK. First, I am going to discuss what is currently in place, and after that I will delve into what is being changed and why.
At the end of Darkness Rising, Rafael Azail sacrifices himself to shut the way to the Nether, and, in his mind, slay Aleksander, foiling Mordred’s plans. In the epilogue, the Deathsworn come and take away three individuals in litters: Eldred, Aleksander, and Rafael.
In the epilogue to Sea of Storms, we learn that Jophiel had somehow ensnared Rafael’s conciousness and locked him inside the Unseen World — for all purposes dead, until the Heart of the Sand gives him new life. Which occurs in the closing moments of that book.
What is being retconned is Rafael’s fate. I do not want to go full spoiler here (as after the retail publish, some new readers may find this blog). Although what I feel is really important to current readers is that Rafael does not receive the Heart of the Sand in the end events of Sea of Storms — in fact Rafael will not appear at all.
This is a brief synopsis for what will be eventually written into Sea of Storms’ epilogue. When Jophiel and Hamad delve deeper into the Unseen World, they do not venture into the Prison of Souls, but instead to another unnamed area (I would like readers to guess where it is from vague descriptions). They will meet with another First Born and give him the Heart of the Sand — the selfsame who warned Amos in the prologue that the Emperor will hear of this during Aerona’s hallucination / nightmare. This individual is named Reuven. This is a perspective character in Heart of the Sand. The epilogue will then bridge the two works by introducing a new, important character, and give readers a better perspective on where this character stands.
So why am I doing this?
To put it in a philosophical, structurally context, Rafael Azail is not working with the larger narrative of Heart of the Sand. I think it is in the best interest of the work to write him out of the story and focus on a smaller cast of characters, as well as give a more logical progression for Jophiel’s character. In my original plans for Heart of the Sand, Rafael and Jophiel were very much entwined, and largely segregated from the other characters. Thus I can remove Rafael’s arc, make some minor changes to Jophiel’s arc, and the story will more or less read as the same. The more important, plot progressing elements of Rafael’s character are being merged to other characters. I think the results are much better.
One of the other reasons I’m doing this is because I am writing Heart of the Sand (and later revising Darkness Rising and Sea of Storms) to be more grounded than they were. Rafael’s arc involved a lot of supernatural and high mystical elements that I felt were very out of touch with the rest of the narrative. In an effort to give the work a more consistent tone, those elements needed to be removed. I will instead focus on what you could call low-level mysticism. I want the conflicts and events to be about a very raw, insightful human experience — where even the immortals are very much human — and add the mysticism as a means of changing things up, and presenting new challenges.
A very positive consequence of this change is that it brings down the word count substantially. Instead of being a work that was roughly 20% larger than the preceding two books, all three stories should clock in at the same length. My aim has always been to write these stories between 90,000 and 100,000 words. As I sit here today, they should fall between 96,000 and 98,000 words. It seems to be a sweet spot.
If you are going to be reading Heart of the Sand in 4 weeks (hard to believe it will be this soon) I do hope you read this blog post. I will make another post closer to January 5th that reinforces the change that I made.