The Sky Throne is a tale set in Ancient Greece and follows young Zeus who finds himself entangled in a conflict that reaches the slopes of Mount Olympus itself. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Many myths feature deities as fully grown. Since I’m a young adult author, I wanted to re-imagine them as adolescents. I wanted to try to use the myths as a base from which to pull, and then use their grown personalities to drill down and perhaps find out how they came to be that way.
The story has roots in the Greek mythology. Do you read books from that genre? What were some books that you think influenced The Sky Throne?
I’ve read Ovid’s Metamorphoses, The Odyssey, The Illiad, The Aeneid. I’ve also read some young adult books that feature Greek deities, or at the very least, their offspring. Such titles include Tera Lynn Childs’ Oh. My. Gods. and Sweet Venom, Jennifer Estep’s Touch of Frost, and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.
I enjoyed seeing these mythological gods as young angst filled teens. I found Zeus to be a very well written and in depth character. What was your inspiration for his emotional turmoil through the story?
Once I set Zeus on his path, I just tried to get as far inside his head as I could. I did find some inspiration from various bits of movies, though no single movie stands out.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be published?
I am currently writing book 2 of The Sky Throne, tentatively called The High Court. It will be released in spring of 2018.
“When the family of young Zeus is attacked by Hyperion, Zeus’s mother is knocked unconscious and his best friend is left for dead. Stacking epic insult upon fatal injury, Zeus discovers the woman who raised him is not his biological mother. But to ensure her safety while she recovers, a heavyhearted Zeus leaves her behind to seek answers at Mount Olympus Preparatory Academia. Zeus embarks on a quest to discover who ordered the attack on his home, avenge the death of his friend, and find his birth mother. When some of his new schoolmates vanish, Zeus’s quest is turned upside down, and the only way to make things right is to access the power of the Sky Throne, confront a most dangerous enemy, and take his life back. On his way to becoming king of the Greek gods, Zeus will learn to seize power, neutralize his enemies, and fall in love.”
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Return to Babylon is the fifth installment of the Orfeo saga and begins with Orfeo and Clarice returning from the New World and their battle with the Spartans to settle into a somewhat peaceful life in Pylos. However with the battles still fresh in their mind and the nightmares still haunting their sleep, Orfeo knew evil would eventually reappear- it was just a matter of when and where. An assassination attempt on Orfeo’s life leads him to leave with Clarice to venture to the city of Mesopotamia in hopes they will keep their beloved city of Pylos safe.
Meanwhile, kings begin to drop like flies with the kingdom of Mursillius the Hittite becoming the first to fall. Zinaida wants vengeance upon the coalition who put her on the throne and sends spies to find Zurga. What price will be paid for those who fight for justice and freedom?
Return to Babylon, written by Murray Lee Eiland Jr, continues the adventures of Orfeo who begins the heroic tale in the city of Pylos. Prepare for an action-packed story line that explores the dynamics between different kingdoms and the blood thirst for those who want to save the world.
Assassination attempts and secret spies lead the characters to question whether the events taking place are purely coincidental or is there a more sinister evil at work. As the reader explores the different kingdoms, you soon learn who is trustworthy and who hides behind closed doors, plotting their evil revenge. Networks of spies will reveal information that will mean our favourite characters will have to risk it all for the price of glory.
Murray Lee Eiland Jr. has an impeccable flair to paint the scenes of his story with such conviction that the reader will feel emotionally involved with the main characters and their harrowing tales. At times the novel has moments of historical accountability, giving readers a front row seat into the secrecy of life and lies within kingdoms. Once you add in the brave and fierce heroes, Return to Babylon, has an epic story line that will leave you on the edge of your seat and eager to read all installments. My favourite character was Cyrus, a young and eager apprentice who begins to learn the ins and outs of spy craft. I particularly enjoyed the character development and surprise turns that each character entails throughout the story.
This book in the series delves deeper into the world of mystery, intrigue and espionage. I particular like how Murray Lee Eiland Jr adds a light-hearted touch to scenes in order to create a memorable and powerful story line. It is a cool reminder that some of our biggest threats are being spun together behind the closed doors within the most powerful people in the city.
Return to Babylon is brilliantly written. I would recommend this novel for anyone who loves an action-packed novel filled with twists and turns that will leave you on the edge of your seat, and eager for more!
Pages: 217 | ASIN: B01KEDH2CG
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The Sky Throne, by Chris Ledbetter, is a tale set in Ancient Greece. Zeus, a youthful prankster, finds himself entangled in a conflict that reaches the slopes of Mount Olympus itself. Living a life as an unknown, Zeus’s world changes entirely with the violent attack by an Elder deity, Hyperion. Zeus, seeking an answer for this attack, finds himself at Mount Olympus Preparatory Academia. He finds sanctuary and a temporary reprieve from the sorrow that haunts him, but trouble still follows him. Students and faculty begin to vanish from Olympus, which leaves Zeus and his peers to solve the mystery.
Ledbetter takes the best pieces of contemporary YA and gives them their own mythological flare. The academia of Harry Potter becomes the independent schools of the Mediterranean and Aegean. The survival of The Hunger Games is embodied by Zeus’s ingenuity throughout the story. Even tones of Red Rising can be felt in the opening pages of the very humble beginnings of a character we have known about for thousands of years. The breadth of the world is very thorough, and will please any Grecophile. Ledbetter covers everything from Crete to Tartarus, and all that lies in between.
These very familiar characters from mythology are made a new by being “made young” and formed into literal student roles. The twist on these old figures was one of the reasons why I kept turning the page. This, and the mystery of Zeus’s parentage, kept me enthralled with the character; especially since Zeus is a character that not only grows and changes throughout the book, but becomes endeared to the reader. For example, he consistently struggles with how to flirt with girls!
The actual pacing itself is done quite well. Within the first dozen pages, the reader feels the very real consequences of violence and aggression and the plot only gathers speed from there. It especially begins to escalate when the real threat against Olympus Prep arises and Zeus begins to show the true core of his character, to the delight of the reader.
If anything negative can be said against the plot and world building of the book itself, I would say that Ledbetter’s technical skill could use a bit of Olympus grace. While reading, I found some of the sentences awkward, while others were quite unnecessary based on context. This forced me out of the story. Beyond that, I found the dialogue to be inconsistent along the lines of pushing melodrama or self-deprecating humor. This is not to disregard the appreciation I had for his presentation of different cultures that actually did have their own way of speaking.
All of this taken into account, the reader of YA literature will not be disappointed. Following in the footsteps of Rick Riordan, yet also striking out on his own when his path diverges, is not a feat to be taken lightly. Ledbetter achieves this with brilliant originality and a story uniquely his own.
Pages: 324 | ASIN: B06W5LXJFN
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The Wanderer’s Last Journey opens to Orfeo being kidnapped by mysterious strangers and heroes from all over the Aegean join forces in the quest to find the lost prince. What excited you the most to write this 4th book in the Orfeo saga?
This book was the one that involved a trip to the New World. There have been many theories about Mediterranean contact with the New world, and I knew that in some ways the plot would be “far out.” Interestingly, there have been traces of cocaine found in ancient Egyptian mummies, so I had a plausible reason for travel. I did not want to fall into the well worn idea that any contact with the New World would be from a more advanced “European” culture. I think I portrayed the contact as one involving matched but very different cultures. In fact, Orfeo was taken in order to be a symbol that could be manipulated by extremely savvy leaders.
The Wanderer’s Last Journey has all the makings of a classic fantasy epic, as the rich and evocative world is as intriguing as it is intricate. Did you set out to create such a detailed world or did it happen organically?
I would like to say that I planned it all. In reality the Orfeo Saga happened book by book for the first few, and then I had an idea of a wider sweep later on. This novel marks the beginning of a larger plan. At the end of the day it is all about writing about interesting periods in history. What could be more interesting than a very early journey to the New World? What if that culture could be just as treacherous and manipulative as any in the Mediterranean? Of course I had fun with this part of the book. The second part of the book, dealing with Sparta, also has a bit of humor. However, I explored how dangerous a defeated people can be. Sparta will of course emerge during the Classical period as a very serious threat to Athens. More to the point Sparta will also emerge as a threat in my (fictional) Bronze Age Orfeo Saga. I have many more books planned.
The Iliad seems to be a source of inspiration for this book and your love of this period clearly shows. What is it about Greek/Roman mythology that you find interesting?
I read a huge amount of Greek and Roman mythology when I was younger. I had to take Latin in school and I always found myself wanting to read at a much higher level than my Latin ability would allow. I finally decided on a career in psychiatry. At the time Greek and Roman myths were mined for their insights into human nature. They express rather unvarnished characters (good and bad, sometimes in the same character). I was really interested in motivations, and of course the biggest motivation of all. There is phrase “collective unconscious” that coneys something like “cultural memory.” I am not sure that anything like that exists as an entity, but as a concept there is something to that. People collectively wanted to move their culture and civilization on to other things. I am not so silly as to think that everything in society just keeps on getting better, but there is something in that argument!
Where does the story go in book 5 of the Orfeo saga?
There is unfinished business in Babylon. Zinaida has been put on the throne in Orfeo 2, and now she feels like she should exert the power of Babylon to conquer her neighbors. Orfeo 2 dealt with Babylon using military force. This novel introduces a new character called Cyrus. He is extremely resourceful and takes up the identity of a merchant. He is a character that I will use in some future novels. I like the fact that he is not just simply a warrior or even a Wanderer. He becomes something entirely different.
“A Powerless Prisoner: A Captive God
No one is sure when the New World deity Quetzalcoatl was first worshipped. The god-man can be portrayed as a feathered serpent – and also associated with a bright green bird of the same name – but he was worshipped in a variety of ways by various cultures. Some versions of the myth state that he was a man with light hair, beard, blue eyes, and light skin. After helping humankind, he was said to have returned to his home, promising to return. It is not surprising that he has been identified as a Viking by some historians (and as an extraterrestrial by more adventuresome scholars). The Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II is reputed to have initially believed that when Hernán Cortés appeared in 1519 Quetzalcoatl had returned.
Here Orfeo has been kidnapped by a New World tribe. They plan keep him as a prisoner while presenting him to a subjugated populace as a god. He has no desire to live his life in a gilded cage. His wife, Clarice, his aging mentor, Zurga, and the jack of all trades, Daryush, must cross the ocean to save their friend. They soon find they are involved in a civil war between the Nastases and Ixtlans. It will take all their cunning to rescue Orfeo and get back alive. Back at home a war is brewing between Sparta and Pylos. This time Zurga is not there to keep the peace.”
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The Chimaera Regiment follows Hector as he sets off on a world altering journey. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
The first idea that I incorporated into this story, or what eventually became this story, was the question, “What if someone compelled a worldwide society, perhaps not far into our future, back to a level of technology and culture comparable to the very first tribal communities?” Of course, by the time I wrote the book, I had decided to aim for something closer to the late Bronze or early Iron Age than the Stone Age, and the whole question became part of the world-building rather than a story I tell during the book.
The character of Hector started to develop as I began to catalogue ideas and lay out a basic plan of the plot. Up to that point, I had never completed anything longer than a short story (in spite of my best efforts), so I wanted to make it as easy as possible for myself to get all the way through a novel. To that end, I took that advice so frequently bandied about, “Write what you know,” and decided to make the hero someone a little younger than I was at the time.
The first draft of the novel was quite a bit shorter than it is now, and it ended up collecting dust in a box for a few years. (I prefer to write first drafts by hand.) Around the time a movie was released with, by total coincidence, my working title, I decided to go back to it and see what I could make of it. By that point, I had gotten a college degree and learned enough to know that the first draft had a good core, but the implementation was all wrong. Over the next couple of years, I went through the entire book and rewrote it, this time trying to make sure all the pieces aligned. It was at this point that I incorporated mythology into the story and titled it The Chimaera Regiment.
That initial idea is still in there, and you can see the edges of it as the backstory develops through this book, but I’m going to explore that question more closely in future books.
I think the story has roots in mythology. Do you read books from that genre? What were some books that you think influenced The Chimaera Regiment?
It does, and I do. My bachelor’s degree is focused on the Classics, which some may have heard called Classical Studies or (my favorite) Classical Philology, so I learned Latin and ancient Greek and I read a lot of Greco-Roman mythology, both in English and in the original languages. (My knowledge of Norse mythology is pretty limited, I’ve barely touched Egyptian mythology, and I’m as clueless as the next guy when it comes to anything else.)
For The Chimaera Regiment in particular, I looked to a lot of different sources for inspiration. What I wanted, perhaps most of all, was to craft a story that people would enjoy regardless of their educational background, but I also wanted to include a lot of “Easter eggs” for people with the same knowledge-base I have. So on the surface you have Hector on his quest to save the world from the Chimaera Regiment, and underneath that, I’m incorporating themes and plotlines from the myth of Bellerophon. Bellerophon, of course, was the hero that killed the Chimaera in the Greek mythos. Most of that particular tale comes to us from the writings of Apollodorus and one section of Homer’s Iliad, but there are a lot of minor references in other works, too.
While the myth of Bellerophon and the Chimaera is interwoven with the main plot, I also included references to other myths, both significant and minor, throughout. The vast majority of those can be found in Homer (either the Iliad or the Odyssey), Vergil (the Aeneid), or Ovid (the Metamorphoses), but to be honest, I enjoyed the process of hiding those references so much that I’m not completely sure I could tell you all of them at this point!
I found the characters in this story to be complex and engaging. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?
Especially when it came to Hector, whom we follow more closely than anyone else, I wanted something realistic. I find a lot of “coming of age” hero stories jump too quickly from “callow youth” to “great warrior” without much reason for it. I didn’t want my readers to ask, “Wait, why can he do that? How come he’s not daunted by this fight or fazed by this tragedy? When did he have time to learn strategy?” Incorporating that development was important to me.
When it came to the other characters, it was a matter of establishing ideals for each of them—how they saw the world, how they expected life to go—and then challenging those ideals with reality. Sometimes reality is better than they thought, but usually, it’s worse; either way, they have to adjust to deal with that. It’s a process not altogether different from the way we deal with change in our own lives.
I find a problem in a well written stories in that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Is there a second book planned?
There is a second book planned (and, very roughly, a third). The sequel is titled The Aegipan Revolution and picks up, not where the main story of The Chimaera Regiment leaves off, but rather where our epilogue leaves off, with the child learning this epic tale from his history.
I’m in the midst of writing The Aegipan Revolution, and I’ve passed the halfway point, but there is still a lot left to tell. After that, I’ll need to edit it thoroughly (though hopefully not as slowly as the first book!). On top of that, my day job has me incredibly busy these days. So I’d love to set a date for the next book’s release, but I can’t realistically estimate that right now.
It is late autumn in the 2040th year of the Sixth Era. For centuries, peace has reigned among the tribes of men, but as an early chill descends on the land, a new war looms from the south. Lord Derek, ruler of the Chimaera Regiment, seeks to reestablish the ancient Fylscem Empire under his banner, and he will stop at nothing to restore the dominion of his bloodline.
Before him lies the idyllic Valley of Kyros, home of the Alkimites, where the last direct heir of the old empire lives in ignorance. Guided by the ancient Guardian Lord Aneirin, Hector son of Abram must travel to the primeval capital of his heritage. There, in the Library of the Ancients, he must retrieve the three Blessed Blades of the Emperor, symbols of his authority. Agents of the Chimaera Regiment pursue him, and barbaric tribes stand in his way, but his path may unlock the secrets of the past, and it could bring light—or darkness—to the future.
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On a trade visit to Malta, Orfeo – in line to the throne of Pylos – is kidnapped by mysterious strangers. The net is spread far and wide, with heroes from all over the Aegean joining forces in the quest to find the lost prince.
Is Orfeo in danger, though? His captors seem to have strange motives, what exactly do they see him as? A prince, a prophet, a political pawn, or something more? Only one thing is for certain, nothing is as it appears on the surface, and Orfeo must keep his wits about him. This wonderful work of historical fiction will amaze and engage you in equal measures.
With The Wanderer’s Last Journey, Murray Lee Eiland Jr. has woven an astounding and complex tapestry. It has all the makings of a classic fantasy epic, as the rich and evocative world he creates is as intriguing as it is intricate, whilst the narrative constantly keeps us on our toes. Eiland Jr. clearly has an eye for important details, as his simple use of language is restrained and mannered. He writes much like any of the great classical fantasy writers, with simplistic, well-constructed sentences forming the framework for a complex and sprawling narrative. Where he does choose to go into detailed description, he paints for us a clear and colourful picture. The milieu of The Wanderer’s Last Journey, whilst mostly serving as a stage on which to set the players, is perhaps one if the novel’s most astonishing features. This mythical, magical Mediterranean is exotic and enticing, and we are left wanting to learn more about it. As the story expands and speeds towards its thrilling crescendo, its setting is left unexpanded, and one wonder’s whether the novel might have benefited from going into greater detail in this regard. In many ways it is unfamiliar from the Ancient Greece we know and are familiar with, yet it verges upon Virgil and Homer. The Iliad is an obvious reference, and Eiland Jr.’s love of this period is clear on the page.
This novel sets Eiland Jr out as an author of great scope and intention, however one who isn’t afraid to create a world of great depth and complexities. He cleverly weaves multiple storylines and, for the most part, manages to keep on top of this, and keeps all the strands of his stories working together. There are moments, though, where the machinations of the plot seem to get the better of him. The action tends to flit between one character’s perspective and another’s, and whilst this serves to provide us with a huge wealth of storyline, it occasionally distracts from it. It also means, at points, that we aren’t given long enough in each character’s story to form an emotional bond with them, and we are left wondering who exactly our protagonist is. This is perhaps to be expected, though, with a story so vast, and one with so many strands, and for the most part The Wanderer’s Last Journey works well as a rich, entertaining fantasy epic.
Pages: 237 | ASIN: B018RHOIRI
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Travel back in time in this fantastical adventure with Zurga’s Fire, book three in the Orfeo Saga. Murray Lee Eiland Jr weaves his tale that takes place in historical Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean. Broken up into four books filled with short, easy to digest chapters we begin with Daryush, a young man who has been living as a consort for the Empress Zinaida. If you are just coming into this saga, you won’t be able to get a true grasp on what previous volumes have covered. What we learn from Daryush and Zinaida is that theirs is a young love and she has recently acquired her position of power. Due to their differences Daryush decides to leave Babylon in order to preserve his life. We then begin to follow him on his journey while meeting other important characters and breaking off to follow them. It all comes back around and end with Daryush.
Eiland is very good at keeping his chapters short and to the point. Instead of long, drawn out chapters that cover far too much information to digest well, this tale has the benefit of being broken into four books and a total of 70 chapters. While that may seem like a lot, the story doesn’t break 300 pages. There is even a historical note for those history buffs who are reading. This is a historical fantasy-adventure tale and Eiland does his best to keep information as true to history while taking certain artistic liberties. This makes the book easy to read without getting bogged down by technicalities. While the information regarding tribes, empires and villages is indeed massive, it is all presented in shortened, easy to read ways.
Daryush is not the titular character, although he feels like one. He weaves in and out of the story that the reader can get deluded into thinking it’s all about him. The book is called Zurga’s Fire for a reason and that is made quite apparent in the third book within this volume.
Aside from being a bit in the dark to previous accomplishments in the first two books, Zurga’s Fire stands well on its own. The story feels complete at the end and doesn’t leave too many unanswered questions. The writing is clean with little to no grammatical errors and the chapter formatting is nice on the eyes. The intrigue, romance and mystery that pepper the tale are all tasteful with nothing feeling forced or contrived. This is a spectacular feat to accomplish when you have so many characters with such intricate lives.
If you’re looking for a good read that won’t have you feeling overwhelmed then Zurga’s Fire by Murray Lee Eiland Jr is definitely something you should consider. Not too heavy on historical explanations and easy to read with short chapters, this third installment in the Orfeo Saga is pleasant and satisfying.
Pages: 244 | ASIN: B017YFKZSU
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The Emperor of Babylon opens with Zurga being captured by a mysterious group and whisked away to Babylon. Despite his skills as a Wanderer, his captors appear to be well prepared. The purpose of his capture becomes clear as an old friend demands to be granted the power Zurga is rumored to possess from the well-known war of years past. This rumor is what spurs the plot forward, along with the discovery of a new metal used for weapons, as Zurga and his friends search for a way to keep Nurim Sin from waging war on anyone who has a power he might fear. In the meantime, the village of the Wanderers has been neglecting its duty, leaving them open to the dangers of the world.
Orfeo and Clarice, on their separate, but shared, quest to find Zurga, are both given the opportunity to grow, and the reader is treated to two very different styles of travel through these characters. It gives the narrator a lot of breathing room when it comes to how the story is told, developing each of them into well rounded individuals, rather than a married couple.
I felt that Nurim Sin was not presented as a very dangerous antagonist, and the fear and tension normally derived from that was lacking. Because Zurga and his crew are granted a seemingly easy escape, it diminishes the suspense regarding Nurim Sin’s actions in the future. Much is revealed about Nurim Sin’s plans by him talking to characters like Zurga and Clarice, which removes the concern a reader might have about his secret plans.
The first half of the novel follows the characters as they travel and try to avoid suspicion. There are hints of a threat to the characters, but the anxiety from the danger is rarely felt. The characters were a highlight in this novel. I felt that they were well developed, nuanced and had meaningful interactions. The second half of the book shows the politics of the region as pieces fall into place in preparation for war. The characters play their parts and move the pieces as much as they can. Clarice’s deception of Nurim Sin is entertaining and I wish I was treated to more of it because that’s the kind of action that makes this book shine.
Overall, the novel has many entertaining moments built on slowly developed tension and conflict. The characters are dynamic and intriguing and the author does a good job of establishing new faces in the story. I can’t wait for the third book, but I’ll be begging for more edge of your seat conflict that this series has the potential to deliver.
Pages: 256 | B016SNL510
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