Myke Cole does not fucketh around. He’s written military fantasy, historical fantasy, and further, is now writing just straight up historical non-fiction in an accessible, engaging way. And soon he adds sci-fi to that list. Oh also, he’s on television? Jesus Christ, Myke, leave a little for the rest of us. ANYWAY. Today, though, he wants to talk about the last of his Sacred Throne trilogy — The Killing Light. *throws Myke the blog keys*
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With The Killing Light, The Sacred Throne trilogy is complete. It’s been a hell of a ride for me (and hopefully for you too) featuring giant devils, a rebellion against an oppressive religious order, and a brave young woman who has been hard done by and climbs into a suit of power armor to balance the ledger, if only by a little. The trilogy featured narrow escapes, treachery from the closest quarters, and battle after bloody battle.
So, thinking back on all that, have you figured out what it’s about yet?
It is, of course, about love.
But let me be a little more specific. You all watched the absolutely brilliant first two seasons of the BBC comedy series Fleabag, right? If you didn’t, fix your shit. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say this – the triumph of that series is that it takes love head-on. It addresses the reality of what it is to love. It reminds us that love is a choice and a process and that most of all, love is about losing. “The pain now is part of the pleasure then, that’s the deal,” says Anthony Hopkins playing C.S. Lewis in The Shadowlands, and he’s absolutely right.
Dan Savage wisely tells us that every relationship we’re in will end, until the one we’re in when we die. It’s an idea that’s profound in its simplicity and it reminds me of a central axiom of my own:
That love is risk. If we want to win, we have to play.
And that’s the heart of The Killing Light.
Perhaps the most quoted line from the The Armored Saint (the first book in The Sacred Throne trilogy) is Clodio’s advice to Heloise – …love is worth it, the old man reminds her, It is worth any hardship, it is worth illness. It is worth injury. It is worth isolation. It is even worth death. For life without love is only a shadow of life.
An easy road is what we aim for in real life, but not in fiction. Stories without conflict are boring. In order to make the series sing, Heloise had to hurt, and badly. In order to make this critical point I have had to put her through the crucible that demonstrates it. Love is indeed a choice and choosing to love when doing so is hard, when it is costly, is where the rubber truly meets the road. Witnessing this was hard for me as the writer, but I didn’t want to shrink from her experience – most importantly this: That Heloise does not discard her loss, but cradles it, holds it as close as a lover and uses it to propel herself forward. Loss is the spinning wheel, the Kipti say. It crusheth us beneath, and raiseth us up again.
That is what all the battles and hard fights in what is admittedly a pretty blood-soaked trilogy are – engines of loss. Object lessons of how to navigate them. It’s why I love the grimdark subgenre so dearly. I never tire of examples of how humans can endure and emerge and find a way to triumph.
It is like this for all of us. We reel from the people we lose. The family members who pass away, the lovers who throw up their hands and walk, the friends who move and marry and lose touch. Sometimes we make mistakes that we recognize and own and remedy, but that we can’t erase or fully recover from. We lose people. Time helps. So does taking counsel from friends who help us to rally, but what nobody tells you is that it gets worse.
Because like the protagonist in Fleabag you get better at loving over time. With each new love we improve.
And that means that you will love harder the next time and the loss of that one will hurt all the more.
After one particularly rough ending, I sobbed on the phone to my friend on the other side of the country, belting out the cris de coeur that is so common to breakups that Hallmark may as well print it on cards, “Oh god, I feel like such a fool.”
“Yeah, well,” my friend said, “I guess if you’re going to be a fool, love’s a pretty good thing to be a fool for.”
We lose the people we love.
And it hurts. Sometimes it hurts so badly we tell ourselves it can’t possibly be worth it.
But it is.
It’s the only thing truly worth anything. It is worth it for Heloise, who is better than most, who has fought harder than most, who has lost more than most. It is worth it for me.
It’s worth it for you, too.
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