Ed Cox’s Relic Guild series has a scope matched only by the vast enthusiasm of it’s author. Ed’s invention and energy are impossible to ignore and, earlier this year, I chatted to him about the series so far. There’ll be a follow up once book 3 is out but, for now, here’s me talking to Ed about The Relic Guild books 1 and 2.
Tell us a little about the world of The Relic Guild, Ed.
Well, there are many different worlds. All of them used to be linked to Labrys Town, a huge city where a million humans dwell. It is founded upon magic and boxed in by hundred foot tall boundary walls. The sun doesn’t shine there for many hours of the day, and the nights are long. Some readers have referred Labrys Town as Victorianesque, but it’s more developed than that. Perhaps closer to a city in the 1920’s. I tried to build Labrys Town with a sense of stagnation about it. It reached a certain stage of evolution, but then went no further.
Outside the boundary walls is a labyrinth that most believe is endless. And one time, there were portals scattered through the labyrinth that led to the Houses of the Aelfir. These Houses were a rich concoction of fantasy wonderment, and Labrys Town was their common ground. Trade was had, friends were made, and life was good. But then there was a big ol’ war, the portals were removed, and Labrys Town became a dark and dangerous forbidden zone.
And where does book 2 find the characters?
Out in the Houses of the Aelfir! The Cathedral of Known Things continues the story where it left off in The Relic Guild. We see some of the strange and mythical worlds that we heard about in the first book. We get to see the Genii War. The Relic Guild enrols a few new agents, questions are answered, secrets are revealed, and there’s plenty more monsters, magic and mayhem!
The series has a very complex relationship with magic. It’s both a practical asset and something that has a huge amount of trauma and fear wrapped around it. What led to you taking that very different, and extremely effective, approach?
I like to embrace magic, and wanted to build a world founded upon it. To have that kind of energy pervade a society doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone needs to understand it to use it. The people of Labrys Town are no more magicians for, say, riding a tram than I am a nuclear physicist for switching on a light. And, as you say, there has always been trauma involved whenever humans are mixed with any kind of energy, and it has been that way since the discovery of fire. It’s the people who understand this stuff who are in the position to cause real trouble. In many ways, The Relic Guild trilogy is about the abuse of magic.
How much planning did you do prior to the series beginning? There’s a lot of complex, interesting stuff with how the past effects the future and I’m curious how much work that was.
The planning never stopped! It began about a year before I started writing, and finished on the day I handed in the final book. Both timelines make one story, and planning to ensure that one timeline was always driving the other was, on occasion, mind-crushingly awful and threatened to drive me bat-shit crazy. I would guess that I have around twenty notebooks filled with plots and schemes and ideas and planning; and as much as it felt hideously complicated at times, the results made it all worthwhile. If you separated the two timelines, the story would make no sense. They only work with each other, and that’s the goal I set out to achieve. I’m rather proud of that, Alasdair.
You’ve produced a couple of short stories set in the universe as well. How did writing them differ from the longer work? And do you have more planned.
The idea for the short stories came about after discussions with my editor Marcus Gipps. We thought it’d be cool to have a couple of promotional freebies for the series, so I wrote a prelude to The Relic Guild called Hemlock, and a prelude to The Cathedral of Known Things called Champion of Dead Time. They were much easier to write than the longer works. Shorter wordage, obviously, but also because I already had the world and characters to draw from. They’re part of the same narrative, and I like to think of them as DVD extras. And the best part is Gollancz generously paid for them to be recorded as audio stories by the awesome Imogen Church, and they’re still available for free on SoundCloud and Audible. Hopefully, there will be a new short story to accompany the third book.
What’s next? More Relic Guild or something different?
I’ve just handed in The Watcher of Dead Time, the third and final book of The Relic Guild trilogy. There will undoubtedly be more tales of the Relic Guild. In fact, a new notebook has already sprung to life with ideas that feel pretty strong. But I think I’ll probably step away from that universe for the next book, finish some ideas that I’ve been carrying with me for long enough now. At least, that feels like the right thing to do. But who knows, Alasdair. I’m a man of mystery and wonder and capricious fancy! The only thing I know for certain is that I’ll write another story.
Thanks Ed, it’s, as always, a pleasure:)
I’ll chat again with Ed in the run up to Book 3. In the meantime, the prelude stories he mentioned are linked in the text and you can find all his published work at his Amazon page over here.