If you haven’t dove into Alex London‘s Skybound series that started with Black Wings Beating, you’re missing out on epic fantasy stuffed with action, politics, sharp characters, and a high-flying twist: It takes place in a society that reveres birds of prey, and these creatures play an important role.
It’s an amazing concept, but we’ve always wondered… Why choose birds of prey as a central figurehead in Uztar? Lucky for us, we had a chance to ask Alex himself as part of the blog tour for the second book in the series, Red Skies Falling, which in just hit shelves!
Take it away, Alex!
Humans are bird watchers. At some point, everyone looks up to the sky and wonders what it would be like to fly, or is woken by the sound of birdsong way too early in the morning. We’ve made pets out of birds and tried to read our fates from their flight. We’ve also put them to work. Just about every culture that has existed alongside birds of prey has trained them in some way, inventing falconry over and over and over again. They are more like dinosaurs than they are like us, and yet we are almost universally drawn to them with awe, envy, and sometimes, fear. Who doesn’t shudder when walking beneath a bare tree where a murder of crows has flocked? They carry an unsettling beauty.
I was specifically drawn to setting my series around birds and specifically birds of prey, because of that sense of wonder and fear they inspire. A bird of prey is not a loyal dog; it has no desire to please its trainer. It does what it does for its own reasons and those who dedicate years and years to a particular hawk or falcon are always, at the moment the bird flies from their fist, at risk of losing them. To me, that longing for an unknown and uncanny connection with something fierce and fleeting and beautiful is so much like young adulthood, when our emotions and our wants are often alien to us as we experience them, and as intense as a peregrine diving after a hare.
I also wanted to create a fantasy society based around birds of prey because I wanted to play with power structures. The world of this series is a brutal and violent one, but the path to power in it runs through birds of prey. To rule, you must master these raptors. However, in training, you can’t coerce a bird of prey to hunt or fight for you, you have to approach it through rapt attention to their moods, their needs, their wants. At any moment, the bird can fly away from you, can turn on you and attack, and can simply refuse to fly. You must be deeply attuned to it and tend to it with great gentleness. So, in a world where the path to power relies on birds of prey, the only way our heroes can attain power, then, is through selfless care and gentleness. They have to unlearn everything a violent culture and their own violent family has taught them and find their strength in ferocious love (all while battling cruel armies and killer birds).
For me, as a new parent and writer of pretty dark epic fantasy, that was a story I found worth telling: that our greatest source of power even in violent, merciless times, is through selflessness and love.
That’s all on a metaphorical level in the story, of course. On a literal level, birds of prey are just really cool and I hope readers enjoy soaring through all kinds of adventures in pursuit of them with my heroes.
Still need to read Black Wings Beating? Snag it now via Amazon!
In this thrilling sequel to Black Wings Beating, twins Kylee and Brysen are separated by the expanse of Uztar, but are preparing for the same war – or so they think.
Kylee is ensconsed in the Sky Castle, training with Mem Uku to master the Hollow Tongue and the Ghost Eagle. But political intrigue abounds and court drama seems to seep through the castle’s stones like blood from a broken feather. Meanwhile, Brysen is still in the Six Villages, preparing for an attack by the Kartami. The Villages have become Uztar’s first line of defense, and refugees are flooding in from the plains. But their arrival lays bare the villagers darkest instincts. As Brysen navigates the growing turmoil, he must also grapple with a newfound gift, a burgeoning crush on a mysterious boy, and a shocking betrayal.
The two will meet again on the battlefield, fighting the same war from different sides―or so they think. The Ghost Eagle has its own plans.