Sticking Your Head Above The Parapets

I was raised on fantasy novels and this has largely continued into my supposed adult years. It began with a fascination for Middle Earth and all things Tolkien. My mind was filled with adventures accompanied by hobbits and elves, battling orcs and armies of darkness at the foot of Mount Mordor. As a teenager I was a massive Dungeons & Dragons player.

D&D was much more preferable to the realities of surviving a grammar school where bespectacled nerds were fair game for class bullies and psychotic teachers alike. I returned to my love of reading and fantasy in the last decade or so. Once again, it was a means of escape from the harsh realities of life. Except now my wounds were self inflicted ones. I was the sole architect of my demise.

Hiding between the covers of a book allowed me to regroup and lick my wounds. I binged on the sprawling, epic trilogies of Robin Hobb and Raymond E. Feist. I recall reading Feist’s ‘Magician’ at my lowest ebb. The thicker the book, the better, for such tomes were my sanctuary from what lay beyond. Eventually, however, the final words were greedily consumed and I was forced to re-emerge, squinting and blinking into the 21st Century again.

Many fantasy novels involve castles. And where there is a castle, a siege is never far away. Sieges where the beleaguered heroes are surrounded by a brutal enemy; where they face insurmountable odds and all seems lost. Our ragtag armies man the ramparts, pummelled by arrows, boulders, and anything else the opposition can hurl their way. Defeat seems inevitable. There is no way out.

Except there usually is. Reinforcements appear on the horizon at the eleventh hour, a friendly dragon swoops from above to barbecue the enemy, or an unlikely hero leads a handful of brave troops in a last ditch counter attack which sweeps all before them. Usually aided by a wizard or two. The storm clouds lift, the sun peeks through and the forces of good prevail. For good always overcomes evil, right?

Such heroics require a decision. Followed by an act of will. Someone has to take a risk, a chance. They need to raise their head and look over the castle parapets to see what is going on outside. This is a dangerous business. Lifting your head above the parapet turns you into an immediate target for eagle eyed sharp shooters on the other side. Before you know it, you’re being peppered with missiles of various shapes and sizes.

Yet, it has to be done. To invoke change, to lift the status quo, to turn the tide. It could backfire horribly and end up with you toppling over the castle walls, an arrow between your eyes, dead before you hit the ground. But what’s the alternative? Skulking, shaking, waiting for the inevitable when the enemy swarm over the ramparts unopposed and butcher every last man, woman or child? What’s it to be?

I’m at a stage of my life where I’ve made the decision to poke my head above the parapet and face the enemy squarely in the eye. And guess what? They don’t like it. Hell has been unleashed in all its many guises. I’ll continue this theme in a later post but, until then, keep your wits about you if you dare lift your head above the parapet. And more importantly, keep your head on your shoulders.

Who are your favourite fantasy authors?

What role do you think you would play in a castle siege?

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 15 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

31 thoughts on “Sticking Your Head Above The Parapets

  1. Stephen, My favorite fantasy author is Stephen King, especially his early work. I got hooked on the Bachman books (his pseudonym), followed that with his first book of short stories (which included The Mist, which can still keep me up nights if I think about it!) and finished with The Stand, my all-time favorite work of fiction.
    With regard to your castle question, I would be in whatever role that took me to the deepest, safest part of the place!
    Chuck
    I look forward to the day I can answer the fantasy writer question by saying unreservedly: Stephen Black!

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  2. Terry Pratchett – by several miles. Neil Gaiman. Jasper Fforde (although I still have some to read – I lost the plot after the second series when my reading time was drastically cut by driving to work instead of taking the tube). In another lifetime, Ursula Le Guin.

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  3. I used to have almost of all Tolkien’s books but during my terrible times in the 90’s, I got rid of 3/4’s of my books & the Tolkien books went with that batch.

    I am not much of a fantasy person. Or a sci-fi person. I like the Hunger Games novels & I like the novels of Gael Baudino.

    The VERY best fantasy novel I have ever read is “Maia” by Richard Adams. I love the pantheon of gods & goddesses, the slang & swear words, the entire drama of the story. I had a bunch of his other books but “Maia” is the only one I kept.

    But I read much more historical novels than fantasy. I am much more in the real world … maybe the past real world but still, reality. & I have noticed that many “fantasy” novels are history novels with magic & dragons thrown in. “Game of Thrones” comes immediately to mind.

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  4. facing the slings and arrows is tough. i, too, like to stay safe behind thick walls, cocooned with a stirring book. may i suggest an author by the name of Guy Gavriel Kay, and in particular, his Fionovar trilogy. it’s brilliant.

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  5. I have no specific authors. I would be the quiet servant girl who has the heart of a lion and kickass skills to wheel a sword and have precise archery skills. All the men would be surprised as I fight with them side by side 😂😂. The joys of fantasy.

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  6. Kelly Armstrong – a Canadian author who writes about warlocks, witches, vampires and the like in a truly unique way. Start with the novel, Bitten” (which, by the way was turned into a television show a few years ago, sadly it didn’t last, but the books are so much better anyway – as books usually are). I was introduced to Kelly Armstrong’s work by my daughter and the whole family used to fight over who would be the next to read her novels.

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  7. I read much more as a child and teenager; therefore my favorite fantasy books are those sorts: Dark is Rising, Blossom Culp, Black Cauldron, Wind in the Door, etc.
    As a child and adult, I love Ray Bradbury.

    In a siege: if I could also be male and have much better vision, I’d be Legolas atop the wall.

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  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, Neil Gaiman,Terry Pratchett, Michael Moorcock (I like his Elric saga), Robert Holdstock (Mythago Wood cycle), Charles de Lint (who writes mostly urban fantasy), Mary Stewart (Merlin trilogy), Susan Cooper (her Dark Is Rising series had a strong influence on me when I was younger), among others…

    I think to think of myself as a sorceress so I’ll be there throwing fireballs down on the invading forces 😀

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  9. Pratchett is amazing – I long to be Weatherwax, though I think I’m going to be an Ogg… Seriously, you must read them. I haven’t read Robin Hobb in a while, but loved what I did read. Kim Harrison for Urban Fantasy, her other name Dawn Cook for more traditional fantasy. Octavia E. Butler. And why not throw in some Douglas Adams and J.K. Rowling for giggles?

    Who would I be? Hmm… A witch, healing those I could? Throwing the wounds of my comrades back at those who caused them? Yes, I like that the best. Don’t do unto others unless you’re willing to have it done unto you.

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  10. Give me a book and I will generally love it. Harry Potter is probably one of my all time favorite series. I also loved The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. If you want to disappear for a long time, read that one (literally the longest book I ever read!!). If you like fantasy you will love it!!

    Books were always my escape and still are. When people picked on me at school I could always disappear into a book as soon as I got home and forget about everyone and everything for a time. I often will read to escape from my job (I don’t take smoke breaks, I take chapter breaks at work sometimes LOL).

    I seriously cannot WAIT to read your book Stephen. I really feel it’s going to be epic!!

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