Updated: Sep 16, 2022
It started as a dream. Now readers all over the world are taking their very first steps into the Ildarwood...
What a whirlwind this past week has been! In less than seven days, The Trials of Ildarwood has sold over 300 copies with nearly 100 pre-orders for the hardcover edition pouring in from all over the United States. The end result is a #2 New Release on Amazon in its primary category for Kindle, and a #12 Best Seller ranking in that same category. In both cases, I'm behind a prolific author with a much larger following, and in the latter case, I'm also behind all seven books of Harry Potter. So, needless to say, as a first time author, I've been immensely humbled by the responses and reviews I've received so far - many of them from people I've never even met.
I genuinely can't believe how many people are quickly falling in love with the Ildarwood!
Yet as I begin the next part of this journey - attempting to find new readers for the story I've poured my heart and soul into for over seven years - I find myself answering two questions over and over again:
"What makes your book any different from every other young adult fantasy out there?"
"Why should this book jump right to the top of my TBR ("to be read") list when there are so many other more popular authors and titles already on it?"
Those are fair questions. After all, I'm sure anyone who wants to will take one look at my story and start drawing similarities to series like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, or Avatar: The Last Airbender. Some might even point out that my narrative style is similar to Game of Thrones, with each chapter covering a different character, but without all of the adult content, excessive descriptions, or complex family trees that would slow the plot down.
But what I've crafted attempts to distill the best attributes of so many series and concepts down into something that is immersive, imaginative, inspiring, and unique. In the process, I went to great lengths to do a number of things most other books don't.
Balanced Perspectives: The book's chapters were laid out to ensure relatively even development time for the boys, girls, and others in this book. This means you'll get a mix of perspectives about what's happening.
Diverse Characters: I've spent my entire life in New England, so I wanted this story to represent some of the best aspects of the world around me. That means the characters come from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and faiths. They represent multiple spectrums - aptitude, alignment, orientation, ability, and more - as much as possible without the labels or spotlights that other stories tend to lean on to "other" or emphasize these individuals. These characters are just people, differing in their circumstances, but united in the challenges they'll face ahead.
Nothing is Black and White: Despite how I market the book with references to the Cynders in this story, there really isn't any "good & evil" in this story. There's no "them" to hate or fear. There are just people with different motives and circumstances that are each just trying to survive. This means you can draw your own conclusions about each character and situation.
An Elemental Twist: I love a good story about people who can control different elements, but for this story, I added a twist. Instead of people controlling physical elements, they control aspects of the spirit world - matters of emotion, perception, faith, etc. What if those with the spectral ice alignment could freeze souls while those with the fire alignment could enrage them? What if all illusionists and storytellers could ACTUALLY manipulate what you perceive as reality?
A Spin on Faith: Imagine if someone had been born 10,000 years ago who could genuinely perceive and control aspects of the spirit world like those noted above. How would history have played out differently? In this world, you can literally break someone's soul if it's damaged enough or in just the right why. Where you can see the "spectral scars" left behind by the damage. Where you can give power to spirits or gods with your fears or your faith.
A Collaborative Approach to World Building: One of the key things you might notice about this site is that it has a ton of content and illustrations (more and more with each passing week). But it didn't all come from me. Over the past year, I've worked with over a dozen independent artists and editors all over the world to try and add their unique touches to the Ildarwood. And one day, I hope to expand this world even further by working with more artists and aspiring authors to give them an opportunity to shine.
In short, I want to do something different. I want to tell a story where there are no real heroes or villains - just different people, different motives, and difficult situations. I want to tell the story I wanted to read when I was twelve, and the exact type of story that I love to read now that I'm... well, an adult.
I want to tell a story about all of us. I wanted to capture some of the challenges so many of us went through as kids, and the ones many of us are going through now as adults or parents or teens trying to navigate a complex world where we don't always feel empowered to change our circumstances.
But in this world - the world of the Ildarwood - no one is truly powerless. This is a world where anyone can can unlock their inner strength or find their voice... for better, or for worse.
The Trials of Ildarwood was crafted to be an experience. A fantastical escape from the real world. A completely different approach to storytelling. An epic fantasy for a new generation that needs a glimmer of hope or inspiration to hold onto.
So join me, if you will.
It is time to enter the Ildarwood.
- S.C. Selvyn