Monday, November 2, 2015


by KJ Taylor

A fun adventure that satirises fantasy tropes in the style of Terry Pratchett.

Ambit Afterman is the Chosen One. Born with the mark of the silver bellflower on his palm and given a magical spear, he is the one whose coming the prophecy foretold.

Unfortunately, he would much rather drink beer and get laid - destiny can go fuck itself.

Together with his demon friend Snarl, Ambit sets out on a mighty quest - to make sure the prophecy doesn't come true, and avoid doing anything heroic under any circumstances. Along the way he will make polite conversation with demons, not deliver any great speeches, not train with the wise monks, and weasel his way out of adventure and into the nearest pub. But there may just be time to have cheap sex with the beautiful princess along the way.

Once, long ago, the Land of Flowers was happy.’ The storyteller paused to look meaningfully at his audience. ‘Yes, very happy,’ he added. ‘But then the demons came. One day the sky went dark and the Nine Mountains erupted, with fire and smoke pouring into the sky. The land went dark and lava flowed over the earth, and the demons came crawling out of the ground – thousands of them, with burning eyes and metal teeth. They spread everywhere, killing everyone they found, destroying villages and towns, spoiling everything.’

The storyteller’s voice rose dramatically and his audience, mainly children, listened expectantly. Around them other people were half listening. Adults relaxed in the shade after a long day’s work, and a young woman was singing for tips in the background. She provided a rather nice soundtrack.

‘Today, the Nine Mountains are home to the nine demon lords,’ the storyteller continued, ‘and they send their minions out to oppress anyone living too close to the ruined lands they’ve taken for themselves. One day, perhaps, they will spread through the whole of the land and the human race will be wiped out.’

‘Or maybe they’ll bore themselves to death first,’ a lazy voice put in from somewhere behind the audience.

‘But there is still one thing that can stop the demons and put everything right again,’ said the storyteller, ignoring the interruption.

‘The Chosen One!’ a small girl piped up. Around her, the other children buzzed excitedly.

‘Fifty years ago, when the demons first came, it was said that someone would come with the power to drive them away forever,’ the storyteller nodded. ‘A special warrior, with a special weapon.’

‘Bullshit!’ the heckler from up the back shouted.

The storyteller glared in his direction, and went on doggedly. ‘Some say this destined one hasn’t been born yet. Others believe he is already here, and that one day, any day now, he’ll appear to begin the fulfilment of his great destiny. For all we know, he could be here today. He could be one of you, and you don’t even know it yet.’ He smiled at the fascinated children.

‘I wouldn’t count on it, kids,’ the heckler threw in.

‘When will the Chosen One come?’ a boy asked.

‘Nobody knows,’ said the storyteller. ‘That’s all I know. But maybe, one day . . .’

‘Maybe one day people will stop wasting time on fairy tales,’ said the heckler.

‘Will you shut up?’ the storyteller finally snapped.

The young man lounging on a rock by the wall of the town tavern only grinned at him, and when the other adults nearby muttered ominously, he grinned at them too. The singing girl took the opportunity to sing a little more loudly, and was rewarded with a faint rattle of demon eyes thrown into the bowl at her feet.

Seemingly realising he wasn’t going to win this particular confrontation, the storyteller pushed his red-striped hair away from his face and turned his attention back to his listeners. ‘If you want to know more about the Chosen One, the monks in the valley are the people to ask,’ he said. ‘They know the prophecy, and they can recognise the Chosen One. Many people go to them asking if they’re the one, but all of them have gone away disappointed.’

‘I want to go and see them!’ a small boy said immediately. ‘I want them to teach me how to fight demons!’

‘That’s definitely something you can find there,’ said the storyteller. ‘The monks are always happy to take on new apprentices.’

The boy glanced proudly at his friends, golden eyes shining with excitement.

‘Oh goody, let’s all go and get ourselves killed,’ the heckler muttered. ‘Why is everyone letting this old goat tell their kids what a great idea it is to go and fight demons?’

‘And I suppose a coward like you would tell them they shouldn’t?’ the storyteller threw at him.

‘I’d tell them to make up their own minds, is what I’d do,’ said the heckler, idly rolling the shaft of a spear over his palm. ‘That’d be why you’re the popular one, right?’

‘Well, I’m not too scared to go and see the monks,’ the golden-eyed boy told him.

‘That’s because you’re a stupid kid,’ said the heckler. He winked at the singer, who had stopped singing and was now eyeing him with interest. ‘Hey, sweetie, want to see my spear?’

‘Who are you, anyway?’ someone else asked. ‘I’ve never seen you around here before.’

The heckler shrugged. ‘I’m just passing through.’

‘Going anywhere in particular?’ the man asked.

‘Trying to work out where I’m going at the moment,’ said the heckler, resting one long leg on the other and stifling a yawn. He leaned his spear, which was a shabby thing with its shaft bound with leather, against the wall beside him.

‘One of the Dispossessed, are you?’ said the storyteller.

‘Stop doing that,’ the stranger growled.

‘Doing what?’

‘Giving everything names,’ said the stranger. ‘It’s obnoxious. I’m not a Dispo-whatever; I’m a traveller. Labels are unnecessary. And right now I’m way too sober, so fare-thee-well, grandpa.’ He stood up, heaving a heavy pack onto his shoulder, and sauntered off into the tavern, snatching the spear along the way. The singer glanced around and followed him.


-What inspired you to become a writer?

Other authors! When I was a kid in primary school, books were the thing that made my life worth living. I was constantly getting into trouble for reading when I was supposed to be doing something else, and I spent my lunchtimes in the library. Many times I got to meet real live authors – Jackie French was the first, I think – and they were my heroes. To me, meeting Robin Klein was like meeting a rock star. When I decided I wanted to be an author too, it looked like an impossible dream. How could I ever be like them? But I wanted it so badly that I tried for it anyway, and it amazes me sometimes when I look back and realise that now I’m the one visiting schools and giving talks to fascinated kids! I like to think I’ve inspired some of them, too.

-If you could visit your book’s world for a day, what one thing would you do?

I’d go exploring and see as much of it as I could – it’s a really beautiful place. I’d also have a chat with a demon if I could, and carefully avoid Ambit, since he’d probably get me drunk and then try to get into my pants, which is what he does with every other woman he meets!

-Give us a fun or interesting fact you learned researching this book.

I had to give a lot of thought as to how the demons would actually “work”, and that meant reading up on volcanoes and lava. Lava isn’t necessarily that hot – I’ve seen pictures of people standing right next to active lava flows without any problem. This is why Ambit is able to be close to Snarl and that doesn’t hurt him. She’s essentially made from lava, with a skin of rock plates. Cold is bad for demons, and water even more so; if Snarl fell into a river she would cool and harden, and her internal fires might be extinguished altogether, which would kill her. A lava bath, on the other hand, is great for a demon’s health.

Demons don’t reproduce sexually despite apparently having genders (you can only tell by the voice). Instead, demon imps emerge from volcanic cracks as they open and are raised communally by the adults. The nine demon lords also appear to be capable of bringing new demons into the world at will.

-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?

Snarl the demon – she’s one of my favourites, and she’s the kind of, uh, person I like spending time with; cynical, sarcastic, but honest. I’d ask her all about her kind, and what various kinds of gemstone taste like, and how she and Ambit first met.

-If you could go back in time and give your pre-published self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t take it so seriously! Getting published is not the most important thing – loving the actual writing is what truly matters. Even if you never sell a single book, if you keep writing and enjoying the process that will be enough for you. With that said, having fans is still completely awesome.

-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?

I wouldn’t want to write anything “literary” – that is, slow-paced, largely plotless stories about ordinary people living ordinary lives in the real world. I had to read a lot of that sort of thing when I was doing my Bachelor’s degree, and found it incredibly boring. In fact, at one point I had to give a talk about a book we’d just read, and proceeded to stand up and say I didn’t believe it qualified as a book at all since it had no plot, no setting, and no characters either! After that all I really had to do was stand there and smirk while the tutorial dissolved into a loud debate around me. (I actually got quite good marks for that little stunt, if you can believe that).


K.J. Taylor was born in Australia in 1986 and attended Radford College and the University of Canberra, where she returned to obtain a Master of Information Studies in 2012. She currently works as an archivist.

She published her first work, The Land of Bad Fantasy, through Scholastic when she was just 18, and HarperVoyager went on to publish The Dark Griffin in Australia and New Zealand five years later. The Griffin's Flight and The Griffin's War followed in the same year, and were released in America and Canada in 2011. The Shadow's Heir, The Shadowed Throne and The Shadow's Heart have now joined them in both Australia and the US.

Visit her website.

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  1. Thanks for having me! I love the backdrop picture on this site. Bookshelves ftw! (I'm also a librarian)

  2. What's the most daring thing you've ever done?

    1. My Australian agent wanted to see if we could publish in the US, and she planned to speak to a US agent about it. But I phoned the guy myself and had a long conversation with him; he was one of the biggest agents in New York, and I was a nineteen year old kid barely out of highschool. But I had the guts to pitch my book to him anyway.

      Believe it or not, we hit it off and now he works for me!

  3. Sounds like a great book, put it on my must read list.

    1. Aw, thanks! I hope you enjoy the rest of it!

  4. The story is very intriguing! -@MaroBenipayo via twitter

    1. Thankyou! Have you read the whole book?