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My Foundations in Fantasy #1 Death Gate Cycle Review

What is "My Foundations in Fantasy?"

From my earliest memories of reading to the book I'm devouring now, each page has influenced my imagination and, inevitably, my writing. I don't just mean fantasy, either. I remember a very young Brand sitting on the kitchen counter reading Green Eggs and Ham to his parents. While I haven't written any epic adventures in search of emerald eateries yet, my budding love for the written word was taking hold in those innocent formative moments.

Serendipity books were one of my childhood obsessions. They are beautifully illustrated children's short stories filled with mystical creatures and animals teaching different lessons. I still have one of the books on my shelf. Of course, it's about a dragon. Have I mentioned I love dragons?

I quickly advanced beyond children's books and even young adult. Soon the novels on my father's shelf began to lure me with their enticing covers. Man, do I miss the old 80's and 90's style illustrated fantasy covers. They are likely just as responsible for my love of fantasy as the stories contained within.

Yes, I did commit the sin of judging a book by its cover back then. But I'm pretty sure we all do that from time to time.

With so much influence on my creative mind, I thought it would be interesting to delve into some of these early reading adventures to share with you from back when the Universe of Brand J. Alexander was just a childhood dream.

Scroll down for the first installment of My Foundations in Fantasy.

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Death Gate Cycle

by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

I considered beginning My Foundation in Fantasy with my first adventures into the genre. However, I recently completed a read-through of the Death Gate Cycle and decided I should cover this series while it's fresh. Besides, after experiencing the stories once more, I can't help but give a nod to the influence they had on my budding views of worldbuilding.

The Death Gate Cycle opened my eyes to the diverse array of possibilities when creating worlds. There was no set formula. I could design them however I imagined them to be because where magic exists, the laws of physics can be sculpted to fit the vision.

As some of you may have noticed, I'm extremely focused on creating worlds that shape the stories just as much as the characters and events. The Death Gate Cycle introduced me to the manner in which different environments could sculpt the story and the races that survive there.

What's the premise? Two powerful races, believing themselves demigods, were locked in a seemingly endless war until one faction devised a means to end the conflict for good. Using their vast rune magic, they shattered the world and reforged it into four new worlds based upon the primal elements.

Arianus, World of Air, where continents float above a swirling vortex of storms, and the most valuable resource is water.

Pryan, World of Fire, where endless daylight spawns jungles so immense that few have ever seen the ground far beneath. But those jungles hide a host of dangers.

Abarrach, World of Earth, a cavernous realm of magma and nightmares, perhaps the greatest mistake of the world reforgers in so many ways.

Chelestra, World of Water, a chalice of ice floating through space, within which a sun warms the inner seas and keeps them liquid. Islands contained in bubbles orbit the sun. It is a notably unique realm.

The three main races, elves, humans, and dwarves, were sent out to repopulate the four worlds, while the opposing faction was sealed into a prison called the Labyrinth. But, as things often do, something went terribly wrong with the grand design. Those who sundered the world have vanished from their four creations, and their enemies have begun breaking free from imprisonment.

This series is an exploration of hatreds and prejudices, but also of love and friendship. Perhaps, in a way, those are the defining characteristics between good and evil. Through an expanding array of characters and villains, the Deathgate Cycle takes you into both sides of numerous conflicts to peer deeper into the sources of their hatred, forcing characters to face those truths and where such dark emotions culminate.

While the main series plot winds its way through all the worlds, each book has a distinct feel and adds a new aspect to the story. Once each thread from each world comes together, they culminate in a satisfyingly epic finale.

Did I mention there are dragons? And not just one type. The dragons of each world have their own unique traits. The dragons on the covers were a big factor in selecting them from my father's collection so many years ago. I even did an art project modeled off the dragon on the cover of Dragon Wing.

After completing this read-through, perhaps twenty-something years after my first reading, I can say the Death Gate Cycle holds up for me. It maintains the traditional fantasy feel that I enjoy while giving a refreshing new feel to the standard formulaic fantasy worlds and races. It's definitely worth a look if you haven't read them yet.

Have you read the Death Gate Cycle? What did you think? I would love to hear what you think, either here or in the comments section of this post on either my Facebook or Twitter.

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