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CONCEPT NOTES

  In this section

 

This rubric explains the Saga's inner dynamics, and my concept choices.
It is not essential to enjoy the books, but it might interest those who are curious about my work.

 

 

Straight from the origins

In Dark Knights, the protagonists are far remote from the idealistic image of the knight, which some of you might expect. They are much closer to the original knights (of the 10th – 11th centuries), who were first and foremost fighters, sometimes brutes with greed for lands and fortune such as Bohemond in the Near East. It’s much later that chivalry became a social class, then a behavior, then along the centuries a reference, and at last synonym of civilized manners.
The Saga’s point of view is to remain as realistic as possible, so it does away with the romantic ideals which would be very out of place in the times.
Still the Dark Knights of these novels, if they are close to the original historical knights, retain some values and have more than one side. Part of their interest lies in their ambiguities, their contradictions, their failures and scars.

 

Complex heroes

Now and then, the protagonists seem to come straight from a « roman noir », one of those detective stories of the 40s or the 50s. The « heroes » sometimes have disturbing features, a secret to hide or their hands dirty. (Almost everyone has something to hide.) With a few notable exceptions, there are no real « villains » in Dark Knights, just personalities that come into conflict. We are a long way off from manichaeism, or simplistic good vs evil. Ultimately, we are not always sure of who’s who, nor on whose side we are on, and who we would prefer to see triumph in the end.
Besides, we rarely get into their heads. I've often avoided stylistic devices such as : « He said so and thought the opposite » (although you will have some slight foreshadowing). In this Saga the reader is like located right beside the characters. He cannot always know if they lie, or serve a biased version of the truth. He only knows what the characters want to reveal for the moment, until something calls into question what they've said…

 

The novels' genre

In short these are thrillers with a tense plot, deceptive events, red herrings and manipulations.
Don't be surprised if the plot suddendly swerves, or veers at 180 degrees... If the characters don't do what you expected, or don't behave as anticipated. They are very coherent, even to a fearsome degree, but at the beginning you know little and don't have all the cards in hand.
Don't worry, you will be given enough cards to understand (though not too fast), and the rest you will deduce by yourself.

 

The Saga's arc

The whole saga is of epic proportions, with all books closely linked and comprising a single story, with a narrative arc and (many) twists. But it is only one huge story, told over several books, each continuing what was told in the previous ones, and moving closer to the conclusion. The threads of the plot intertwine, draw together, connect and unravel for surprise, without a predictable formula.
My goal is to release these volumes, with an intensity that will carry you to the climax of the last. Therefore, going crescendo.
The whole Saga is also designed as a symphony, where the musical technique of the fugue is ubiquitous: important details are discreetly announced, then return in strength, rise and grow, and gain momentum… In that sense, each of the books converses with the others, and builds on the others. They interact together at a subtle level, although you will not realize this immediately. But then, at some point you will…

 

Medieval reenactment

In a historical novel, the setting no longer exists and several details are unknown or unfamiliar to the reader. When following historical reality closely, the details need to be introduced, while setting aside preconceptions and cliches. In a science fiction story, as long as the setting is well painted, the reader often accepts the described universe without calling it into question. It's more complicated with a historical novel, where reenactment requires great care, but in the end brings to the story wealth and depth.
 
It should be no surprise, the whole of the Dark Knights Saga required intense research on many specific points. To name but a few: medicinal plants, the extraction of arrows from a wound, tin and iron mirrors, the triggers of siege engines, the fashion of belts, the ornamentation of houses, the patterns of embroideries, the forging of weapons, the bank and trade processes…
Even the prices, yet indicated in fictional coins (but based on the study of historical ones), are from the times and come straight from the 11th and 12th centuries, sometimes adjusted for inflation where only those of the 13th or 14th centuries were known.
Thus in the Saga, every price mentioned reflects the reality of the times, and actual buying power…
 
The reference setting of Dark Knights is the High Middle Ages, te be more precise the 10th to the 12th centuries. Moving closer to historical reality, meant opening a whole series of fascinating perspectives about the constructions, costume and clothes, social habits, lifestyle, furniture, in short allowed to reconnect with the past and the prowess of the craftsmen of the times. I have introduced a few elements from the Late Middle Ages, sometimes taken minor liberties with cultures and civilizations, but always knowingly, and after careful consideration. There are very few groundless details.
Thus over the course of the story, you will find in the Saga more than one faithful painting of the social conditions, the architecture, the cities, the weapons and armors, clothing, furniture, and daily life as they existed from the 10th to the 12th centuries.

 

« Parallel earth »

On the other hand there is one major change, for the Saga reflects the living environment of the High Middle Ages in a parallel world, where the kingdoms, geography, and the whole background were recreated from scratch. This world has its own history, its political entities, its own traditions and even currencies.
Among my working hypotheses were: What would have happened, if historical events had followed an alternate course? If military orders had banded after the fall of Rome, to speed up the return of civilization? If slightly different ideas had permeated the medieval society?
A familiar of the rigor of historical essays, I was having a hard time of conceiving to blend actual facts with imaginary views and hypotheses, as interesting as they may be.
But I delved into this world in depth, until it became vivid and self-sufficient. It is even completeley consistent.
Rich with the living conditions of the real Middle Ages, this « alternative earth » looks like a twin of the true, historical one.
So you will find in Dark Knights the medieval times - already highly exotic by themselves - within a subtly foreign backdrop, because the geography is not same, and history has not unfolded exactly in the same way. You can rightfully expect some surprises.

 

The Orders of Dark Knights

The historical Orders of Knights were initially created for religious and military purposes. Here, it is in the context of the fall of an Empire of Rome's magnitude and the widespread collapse of civilization, that such Orders were founded, so as to preserve what could still be saved. What would have happened at the end of the roman Empire, if a few warriors had managed to save whole harbors of civilization? The Middle Ages, which slowly recovered during the Carolingians, might have seen a shorter period of misery...
As a fascinating premise, the Orders of Dark Knights allow me to explore the arts of combat and war in the Middle Ages, as well as the court intrigues and the subtle games of power, since such Orders are necessarily close to the rulers, and even constitute the key-force on which the whole continent leans.
But just as the historical Orders of Knighthood deviated, beginning in strict poverty and moving to pile wealth and power, the Dark Orders of this story also deviated. Unsatisfied with hoarding fortunes, they became over time mighty political forces, sometimes even insular states with privileges. In their thirst for power, they began to preserve their own interests first of all, and to use several sovereigns as puppets to fight each other.
In short, the Orders of Dark Knights have moved from the status of protectors, to « the hand behind the thrones » that makes and breaks kings.
A premise that is not so far from reality: it sometimes happened historically.

 

Time and hourly indications

A large part of the story unfolds in real time: meaning that time passes according to what has been necessary for the characters to complete their actions. The travels of the protagonists have been calculated, and the passage of time clocked in a realistic way. Travels during the period were complex undertakings, depending on terrain, the state of the roads, the condition of the steeds, the fatigue of the participants, the availability of reliable maps or oral indications.
But thus, to the best of my evaluations, the characters move in the surroundings as though they really existed.
 
A warning however, about real time. At the start of the chapters often appear hourly indications. In the Middle Ages, no one could easily figure the exact time. Clepsydras (water clocks) and oil hourglasses were known, but limited to the wealthiest people, who rarely checked them. The belfry clock only appears at the end of the 13th century. Sundials were approximate. People burned for instance a candle to have some idea of elasped time. Life was marked by the passage of seasons, the distinct times of day such as morning, noon, and evening, measured by projected shadows and punctuated by the religious chants of the monasteries.
 
In Dark Knights, the protagonists have notions of time, but no means of measuring it in an ultraprecise way. The hourly indications at the start of the chapters are essentially intended for the reader.

 

Distances and weights

In the Saga, all distances and weights have been converted into modern units of measurement. In the Middle Ages, each locality, sometimes each village used its own. Hence an ounce in Troie (the french city) was not the same as the one in Paris. A pound, depending on the provinces, varied from 380 to 550 grams - 13.3 to 19.25 ounces -. The Carolingian pound also fluctuates over time, moving from 445 to 491 grams - 15.575 to 17.185 ounces -. Among lengths and distances, the « coudé » or cubit - length of a forearm -, the « aune » or ell, the « lieue » or league were very approximate, varying from one place to another. For the longest part of history, there were no agreed and widely accepted units of measurement; standards such as the meter and the kilogram are recent innovations. - The meter was adopted by the french in 1790; the yard only defined in 1959. -
 
I ran some tests with the characters speaking in ells, leagues, bushels, coombs, and so on, but it was a nightmare to me and the reader. Finally, I converted everything in meters, liters, and kilos. What was important to me, when I write that horsemen « are approaching 150 meters away », was that the reader could instantly visualize.
I fully take it upon myself.

 

But it's time to go back to the practice: the books…

 

All the saga

 

 


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