ideas to explore in the series is the titular concept of Blood Magic, and how that power and associated religion interact with the world, and the world with it. Cracks In the Ice dives deeply into that interplay, with is probably why I enjoy the episode as much as I do. Going through my pre-revision re-read, I simply thoroughly enjoyed this episode. It combines interesting world-building with strong character development, and advances the overall plot of the series while still being episodic. I would go so far as to claim it is one of the strongest episodes in season one.
From his seat in the rearranged great hall, Kiluron sat beside Doil and watched the performers, who had to be the least interesting performers Kiluron had ever witnessed. The customary furnishings of the great hall had all been cleared away, a raised platform had been erected, seating in a special, semicircular arrangement had been set forth, and odd panels and long bunches of thick, dark, heavy cloth had been hung erratically all through the chamber, all at the request of a woman who had so far spent the entirety of the performance standing with her back to her noble audience. At least the other performers were all facing the correct direction, more or less focused upon the woman who led them, but they had spent the whole time thus far sitting mostly still and make a dreadful din upon their instruments. Admittedly, the performance had only begun a few moments before, but so far Kiluron was not impressed.
Granted that it is less "exciting" than some of the other episodes, and that it is arguably telling of a rather minor incident in the affairs of Merolate and even of the characters, I really like this episode because it seems to embody in many ways my goals for the Blood Magic series, and what are some of its strengths. The whole of episode five turns on the relationship between Kiluron and Doil, and the geopolitical implications of Blood Magic in Lufilna, which I think are arguably the two strongest pillars of the series (though you as readers are more than welcome to disagree, and I would be very interested to know what you consider the series' strengths and weaknesses).
Unlike episode four, which when I went to do revisions I liked almost nothing about, there were a lot of things that I liked about Far From Home as I did my customary re-read in preparation to do my revisions. I thought the original did a good job of capturing Kiluron's attitude, and the interactions with the foreign visitors was better than I expected to find it. I also liked the conflict I had set up, though I realized that I would need to build it out in a little more detail for the revisions, and that I needed to either change, or do without, the contrived fight scene with Vere. Maybe that's why I found it oddly difficult to work on the revisions for this episode.
This episode is nothing more nor less than what it seems: a stand-alone story about a "fallen star." While it allowed me the opportunity to explore the culture of the nomadic tribes in the "Unclaimed Territories," and flesh out some of their own perceptions of themselves, and their interactions with the "civilized" nations of Lufilna, it really wasn't supposed to have a lot of character development, nor huge impact on future episodes. All of which means that while the start was a little slow to write, it ended up going pretty quickly, and after the first two thousand words were written, I finished the rest of the episode in just a few days. Which is good, because I fully anticipate the next episode, In Contempt, being quite a challenge to write.
Either I forgot, or I thoroughly repressed just how bad episode four was. At least, I hope it was one of those two, because I would hate to think that as either an author or a reader I ever looked at this episode and thought it was good. When I went to start revisions on this episode, I floundered around, looking for some way to start, because I thought that it was so bad that no amount of revision could help. I was very nearly tempted to throw out the entire original text and start over again, and the only thing that restrained me was that I'm still nominally calling these revisions, and have promised to be somewhat true to the original episodes. That meant, unfortunately, that I was stuck with the silly plot involving some thieves, some poison, and some gold.
I've been wanting to write this episode, or something like this episode, for quite a long time. The idea is best summarized as Star Trek's Prime Directive, from the perspective of the "primitive" civilization, and it's an idea that I've really wanted to find a way to explore in a story. So I put it into a plot in my initial outlining of the Blood Magic second season, and have been looking forward to the chance to write it ever since. That's probably why it ended up being so difficult to write.
Going back and re-reading these early episodes has really made me recognize just how much my writing has improved (in my opinion, anyway) in the less-than-a-year since I started releasing Blood Magic here on the site. The beginning of this episode, much like episode two, was told in a weird, semi-omniscient viewpoint, before reverting to the third person limited that is characteristic of most of the series. I think this was probably me trying to do a sort of "establishing shot," like would be done in a television show, but that technique really doesn't work for writing. It makes me wonder if I even recognized how jarring the viewpoint switches would be, or if I even knew I was doing it.
I like books with maps in the front, and since you've found a way to a publishing website that primarily focuses these days on fantasy and science fiction, there's a good chance that you share my opinion. Although I'm not a reader who spends hours pouring over the maps at the front, trying to chart out the course that the characters took, or catch the author in a continuity mistake regarding the reasonable travel time between two cities, I do consider a map in the front as a sort of mark of merit. If the author went to the time and trouble to have a map included, then there's a better chance that it's a book I'm going to want to read.
I hope that you've been following along with Blood Magic this year, because it's already been pretty exciting. I'm very pleased with how the revised editions of the first season episodes are coming together (revised versions of the first two episodes of season one should now be live here on the site), and the first two episodes of the second season have been pretty strong, as well. At least, I think so, which is mostly based on how the writing process went for them. Usually, that's a decent guide.