M.L. Spencer was born in Southern California and grew up on the works of Steven R. Donaldson, Stephen King and Frank Herbert. She wrote her first novel-length manuscript at thirteen.
By day she works as a biology teacher; by night she sweats over a beaten-up keyboard. Her novel Darkmage won the Indie-Reader Discovery Award for Fantasy.
Her favorite authors are Robert Jordan, C.S. Friedman, George R.R. Martin, David Eddings, Patrick Rothfuss, and Terry Goodkind.
M.L. Spencer won 1st Place Prose in the San Bernardino County Writing Celebration and the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award for Fantasy.
Q. How does the cultural and ethnic diversity of the world of Darkstorm compare to the real world?
A. The Rhen resembles medieval Europe, complete with feudalism. There are many different kingdoms in the Rhen with their own Western-type cultures, ethnicities, and societal norms. The Rhen is almost exclusively occupied by people who are what we would think of in our world as of Caucasian ethnicity.
Caladorn to the north resembles the pre-Islamic Middle East, although it really is a hodgepodge of cultures extending from Scythia to India and even Ottoman-era Istanbul. Caladorn is a very interesting society, because it really is very much a melting pot. Especially the capital, Bryn Calazar. There is a very strong sense of social stratification there, almost like a caste system. Away from the cities, society is very kinship based. There is quite a collection of ethnicities in this vast landscape, ranging from what we in our would we would consider Persian to Punjabi and even Mongolian ethnicities.
Things are a little turned around in my world, as most of civilization inhabits a large Southern continent. So, the Northerners of my world are more darkly-completed than those that inhabit the southern latitudes.
Q. What are the rites of passage in Aerysius?
A. There are two main “rites of passage” for people desiring to become mages of Aerysius. First, a prospect must pass the Trial of Consideration, during which they are tested to see if they have the potential to sense the presence of the world’s magic field. If they pass the test, they are taken to Aerysius and become acolytes.
After years of study, a mage receives their legacy of power through the Rite of Transference. During this ceremony, an existing Master passes their legacy of power on to the new Master, ending their own life.
Q. Are there “secret” languages or codes known only by Lyceum? Why were they developed?
A. There are many languages in Caladorn, as well as some languages that are extinct or spoken by only a few of the oldest clans. The Lyceum has, from time to time, resurrected these ancient languages and used them for its own purposes. The use of these languages creates more of a social gap between the literate mageclass and the (mostly) illiterate common folk. The Lyceum has also taken to the use of ancient languages to protect its secrets. The Orders of mages are not always trusting even of each other, and rely on secret languages and symbols to keep their secrets to themselves.
Q. Is there a difference between miracles and magic? If so, how are they distinguished?
A. There definitely is a difference between miracles and magic in my world…although it is often very difficult, if not downright impossible, to distinguish between the two. The mysteries of the pantheon are accomplished by magic—many of the “miracles” commonly ascribed to these deities are actually, in fact, acts of magic performed by an unsuspecting clergy. But there are also acts that can only be described as true miracles, where a deity of the pantheon actually directly impacts events in the world. These are very rare, but significant occurrences.
Q. If magic requires study, where do you go to learn about it?
A. There are two schools of magic in the world: Aerysius in the Rhen and the Lyceum of Bryn Calazar in Caladorn. Though these two schools share many similarities, in many ways they are quite different, a reflection of the differing philosophies and cultures of their societies.
Q. Can the ability to be Grand Master be taken away? If so, how and by whom?
A. Once a mage has inherited their magical lineage, their gift cannot be taken away except upon their death. When a mage dies, the magical legacy within them is passed to another mage by physical contact. Or it is simply lost, if the unfortunate mage dies alone, without a fit successor present to inherit their legacy.
The ability can also be ripped with force from a person. This is tantamount to a usually slow and excruciating execution. Both Aerysius and the Lyceum have been known to execute their traitors in this way.
Darkstorm (The Rhenwars Saga Book 1)
by M.L. Spencer (Author)
Faced with an imminent cataclysm that will destroy the magical heritage of their people, a secret conspiracy of mages has resorted to harnessing the powers of Hell to save their legacy. The only mages who can oppose them are Braden and Quin Reis: two brothers with a turbulent past and a caustic relationship. But both Braden and Quin are compromised, harboring terrible and tragic secrets.
Will Braden and Quin be able to prevent the unsealing of the Well of Tears? Or will they fall victim to the darkmages’ sinister manipulations and join their conspiracy?