The Eight Most Interesting Questions about The Wings of War, Child of the Daystar, Bryce O’Connor, and Raz i’Syul Arro

This month, I’m returning to MIQs (Most Interesting Questions) temporarily! It’s a series where I cover the most interesting questions I can find about various bestselling books, TV shows, or movies.

But this time, my traditional tools to find questions to answer don’t work. So I’m making the questions up!

This post covers The Wings of War by Bryce O’Connor. It starts with Child of the Daystar, and it’s a bestselling Kindle Unlimited fantasy series for adults. In my opinion, it’s one of the best self-published fantasy series on Amazon. The characters are great. The main character is Raz i’Syul Arro, an atherian which basically means a lizard man. That’s right, this is a kindle unlimited book about a lizard man. And he has wings.

But since I do write mostly content for kids, I should warn that this series has some pretty graphic scenes, so be warned. I’ve left details of those graphic scenes out of this blog post, but if you crack open the books you’ll certainly find them.

At the time of writing this, the series is being read voraciously. The first book alone has over 800 ratings on Amazon. But there still aren’t a lot of questions online about it, so I’m creating my own most interesting questions.

At present, I’ve only read the first 3 books: Child of the Daystar, The Warring Son, and Winter’s King, so before you read below be warned you may encounter spoilers from any of those books. Even though five books have been released in the Wings of War series at the time I’m writing this, As Iron Falls and Of Sand and Snow aren’t covered because I haven’t read them.

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Q #1) What do the other atherians think about Raz?

A: In the first book, O’Connor mentions that winged atherians are rare. Raz is a winged atherian. He also mentions that winged atherians tend to rule over other atherians, often have multiple mates, and are very territorial. I’d therefore assume that Raz could encounter a few different types of other atherians: female atherians, male atherians without wings, and male atherians with wings. Female atherians probably would view him as powerful, and they’d probably stay near him for his protection. Males without wings would probably steer clear of him, recognizing he’s much more powerful than them, or they might agree to serve him if they desired protection. Regardless, those without wings, both males and females, would likely steer clear of trouble with Raz. They’d probably view him as superior in strength, just because he has wings. Males with wings would likely challenge him if he got too close to their territory, otherwise, they would probably just view him as a neighbor and leave him alone. If they knew he consorted so much with humans, any atherian would probably be confused, since they generally live apart from humans. They might view him as weaker for that, but we don’t have too much information on how atherians view humans so maybe not.

Q #2) Could Quin Tern have possibly survived, since Raz didn’t kill him he just left him in the cold?

A: Yes. I think he could have. But did he? I doubt it. I do find it interesting how O’Connor chose to not show his death. It means Tern could always make a reappearance. But he would have to be really lucky to survive the cold without a coat, like Raz left him. If Quin Tern did survive, I think he’ll come back a new, much more dangerous man. He was pretty foolish with Raz in book 2. If he survives, he’ll become as changed as Raz became after his family was murdered by the slavers.

Q #3) How many atherians are there?

A: Good question! I think there are less atherians than humans. Given their biology, atherians wouldn’t want to live in the north. We know that they trade occasionally with the caravans in the Cienbal. But they don’t trade all that often, it seems, because most of the trade in the first book happens between different human caravans. Based on the map, it appears they would have to occupy a pretty small land area to stay clear of humans so often. But how densely packed is that area? It’s hard to say. Ultimately, I don’t think they’d number less than several hundred thousand. But they might number as many as a couple million.

Q #4) Who would win in a fight between Raz and Kaladin Stormblessed?

A: These two are some of my favorite characters so I had to wonder about this. If you’re not familiar with Kaladin, he’s a protagonist in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series. Ultimately, his advantage in this battle would be his speed and lashing ability. With his lashing ability, he could maneuver around large swaths of land much faster than Raz. Raz, meanwhile, probably has a better reaction time, and he is definitely physically stronger. If they were forced to fight in close range combat, I think Raz could take Kaladin down. If they had a large battlefield, Kaladin would have an advantage. Regardless, it would be a hard fought battle. Both have incredible intelligence in the midst of battle. They’re super resourceful, and know how to win against the odds. So it’s hard to say who would win. Ultimately, Raz probably has a little more experience in one-on-one battles, and fighting alone. If Kaladin had the help of Bridge Four, he’d get a huge boost, whereas if Raz had any help, it’d probably make less of a difference cause he’s such a solo fighter.

Q #5) How do the Priests use magic? Is it something that Raz could ever learn? Or something that someone else in the world could learn and abuse?

A: I don’t think this is ever even hinted at. But it seems like the priests get their magic from Laor after they become a priest. The most plausible explanation to me seems to be some item that gives them the power, and if that’s true then new priests would be granted the item’s power when they are initiated. Given that nobody else in the world seems capable of magic, it doesn’t seem like something humans have the ability to learn, rather, it seems like something they must be gifted. Raz could maybe be gifted the power too, if his atherian blood doesn’t interfere with his ability to accept it, but I doubt the priests would ever give him that power willingly. Raz isn’t the type to take it for no reason either. Raz might take it if he had a strong reason.

Q #6) Will Raz ever master flight?

A: I think he has to. We saw him successfully fly at the end of Child of the Daystar. He didn’t actually fly in Winter’s King, but for a moment it seemed like he did. Ultimately, he’s gotta master it since he has wings, and we already saw him do it once so we know it’s possible.

Q #7): What lies north of Cyurgi’Di?

A: According to the map, just the tundra. A tundra is a vast, flat, treeless region where the subsoil is permanently frozen. There could be penguins or polar bears up in the tundra north of Cyurgi’Di. There could also be humans, like eskimos. Ultimately, it seems kind of like a Greenland situation to me. There’s probably not much north of Cyurgi’Di.

Q #8): What did all the bounty hunters who showed up in Azbar after Raz left do?

A: After Raz left, those bounty hunters likely left too. It’s unclear if they would know where Raz was going. Obviously, we know he went up to Ystred. But the bounty hunters wouldn’t have known that. I think they all probably did different things. Maybe a couple stayed in Azbar or went back home. Most were probably pretty set on the bounty from Raz, so they would have tried to follow him. They would probably figure that he wasn’t going south again, since there was so much money on his head. Most of the bounty hunters probably went up to Ystred, but arrived after Raz had already left the town with Talo and Carro. A few might have thought Raz was going to Drangstek, but it’s farther away from Azbar than Ystred is, so it would be a less likely next destination for him. Most probably went to Ystred, but arrived too late to catch Raz.

The Making of Sand and Smoke

It came about, quite simply, when I asked myself the question: what would a book look like that had both dragons and cowboys?

Good news everyone!

I’m creating an exciting new series for my blog!

The Making of… is an in-depth look at each book I write. I’ll examine one book per blog post. I’ll examine characters, story, the concept, individual scenes, and maybe more all in an attempt to give more information than is available anywhere else on how that book came to be.

First up, I’m starting with Sand and Smoke. It’s a dragon-rider western, and it came about, quite simply, when I asked myself the question: what would a book look like that had both dragons and cowboys?

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After that idea came to me, I began to brainstorm. Among my favorite fantasy authors currently is Brandon Sanderson, and I was inspired a lot by his Mistborn series when first starting this book. You should check it out!

In particular, I loved the idea of a crew of criminals working together against impossible odds. So out of that was born the idea for my crew in the western side of my story to take on this terrifying weapon.

At the same time, however, I wanted to make my story very unique and based on things in real history and the world at large. For Sand and Smoke, I did a lot of research and a lot of plotting and outlining. More than I probably have done for any other project. I visited Powell’s in Portland, visited two different libraries, and read through a number of different books about things like the various mythologies surrounding dragons, what life was like in the old west, and world religions.

I compiled a whole document, actually, detailing what things were like in the world I had created, including the food people ate, the religions they practiced, what the educational systems were like, and more.

In the early drafts, the nations of Eltolix and Arus were quite a bit culturally different. Eltolix takes a lot of inspiration from Asian culture and mythology. The Sun dragons are serpentine like Chinese, Japanese, and Korean dragons, and they have magical abilities. Also, the Old Religion of Eltolix shares similarities with Hinduism. Arus, or at least southern Arus, is largely based off the old west with saloons, gunfights, and a kind of lawless feel. And their religion is largely based off of Christianity.

With subsequent drafts, I molded these two cultures together by attempting to add more cultural elements that both countries share. Things like both calling their parents by the terms mama and papa, both referring to their religious centers as temples. In large part, I mixed in elements I could find of Aztec and Mexican culture into both countries. Since they were separated by a civil war 200 years ago, I wanted them to feel like countries that could have once been one and the same, and I have some Mexican ancestry which inspired me.

After molding the world, I created the characters. I did a lot of research on tvtropes.com to come up with some character archetypes that I thought would work well together and weren’t too often used. I rounded out those character archetypes with their own backgrounds and skills.

Then I plotted out the novel, trying to give all of my characters at least one arc, and my major two, Maya and Al, more than one.

When writing the chapters, I tried to advance at least two plot points per chapter. But even with all the plotting I did, there was a lot I realized wasn’t working in the revisions.

Al’s chapters probably went through the most extensive revisions. In the early drafts, I had his power being the ability to dodge bullets. I realized after draft one that that power didn’t work for the purposes of my novel, because of the big reveal about him at the end. So I changed it to him being able to control the wind.

Another major change I made to Al’s chapters was having him meet Li a lot sooner. Originally, he met her about halfway through the book, but I brought that scene up to roughly the quarter-way through mark and I fleshed out her character and background a lot more.

I also fleshed out a lot of Al’s backstory. In the first draft, he only touched briefly upon his mother’s death. But in subsequent drafts, I added a lot of flashbacks to that point in his life. Though I don’t usually like flashbacks, I thought they were important for him in this book. Because they made him much more relatable. Rather than just being a lone boy who’s riding through the desert engaging in battles with gunslingers, suddenly those flashbacks help us to see where he’s come from, and help us relate to him and see the pain he’s gone through.

The idea for the Wesech dragon plot was, like the criminal crew plot, born out of my love for Sanderson. In particular, I was inspired by his intermissions in The Stormlight Archive novels. In addition, based on my world-building I thought it’d be cool to have both western and eastern dragons, so since Maya was already going to be a dragon-rider on an eastern-type dragon, I figured the Wesech’s world would be a good one to explore during the intermissions.

Other novels I read while writing that inspired features of Sand and Smoke included Six of Crows, Child of the Daystar, Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, and Sanderson’s Wax&Wayne trilogy.

One thing I struggled with was how to weave the dragon plot into the main thread, and I did a lot of work in rewrites to make it smoother. Originally there was very little in Al’s chapters about Wesechs in Arus, but I worked to increase their presence in subsequent drafts.

I started writing Sand and Smoke in October of 2018, and I wrote it in spurts until I finished the first draft in April of 2019. I wrote mostly all of Al’s chapters together, and then all of Maya’s chapters switching only sporadically until I got to part 4.

I think the exact sequence I wrote in was all of Al’s part 1 chapters, all of Maya’s part 1 chapters, one Wesech chapter, then all of Al’s part 2 and 3 chapters, all of Maya’s part 2 and 3 chapters, another two Wesech chapters, and then part 4.

In regards to Maya’s chapters, the most substantial change I made while revising was at the end of part 3. Originally, she left the school fairly peacefully, but after notes from some members of my writing group, I realized Vidal would not let her do that. In subsequent drafts, I made her departure much more rocky, and I also made her deal much more with the consequences of her choice regarding Manzin.

While writing the first draft, I was in a writing group here in Portland, OR and shared pages with them, gathering feedback and improving it to some extent as those pages went.

But after finishing the draft and making those changes, I sent it off to my close friend Alex for him to beta-read it, and then made a lot of comprehensive revisions over 3 months: July, August, and September, both working on things that my writing group had suggested which I hadn’t managed to find a way to do before sending it to Alex, and working on things Alex suggested after reading it.

At that point the book became what you can read now. Fully formed and fleshed out with Al having the power to manipulate the wind, the Wesechs plotting something with Arus, and Maya’s single-mindedness driving her to make the choices she does.