Michelle Paver is the international bestselling author of Wolf Brother, and the first in her brand new series for Puffin, Gods and Warriors, publishes on 28th August. Read all about her inspirations, research and insights into the Mediterranean Bronze Age …
A boy is on the run in the mountains. His camp has just been attacked by mysterious warriors in black rawhide armour. Now his dog is dead, his sister's missing, and he's running for his life.
This is where it all starts for the hero of my new five-book series, Gods and Warriors. Like my previous series, Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, it takes place in prehistory; but this isn't Stone Age Scandinavia, it's the Mediterranean Bronze A ge.
I've loved this period since I was a child, when I pestered my mother to visit the mummified animals at the British Museum, and I devoured Roger Lancelyn Green's luminous retellings of the myths of Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt. Gods and Warriors is my attempt to recreate the spectacular, exotic, magical world of the great Bronze Age civilizations: the Mycenaeans, the Minoans and of course the Ancient Egyptians.
This was a time of enormous uncertainty, when survival depended on the vast, unpredictable forces of the wild: the sea, the sky, earthquakes, volcanoes. It was a world in which the stranger you meet on the mountainside might just be a spirit in disguise, and the falcon circling overhead might be a messenger from the gods…
Over five books, Gods and Warriors will follow the story of Hylas, the Mycenaean outsider who starts life as a goatherd, but grows to be a hero. It's also the story of Pirra, the daughter of the High Priestess of Keftiu (Crete), and her quest for freedom. And it's the story of the three wild creatures who will become their best friends: a dolphin, a falcon and a lion. (And as in Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, parts of each story will be told from the animal's point of view.)
I've been travelling to Greece and Egypt for decades, but to create the world of Gods and Warriors, I went back and tried to experience as much as I could of what Hylas, Pirra and their dolphin ally will experience in book one.
In Greece I explored the Cretan ruins of Knossos and Phaestos, as well as lesser-known sites in the Peloponnese, including the hugely evocative Menelaion outside modern-day Sparta, and the eerie underground cave system at Vlychada. I also spent several days wandering the Taygetos Mountains; and to get to know dolphins, I swam with a socialized one in Florida, and then with wild dolphins in the Azores. That was an unforgettable experience which, more than anything else, helped me imagine what it's like to be a dolphin.
But I don't do this research in order to teach, or to show how painstaking I've been. I do it to make the story real. I want the reader – whether they're nine or ninety, boy or girl – to feel that they're right there, living the adventure alongside Hylas and Pirra. And of course that means leaving out most of the research, and only including the odd startling detail which will bring it alive without slowing it down.
So as I said, Gods and Warriors is an adventure, and like Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, it's written mainly with children in mind. However one of the things I'm enjoying about writing it (if this doesn't sound too pretentious) is that the great themes of fate and free will, hubris and nemesis, do seem to arise naturally from the Bronze Age world, and to cry out for dramatization. And of course I'm also having quite a lot of fun being a dolphin, a falcon and a lion.
So that's Gods and Warriors. I really hope you enjoy it.