Coe, David B. 1963-
Coe, David B. 1963-
Born March 12, 1963, in New York, NY; son of a stockbroker and a schoolteacher; married Nancy J. Berner (a professor of biology); children: Alex, Erin. Education: Attended Brown University; Stanford University, Ph.D., 1993. Hobbies and other interests: Bird and butterfly watching, nature photography, music (jazz, rock, folk, bluegrass, classical), playing guitar (rock and folk), playing golf, playing and watching baseball, watching movies.
Home—Sewanee, TN. E-mail—[email protected]
William L. Crawford Memorial Fantasy Award, International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, 1999, for best book or series by a new fantasy author, for "LonTobyn Chronicle."
"LONTOBYN CHRONICLE"; FANTASY FICTION
Children of Amarid, Tor (New York, NY), 1997.
The Outlanders, Tor (New York, NY), 1998.
Eagle-Sage, Tor (New York, NY), 2000.
"WINDS OF THE FORELANDS" SERIES; FANTASY FICTION
Rules of Ascension, Tor (New York, NY), 2002.
Seeds of Betrayal, Tor (New York, NY), 2003.
Bonds of Vengeance, Tor (New York, NY), 2005.
Shapers of Darkness, Tor (New York, NY), 2005.
Weavers of War, Tor (New York, NY), 2007.
"BLOOD OF THE SOUTHLANDS" SERIES; FANTASY NOVELS
The Sorcerers' Plague, Tor (New York, NY), 2007.
Author of blog, An Exchange of Words: David B. Coe's Weblog.
David B. Coe and his three older siblings developed a relationship with the written word, perhaps without realizing it. Their parents instilled in them a deep love for books, and all four grew up to be writers, albeit in different genres. Although Coe grew up in the suburbs near New York City, his affinity with nature developed early. When he was seven, his two older brothers would drag him along on their bird-watching expeditions to, in his mind, send him into thickets and briar patches to flush out the feathered objects of curiosity. Regardless of his brothers' motivation, Coe's resulting fascination for nature became the theme for his doctoral dissertation, and it pervades his fantasy fiction. These early influences, combined with his talent, earned him the 1999 William L. Crawford Memorial Fantasy Award from the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts for his "LonTobyn Chronicle."
Children of Amarid, the first of the "LonTobyn" series, is set in Tobyn-Ser, a realm of mighty mountains, rolling plains, and lush forests. For a millennium, mages and masters, known as the Children of Amarid, have guarded this paradise. This magic order of protectors, mediators, and healers, established by Amarind and Thereon, derive their power from psychic bonding to birds of prey, from their magical staffs, and from ceryll crystals. Without the bird or staff, the mage is helpless. Hawk-Mages who progress from bonding to a hawk to bonding to an owl, become Owl-Masters. These masters, due to their superior wisdom, rule the other mages. However, something is awry in paradise: death and destruction hit the land and shake the faith of those who dwell there. Are these evildoers renegade mages who have broken their oath? Is it the spirit of the long-dead Theron, the dark mage who cursed the Order so long ago? Could it be the inhabitants of their sister land, Lon-Ser, a realm of huge, crime-filled cities that forsook magic for technology? It turns out to be the latter.
Diane Yates commented in her review of Children of Amarid for Voice of Youth Advocates: "Many tried and true elements of fantasy are to be found here … the young hero, unsure and uncertain … the quest … the bonding between man and beast … the tension between older and more cautious members and younger, more impetuous ones … the magic … and soon there will be the struggle between magic and technology."
In the sequel, The Outlanders, Orris, a young Hawk-Mage on Tobyn-Ser, is frustrated with the indecision and internal politics of the Owl-Masters. Against their orders, he sets off deep into enemy territory to the heavily polluted city of Bragor-Nal on a desperate peace mission. Of this book, Yates commented: "Although there is plenty of violence and death … the mind games played by the evil Overlord and Orris and other characters both advance the plot and make it more intricate, and the language is appropriate to a world so cleverly crafted…. The final volume is eagerly awaited."
In the final volume, Eagle-Sage, Tobyn-Ser is again threatened by Lon-Ser, where the inhabitants live in huge cities rife with pollution, overcrowding, poverty, and violence. In Tobyn-Ser, mages have affiliated themselves with either the Order or the League, each struggling for supremacy. For the first time in 400 years, a young male mage of the Order bonds to an eagle, and the appearance of an Eagle-Sage signifies impending war—but with whom? Shortly thereafter, a young female mage of the League binds to an eagle. Will Tobyn-Ser be divided internally, as well as attacked from without? Interestingly, only an Eagle-Sage has the power to end war, and the sage's magic may alter the nature of all magic, forever. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented: "The third and concluding volume of the ‘LonTobyn Chronicle’ will appeal to those who like their epic fantasy based on politics, economic forces and historic motifs rather than on fairy tales and romance." Reviewing the book for Library Journal, Jackie Cassada called Eagle-Sage "an epic of war and change."
Rules of Ascension, the first in Coe's series "Winds of the Forelands," is set in the Forelands, which is divided into seven countries, each with its own castle, king, and sorcerers of diverse powers. Nine hundred years earlier, the magically gifted Qirsi failed in their attempt to seize the Forelands from the human Eandi. Weavers, Qirsi with multiple powers, were slaughtered; now becoming one is punishable by death. When an heir to the Forelands throne is assassinated, an unlikely alliance between a clandestine Qirsi Weaver and a young Eandi playboy is necessary to identify the assassin and prevent another war. "Rather than being just The Fugitive with castles, the novel turns out to be about how uncertain experience is and how people need to find truth in the world and themselves," commented a reviewer for Publishers Weekly.
Coe's subthemes in his "Winds of the Forelands" series deal with issues that are as important in the real world as they are in his created universe, including racism and national security. "The magic system in the Forelands is racially based—there are two races," he told an SFF World interviewer. "One, the Eandi, is strong physically, blessed with fairly long life, but possesses no magic. The Qirsi, on the other hand, are frail, almost sickly, with yellow eyes, white hair, and pale, almost translucent skin." "My favorite characters in the Winds of the Forelands books," Coe explained in his SFF World interview, "are probably the two lead characters—Tavis and his Qirsi friend, Grinsa. As I said before, Tavis starts out as a spoiled brat of a noble and is forced to mature after all the stuff he's put through (as you can see, this is kind of a recurring theme for me). Grinsa is, in many ways, Tavis's mentor, who forces the kid to see himself for who and what he is." "Winds of the Forelands has lots of intrigue, a murder mystery, romance, betrayal," he concluded. "But it also deals with serious matters of race and prejudice that have become especially trenchant in the days and months since 9/11, as our society grapples with issues of racial profiling and stereotyping."
Coe's "Blood of the Southlands" series picks up where "Winds of the Forelands" left off. The Sorcerers' Plague takes Grinsa, his wife Cresenne, and their new baby on a sea voyage to the Southlands, in an effort to pick up their shattered lives and build a new one together. There they encounter a new type of magic wielded by the Mettai, a group related to the Eandi with whom Grinsa worked so closely. "Unlike their fellow Eandi, the Mettai practice magic," Hilary Williamson wrote in BookLoons, "but it's a magic based on letting their own blood, unlike what the Qirsi practice." A basket-weaving witch named Lici has sworn vengeance on her fellow magic users—partly, Coe suggests, because her home and family were wiped out by disease decades before—and has woven a virulent disease into the fibers of her baskets. Soon the whole Southlands is reeling with the plague, and only a village leader called Besh has the power to understand her motivations and how she can be stopped. Meanwhile Grinsa and his small family "quickly discover that the Southlands has its own brand of fear and distrust, as well as those who would co-opt Grinsa's magic for their own purposes," declared a Kirkus Reviews contributor. The author "weaves another saga of high drama and personal heroism," Jackie Cassada stated in her Library Journal review, "that should please fans of epic fantasy."
Coe told CA: "I wrote my first book when I was six years old. It wasn't much of a book obviously, though I did my own illustrations and I'm pretty sure that book represented the high point of my artistic skills. My point, though, is that I'm really not sure where the interest in writing books came from. I read a lot as a little kid, and my parents read to me—I'm sure that helped. But for as long as I can remember, I've loved stories: telling them, hearing them, reading them, writing them.
"I write alternate world fantasy, so much of my work is set in fantastic worlds of my own creation. Nevertheless, my work tends to draw on issues of importance in our own real world. My first series, the ‘LonTobyn Chronicle,’ dealt with ecological themes. My more recent books, the five volumes of ‘Winds of the Forelands,’ and my current ‘Blood of the Southlands’ trilogy, have dealt with issues of race and ethnic identity.
"On another level, I am of course influenced by the authors I read and admire. Some of them are writers in my genre, others are authors in mainstream literary fiction and other genres. But all of them have dazzled me with their talent, and all of them have inspired me to hone my craft.
"I treat writing as I would any daily job. I work every weekday, from about nine in the morning to five in the afternoon. I rarely work nights, and I rarely work weekends. Why do I approach my work this way? For a couple of reasons. First, I have a family that I adore, and I want to spend my free time with them, not with my work. But more to the point, I know that I have to produce to be successful. I can't wait for inspiration. I have to put myself in the chair and write every day.
"I tend to outline my work loosely at the outset of a new project. I say loosely because I don't give myself detailed outlines. I find that I write best when I allow my characters and my storylines to develop as I go along. There is a certain improvisational quality to my writing when I'm writing well, and I even tend to listen to jazz and improvisational bluegrass when I'm working.
"Seriously, the thing that surprised me most early in my career was the degree to which my characters developed on their own as I wrote and surprised me with some of the things they did. I know that sounds strange. But when a character is working well for me, he or she comes to life in my mind and on the pages of my books. He or she does things that I don't expect, sometimes altering those outlines I spoke of before. It's a very exciting thing to have happen, and I still haven't lost that excitement.
[Asking which of my books I like best is] a bit like asking me which of my children I love most. I feel something special for all of my books. That said, in a way my favorite might be my second novel. I was proud of my first book, but I feared that I didn't have a second book in me. That second book was not only in me, it was better than the first. I have very fond memories of that second book and remember feeling when I had finished it that I was not just a writer, I was an author.
"First and foremost, I want my books to entertain. I want people to care about my characters, I want them to immerse themselves in the worlds I create, and I want them to turn each page with breathless anticipation of the next plot twist. I also want my books to make people think. As I say, my books have touched on important issues—race, ecology, war and peace—and if I can not only entertain but also edify, that's a bonus."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2002, Roland Green, review of Rules of Ascension, p. 1098; May 1, 2003, Roland Green, review of Seeds of Betrayal, p. 1585; February 1, 2005, Frieda Murray, review of Bonds of Vengeance, p. 950; December 1, 2005, Roland Green, review of Shapers of Darkness, p. 31; November 1, 2007, Frieda Murray, review of The Sorcerers' Plague, p. 33.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1997, review of Children of Amarid, p. 422; September 15, 1998, review of The Outlanders, p. 1339; February 15, 2000, review of Eagle-Sage, p. 217; February 15, 2002, review of Rules of Ascension, p. 227; October 15, 2005, review of Shapers of Darkness, p. 1112; September 15, 2007, review of The Sorcerers' Plague.
Library Journal, April 15, 1997, Susan Hamburger, review of Children of Amarid; October 15, 1998, Jackie Cassada, review of The Outlanders; March 15, 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of Eagle-Sage, p. 132; March 15, 2002, Jackie Cassada, review of Rules of Ascension, p. 111; November 15, 2007, Jackie Cassada, review of The Sorcerers' Plague, p. 52.
Publishers Weekly, April 28, 1997, review of Children of Amarid, p. 55; September 28, 1998, review of The Outlanders, p. 78; April 3, 2000, review of Eagle-Sage, p. 274; February 18, 2002, Rules of Ascension, p. 80; April 21, 2003, review of Seeds of Betrayal, p. 44; September 19, 2005, review of Shapers of Darkness, p. 47; September 17, 2007, review of The Sorcerers' Plague, p. 41.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 1998, Diane G. Yates, review of Children of Amarid, p. 53; April, 1999, Diane Yates, review of The Outlanders, p. 45.
BookBrowser,http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (July 29, 2008), Harriet Klausner, review of Rules of Ascension.
BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (July 29, 2008), Hilary Williamson, review of The Sorcerers' Plague.
David B. Coe Home Page,http://www.davidbcoe.com (July 29, 2008).
Romantic Times Online,http://www.romantictimes.com/ (July 29, 2008), Victoria Frerichs, review of The Sorcerers' Plague.
SFF.net,http://www.sff.net/ (July 29, 2008), "David B. Coe."
SFF World,http://www.sffworld.com/ (July 29, 2008), Patrick, "Interview with David B. Coe."
Suite101.com,http://suite101.com/ (July 29, 2008), Debbie Ledesma, review of Children of Amarid.