Ruckley, Brian

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Ruckley, Brian


Born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Education: Attended the University of Edinburgh and Stirling University.


Home—Edinburgh, Scotland. Agent—Tina Betts, Andrew Mann, Ltd., 1 Old Compton St., London W1D 5JA, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer. Freelance environmental consultant, 2003—; previously worked various jobs related to charity, conservation, and fundraising.


Winterbirth, Orbit (London, England), 2006, Orbit (New York, NY), 2007.

Bloodheir, Orbit (New York, NY), 2008.

Contributor of short fiction to periodicals, including Interzone and the Third Alternative.


Scottish-born writer and environmentalist Brian Ruckley was educated at the University of Edinburgh and Stirling University in Scotland. Growing up in Edinburgh, he held a wide variety of jobs, working at one point in a tea warehouse and at another time traveling to the rain forests of Borneo to make recordings of the sounds made by gibbons at dawn. He later moved to London for a time, where he continued to search for an appropriate career, working various jobs that generally held some aspect of environmental outreach, nature conservation, and/or fundraising. While he had enjoyed writing since he was a child, he only wrote sporadically during this time, publishing a few short stories during the 1990s in magazines in Great Britain. In 2003, however, he decided to pay more attention to his writing efforts and to work earnestly on a novel. At that point, he began working as an environmental consultant, a flexible job that gave him more time to write. The result was his first novel, Winterbirth, which was published in London in 2006, followed by a U.S. printing the following year.

Winterbirth is a fantasy novel that is heavily steeped in the tribal mythologies of Norway, Ireland, and Germany, as well as a cold, ice-covered, mountainous landscape reminiscent of those countries. The first volume of a planned trilogy, it tells of the repercussions in a land where the gods have abandoned the inhabitants, enraged that two races had united for the purpose of destroying a third race that shared the realm. Without the gods, the people struggle on their own to master the conflicts that continue to divide them. Traditionally, they hold a great festival each year to mark the beginning of winter, but this year the festival is interrupted by a violent attack that kicks off a full-scale war. On the surface, the battle is between the Thanes of the South and those of the Black Road, and the division is primarily based on religious disagreements. However, as the book progresses, it becomes apparent that there are many layers to the conflict, and that nothing is as simple or straightforward as it might seem.

Critics had varying opinions, with several noting that the similarity in some of the character names led to some confusion and some commenting that the early part of the book appeared to suffer from slow, inconsistent pacing and a somewhat drawn-out set up that is often found in the first book of a series. Graeme Flory, in a review for Graeme's Fantasy Book Reviews Web site, stated of the inconsistent reactions that "there is a lot to love but at the same time, a lot to trip a reader up." However, a reviewer for the Grasping for the Wind Web site commented that "this novel is an introduction to a world that is based in Scottish and Norse legend, but is unique and different. Being the first novel of a trilogy, much of its time is spent world-building, but it is a lush and vibrant world." The reviewer went on to conclude that the book "maintains a timelessness and strangeness that make it enjoyable to read." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews wrote that "readers who like their fantasy dark, multi-threaded and political will sink their teeth into this one." According to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, the "unapologetically stark yet darkly poetic narrative displays a refreshing lack of stereotypical genre conventions." Cheryl Morgan, reviewing for the Emerald City Web site, concluded: "I don't think that Ruckley is quite star quality yet. He doesn't have the magnificent characters of George Martin, the wonderful combination of utter bleakness and humor of Steven Erikson, or the strong philosophical background of R. Scott Bakker. But he has produced a very solid first novel in an interesting, if not terribly innovative, world."

Ruckley continues his series with the sequel to Winterbirth, Bloodheir. The title might refer to any of the three major characters in the book: Orisian, who has just recently become the thane of the Lannis Blood; Aewult, his ally and also the Haig prince, the head of an impressive army yet also sufficiently reckless that his greed might destroy their friendship and alliance; or, lastly, Aeglyss, who is the enemy of both, and whose power as he climbs higher in the ranks of Black Road have led to an never-before-seen transformation of the powers with which he was born. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly cautioned that the book cannot stand alone, and that readers who attempt to tackle it without first reading Winterbirth will not be able to understand the action. However, even for those familiar with the series, the reviewer remarked that this installment "lacks the thematic impact and emotional intensity of its predecessor." In a review for Library Journal, Neil Hollands wrote that "this grim, sometimes gripping martial epic will leave those who have come this far anxious for the final chapter."



Booklist, September 1, 2007, Roland Green, review of Winterbirth, p. 66.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2007, review of Winterbirth.

Library Journal, September 15, 2007, Neil Hollands, review of Winterbirth, p. 55; April 15, 2008, Neil Hollands, review of Bloodheir, p. 78.

Publishers Weekly, July 23, 2007, review of Winterbirth, p. 47; April 21, 2008, review of Bloodheir, p. 40.


Book Bag, (May 28, 2008), review of Winterbirth.

Brian Ruckley Home Page, (May 28, 2008).

Dribble of Ink Blog, (August 8, 2007), author interview.

Emerald City,> (September 1, 2006), Cheryl Morgan, "Birth of an Epic."

Fantasy Book Critic Blog, (September 10, 2007), review of Winterbirth.

Fantasy Book Spot Web site, (May 28, 2008), review of Winterbirth.

Graeme's Fantasy Book Review Web site, (July 30, 2007), Graeme Flory, review of Winterbirth.

Grasping for the Wind, (November 9, 2007), "Free Will Fantasy: An Interview with Brian Ruckley," and review of Winterbirth.

Gyrovagueness Blog, (September 8, 2007), review of Winterbirth.

Next Read, (August 2, 2007), review of Winterbirth.

Sandstorm Reviews Blog, (September 28, 2007), review of Winterbirth.

SFF World, (October 8, 2007), Rob H. Bedford, review of Winterbirth.

Specusphere, (January 28, 2008), Joan Malpass and Satima Flavell, review of Winterbirth.