Warneke, Sara 1957–

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Warneke, Sara 1957–

(Sara Douglass)

PERSONAL: Born 1957, in Penola, Australia; daughter of Bob Warneke (sheep farmer and health and weed inspector); married (marriage ended). Education: Attended Methodist Ladies College, Adelaide, Australia; University of Adelaide, B.A., Ph.D., 1991.

ADDRESSES: Office—P.O. Box 200, New Town LPO, Tasmania 7008, Australia. Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins, 25 Ryde Rd., Pymble, New South Wales 2073, Australia.

CAREER: Novelist and historian. Worked as a nurse for seventeen years; Latrobe University, Bendigo, Australia, senior lecturer in history, 1992–99.

AWARDS, HONORS: Aurealis Award, best fantasy novel, 1996, for StarMan.


Images of the Educational Traveller in Early Modern England, E.J. Brill (Leiden, Netherlands), 1995.

(Translator) Robert Mannyng of Brunne, Story of Arthur, 1995.

Contributor of scholarly articles to Encyclopedia of the Reformation, edited by H. Hillebrand, Oxford University Press (New York, NY).


Beyond the Hanging Wall (young-adult novel), Hodder Headline (Sydney, Australia), 1996.

Threshold (novel), HarperCollins (Pymble, Australia), 1997, Tor (New York, NY), 2003.

The Betrayal of Arthur (nonfiction), 1999.

Contributor to books, including The Best of Australian Fantasy and Science Fiction 1996, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Jeremy Byrne, HarperCollins (Pymble, Australia), 1997.


BattleAxe, HarperCollins (Pymble, Australia), 1995, published as Wayfarer Redemption, Tor (New York, NY), 1995.

Enchanter, HarperCollins (Pymble, Australia), 1996.

StarMan, HarperCollins (Pymble, Australia), 1997.


Sinner, HarperCollins (Pymble, Australia), 1997, Tor (New York, NY), 2004.

Pilgrim, HarperCollins (Pymble, Australia), 1998.

Crusader, HarperCollins (Pymble, Australia), 1999, published as Crusader: Book Six of the Wayfarer Redemption, Tor (New York, NY), 2006.


The Nameless Day, HarperCollins (Pymble, Australia), 2001, Tor (New York, NY), 2004.

The Wounded Hawk, Tor (New York, NY), 2005.

Crippled Angel, Tor/Tom Doherty (New York, NY), 2006.


Hades' Daughter, Tor (New York, NY), 2003.

God's Concubine, Tor (New York, NY), 2004.

Darkwitch Rising, Tor (New York, NY), 2005.

Druid's Sword, Tor (New York, NY), 2006.

ADAPTATIONS: Hades' Daughter has been made into an audiobook, Audio Renaissance, 2003.

SIDELIGHTS: After spending her first seven years on her parents' sheep farm in South Australia, and then receiving her later education at a Methodist girls' school in Adelaide, Australian writer Sara Warneke became a nurse. However, she found nursing to be an unsatisfying outlet for her aspirations and eventually went back to school to work toward her doctorate in history. Beginning in 1995, Warneke began making up for lost time in rapid order, publishing both her first fantasy novel as Sara Douglass, and her first scholarly book on early modern British history. By the end of 1998, she was the author of no fewer than eight published novels and a work of her short fiction had been anthologized in a mainstream year's best collection of fantasy and science fiction.

Warneke began writing fantasy simply because she wanted something good to read. Her first novel, Battle-Axe (published as Wayfarer Redemption in the United States), was inspired by her discovery of a miniature axe, provenance unknown, in a shop in Adelaide. When she finished BattleAxe, Warneke looked up literary agents in the Yellow Pages and sent one of them a query. While her manuscript was sitting in the agent's office, the agent received a query from the Australian office of HarperCollins asking whether the agent had any science-fiction or fantasy novels. The agent sent them Warneke's novel.

The success of novels like BattleAxe enabled Warneke to purchase a house in Bendigo, where she taught at Latrobe University. As she told readers of her Web home page, the need "to pay the thing off" kept her writing "assiduously." Under the Douglass pseudonym, BattleAxe was quickly followed by two more novels, comprising the "Axis" trilogy. These three volumes tell of the efforts of various peoples on the world of Tencendor to unite against a common enemy despite their history of conflicts. Their commander is Axis, a leader of a religious military force known as the Axe-Wielders.

Dennis Neville, reviewing BattleAxe in OzLit, wrote that Warneke "understands her characters and makes them very believable." Neville went on to note: "This is a cracker of a book and instantly lands Douglass among luminaries like Stephen Donaldson and David Eddings." In Eidolon, reviewer Martin Livings commented that "BattleAxe is by far the most professionally written fantasy novel to be written in Australia to date." Another positive review came from OzLit contributor Karen Brooks, who found some of the characters to have "interesting psychological and sexual quirks," and added that the book's weaknesses, "if indeed these are weaknesses, lie in its strict adherence to the generic conventions of fantasy, though this can also be read positively as a subversive move against the irresistible forces of change."

The sequel to BattleAxe, Enchanter, involves a conflict between hero Axis and his half-brother, Borneheld. The book was trimmed by almost 100,000 words in the editorial process, according to its author, and was inspired in large part by a piece of classical music, Pachelbel's Canon in D Major. Reviewing the novel for OzLit, Brooks called it "a sequel par excel-lence"—a novel that "tantalizes AND delivers." Brooks added that she found herself drawn in by the novel's unpredictability and its "lyrical, tight and imaginative prose." In the Australian Book Review, Peter Nicholls assessed both BattleAxe and Enchanter, commenting that more literary readers should not be put off by the books falling within the fantasy genre. He noted: "There is no need to be cynical at all. This Axis trilogy … turns out to be a wonderfully quirky and intelligent romp, in the way it plays variations on familiar fantasy themes." Warneke's books, Nicholls added, "are a terrific read, compulsive page-turners;" her novels include a philosophical probing of the nature of religion "that is quite firmly worked out."

The concluding installment in the "Axis" trilogy, Star-Man, was greeted by Brooks with the exclamation: "The wait is over. StarMan has landed!" Applauding the many new characters and settings in the concluding volume, Brooks noted: "The results are magnificent," adding: "It has an energetic, dramatic, and surprising conclusion that will continue to delight and disturb readers long after they have turned the last page."

With the success of the "Axis" trilogy, Warneke initiated a new trilogy that takes place on the world of Tencendor. This trilogy, "The Wayfarer Redemption," begins some forty years after the conclusion of the "Axis" trilogy. Many characters from the first series, including Axis, reappear in the later books, though in secondary roles. The "Wayfarer Redemption" novels are Sinner, Pilgrim, and Crusader.

In the United States and most of Europe, the "Axis" and "Wayfarer" trilogies have been combined as one six-book series encompassed within the "Wayfarer Redemption" series. Sinner begins where the "Axis" trilogy left off. Axis SunStar is retired and his son StarSon Caelum SunSoar now rules the kingdom with a benevolent hand only to see old hatreds and vendettas once again rise. Caelum's brother Drago, the only one of Axis's children to be cursed with aging because of a past misdeed, is wanted for possibly murdering Caelum's sister while the Prince of the North, Zared, plots to overthrow Caleum. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the author "smoothly fills in some back-story about the SunSoar dynasty." Frieda Murray, writing in Booklist, noted that the novel "features strong characters and … an interesting milieu."

Pilgrim finds the Timekeeper Demons overrunning Tencendor and Caelum involved in an intricate plot that may require further destruction of the land before magic can be returned to the kingdom. Booklist contributor Frieda Murray commented that the author "realizes the world of Tencendor more fully with each volume." In the conclusion to the trilogy, Crusader, the people of Tencendor have been nearly wiped out, with the survivors battling space-traveling demons. It is Drago, or Dragonstar, who heads the fighters in a type of intergalactic guerrilla warfare. Writing in Publishers Weekly, a reviewer called the book a "powerful conclusion" to the series.

Under the Douglass pseudonym, Warneke published two solo novels during the same period that her "Wayfarer" series reached bookstore shelves. One is the young-adult fantasy Beyond the Hanging Wall, which Geoff Bull, in the Australian Book Review, praised for overcoming his bias against the fantasy genre. Warneke "goes far beyond the traditional low fantasy," opined Bull; the world of the novel is "cleverly" imagined and leads to possibilities for other intriguing worlds, in the opinion of the critic. Declaring that "finely drawn characters and different settings … are Sara Douglass's real talents," Bull hailed Beyond the Hanging Wall as a convincing, successful work "about the power of truth … about the corruption of power and the power of the State over the individual."

Warneke's other 1997 novel is Threshold, a fantasy with Middle Eastern and mathematical themes rather than medieval European ones. In this work, mathematician magi rule the land of Ashdod, worshipping the numeral One. Several generations before the novel opens, mathematicians derived a mathematical formula enabling them to merge with One, which they viewed as the Infinite. This formula they encoded into the design of a glass pyramid, called Threshold. The novel's characters are magi and slaves who work on the glass pyramid. One of the workers, a woman named Tirzah, is the first-person narrator. Through her eyes, readers learn how the pyramid is warping, becoming out of control. Instead of serving as a bridge from the world of Ashdod to Infinity, it serves as a bridge in the other direction, as something unknown crosses from Infinity to Ashdod. Terry Dowling, reviewing the novel for the Weekend Australian, found elements of the novel interesting. With the qualification that, "any shortcomings are largely those of the epic fantasy form itself, as it is so often these days," the reviewer called Warneke "an assured and gifted storyteller." Booklist contributor Frieda Murray wrote: "Full of original touches, this is very good storytelling."

Warneke begins her "Troy Game" series by introducing Hades' Daughter. The series is based an old Brit-ish tradition that the island was first settled by the survivors of the Trojan War. Warneke adds to the legend by including a tale about the Cretan Labyrinth, which was designed to confuse both humans and the Gods in an effort to keep them within their bounds. Abandoned by Theseus, Adriadne, who is mistress of the labyrinth, destroys the world's remaining labyrinths, leading to an age of destruction. Brutus, the traditional founder of Britain, is promised a new land and a new labyrinth but soon finds that the price may be more destruction. Roland Green, writing in Booklist, commended the author's "excellent writing."

Taking place a thousand years later, God's Concubine continues the saga of the lands of Britain as the King of England, Edward, is overthrown by William, the Duke of Normandy who, in an earlier life, was Brutus. In fact, many of the characters in the novel are "reincarnations" of the land's original populace. Library Journal contributor Jackie Cassada noted that the author "excels in panoramic storytelling." Frieda Murray, writing in Booklist, called the book "a fun read for fantasy and alternative history readers."

In Darkwitch Rising, the third book in the "Troy Game" series, Warneke once again has her characters reincarnated, this time into the seventeenth century where the Labyrinth of Knossos is being created as part of the intricate game that the various characters have been playing throughout each of their lives. Brutus is now a courtier of Charles II, who is an incarnation of the folk being named Stagking. Located on the site of the Tower of London in an alternate, parallel faerie world, the labyrinth soon hosts all of the characters in a deadly game that threatens the core of England. Once again writing in the Library Journal, Cassada commented that the author presents her "historical and fictitious characters with a thoroughness that brings them to life."

Warneke's "Crucibile" trilogy consists of The Nameless Day, The Wounded Hawk, and Crippled Angel. Set in Europe following the Black Death, The Nameless Day tells of a revolt by the English and French peasants. Dominican friar Brother Thomas Neville has been charged by the Archangel Michael with righting the quickly deteriorating situation. Writing in the Library Journal, Cassada called the novel a "powerfully written tale." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the author "has again brilliantly blended detailed research with religion and magic to reinterpret actual historical events."

The Wounded Hawk finds Brother Neville on the trail of demons who appear to be normal human beings, albeit powerful leaders of society, who are conceiving a supernatural and spiritual war on all that is good. Among the historical characters involved in the story are Joan of Arc and King Richard II. Carl Hays, writing in Booklist, noted the author's "skillful attention to period detail and credible medieval action." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that readers "will applaud the way she avoids the dull middle-book syndrome that commonly afflicts such series."

In the concluding book of the trilogy, Crippled Angel, Neville is still fighting the demons but is no longer a Dominican priest. As he searches for the casket of Father de Worde, Neville hopes to find within its contents a way to defeat the evil demons. His quest is complicated by another group of unsavory creatures born to human women and angelic beings. Neville also begins to question whether the Archangel Michael is really on the side of good. Writing in Booklist, Hays noted that Warneke looks at "the grand themes of religion, morality, and the eternal battle between good and evil." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented on the author's "excellent grasp of period detail and character."



Aurealis, Number 15, p. 80.

Australian, January 22, 2000, Murray Waldren, "The Reality of Sara Douglass."

Australian Book Review, September, 1996, review by Peter Nicholls, pp. 63-64; December, 1996/January, 1997, Geoff Bull, review of Beyond the Hanging Wall, pp. 89-90; December, 1999, review of The Betrayal of Arthur, p. 246.

Booklist, January 1, 2003, Roland Green, review of Hades' Daughter, p. 860; September 1, 2003, Frieda Murray, review of Threshold, p. 74; February 1, 2004, Frieda Murray, review of God's Concubine, p. 955; September 15, 2004, Frieda Murray, review of Sinner, p. 215; January 1, 2005, Carl Hays, review of The Wounded Hawk, p. 833; May 15, 2005, Frieda Murray, review of Dark-witch Rising, p. 1642; September 1, 2005, Frieda Murray, review of Pilgrim, p. 74; December 15, 2005, Carl Hays, review of The Crippled Angel, p. 31.

Booknews, August 1, 1995, review of Images of the Educational Traveller in Early Modern England.

Eidolon, October, 1995, Martin Livings, review of BattleAxe, pp. 101-102.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2001, review of BattleAxe, p. 85.

Kliatt, January, 2002, Stacey Conrad, review of The Wayfarer Redemption, p. 15.

Library Journal, August, 2003, Jackie Cassada, review of Threshold, p. 142; February 15, 2004, Jackie Cassada, review of God's Concubine, p. 166; June 15, 2004, Jackie Cassada, review of The Nameless Day, p. 62; May 15, 2005, Jackie Cassada, review of Darkwitch Rising, p. 111.

Locus, December, 1999, review of The Nameless Day, p. 29.

OzLit, October 21, 1995, Dennis Neville, review of BattleAxe; March 6, 1996, Karen Brooks, review of BattleAxe; November 1, 1996, Karen Brooks, review of Enchanter.

Publishers Weekly, June 21, 2004, review of The Nameless Day, p. 47; July 26, 2004, review of Sinner, p. 42; December 20, 2004, review of The Wounded Hawk, p. 41; October 17, 2005, review of The Crippled Angel, p. 44; February 20, 2006, review of Crusader, p. 140.

Weekend Australian, April 12-13, 1997, Terry Dowling, review of Threshold.


Australian Online Bookshop, http://www.bookworm.com.au/douglass.htm/ (April 5, 2006), brief bio of author and review of books.

Sara Douglass Home Page, http://www.saradouglass.com (April 5, 2006).