Everyone has their favourite character once they settle into a book, the one they’re rooting for. As an author, you have to care about them all if you’re going to do them justice and bring them to life as real people, but you still end up caring about some more than others. If I were choosing my top five characters from the series, this list might look a little different. (For starters, it would contain some enemies of Moth’s who are now quite definitely dead, the usual fate of Moth’s enemies.) However, for The Last Road, which is book five of my epic silk road fantasy Gods of the Caravan Road, here’s a top five characters list.
The Last Road is an interlaced story told in five novels and a short story, containing separate but interconnected adventures. Moth — the devil Ulfhild Vartu — is the thread that binds them all together. She’s the one who wanders in and out of other people’s stories, sometimes taking on a central role, sometimes only brushing by on the periphery. She’s a middle-aged (centuries-old, immortal, but middle-aged) warrior, wizard, storyteller, and devil, a being of two intertwined, conjoined souls, who have independently and collectively made some very bad choices in the past. Is she trying to atone for her sins, or just buying time and hoping it will all go away? Moth’s long history, when you look beneath the surface, has been an ongoing fight with depression, which is not quite the conventional hero’s journey. Carrying the black sword Lakkariss, she has become the executioner of the Old Great Gods, set by them to hunt down her fellow wizard-bonded devils. Through all her travels, her partner, the demon Mikki, bear by day and man by night, has been at her side, holding her close, holding her up. But her service to the Old Great Gods has come between them, and an ancient enemy has realized that if there is a weakness in Moth’s armour, it is Mikki.
Holla-Sayan is where the series began in Blackdog, a caravan-guard whose evening of sulking over his beer because one of his girlfriends has dumped him is interrupted by the invasion of a warlord-wizard. During his escape after the fall of the town, he tries to rescue an apparently abandoned child, only to be possessed by the Blackdog, the guardian of the lake-goddess Attalissa. The goddess, incarnate as a young girl, is fleeing the wizard who wants, she says, to devour her. Finding himself possessed by an obsessively protective, impulsively savage, shapeshifting dog-spirit is only the start of Holla-Sayan’s problems. By The Last Road, Holla-Sayan is no longer bound to Attalissa’s service, and has come to terms with his existence as a two-souled immortal shapeshifter, but just because the Blackdog has forgotten much of its past before it was bound by the goddess does not mean that others have.
3. Ahjvar and Ghu
It’s impossible to talk about Ahjvar and Ghu separately. They came into my world and took over the main thread of the story through Marakand, which is published in two volumes as The Leopard and The Lady. In Gods of Nabban they came into their own — though they had to walk through fire to get there, and you would think Ahjvar, after the long torment of the curse under which he endured for so long, possessed by a murderous, death-feeding ghost, might have earned some peace at the side of the god and lover to whom he has surrendered his soul. Perhaps he has, but the world and the gods themselves are under attack, and Ghu, the god of Nabban, though bound to his place as all gods and goddesses of the earth are, has a resource other gods do not — his undying champion,
the assassin once known as the Leopard — to send out against the old enemy who would destroy all the lands and the gods and the folk of the lands between them, to come at Ghu and Ahjvar again.
Yeh-Lin Dotemon is one of the seven devils: regent, tyrant, usurper and empress of Nabban. Penitent, perhaps. She has sworn herself to the service of Ghu, the young god of Nabban, and his new order in that land. True reform, true adherence, or the long, slow scheme of an ancient power who has twice ruled as tyrant over that empire? Sometimes she chooses to appear the elderly woman she was at the time she became a devil, sometimes as the woman of her maturity, famed as the greatest beauty of that age. Deadly swordswoman, powerful wizard, cunning general, scholar … unexpected guardian and teacher of stray children. In The Last Road, we see her at perhaps her finest. Oddly, trying to find a single word to describe Yeh-Lin, what I come up with is joy. Yeh-Lin — this Yeh-Lin, her days of empire in the past (if we can trust her) — lives with joy.
I introduced three new human main characters in this book; it was difficult to decide which one to talk about here. In the end I chose Jolanan, because, in a different book, she might have been the hero herself. Jolanan is a young woman, a cowherd who loses all the family she has to the advancing armies of the All-Holy as he sweeps out of the west. She joins the ad hoc war-band that has formed around the chieftain Reyka to harry the enemy and protect the fleeing remnants of their people. A scout, a skirmisher, and eventually one of the lancers who begin to use Nabbani cavalry tactics against their enemy, she keeps going despite the burden of her grief and the conviction that their cause is already lost weighing her down. But she seizes her moments of joy, too, and ends up on a road she never expected to follow.
Gods of the Caravan Road Series
When even the gods are dying, the hope of the world may lie in its most feared enemies.
A new god proclaimed as the All-Holy has arisen in the west and leads an army eastward, devouring the gods and goddesses of the lands between, forcibly converting their folk and binding their souls to himself. The very fabric of the world appears threatened by forces beyond the understanding of scholars and wizards alike. Even the great city of Marakand, where the roads of east and west converge, seems powerless to resist the All-Holy, though the devils Moth and Yeh-Lin and the assassin Ahjvar, undead consort of the god of distant Nabban, have come to stand with it. That may avail Marakand little, for the shapeshifting Blackdog, once a champion of the gods, follows obediently at the All-Holy’s heel and Lakkariss, the sword of the cold hells, is in his master’s hand.
Fantasy [Pyr, On Sale: October 22, 2019, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781633885547 / ]
About K.V. Johansen
K. V. Johansen is the author of the Gods of Caravan Road fantasy series. Born in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, she developed her lifelong fascination with fantasy literature after reading The Lord of the Rings at the age of eight.
Her interest in the history and languages of the Middle Ages led her to take a Master’s Degree in Medieval Studies at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto, and a second M.A. in English Literature at McMaster University, where she wrote her thesis on Layamon’s Brut, an Early Middle English epic poem. While spending most of her time writing, she retains her interest in medieval history and languages and is a member of the Early English Text Society, as well as the SFWA and the Writers’ Union of Canada.
In 2014, she was an instructor at the Science Fiction Foundation’s Masterclass in Literary Criticism held in London. She is also the author of two works on the history of children’s fantasy literature, two short story collections, and a number of books for children and teens. Various of her books have been translated into French, Macedonian, and Danish.