This is Endnotes from Oon, a series of letters in which I offer behind-the-scenes worldbuilding, research, extra and/or other tidbits in relation to my new epic fantasy series, The Nameless Republic, beginning with Son of the Storm. I will try my utmost best to avoid spoilers, but they may be inevitable to a small degree, as I might need to provide context for one thing or the other. If you’re risk-averse and would prefer to wait until you’ve read the book before you eyeball any of these letters, that’s great. But if you’re the brave sort, read on.
Son of the Storm is here.
I have a lot to say about this book and series, but also nothing at all. That is because this book now signifies something much larger than I’d ever envisaged it would.
Once, I thought The Nameless Republic was simply a story about three people who wanted more from the world. I’ve since realized it is much more. While I don’t envisage it will change the landscape of the global reading, writing and publishing of epic fantasy in any significant way, I think of Son of the Storm as the beginning of a very important conversation.
What early readers of this book have most agreed on is that the strongest point of this series is its worldbuilding. Many are drawn to the African inspirations of Oon, and there has been a lot said about the complexity of Oon’s cultures, systems and peoples. I’m particularly excited that this work, though fictional and secondary-world, is helping readers first envision, and then engage with the multifaceted nature of the Africa-descended experience. They immediately read it and say, “Huh. This might be Africa-inspired, but is not the same as NK Jemisin’s, or Nalo Hopkinson’s, or Nnedi Okorafor’s, or Evan Winter’s, or Tomi Adeyemi’s, or Namina Forna’s.” The fact that we have all these names out there at all is a success in itself, but we can also now envision multitudes present in a people often flattened like pita. That we can do this and still have epic and fantastic fun is where the real joy’s at.
When you read Son of the Storm this week (or whenever your skyscraper TBR allows 😄), that is what I wish for you to know: that the real success of this book, for me, is you reading it at all.
- How to support Son of the Storm this release week
Post a review! Whatever platform you buy or read on is fine. If you’re on multiple platforms, you can copy and paste the same review across them all.
Share photos! If you see Son of the Storm out there in the wild, be sure to share. If someone else posts a photo of SOTS that you like, kindly reshare as well (and tag me so I can see!)
Tell your reader friends!
- Where to find me yammering in the coming weeks
I’ll be having a lot of book conversations in the coming weeks, split specifically into three. See all the details (with links to register/attend) here.
*= happening this week!
US virtual tour: *Washington DC (Loyalty), *Phoenix/Tempe (Changing Hands), Seattle (UWashington), Portland (Powell’s), San Francisco (Green Apple). Featuring convos with authors including *Rebecca Roanhorse, *S.A. Chakraborty, Tochi Onyebuchi, Evan Winter, Jenn Lyons, Tasha Suri.
Global South/Africa & Caribbean virtual conversations: In collaboration with Decentred Lit. Launch (May 22) will be with Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (author of Ace of Spades) on YouTube, followed by a host of Instagram Lives with soon-to-be-announced bookfluencers.
UK appearances: I’ll be at the #Cymera21 Festival in Edinburgh, as well as an r/Fantasy AMA together with John Gwynne.
Now, on to the day’s endnotes.
The Magic of Ibor
I.bor /ee-bor/ (coined from the Latin root word for ivory, “ebur”)
A rare and hard mineral with the consistency of teeth. Also called: stone-bone.
In the world of The Nameless Republic, ibor is a powerful mineral that contains power that can be drawn upon by trained users, called Iborworkers, to perform supernatural feats. Notice I said supernatural, and not magical, as “magic” as we know and understand it does not exist in this world. Its peoples simply view these events as extranormal—mind-blowing, but part of regular existence all the same.
Rarely found on Oon—but easier to find on the islands away from the continent—ibor is not commonly known to the everyday mainlander. There are stories and myths about its power and people who have wielded them, but most of it is dismissed. Desertlanders are more open to accepting ibor’s existence, but have seen little evidence of it. Islanders, however, have iborworking embedded into their everyday life, training Iborworkers to perform various feats (in the Nameless Islands, warrior Iborworkers are trained by a group of secret-protectors called The Abenai League).
- Where does ibor come from?
The mainlanders on Oon believe that ibor is a part of the twin moons, Ashu and Menai, who are worshipped and venerated by the Bassai. It is believed that many years ago, the moon sisters had a quarrel, and the waves of their fight caused a cataclysm that wiped out most of the world. These ibor pieces are believed to be the pieces of moon fallen to earth during that destruction, and anyone who finds them could reap of these powers. They consider such use of these powers heretic, sorcerous, and punishable by death.
The islanders consider ibor a gift from the Great Waters, as chunks of stone-bone are often discovered washed up on coasts and cliffs. They believe ibor comes from the deepest reaches of the neverending sea around the continent.
As for you, reader, here’s the truth about ibor: once, there used to be seven continents. But the orbit of the resident moon of this world captured another moon, and the heat of that capture obliterated life on the planet, leaving just one landform—the continent of Oon. The current peoples, flora and fauna of Oon are the descendants of all that survived. Ibor is the fossilized product of the pieces of moon that fell to earth, storing all the energy of that cataclysm within it, waiting for whoever can harness that. Most ibor fell into the neverending sea, and sometimes, they float up.
In a way, you see, both the mainlanders and islanders are right.
- Iborworking for dummies
Iborworking occurs in three stages:
Drawing: This is the mental perception and absorption of the power inherent in ibor by someone trained to be attuned to it, to “listen” and “reach” for it. How swiftly this can be done depends on the mental strength of the iborworker, which improves the more they Draw. Drawing from new ibor sources is also much more difficult versus drawing from the same stone-bone over and over again, which is much easier.
Possessing: After Drawing this power into oneself, the user must then channel it back out immediately to “possess” an element (water, fire, air, light, etc) or inanimate object (nothing with life in it can be possessed). That short storage period is crucial: hold in the power too long, and an Iborworker can be consumed by it. Therefore, an Iborworker must be within proximity of the element or object they want to possess, as the power must move from stone-bone to person to element/object, and cannot be released otherwise.
Commanding: Once the element or object has been Possessed, the Iborworker will then issue a mental Command. It can be as simple as one word or as complex as a series of commands, depending on the training of the employer. The Possessed element or object carries out this Command until it has either seen out the Command, the person Commanding it dies, or the supernatural energy powering it is exhausted. In the first scenario, the element/object remains in stasis, waiting for the next Command. In the latter two scenarios (if the Iborworker dies or the ibor power finishes), the source ibor stone-bone disintegrates.
- The four shades of ibor
Ibor comes in four shades, each with its own specific powers and rules. Iborworkers are often attuned to one particular kind of ibor, and end up mastering the various ways of employing them.
White Ibor: Can possess air and light. White Iborworkers can do anything from moving objects with the air—including themselves—to making things become invisible—including themselves.
Grey Ibor: Can possess fire and water. Grey Iborworkers need the source of water or fire to be nearby to possess it. One of the most dangerous, as users can become weapons of mass destruction. Can also be used for less destructive tasks (e.g. every sailing vessel will have a Grey Iborworker on board to calm the turbulent neverending sea).
Amber Ibor: Can possess any solid inanimate object. Lilong, for instance, has a short sword which she’s psychically linked to, and can Command to fight for her. Once an object is initially Possessed—a painful and jarring process—users can continue to Possess the same continuously with growing ease, and soon, the object becomes like an extra limb.
Red Ibor: The most powerful. Until Son of the Storm, no one knows what red ibor can do. For spoiler-y reasons, I cannot say here what it does, so the only hint I will give is this: remember that ibor cannot possess anything animate.
- Consequences and side-effects
Ibor takes out a heavy physical and mental toll on its user. This is because the body acts like a supernatural energy converter during iborworking, converting the Drawn power into that for Possessing an element/object. This has various effects on the body:
Mild-to-severe side-effects after each usage: hangover, dehydration, illness, malnutrition and/or consequences of nutrient deficiency (e.g. rotten gums)
Drawing more power than the body can hold/process OR holding the power Drawn too long: temporary/permanent memory loss, accelerated body degradation, organ failure, self-combustion, death
- The Second Great Wars
Many, many seasonos ago, during the time of the Manic Emperor (the 23rd Emperor of Great Bassa, Nogowu), the Ajabo islanders made first landfall on the mainland’s western coast. They brought with them ibor and iborworkers, especially Grey Iborworkers, who had calmed the waters and allowed them to escape their sinking islands. Emperor Nogowu, who had been invested in learning what it would take to sail the turbulent neverending sea that sunk every vessel put on it, became obsessed with their ibor and the power of its possibilities. He made various attempts to secure their ibor in exchange for giving them full access the mainland. The Ajabos refused and preferred to stay on the coast, in the place now known as Whudasha. Nogowu decided to take the ibor forcefully, and so began the Second Great Wars.
A series of genocidal attempts on the Ajabo was met with fierce resistance, with the Ajabos enlisting all their available ibor and Iborworkers in the fight. Very few mainlanders were privy to the real reason for the wars, and simply considered the Ajabos cursed and inferior for their skin shade. As the wars went on, no one even remembered the reason they were fighting anymore.
The Manic Emperor never got his hands on ibor, because after repeated attempts at their extinction, the few Ajabos left were forced to take their chances on the sea. They gathered their few remaining Iborworkers and all sailed toward their sunk islands. It is unsure if they ever made it. As of the day, they are considered an extinct people.
Nogowu documented this in his personal journal, which was later lost as the Codex of the Twenty-Third Emperor of Great Bassa. Hundreds of seasons later, a young scholar named Danso DaaHabba re-discovers it in the university library, written into the margins of another manuscript.
Next time on Endnotes from Oon: Fancasting our favourite characters! After that, I hope to talk a bit about the societies and cultures in the known world of Oon, as well as their real-world inspirations and influences.
If there are any topics you’d really like me to explore, let me know in the comments! And if you have a reader friend who’s excited about this book/series and would be interested in these notes, they might want to sign up for this newsletter today: share it with them!