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How Setting Shapes Destiny: The Upland-Downland Divide in the Legion of Pneumos Universe

Hello, dear readers! Today, I’m thrilled to dive into one of my favorite aspects of fantasy writing – Worldbuilding! The Legion of Pneumos universe is one filled with a wide diversity of people, cultures, languages, and settings. Today I wanted to share one of my favorite parts of this world, and that’s the starkly contrasting regions of the Uplands and the Downlands. The divide between these two regions is one of primary drivers of conflict within the series and stems back to a long history filled with not only cultural differences but a history fraught with invasion, occupation, and oppression. Creating these intricate settings, with their wildly different cultures and landscapes, was so much fun and a real test of my writing! 

Let’s explore how these settings shape the stories in The Rebel and Chaos Looming and talk about the importance of setting in fantasy literature!

“Fish mongers hawked their wares as they shooed sniffing dogs away from their product. Farmers at their stalls proudly displayed their baskets and crates of fresh, sweet-smelling produce. The large, open square was filled to the brim with people buying and selling, laughing, and catching up on the week's gossip.”

Exploring the Uplands in "The Rebel"

When I crafted the uplands for The Cantor and The Rebel, I envisioned a place where the environment itself had molded the people over the course of generations. The rugged terrain and harsh climate demanded resilience and resourcefulness from its inhabitants. The isolated villages buried deep in the forests and mountains demanded an independence that put them into direct conflict with the Marian Empire as it sought to conquer and oppress them. This backdrop was not just a setting but a crucible that shaped characters like Neval, Tegan, and Rowan as they come of age.

In The Rebel, the uplands are a place of fierce independence and deep-seated distrust of the Empire. The uplanders, with their communal spirit and shared hardships, have a strong sense of unity. This is a land where survival is a daily challenge, and every victory, no matter how small, is hard-won. Neval’s journey from a villager distrusted by his neighbors because of his father’s indiscretions to a leader of the resistance is deeply influenced by this environment. The physical landscape, with its rugged hills and treacherous paths, mirrors the emotional and psychological challenges he faces.

One of the pivotal plot points in The Rebel is the construction of the Karthaíla dam. This dam, seen as a marvel of engineering by the Empire, is a symbol of destruction and despair for the uplanders. It threatens to flood their homes and livelihoods, embodying the Empire’s perpetual prioritization of downland prosperity over the very lives of its uplander citizens. Neval’s transformation into a rebel leader is driven by his need to protect his community from this existential threat. 

“Crîd Eálas was a marvel of Marian architecture and ingenuity. Built from nothing, a humble seaside village that became the capital of the newest branch of the empire, Crîd Eálas was a symbol as much as a city.”

Discovering the Downlands in Chaos Looming

Now, let’s journey to the downlands, as explored in Chaos Looming and Haven Enduring. Unlike the rugged uplands, the downlands are regions of relative wealth and stability, basking in the Regio’s favor. These areas are lush and fertile, their prosperity a stark contrast to the struggle of the uplanders. The downlanders, though not all villains, often benefit from the status quo, creating a deep socio-political divide.

The contrast between the uplands and downlands is not just geographical but also deeply cultural, affecting how characters perceive each other and the world around them. Downlanders enjoy the luxuries and conveniences provided by the Empire, fostering a lifestyle that values comfort and order. This prosperity often breeds a complacency and complicity among the downlanders, who are largely unaware or dismissive of the struggles faced by the uplanders. Their society places high importance on social status and appearance, with elaborate customs and a rigid class structure that starkly contrasts with the communal and egalitarian ethos of the Uplands. These cultural differences create significant tension and misunderstanding between the two regions, shaping the interactions and conflicts that drive the narrative in the Legion of Pneumos series.

In Chaos Looming, the grandeur of the downland cities, with their impressive architecture and orderly society, provides a backdrop for exploring themes of power and privilege. Keira’s journey through these regions reveals the complexities of the rebellion and the different motivations driving various factions. As she navigates the opulent Downlands, she uncovers the deep-rooted corruption and the subtle yet pervasive influence of the Empire. She meets characters who are both allies and adversaries, each with their own hidden agendas and personal stakes in the conflict. 

Through her interactions, Keira learns that the rebellion is not a monolithic force but a tapestry of diverse groups, each driven by unique grievances and ambitions. Some are motivated by a desire for justice and freedom, while others seek power or revenge. Keira’s discoveries highlight the moral ambiguities and the difficult choices that come with fighting for a cause. Her experiences in the downlands deepen her understanding of the socio-political landscape of Loren, forcing her to confront her own beliefs and challenging her to find her place within the broader struggle.

“The gates of the mountain monastery loomed before her, its towers and parapets carved from the cliff itself.”

The Significance of Setting in Fantasy

Setting in fantasy is so much more than a mere backdrop; it’s a living, breathing element that shapes the narrative and the characters within it. For me, crafting the uplands and downlands was about creating worlds that feel real and vibrant, where the physical and cultural landscapes are intertwined with the characters’ stories.

In the Legion of Pneumos universe, the uplands’ harshness mirrors the resilience and determination of its people, while the downlands’ comfort highlights the complacency and complicity of those benefiting from the Empire’s rule. These settings not only provide context but also drive the plot and deepen our understanding of the characters’ struggles and triumphs.

As a fantasy writer, I love using settings to symbolize internal conflicts and broader themes. The treacherous terrains reflect the tumultuous paths characters must navigate, while the cultural landscapes offer a framework for understanding their values and motivations. In the Legion of Pneumos, the distinct settings of the uplands and downlands help explore its most prominent themes of oppression, rebellion, and resilience.

What about you? How do you think the settings in fantasy novels shape your reading experience? Do you feel like the world around the characters pulls you in deeper? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Drop a comment or send me a message, and let’s keep this conversation going, diving even further into these fantastical worlds that captivate our imaginations together!

Until next time, happy reading!


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