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The Rebel Backstory: What Readers Should Know Before Diving In

It’s official! The Rebel releases in exactly TWO DAYS!!!! 😱 Two years in the making, and it’s absolutely wild to me that the day is almost here. I seriously can’t wait to share this story with you all on June 28th! ❤️

To celebrate, I’m thrilled to offer you a deeper dive into the world of the Legion of Pneumos universe. While The Rebel can definitely be read as a standalone as it’s really a prequel to the rest of the series, the more you know about the universe, the more you’ll enjoy diving back into the world and you might even catch on to some of the easter eggs sprinkled throughout. 🐣😉

This primer will help you get acquainted with the rich world-building elements, backstories, and historical contexts that shape the narrative. Whether you’re a returning reader or new to the series, hopefully these insights will help you enjoy The Rebel all the more!

The Factions of Loren

The Uplands vs the Downlands

The country of Loren is divided into two primary regions: the Uplands and the Downlands. The Uplands are characterized by their lush, mountainous terrain and traditional villages like Ceffí, home of the uplanders and the place where the story of The Rebel unfolds. In contrast, the Downlands are more urbanized and technologically advanced, marked by the sprawling cities and industrial centers originally settled by the Marian Empires, and now held most firmly in its sway by the downlander class of elites. 

Want to learn more? Check out this in depth discussion of the uplands vs the lowlands and the role setting plays in the Legion of Pneumos here

The Bellatorio

The Bellatorio is the military force that enforces the Marian Empire’s rule across Pneumos. Recognizable by their red cloaks and strict discipline, they patrol the villages and cities, ensuring that the Empire’s laws and taxes are upheld. While their ranks are filled with dutiful soldiers who value loyalty and honor above all else, their presence is a constant reminder of the Marian Empire’s grip on the land and its people, especially to the uplanders

Curious to learn more about the real-world inspiration for the Bellatorio? Check out this blog post here!

Major Historical Events

 37 C.E. (Common Era) – The crowning of Leon, the first Emperio of the Marian Empire

  • A heroic figure of myth within the Marian Empire. Renowned for his bravery and the close relationship with an advisor known to history only as the “she-lion.” Said to be at once his lover, his champion, and the commander of his armies, she’s rumored to have been a woman of great power and influence, some even say a spirit binder herself.
  • The Ballads of Leon are still read by schoolchildren throughout Loren today. 

553 C.E. – The First Grumaérian Campaign

  • The Marian Empire’s invasion of Loren’s neighbor Grumaer The Legion of Pneumos acted as liaisons between the Bellatorio and the Grumaérian high command during the initial phase of negotiations. But when talks began to falter, the Legion switched sides, using their contacts to undermine the Grumaérians’ forces. 

872 C.E. – The Marian Invasion of Loren

  • The long anticipated and somehow still wholly unexpected event that changed the course of Lorenan history. The Marian Empire was the most powerful force in the world at the time, and Loren, with its ancient sages and Council of Benadur, stood as the final holdout to the empire’s inevitable expansion. Their conquest was hard fought but the Lorenan leadership eventually succumbed. Still, that didn’t keep a resilient uplander people from continuing the fight for decades after. And even in the modern Marian Empire, the of this resistance still bubbles to the surface through rebel rumblings every few years. 

876 C.E. / 1 M.E. – Founding of Crîd Eálas, the crowning of Magnus, the first Regio of Loren, and the beginning of the Marian Era (M.E.) in Loren

  • This also marks the point at which major Lorenan institutions began to be dismantled. The Council of Benadur slowly lost power, becoming mere figureheads, even as the ancient Sages were relegated to their mountain monasteries. The entire culture of the downland regions began to change, melding with that of its conquerors, leaving only the uplands as the last bastions of what they consider true Lorenan culture.

136 M.E. – The fall of Aurora, the original capital of the Marian Empire, to invaders from the East.

  • This marks the beginning of the end of the Marian Empire. From this point forward its various outlying lands and territories would gradually succumb to invasion, civil war, and internal collapse, leaving only Loren as the last kingdom standing.

218 M.E. – 222 M.E. – The Shield Wars 

  • Loren’s campaign within the Southern Shield, and the focus of The Centus. The Bellatorio was original deployed to the Southern Shield to quell rumors of insurrection and break up a smuggling operation within the archipelago, a region known for its valuable resources such as tellurium. It’ss only later discovered that Grumaérian insurgents have been playing a large role in undermining Lorenan authority, a long-plotted retribution against the remnants of their former conquerors.

218 M.E.The Centus Begins

  • Following the story of Gaius Flavius, a centus within the Bellatorio, we experience the horrors of the Shield Wars first hand, as well as the chaos they brought to the realm. 

229 M.E. – The Ceffí Massacre

  • When the Karthaíla Dam was first announced, the people of Ceffí worried that its construction south of them would lead to massive flooding and the destruction of their crops. Protestors from Ceffí set up a barricade on the river, claiming they wouldn’t let merchants pass until they were granted an audience with the Regio to plead their case. When the Bellatorio was charged with restoring the all-important trade route, violence ensued, and several uplander men were killed as a result. Rowan’s father had been one of them.

240 M.E. (Spring) – The Rebel Begins

  • Following the story of Neval Brennan and his friends Rowan Dunne and Tegan Rourke. While Neval starts as a hated outcast within his home village of Ceffí, we get to witness his rise to rebel leader.

240 M.E. (Fall) – The Cantor Begins

  • Keira Altman arrives in Loren, meeting her grounder Danny O’Leary and their mentors Elliott and Nazor. 

241 M.E. – Chaos Looming Begins

  • We continue to follow Keira in her quest to become a legionnaire. Along the way she meets Neval Brennan, a feisty rebel leader who makes her question everything she thought she knew about Loren and the Legion she serves. 

242 M.E.Haven Enduring Begins

  • The story continues as Keira becomes more deeply invested in the mission of the Legion and the realm of Loren spirals ever closer to all-out civil war. 

Key Places


A small upland vilage in the hill country north of Port Karthaíla. Known for its export of logging goods and farm produce, it was deemed a necessary sacrifice when time came for construction of the Karthaíla Dam, which promised running water and better irrigation for thousands

“The entire village was underwater. As they guided the horses through what had once been the main street, they watched as villagers waded through nearly knee-deep floodwaters, skirts and pant legs tied high as they carried loads and packages on their heads to avoid the damp splashes of the other passersby.”

Port Karthaíla

Nestled on the rugged coast of the Downlands, Port Karthaila is a bustling trade hub and a melting pot of cultures, where the echoes of ancient lore intertwine with the aspirations of its diverse populace. This vibrant city, with its labyrinthine streets and towering spires, serves as a vital artery in the world of Pneumos, facilitating the exchange of goods, ideas, and secrets. Its success is prioritized within the empire far above that of the upland villages to its north.

“It’s how the Marians brought down the walls of Port Karthaila in Old Loren hundreds of years ago. We read about it in Cato Procillius’s History of the Empire. A months-long siege came to a sudden end when the walls simply collapsed in on themselves, collapsed into the tunnels that cut beneath them. While all the old windbags on the Council of Benadur were busy bickering amongst themselves, the Marians were hard at work tunneling into oblivion. After all, if there’s one thing the Empire does better than anyone, it’s building something out of nothing, and quickly. Well, now it’s our turn to use their own tricks against them.”

Crîd Eálas

At one time a backwater port, the now-capital was built up by the Marian invaders to be their capital, and modeled after the other great cities of their empire. Its founding marks the beginning of the Marian Era in Loren.

“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.”

For more insight into the key cities and regions of Loren, check out this interactive map HERE.

Important Characters

Neval Brennan

Neval, the protagonist of The Rebel, is a young man from Ceffí who struggles with the stigma of his father’s reputation and his own fight for survival. His journey from a thief to a key figure in the resistance highlights his resourcefulness and inner strength.

Tegan Rourke

Tegan is a merchant’s daughter whose intelligence and compassion drive her to support the resistance. Her involvement with the Crimson Quill and her close relationships with Neval and Rowan add emotional depth and complexity to her character.

Rowan Dunne

Rowan, a blacksmith’s apprentice, is Neval’s best friend and a steadfast ally. His physical strength and unwavering loyalty are crucial assets in their fight against the Bellators. The son of one of the Ceffí massacre victims over ten years earlier, Rowan’s personal losses have fueled his determination to protect his friends and village.

Erik Brennan

Erik, Neval’s father, represents the toll that the Marian occupation has taken on individuals and families. His struggles with alcoholism and the loss of his wife paint a poignant picture of despair and resilience, encapsulating the uplander struggle, and setting the stage for Neval’s internal and external battles.

To learn more about the key characters, check out this Meet the Cast blog post here.

I hope this primer provides you with a richer understanding of the world of Pneumos and the key elements that shape the narrative of The Rebel. As you dive into the book, keep these contexts in mind to fully appreciate the intricate tapestry of characters, history, and geography that make up this universe. Stay tuned for more updates, and feel free to explore the maps and faction details on my social media channels to further immerse yourself in the world of The Rebel.

Pre-order your copy of The Rebel now and save 25% before release day on June 28th! Plus as part of the pre-order campaign, if you send me a screenshot of your preorder confirmation ( you’ll also get an exclusive, never-before released short story called The Grounder about fan-favorite Danny O’Leary’s arrival in Loren and his first meeting with Nazor Onodugo. In addition, you’ll have the option to receive a free signed bookplate in the mail, perfect for all those paperback lovers out there! Order HERE!


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