Writing Beyond Tech: Ruin Mist and the Kingdoms

By William Stanek
March 24, 2010

A follow up to my previous posts about writing outside of technology. This one focuses on my fantasy novels set in Ruin Mist, the World of many Paths. The name Ruin Mist comes from an elvish saying which speaks of "the ruin and mists of time." Quite literally, the phrase means "The Lost Ages" and the "lost ages" indeed are when the stories take place. You can learn more and enter the world of the books at the ruin mist site.

The Ruin Mist books were first published in ebook in 2001. The books were enormously popular with readers of all ages and genders, so much so that I decided to release both adult and young adult editions.

The "Ruin Mist Chronicles" books are the adult editions of the original series. Ruin Mist Chronicles begin when the Elf Queen sends her most trusted devotee, Seth, on a journey to the lands of Man. Legend says that elves and men have been divided for hundreds of years and there are few survivors among the brother races. In the first book, "Keeper Martin's Tale," readers start to see the three primary realms of the fantasy universe I created:



Each successive book, beginning with "Kingdom Alliance," continuing with "Fields of Honor" and completing with "Mark of the Dragon" delves deeper and deeper into these realms. "Keeper Martin's Tale" climbed to the Amazon.com SciFi & Fantasy Top 50 list immediately after publication and remained there for 26 weeks.


As many young readers and teens have read and enjoyed the books as adults. The books for young readers and teens are numbered sequentially (like the comics and manga I loved when I lived in Japan) and are released in two four-book series. The first series starts with "The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches #1" and continues with #2, #3, and #4. The second series starts with "In the Service of Dragons #1" and continues with #2, #3, and #4.



Three heroes set out on an epic journey of discovery only to find that at the end of their journey nothing is what they thought it was and that their world is undergoing a transformation that will change everything. Survival in a changing world depends on their ability to adapt and if they fail, their world and everything they believe in will perish.

The releases for younger readers and teens are all new in formatting, packaging and approach. I added many extras to "The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches" books and which extras are included depend on the edition:

  • Each of the Deluxe Editions and Special Illustrated Editions has about 25 full-page illustrations done with pencil and include an extensive guide to the world that also has about 25 illustrations. The difference between the Deluxe and Special editions is size. Deluxe editions are 6.14" x 9.21" and Special editions are 8.25" x 11".
  • Each of the Signature Illustrated and Reader's Choice Editions has about 25 full-page illustrations done from oil canvas paintings and include an extensive guide to the world that also has about 25 illustrations. Signature Illustrated editions are hardcovers and also have two unique, full-color art covers--one for the front and one for the back.

The "In the Service of Dragons" books include character studies--high quality pencil illustrations depicting the major characters in a particular book.



When "The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches" books were first released in audio in 2005, they climbed straight to the top of the Audible bestseller lists. "The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches #1" went straight to #1 on the Kids & YA Top 10 and then to #1 on the Fiction list. The book became one of the Top 50 books and one of the Top 100 all-time bestsellers, going on to spend 180 consecutive weeks on the Kids & YA Top 10. The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches #2, #3, and #4 had similar runs.

A phenomenal success by any measure and even more so when you consider the books are independently published. I've also released a set of "Dark Path" books, which includes "Elf Queen's Quest" for adults and "The Elf Queen and the King #1 and #2" for young readers and teens, and a number of companion books:

  • Ruin Mist Kingdoms Journal, available in trade paper and hard cover.
  • Ruin Mist Alliance Journal, available in trade paper and hard cover.
  • Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ruin Mist - a highly illustrated collection of all things Ruin Mist.
  • Keeper Martin's Guide to the Fantastical Beasts and Fairie Peoples of Ruin Mist - a full-color guide to the many creatures and peoples in the books.
  • Art of Ruin Mist: Heroes and Villains - a full-color guide containing watercolor character studies of the many heroes and villains in the books.
  • Teacher's Classroom Guide to The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches - a classroom guide used in dozens of classrooms as a teaching aid.
  • Student's Classroom Handbook for The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches - a classroom guide used in dozens of classrooms as a teaching aid.
  • Battle for Ruin Mist: The Roleplaying Game - an RPG I developed based on the magic systems in the books.



Some cool facts:

  • The books have been featured in many printed books including: "Popular Series Fiction for Middle School and Teen Readers: A Reading and Selection Guide" (Children's and Young Adult Literature Reference), "Complete Idiots Guide to Elves and Fairies," and "Ancient Art of Faery Magick."
  • The quotes in some of the books after the maps are from editors at Tor and Del Rey. My favorites are those from Betsy Mitchell.
  • I began writing about Ruin Mist in 1986 and have been writing about the World of the Many Paths on and off ever since.

What has made the books so magical and so lasting are their enduring themes of friendship, loyalty, compassion, and truth.

What's next for Ruin Mist? Well, I've completed two new series:

  • Battle for Ruin Mist - a four-book series with four tie-in graphic novels.
  • Dawn of the Ages - a four book series which goes back to Ruin Mist's earliest beginnings.

I'll close with one of my favorite professional reviews of the books from the YA library staff at VOYA who were just as enchanted with the books as readers when they reviewed "The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches #1":

Dramatic illustrations draw the reader into the Tolkienesque world of Ruin Mist, plunged into darkness after a Great War five hundred years past. Blaming magic for their demise, the Kings of Men have decreed that all things magical be destroyed. Yet despite their efforts, the magical Dark Lord is slowly returning to power. Another bloody battle is foreshadowed for Ruin Mist when Adrina, the spoiled and lonely princess of Imtal, is visited by a mysterious woman who predicts Adrina's ghastly future. Meanwhile in the kingdom of Elves, Seth, devoted First of the Red Order of the Queen Mother Elf, is sent on a journey across the Great Sea to prevent war. Stuck somewhere in the middle is Vilmos, a young magical boy-who-would-be-mage, abducted for his own safety by a Yoda-like guide named Xith. All three journey to an unknown fate against treacherous and sometimes supernatural foes. Stanek augments the beginning of this complex tale with illustrations that are sure to attract fans of graphic novels and classic Tolkien alike-the only weakness in the illustrations is their scarcity. Stanek will likely draw a cult following, but his work is not for the novice fantasy reader. A complicated glossary at the end includes twenty-two pages of "People, Places, and Things in Ruin Mist," complete with geographical references, family lineages, and extraordinary sketches. Despite the sophisticated plot, however, this cliffhanger guarantees fans, and those fans will be ready to wield their swords against the Dark Lord in Stanek's next installment.

Thanks for reading! Hope you'll give one or more of the books a read!

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