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THE POWER OF ANCIENTS, Historical Fantasy—Gerrit Hansen


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Name: Gerrit Hansen

Novel Title: The Power of Ancients

Comparables: Throne of the Crescent Moon (Saladin Ahmed); The Poppy War (R.F. Kuang)

Hook Line: Possessing power beyond far beyond his mentors, a tribal villager forsakes magic to overcome a murderous immortal by raising rival immortals long thought dead.

Pitch: Maruli, a young Javan villager from the hated Jupami tribe leaves his remote jungle home to study a form of magic he hopes will help save his people from the island’s nemesis, Dahat, a member of the powerful race of Ancients that’s nearly extinct. However, the magic requires grinding up special stones that elders insist are the dead remains of Ancients.

A young magic wielder named Liana mentors Maruli, and together, they become powerful. But after several disastrous battles against Dahat that nearly cost Maruli his life, they realize their magic isn’t strong enough to defeat the enemy. Worse yet, a secret venture into forbidden research reveals that the stones they’d been destroying for magic had actually housed live Ancients in stasis.

Defying elders, Maruli and Liana lay aside their pursuit of magic and travel to a hidden valley in the island’s interior to obtain the elements for freeing the imprisoned race in hopes that they’ll join them in battling Dahat. But will their efforts unleash an even greater terror?

Prose sample:

Climbing up the shore, I couldn’t help but stare at…her. She looked to be twenty-one, like me, but graceful, refined, clothed—and with an air of authority. I was a humble villager, outcast, and practically naked, wearing only my loincloth as did all Jupami men. 

When she noticed me ogling, her jaw hardened. 

“Take this and imagine fire coming out of its end,” she lashed, slamming a strange piece of wood into the palm of her tall colleague. She disdains me so much, she won’t even hand it to me herself. Domu’s translation removed all the ire from the words, but her gestures were clear as rainwater. I didn’t care. She wasn’t going to stop me with her shaming. Nothing and no one are going to hold me back from this “test.”

The tall mage raised the wooden implement to his chin, commanding my attention. Only three or four years older than me, he smiled warmly, raising his eyebrows. The left one, unusually thick, angled to his hairline instead of arching down toward the lower part of his temple.

“That’s not like you,” he scolded the young woman. “We should give him the same full explanation we gave to everyone else.”

“Maruli,” he started, “this is called an obora, and it can test your natural talent level in ilmu. Hold its narrow end, point it across the river, and close your eyes. Then, recall the largest fire you’ve ever seen. When the image is full in your mind, imagine that fire spewing forth from the obora. It may take you a few tries.”

The wooden piece, heavier than any wood I had ever held, vibrated slightly the moment I touched it—as if the wood were alive. I glanced at the mage, mouth quivering. He merely grinned and again gestured to the opposite riverbank.

I closed my eyes. The stench of volcanic spring water flowing by filled my senses as it clattered over the river’s shallows. Clearing my mind, I pictured a recent bonfire where Mother had roasted Father’s game.

Too small. I heard no voice, but I felt a message strongly impressed upon my heart.

A giant bonfire in the village square passed through my thoughts next, its flames reaching ten feet high.

Still too small. Think bigger. Where were these thoughts coming from?

Tilting my head back, the midday heat sizzled the skin on my face. On impulse, I imagined the sun as a giant ball of fire. The obora vibrated more violently in my hand, and I gripped it tighter. What was happening?

The tall mage warned the others to stand back, but I could no longer stop. As my thoughts brought the sun’s fire to the end of the obora, I opened my eyes just in time to witness a massive stream of energy burst forth. Mages hurtled backward like dry twigs, a wide stream of fire blazed the entire width of the river. I toppled, flattened under the crushing force of the magic.

Bio: Gerrit Hansen spent most of his adult years living in West Java, Indonesia—over 26 years—immersed in the people and culture of the Sundanese / Priangan people, drawing on their most famous legends to build this story. He currently lives near Seattle, Washington with his family where he teaches writing and pursues his love of writing of fantasy as well as memoirs from his years in Indonesia.

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