Travels and Tales

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The opening foreword of The Best is Yet to Come
"Something also of note, one of the lords in the far west of the island decided to break away from the Triumvirate. I've been told that he bought his way to freedom, but I haven't seen the money anywhere. Well, I trust that Lord Valtara has everything under control."
The Best is Yet to Come, Pg. 19
Travels and Tales of Emilia Rivers (commonly referred to as Travels and Tales) is a series of journals by Emilia Rivers, a Valtaran politician and diplomat. The journals detail Rivers' time as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Triumvirate of Ceyreto, her participation in the Ceyreto-Zydel War.

So far each new entry has received general positive reviews. The Best is Yet to Come has since become one the best-selling works to come out of the Commonwealth of Blackthorn, and the series as a whole became the #1 best-selling series of books on Alathra by 4AC. The series has been popular with contemporary historians, seeing it as a reliable first-hand account of events in Ceyreto following Valtaran Civil War.

As of writing, eight entries in the series have been published. It's unknown how many entries the series will have, with Rivers herself stating that "Travels and Tales will continue so long as my life isn't boring".

Background

According to Rivers herself, the initial inspiration for Travels and Tales began prior to the formation of Ceyreto. She originally had a desire to document contemporary life in Valtara, but was too caught up in other affairs to take on such a project. After her promotion to Foreign Minister of Ceyreto, her desire to write the journals was rekindled. Instead of being about contemporary life in Valtara, however, the journals would take the form of a self-written account of her travels and personal affairs throughout Blackthorn, Ceyreto and beyond.

Characters and locations

The journals have a series of recurring figures, both friends and foes of Rivers. While all figures in the series are real people that were encountered on Rivers' travels, many of them are portrayed in certain ways based on her worldview.

Travels and Tales - The Complete Collection

After the release of The Tyrant King, a continuously updated document containing every volume of the series was created for convenience and archival purposes. That document can be found here.

Journals

Volume I: The Best is Yet to Come

The Best is Yet to Come is the first journal in the Travels and Tales series. It begins with Rivers, then still a member of the lower council of Ceyreto, complaining about the lack of events in her life prior to the events of the journal. This is followed by a documentation of her ascendance to Foreign Minister at the behest of Lord Gem Valtara (referred to throughout the series as simply "Lord Valtara"). The rest of the book mostly follows Rivers' regular visits to Cielo, the capital city of the Empire of Aether and budding friendship with the Emperor, Acero Noxaros (referred to as "Lord Noxaros"), and ends with the build-up towards and declaration of the Ceyreto-Zydel war. The book lacked a subtitle upon release, but was given a subtitle after the release of the second volume. The subtitle is taken directly from the motto of the city of Blackthorn.

Volume II: The Tyrant King

The Tyrant King is the second journal in the Travels and Tales series. The Tyrant King covers only the first three weeks of the war. The book begins with a confident Rivers gathering allies across the continent of Ceyreto/Kuthara and follows Rivers' through the first attack of the war, her infamous stand-off on her boat with Lord Happy of Zydel (referred to as "the Tyrant King"), and her eventual transofrmation into a Rat fae after an extended stay in the Cielo sewer system. The book was received incredibly highly upon release, being seen as an improvement upon the original and a worthy follow-up.

Volume III: Year of the Rat

A drawn map of the continent of Ceyreto/Kuthara, made alongside Year of the Rat.

Year of the Rat is the third journal in the Travels and Tales series. The journal is centred around Rivers' sudden transformation into a Rat fae at the hands of a mysterious magical rat living in the Cielo sewer after an attempted manhunt by the Tyrant King and Veric of Uradon (referred to as "the Lord of Uradon, curse his wretched soul"). The book later documents her return to Blackthorn after her self-imposed exile to Cielo, her relationship with the ruling Valtara dynasty, and her sudden ascendance to the title of Mayor of Blackthorn after Lord Valtara's disappearance. Year of the Rat was originally written with the intention of being the closing act of The Tyrant King, with the novel starting with Rivers being beaten and left for dead, to her turning around and becoming mayor of the city, though due to the eventual length of The Tyrant King, the two were split into two entries.

Volume IV: With Any Luck

With Any Luck is the fourth journal in the Travels and Tales series. While the first three entries are all very outgoing and are focused on Rivers' surroundings, With Any Luck is a lot more introspective and melancholic. The journal is heavily centred around Rivers' relationship with the village of the Faewood, the Faefolk and her newfound relation to them as a reluctant now-Fae creature. It also follows the newly formed Blackthorn Intrim Council and their plans to completely defend the town from a rumoured siege by the Tyrant King, as well as the slow but sure decline of the Triumvirate of Ceyreto. The subtitle "With Any Luck" is a phrase that is used throughout the series, commonly used by Rivers as another way of saying "I hope", and was chosen to reflect the journal's more melancholic nature.

Volume V: Ghosts

Ghosts is the fifth journal in the Travels and Tales series. The journal continues on with the more sombre tone that began in With Any Luck, and heavily focuses on Rivers' relationship with the world around her and its finality. The journal opens with Rivers receiving an invitation from Triumvir Lord Ehlsonn to help him dismantle and salvage whatever possible from the now ruined city of Cassiopeia. This is followed by a similar expedition to the city of Aarndam, a former Triumvirate city that has since fallen to ruin after the independence of the city of Khalikhan. The rest of the journal follows Rivers walking through the Faewood at night as she encounters an apparition of her exiled superior, Lord Valtara. Ghosts holds the record of taking place across the smallest span of time, taking place over the course of just five days. It is generally considered the best book in the series by fans.

Volume VI: The Battle of Blackthorn

The Battle of Blackthorn is the sixth journal in the Travels and Tales series. It is to date the longest book in the Travels and Tales series. The journal entirely opens up by following the immediate build-up towards the siege of Blackthorn, detailing the hasty construction of the city's keep, as well as the defection of the Valtaran royal family to the side of the Tyrant King. The remainder of the book follows the events of the siege, followed by the eventual peace deal and the events that ensue from it, such as the burning down and abandoning of Blackthorn by Rivers and the Interim Council. The Battle of Blackthorn is notably the final volume in what fans call the "Zydel Arc" of the story.

Volume VII: The Lake and the Rivers

The Lake and the Rivers is the seventh journal in the Travels and Tales series. After the climax of The Battle of Blackthorn, it was unknown whether or not the journals would continue in their current form, but Rivers' confirmed a few months after the release of the journal that they would, and that a seventh journal was in the works. The journal follows the building of New Blackthorn, or "Zethortal" as it comes to be known, as well as Rivers dealing with her own insecurities and inability to fully handle her struggles, and ends with Rivers' glassing the king of Kalikhan with a bottle and blacking out. The journal took several times longer to come out than its predecessors, which Rivers has since blamed on the "lack of substance" in her life compared to during the Ceyreto-Zydel conflict.

Volume VIII: Gathering Speed

Gathering Speed is the eighth journal in the Travels and Tales series. It was confirmed to be in the works a little while after the release of The Lake and the Rivers, but was delayed multiple times for personal reasons. The journal follows first half of Rivers' attempt to gather all of the lake towns together into one big Commonwealth, including the diplomatic schemes she has to partake in to attain such a goal. The journal also follows the relationship between Emilia and the Sewer Rat, who finds themselves caught up in an internal crisis that threatens to tear both the Adventurer's Guild and the Empire of Aether apart. The volume was originally intended to be called "A Rose of Five Petals" to cover up to the Commonwealth's formation, but became too long for that, and so a new name was chosen, and "A Rose of Five Petals" was reserved for the following volume.

Trivia

  • Due to the autobiographical nature of the journals, many of the events of the journals are ever so slightly skewed. In an interview, Rivers' has admitted that while all of the events in the journals are 100% factual, a few minor details about how she acts have been altered. In a later interview, she admitted that the most common change is the honourifics in which she refers to come characters. She admitted that she never in real life refers to the Emperor of Aether as "Lord Noxaros", but rather by his first name, Acero.
  • In an interview following The Lake and the Rivers, Rivers admitted that many of the chronology of the journals is rather hazy and times, and that many of the "weeks" were actually spans of days or months.
  • The first five books in the series share a coincidentally similar chronology to the events of The Acts, a series of concept albums by American rock band The Dear Hunter. Both feature their main protagonist:
    • Leaving their home to explore the world (Act I and The Best is Yet to Come)
    • Being shipped off to, and having to directly face the horrors of, war (Act II/III and The Tyrant King/Year of the Rat)
    • Having to deal with the consequences of suddenly becoming the mayor of their home city (Act IV and With Any Luck)
    • Communicate with ghosts, shortly before their fight with the main antagonist (Act V and Ghosts)
  • The similarity between Travels and Tales and The Acts is referenced in the title of Volume VII, as "The Lake and the River" is the name of a song by the band.