Explore the World
The Plight of Steel is set in a vast fantasy world based primarily on the European Dark Ages. Each country showcased in the books can be compared to a real world culture, with creative liberties taken for changes to be made, of course.
Care is taken to use historically accurate terminology and visuals, which are combined with fantasy elements to reach a creative, but grounded, end result.
Tony Del Degan is a stubborn, ambitious writer, who will stop half way through a chapter to find the correct name of a specific plate of armor, or an image of real-world jousting raiment in order to describe things accurately.
Magic and religion are important themes in the story, but as anti-themes in a way. They are treated differently than they would be in a typical fantasy book. No one knows if they are real, or fake.
Magic could be a gift from heavenly deities, or a genetic mutation. The answer is never clearly stated. The same goes for religion. Just as it is in the real world, it is up to the interpretation of the person witnessing, or reading, the events.
Plight of Steel on Twitter
“A smile is deceptive, I have found. Some are real… and some are false. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.”— Inter-Moden California (@intermodencali) May 12, 2020
― Tony Del Degan, The Plight of Steel#medieval #medievaltimes #medievalcostume #medievalgarb #medievalfestival #LARP #larpcostume #cosplay #cosplaycostume pic.twitter.com/zLziftKi0v
Real World, Real Story
When I started writing this series, I had the intention from the very beginning to base the characters and conflicts on my own life and experiences. Every author does this to an extent, but for me, this was personal.
I’ve never wielded a magic sword or fell captive to a sadistic, slave-trading prince, but that’s allegory for you. All the rest is based on history, which is a passion of mine – specifically medieval history.
There is a specific character whose journey and personality are entirely based on my own. I’ll leave you to figure out who…
The rest of them are parts of me – some good, and others bad. The bad ones are typically exaggerated to an extreme for dramatic effect, though. They do some pretty unforgivable things.
How do I weave history into this story? If you share my passion for it, have a read of the content below. If you find it boring… well… just skip this bit.
It’s important that I ground this series. I’m never a fan of ridiculous magic battles and flying sailing boats and orcs and goblins and dwarves. The latter three are good for Tolkien, but if you’re not him, it just gets tiresome.
The weapons in The Plight of Steel are all real world, period examples – minus the elvish blades and fantastical stuff, obviously. Those are based on real pieces.
Amyliana Valinor, for example, carries a rapier. This is obviously a real-world weapon. The elvish swords, like Evyndin, the blade wielded by the Lord of Ashes, are modeled after a rapier, but with imagery of tree branches worked into the basket hilts.
Armor is commonly misused in fantasy. Television and film are sinners when it comes to reality and historical accuracy – and basic physics for that matter. I’ve done extensive research on the effect on an arrow shot at a piece of metal plate, mail, and other materials, for example. The YouTube channel Tod’s Workshop is brilliant for this stuff. He’s an English guy out on his property who tests stuff like this with weapons he made himself to historical specifications.
It’s incredibly important to me that when you read a fight scene, if someone in plate armor gets shot in the breastplate, the arrow will shatter and glance off – not dig in and kill the guy. What happens if you shoot a crossbow bolt at a shield? Turns out, it punctures and hits your arm on the other side. Little things like that ground the story even more in reality, and that’s important when there’s dragons flying around.
Want more detail? Visit the Wiki
There’s a Plight of Steel Wiki. It’s basically a Wikipedia dedicated solely to the novels, characters, and the world in general. Have a look.
Creating a Cover
My initial idea for the cover was rather basic. I was thinking of imagery that evoked the themes of the story, and thought a sword threaded through a crown would symbolize battle and royalty - the death of nobility and honor in the process of war. An artist was brought on to help me create a cover, and this idea was quickly dissolved. It's actually a very typical image on fantasy covers, and I did not want to be "just another fantasy story".
My artist came back with this image. The sword is still there, but now a fiery dragon silhouette is wrapping it. I gave some feedback and eagerly awaited the finished product. The deal fell through after months of nothing, however, leaving me scrambling to come up with a cover on my own.
I looked to history, as per usual, and thought it would be interesting to design it as if it were a tome in a medieval library. The metal corner plates read as ancient to me, and of course, the dragon head is always a signifier of fantasy. My very talented mother drew both the head and the corners, and I finally had a cover fit for the story. She also assisted by illustrating the sigils for each royal house.
Left my home on a winter’s day
Condemned for life to roam
Lost my heart in hills of sorrow, now
Sorrow is all that I know
I came upon a traveling man
Tears ran down from his eyes
He told me tales of hills of sorrow, and
Sorrowful now, he cries
Slow comes a solemn cry from an ancient wind
By a winding road I come to journey’s end
I found a king on a golden throne
His head was held in his hands
At his feet was a blade of sorrow, now
Sorrowful, weeps his land
Upon a fair gilded maiden I came
Flowers tied in her hair
She washed away my tears of sorrow, and
Promised my life would be fair
She washed away my tears of sorrow, and
Promised me life would be fair
As with almost any fantasy series, the inclusion of music and poetry is an important part of the worldbuilding of The Plight of Steel.
In the first novel, there’s very little, if any songs featured, but there is poetry. The second novel expands on this idea, and includes songs that act as metaphor in some chapters, and exposition in others.
Some will reveal a tale of some distant sailor, while others will be an allegory for the experience of one of the characters you are currently reading. As I am a guitar player, I write musical accompaniment for these songs that will be added below to give you a real auditory glimpse into the world.
What do the characters look like? Below are drawings of a few, with more being added whenever another gets made.