Thomas Locke

An Analytical Review of ‘Merchant of Alyss’

cover-merchantReviews that point out a book’s flaws are painful for authors to read. But, wow, I certainly learn a lot from my readers!

In this analytical review of Merchant of Alyss, Emmanuel Boston says, “My goal here is to help you understand in which ways you will be influenced by this book (in addition to offering a few suggestions at a literary level).”

This review was first published on Emmanuel Boston’s blog, Preparing for Eternity. Reprinted with permission.

Merchant of Alyss is the second in Thomas Locke’s “Legends of the Realm” series, and the book picks up right where the first one left off… in fact, it picks up almost too quickly expecting you to remember the names and relationships of half a dozen characters in the first several pages.

Perhaps that’s my fault, but having read the first one a year previous, I would like some overlap reminding me of past events and persons. Nonetheless, the book begins with a couple interesting scenes that ‘hook’ and then progresses into a plot structure best described as a ‘journey’ motif.

The cohort of primary characters (which features a slight upgrade in diverse characterization from the first book) journeys from one place to another, and another—experiencing new locations and persons everywhere they go.

The Characters’ Motivation

Evil is on the rise again, and a mysterious dream spurs Hyam into action. In fact, one of the major themes revealed through these pages is “Purpose” or “Motivation.” They do something because they must.

Quote from Merchant of Alyss by Thomas LockeThe impetus shifts in several key moments, but the motivation always boils down to responsibility: I do this because I must do this, and I must do this because I ought to do this. In painting this theme throughout Merchant becomes an interesting narrative of ‘doing’ even if sometimes I don’t understand why I’m ‘doing’, how I’m doing, or even what I’m doing!

Sometimes this works; it provides an interesting compulsion for the characters to do. But other times it sets up the narrative to show its gears—moments when it becomes clear this event happened simply to move the story along, or when there’s a logic gap in the lore (and I’m left wondering with the characters who don’t see the obvious…because it’s not there).

And other times it forces the characters to discover certain innate abilities far too easily. This character suddenly finds he can understand and speak a language after hearing it 6 times. That character suddenly discovers they have mage ability to rival the masters of a school and thwart a hag who’s spent decades in practice. And that one is suddenly thrust into rulership when never would an earthly kingdom have been so hasty. All because the plot and the timeline demand this character be so capable.

Primary Theme

I think the second primary theme expounded and woven throughout the book is the ’need for newness’ in pursuit of future hope. Time and again the characters proclaim, “Wonder upon wonder,” or “The legends come alive” or “A thousand years of decrees and more have been broken,” and all of them serve to point us to the fact that the times are changing.

A new time requires new rules; the traditions were good for the time that is now passed, but they aren’t sufficient to guide us in the new days. This too is an uncommon theme which I found refreshing in the narrative.

Unlike the first theme, however, this theme is consistent throughout and doesn’t create plot holes or logic gaps. The world is in tension… the old still exists and to a certain extent binds the world and characters to it, but there is a newness that supersedes the old—in what ways it can. And it sets the stage for a momentous occasion that will color “the Realm” for all time to come.

Quote from Merchant of Alyss, epic fantasy by Thomas LockeOther themes play lesser roles, but nonetheless add color to the characters and actions. Themes of temptation, true knowledge of others, love, sacrifice, unification; each affords memorable, surprising scenes and are quick to illuminate similar scenes in my own life. Each serves to engrain the readers with the book’s philosophy of life and the world:

Selfless love for others exceeds all trials and paves new avenues of hope for a better life.

And the broader philosophy of the whole series:

Evil threatens to overtake life and good, but through the bonds of love, friendship, and hope, evil is vanquished.

Both are much needed in our culture. And I think the influence this book will have upon readers of fantasy is “not every temptation is worth the cost; selfless sacrifice achieves more good than selfish indulgence” even while every hopeless romantic is taught “not every desire receives its own happy ending”—truths well worth my time and consideration

Final Thoughts

A few final thoughts before I offer my commendation.

  1. It’s often hard to track the physical surroundings. Now, I’m a fan of Tolkien’s pages on trees, so I know I’m partly biased, and yet I found myself unable to imagine where the characters were and what things looked like. Oftentimes there would be a quick 1-2 sentence description and the dialogue would move on… then it would refer to some physical aspect I never even realized was there. This was particularly troublesome in battle scenes when something would interact with the landscape and I had to go back three pages to reread the brief sentence describing the area.
  2. At the risk of sounding contradictory, I really enjoyed the portion of the book that took place in the desert. I often find desert travel skimmed or avoided completely, and found Locke’s description about desert navigation fantastic! And yet… I still couldn’t quite imagine the whole surrounding area, or the physical trauma the characters experienced.
  3. Too often the characters seemed to know all the same information. Page after page characters would finish one another’s sentences. There was hardly any learning from character-character interaction. Everybody already knew it all (the exception being when Hyam would connect the dots and I was left with the characters still ‘not getting it’). Give us a good monologue or two, or five! In fact, there was a distinct lack of long paragraphs, long thoughts started and carried to conclusion, no soliloquys. And again, I recognize my bias: I enjoy Shakespeare. And characters can be left in mystery, uncertainty, and ignorance—it is no flaw or sin.

Comparison to Emissary

So, how does this compare to the first? Pretty similar in plot and style, though better in characterization; fresh and exciting in themes; lacking in dialogue; disjointed at times, and yet the ‘big picture’ fits surprisingly well with the mosaics.

Most of the book feels like it’s setting us up for something bigger, and so in the way of many sequels: it’s a slight dip in anticipation of something pretty remarkable.

I give it 3.5/5 stars, but I round up (particularly because how credible the temptation element was, and powerful the scenes of self-revelation).

I recommend this book to readers of high fantasy, with an emphasis toward the 15-21 age range.

Despite its flaws, this book helps me evaluate decisions I make in my own life; relationships I have, and what they are built upon. And I with Hyam and the others look forward with hope beyond the evil, where every foe is vanquished and life restored.

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Q&A: How I grappled with using magic in ‘Merchant of Alyss’

Q&A with Thomas Locke: There’s magic in “Merchant of Alyss.” What do you hope readers take away from the “magic” element in the story?Q: There’s magic in Merchant of Alyss. What do you hope readers take away from the “magic” element in the story?

Thomas Locke: The issue of using magic was something I grappled with for some time. I found immense guidance from the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Four thousand years ago, when the concept of “epic” fiction originated, there was a specific purpose behind stories where magic and mythical beasts played major roles.

The Greeks sought to create worlds that were bigger than life, with challenges and obstacles that were completely and utterly beyond the reach of mortal man.

The authors sought to portray through story that a normal human being can grow beyond the impossible challenges of life. They wanted to show normal people, with flaws and weaknesses as great as those we all carry today, can in fact rise up. They can triumph.

That is what I seek to do with the Legends of the Realm series. I want to return to the original aims of fantasy fiction. I want to re-insert the concept of heroic struggle, and challenges greater than life, and triumphs over evil and darkness.

‘Emissary’ hits #1 on CBA Bestseller List!

News Flash!

I just learned that Emissary hit #1 on the CBA bestseller list (January 2016) for Fiction Books: Fantasy/Sci-fi.

Legends of the Realm - an epic fantasy series by Thomas LockeWow! That is amazing, especially since the novel was released over a year ago.

Emissary is currently #2 on the February CBA bestseller list, keeping company with classics such as:

The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis

Hinds’ Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard

The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis

Two other contemporary authors are also in the CBA top 5 for Fantasy/Sci-Fi during January and February:

The Shock of Night, by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House Publishers)

A Tale of Three Kings, by Gene Edwards (Tyndale House Publishers)

I’m thrilled by this news, particularly since Emissary was written for a mainstream reader and does not contain overt “Christian” content. Apparently, lots of people who enjoy Christian fiction also like mainstream fantasy fiction that isn’t gory, sexed up, or profane.

This is such a great advent to the release of book 2 in the Legends of the Realm series, Merchant of Alyss (which released January 5, 2016).

A huge, heartfelt THANK YOU to those of you who have been purchasing Emissary!

When is book 3 in the Legends series coming?

People have been asking, “When does book 3 in the series come out?”

I’m not sure. I’m hoping for a third “Legends” book sometime in 2017, but nothing is set in stone yet. I’ll let you know when I know!

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8 Reviewers Weigh in on ‘Merchant of Alyss’

Merchant of Alyss by Thomas LockeWe’re hearing from eight reader-reviewers today, with brief excerpts from each review. Please click on each name to read their full review.

Featured today:

  1. Rachel Stark
  2. Josiah Cantrell
  3. Lydia Blow
  4. Greg Enns
  5. Sherry Arni
  6. Dave Milbrandt
  7. Crystal Acosta
  8. Jan Jonaitis

“I’m loving the Legends of the Realm fantasy series! It reminds me of Lord of the Rings with its wizards, different races, and a hidden and enchanted Elvin forest. I loved getting lost in this fantasy world…There is much to love about this book – romance, humor, adventure, epic battles, dragons, enchanted forests, good vs evil – this is must read fantasy fiction!”
Rachel Stark

“Hyam’s adventure continues to be deeply emotional, and it was a joy to read through and partake of his ups and downs. The story flows smoothly and has a great pace. I recommend this book as even better than the first one.”
Josiah Cantrell

Quote from Merchant of Alyss by Thomas Locke“I am an older lady, and this genre is not my usual reading. I found myself caught up in the realm of wizards, elves, Milantians, golems and dragons… I don’t like to read books with bad language, and I didn’t have to worry about that with this book.” 5 Stars
Lydia Blow

“A great plot with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. I loved it. This is fantasy at its best.”
Greg Enns

“In Merchant of Alyss, author Thomas Locke continues the page-turner classic fantasy series begun in Emissary. In this second book in the Legends of the Realm series, danger again threatens the realm, and Hyam, the hero who saved the realm earlier, is called to come to the rescue once more.”
Sherry Arni

“Locke refuses to rush the beginning of this tale, reminding us of the story of Hyam and Joelle, and introducing us to Shona, who has her own agenda that doesn’t always coincide with our hero’s. As the tension builds, Locke draws you further into the narrative, providing twists that keep you turning the page desperate to find out more. 5 Stars.”
Dave Milbrandt

Quote from Merchant of Alyss by Thomas Locke“The stakes are high as Hyam takes on a quest to save the realm and save the life of his love, Joelle. He and his comrades face relentless opposition as they make their perilous journey to the ancient, ruined city of Alyss.”
Crystal Acosta

“Thomas Locke has a way of drawing out the personalities of the characters in his stories. What I enjoy best about his writing style is that he is not afraid to reveal a little at a time regarding the plot or players.”
Jan Jonaitis

10 People will win ‘Emissary’ and ‘Merchant of Alyss’

Like for a chance to win Emissary and Merchant of AlyssIt’s so much fun to give away books! So I’m giving away 10 copies each of Emissary and Merchant of Alyss starting right now.

To enter, visit my Facebook page at Find the graphic that looks like the one here and like it (Here’s a direct link to the FB update:

Get 2 bonus entries

  1. Comment on the post (on my Facebook page) to get a bonus entry.
  2. To get a SECOND bonus entry, comment on this post, right here on my blog.

Contest closes Sunday, January 24 at 11:59PM PST, and I’ll list all 10 winners Monday on my Facebook page. Be sure to stop by my page to see if you won; if you are a winner, follow the instructions there so my publisher (Revell) can send your books.


Here’s a ready-made tweet-length update. Hope you’ll share it with your social media friends, fans, followers, connections… you get the idea.

You could win EMISSARY + MERCHANT OF ALYSS at Enter by 1/24, 11:59PM PST.

Q&A: My Inspiration for Legends of the Realm Fantasy Series

Q: Please tell us about Merchant of Alyss and what inspired the story.

Thomas Locke: Merchant of Alyss is the second book in my Legends of the Realm fantasy series. At the end of Emissary (book 1), the young mage, Hyam, loses the magical powers he had recently gained.

When the Merchant of Alyss opens, Hyam has everything he always thought he would want – a home and a wife – but he feels like a cripple.

Merchant of Alyss is the story of Hyam regaining his magical powers. But as he does so, he discovers that there are some obstacles even powerful magic can’t overcome. As Hyam risks everything, he gains something more valuable than magic.

Legends of the Realm - an epic fantasy series by Thomas LockeQ: What inspired you to write the Legends of the Realm series?

Thomas Locke: In about half the stories I write, there is a specific instance on which I model the story structure. But that wasn’t the case for Emissary or Merchant of Alyss. One morning, those stories just sort of arrived. I had a sense of walking into a full-blown concept of what I wanted to do.

For the Legends of the Realm series, my primary goal was to create the classical, smooth-flowing style of The Hobbit. I was shooting for the lyrical “feel” of a Dickens story, but one that reads speeds along like today’s thriller.

Q&A with Thomas Locke: What was your inspiration for the Legends of the Realm series, and who did you write it for?Q: For what audience did you write this novel?

Thomas Locke: Increasingly, the younger generations within the faith community are moving away from the mind-set of their parents. I am not suggesting that they are abandoning their faith. What I mean is, they are abandoning their parents’ concept of church.

Many younger believers are trending towards a faith that dwells inside the larger mainstream world. Their lives no longer center upon a church so large it contains its own sense of community. They worship in home churches, or smaller centers focused on outreach. They accept a multi-cultural and multi-racial lifestyle, and seek a church that reflects this.

And their entertainment is being drawn from this wider arena.

At the same time, they are not comfortable with much of the darkness that dominates current television and movie trends. With this Thomas Locke brand, I seek to join a small but growing number of believers who are doing this with books and film.

The preliminary response, both from within the younger generations in our faith community, and from the mainstream, has been more than wonderful. It has been a gift.

A Spoiler-Free Review of ‘Merchant of Alyss’

Merchant of Alyss by Thomas LockeReviewer, Kevin Denis, promises that his will be a “spoiler-free” review. This review was originally published on Random Reading and More. Reprinted with permission.

It is rare that I pick up a fantasy title off the shelf and find myself transported into the realm and its surroundings as easily as I have with Thomas Locke’s “Legends of the Realm” series. For me, only C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” has come anywhere this close.

Locke’s second novel in the series, Merchant of Alyss, begins with Hyam still mourning the loss of his abilities as a mage. However, the loss of those abilities does not keep him from answering the call when amphorae containing ancient scrolls are found that lead him on a quest to prevent a war that could destroy the lands.

Joining him on this adventure are his wife/lover, Joelle; Meda, captain of the guard who was knighted following the Battle of Emporis.

Quote from Merchant of Alyss by Thomas LockeIn addition, Locke introduces several new characters, including Corporal Alembord of the guard; Shona, daughter of a scribe and distant cousin to the Earl of Oberon; Fareed, a mage; and Selim, who acts as caravan master and whose past hints at more mystery.

Merchant of Alyss shows Locke’s skill as an author as he weaves action, adventure, and characterization into a fine-tuned narrative that zips along. The author’s gift for story-telling is such that readers will have no trouble feeling the depths of Hyam’s grief in not having his magical ability, nor will they feel like they are on the sidelines when the battle rages.

Once again, Thomas Locke has me eagerly waiting for the next novel in the series.

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Q and A: Why did you write ‘Merchant of Alyss’?

Q&A with Thomas Locke: Why did you write “Merchant of Alyss”? What was your favorite scene to write?Q: Why did you write Merchant of Alyss?

Thomas Locke: I began work on Merchant of Alyss before Emissary (book 1 in the series) had been accepted for publication. I had no idea anyone would accept these stories, since they were so utterly different from what I had been writing up to that point. But I was so captivated by the concepts and the emotions that I had to write it.

Q: What was your favorite scene to write?

Thomas Locke: My wife was speaking at a conference in San Francisco, and I had come along to play spouse. I rented a bike and was cycling around the city when I was struck by the image of a guard standing on the parapet in a fierce winter storm, watching a new crimson mage. Who then turns away from the city, walks down to the magic grove protecting Hyam’s home, and attacks.

By the time we returned home, I had the first quarter of Merchant of Alyss mapped out.

What’s your favorite scene, readers?

If you’ve read Merchant of Alyss, did you have a favorite scene? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Merchant of Alyss launch date: January 5, 2016, from Revell.

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Watching DVDs is SO interfering with my writing!

I’m a member of BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. They have an annual awards show that is like the British version of The Oscars.

This is the beginning of the awards season. Since I’m a screenwriter as well as a novelist, I receive about five screenplays and DVDs per day in the mail that I “have” to watch before I can vote.

The first year I voted, I had no idea what to expect. I received a DVD player in the mail and had to register a special password they sent me to play the DVDs. My wife and I were traveling for three weeks, and when we returned from our trip, we couldn’t open the front door because so many UPS and FedEx envelopes had been pushed through the mail slot in the door.

I get to vote for the “Behind the Camera” screenwriting division, plus:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • Best Actor (female and male)
  • Best Supporting Actor (female and male)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Best Original Screenplay

Reading screenplays and watching films is my free time. It’s such a rough gig! (And yes, I get to keep the DVDs.)

Some of the films I’ve received include The Martian; The Renevant, with Leonardo DiCaprio; and Sicario, with Emily Blunt.

Here’s the trailer for The Renevant:

As for my votes? Well, that’s a closely-guarded secret!

What do you do in your free time?

Would love to hear about the interesting and unusual things happening in your life!

‘Emissary’ ebook Free December 24 – 31

Emissary by Thomas LockeWhat a lovely Christmas gift! The ebook version of Emissary is FREE from December 24-31, 2015.

From January 1 through February 29, 2016, it’ll be $6.99.

It’s the perfect time to get “caught up” before diving into book 2 in the series, Merchant of Alyss (which releases January 5).

Here are links to Emissary at several popular online booksellers:

Added Bonus

You could win a copy of Merchant of Alyss from The Book Club Network. The contest runs through December 31. To enter, leave a comment on this post at The Book Club Network blog.

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