Can Gail Martin Write an Epic Fantasy that Isn’t Epic Length?

Gail Martin is a master of epic fantasy, but can she write an epic that isn’t epic length? I asked her to discuss that with us as we welcome Scourge and Vengeance to our favorite books here at


Does Size Really Matter? What Makes Epic Fantasy…Epic?


By Gail Z. Martin


I have a reputation for writing ‘big fat fantasy’, because with my first three epic fantasy series (Chronicles of the Necromancer, Ascendant Kingdoms Saga and Darkhurst), my contracts called for a minimum of 175,000 words, or around 600 pages. I could go over that, but I wasn’t supposed to go under it.


Seriously, the books are bricks. You could probably inflict blunt force trauma, even with the trade paperback, if you hit someone in the head with one.


Scourge and Vengeance, the first two books in the Darkhurst series, are big books. Reckoning, the third and final book, will be close to the same size. Hard-core epic fantasy readers like big books (and they cannot lie). I hear from a lot of epic readers that they love the complex plots, big casts of characters, huge scope and detailed worldbuilding that goes along with the genre. It’s kind of like packing a steamer trunk to go on a long journey, because they want to move into the world and stay a while. Those readers are just fine with it taking days—or longer—to plow through a thick book, and with a plot big enough to require several books to resolve (as long as the author doesn’t take forever to finish up).


At the same time, there are readers out there who either used to read epic fantasy and are now pressed for time, or who shy away from the commitment of a book that might take weeks to read and a series that could require years. Maybe they’ve gotten hooked by watching a show on TV or a series on Netflix, and they want the epic feel without an epic commitment. I’ve talked to readers and to industry analysts who say that one way to woo former readers who have stopped reading to come back to the bookstore is by offering books that take about the same time commitment as watching a couple of episodes or a couple of movies. For me, that’s in addition to big-book series, not in place of.


That’s why my new Assassins of Landria series (coming in print, ebook and audio October 23) is different from the epic fantasy I’ve written before. The first book, Assassin’s Honor, is under 300 pages long. There are only two point of view characters (POV), and only the main heroes’ thread—not a villains thread/POV and not multiple interwoven threads. (By comparison, Vengeance has five different POV characters and plot threads that all weave together.) The Assassins series is also lighter in tone, more of a buddy flick take on the genre, something I’ve described as Butch and Sundance as medieval assassins. There’s a lot of snarky humor and smartassery, and then the plot will take a serious turn that makes you go, ‘wow, I didn’t see that coming!’.


I know that as a reader myself, sometimes I’m ready to dig into a big, meaty book, and other times I want something shorter and lighter. So I’m excited to be able to provide series that meet both criteria, so readers can choose their own adventure!



About the books:


A Darkhurst Novel

In a city beset by monsters, three brothers must find out who is controlling the abominations.


The city-state of Ravenwood is wealthy, powerful, and corrupt. Merchant Princes and Guild Masters wager fortunes to outmaneuver League rivals for the king’s favor and advantageous trading terms. Lord Mayor Ellor Machison wields assassins, blood witches, and forbidden magic to assure that his powerful patrons get what they want, no matter the cost.


Corran, Rigan, and Kell Valmonde are Guild Undertakers, left to run their family’s business when guards murdered their father and monsters killed their mother. Their grave magic enables them to help souls pass to the After and banish vengeful spirits. Rigan’s magic is unusually strong and enables him to hear the confessions of the dead, the secrets that would otherwise be taken to the grave.


When the toll exacted by monsters and brutal guards hits close to home and ghosts expose the hidden sins of powerful men, Corran, Rigan and Kell become targets in a deadly game and face a choice: obey the Guild, or fight back and risk everything.

Vengeance (Winner of the Manly Wade Wellman Award!)

A Darkhurst Novel (Book 2)

Fighting the monsters that killed their family and friends cost undertaker brothers Corran and Rigan Valmonde their home and livelihood and made them wanted men—but the worst is yet to come.


The city-state of Ravenwood is wealthy, powerful, and corrupt. Merchant Princes and Guild Masters wager fortunes to outmaneuver League rivals for the king’s favor and the best trading terms. Ambitious and ruthless leaders use betrayal and assassination to gain their ends. Blood magic conjures monsters to further the goals of the ruling class, and the price of stolen power is paid for by the deaths of commoners. Now, the fate of Ravenwood hangs in the balance as rival city-states maneuver to gain advantage.


 When Corran and Rigan and their friends became outlaw monster hunters and fled beyond the walls of Ravenwood City, they thought they had defeated the source of the abominations that killed so many of their friends and loved ones. But the more successful they become at destroying the creatures, the more they realize a greater evil is at work – larger and more monstrous than they ever could imagine…


  • ISBN-10: 1781085587
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781085585

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  • ISBN-10: 1939704758
  • ISBN-13: 978-1939704757
Purchase at:
Barnes & Noble:


Gail Z. Martin is the author of Scourge: A Darkhurst Novel, from Solaris Books. Gail is also the author of Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel and Trifles and Folly 1: A Deadly Curiosities Collection, the latest in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC; Shadow and Flame is the fourth book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga; The Shadowed Path (The first Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures collection), as well as Iron and Blood a Steampunk series, and Spells, Salt, & Steel, both co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

She is also author of Ice Forged, Reign of Ash, and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen); The Fallen Kings Cycle (The SwornThe Dread) and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities and Tangled Web. Gail writes three ebook series: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures and The Blaine McFadden AdventuresThe Storm and Fury Adventures, steampunk stories set in the Iron & Blood world, are co-authored with Larry N. Martin.


Gail’s work has appeared in over 35 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Heroes, Space, Contact Light, With Great Power, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Cinched: Imagination Unbound, Realms of Imagination, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens, Gaslight and Grimm, Baker Street Irregulars, Journeys, Hath no Fury and A Haven Harbor Halloween.


You can also find Gail on: Twitter @GailZMartin, on, at on Goodreads free excerpts on Wattpad

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