The name "Ethshar" can mean several different things, depending on context -- any of three cities, a couple of different empires, a kingdom, or a world. In this case, we mean the world -- which the inhabitants don't call Ethshar. They call it ''the World.''
That's not very original, but Ethsharites aren't much on originality. You don't give your three largest cities the same name if you want to be original.
The world of Ethshar is the setting for several novels and short stories, with more planned. Each of these stories is designed to stand on its own, so that a reader who picks up any one of them can understand and enjoy it, and may well not even realize it's part of a series. On the other hand, they do interrelate, so that the reader who does know it's a series will pick up references between stories and, I fondly hope, get a little extra out of it.
Some stories stand alone better than others. I am forced to admit that The Spell of the Black Dagger is probably not the best place to start, as it includes appearances by several previously-established characters. In particular, it helps to have read With A Single Spell before tackling it. Likewise, I wouldn't start with The Spriggan Mirror, which is more or less a sequel to With A Single Spell, and The Vondish Ambassador and The Final Calling are sequels to Night of Madness and The Unwilling Warlord
I think all the others should work fine as starting points. If anyone has evidence to the contrary, please let me know, okay? I don't want to mislead anyone.
The Ethshar stories are fantasy, but they don't quite fit in the usual niches in that field. They're not deadly serious, the tone's usually pretty light, but they're not outright farce or parody, either. You'll find a lot of happy endings and coming-of-age stories, and not much angst -- but puns are relatively scarce, and slapstick is usually kept to a minimum.
Ethshar stories don't have elves or unicorns or vampires in them, but they do have wizards and demons and dragons. Ethshar is not a generic medieval setting, but it does have castles and walled cities -- my original social model, before it took on a life of its own, was the Roman Empire of perhaps the late second century A.D. This sometimes seems very modern to a present-day reader, with its market economy and pragmatic religious attitudes, but honest, the model was originally loosely based on ancient Rome, when it was past its expansionist period but had not yet adopted Christianity.
However, unlike ancient Rome, Ethshar is a magic-rich environment.
Very magic-rich. What may be its most unusual feature is that the World of Ethshar has several different kinds of magic that relate and interact in different ways. The result is that most Ethsharites, being pragmatic folks, can't be bothered to learn about all the different varieties -- they just hire magicians as needed, of whatever sort is handy and willing.
You won't find many dark lords or epic quests in Ethshar, but there are still plenty of things that can go wrong and plenty of stories to tell.
For more information about Ethshar, the stories told so far, and the stories yet to come, follow the links.
He had seen pointed hats; they had once, he understood, been the standard issue for wizards until someone pointed out that they made excellent targets...
--The Misenchanted Sword, Chapter 1
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