Ancient Relics is the first book in the novel series Shadow of the Ancients, by author Ellema Ummia. The setting is in a futuristic Space Opera setting, with the period dating to a time long after the initial civilizations of the universe have either gone extinct or lost; due to damage sustained from the passing of time and conflicts between the most powerful of the civilizations. The book blurb for the novel states:
After coming into possession of ancient relics, a small group finds themselves looking into the past. A new mystery beckons them to venture across their galaxy in search of clues to uncover the deeper truth to the enigma of the relics.
Peering from the depths, elusive and powerful beings attempt to decide whether they should assist the lesser races. The leader of the Asein Guardians persuades the Continuum Council to become involved.
Sgt. Zoey Sebastian, a medic with the 1st Special Forces Group, finds herself forever bound to a war on multiple fronts. Soon, she will learn her true purpose in life; and decide the fate of her entire universe.
Ancient Relics is a work of Quantum Fiction, with elements of humor, suspense, and mystery. Shadow of the Ancients, and other related works, are part of an inter-connected line of products and stories by the Tusk and Hoof Corporation.
(Warning: may contain spoilers)
The plot of the story follows a small group of explorers, archaeologists mostly, on a journey across their galaxy in search of relics that could assist their civilization in a war against another equally powerful civilization. Along the way, the team - who has been assigned a Cruiser class Exploration Star Ship (named The Wayfarer) specially fitted with combat armaments, and a Special Forces Group - begin unraveling a deeper mystery; one which hints to the existence of an ancient, lost race of extremely powerful beings; called the Asein (Uh-see-in).
A small group of archaeologists and planetary explorers are on a one-year exploration mission to a remote planet in a neighboring region of their galaxy when they are ambushed; the resulting action of an enemy reconnaissance team for the Drak Empire and a pursuing Special Forces team for the Trillian Alliance. One of the primary round characters, Dr. Logan Bailey, is subsequently wounded in the fire-fight. The explorers are evacuated off-world to an orbiting Hospital Ship, and then transported back to Alliance controlled space. The team discovers that their people are now at war with the Drak Empire and decide to take their losses and return home.
While back on their home planet, Dr. Bailey and his team are given relics, found to be in the possession of the captured Drak recon team, for further study and evaluation. The reasoning behind his team being chosen sways between his involvement up to the point, and the fact he is the Dean of the School of Archaeology for the primary university of the Trillian Alliance. During his research, he comes across one relic that baffles him and his entire team. The findings are important enough for him to immediately present the findings to the Alliance's head intelligence department; the Trillian Alliance Intelligence Directorate.
As a result, he and his team are linked to the Alliance's flagship Special Forces group - the 1st Special Forces Group - as a task force to search the galaxy for more information that could aid them in the war.
The occasion is a marked-occasion for celebration, as the task force is permanent and the people of the Trillian Alliance recognize the importance of combining the military and academic team together. Any findings that can assist in the war are great, however, since most of history is lost to the known worlds, the task force stands to discover links to history that could explain much of their lost origins.
As The Wayfarer travels from star system to star system in search of ancient relics, they are confronted by opposition from a Drak Special Forces Squadron tasked to hunt them down. Between battles and additional discoveries, The Wayfarer's crew relentlessly pursues the truth at all cost. On the journey, they pick-up two additional round characters, Oni Sanura (an Ubasti tomb raider) and Sophie Alexander (of unknown origins), who help with their search.
All of the worlds they are led to are long dead worlds once inhabited by the ancient Asein race. Relics discovered on one world lead the team to make a link between the lost civilization and a modern religion, practiced by the lead female hero; Sgt. Zoey Sebastian. After confronting Sgt. Sebastian with one of the relics, her role in the journey becomes more than important; as it now irreversibly links her to a greater struggle beyond their comprehension.
Discovering that Sophie Alexander may hold the key to winning a victory over the Drak incursion, the Intelligence Directorate orders the Commander of The Wayfarer to retrieve any information from her they can. A mysterious event occurs involving Sophie, leaving the crew bewildered and lost without a new destination. Further research made by Dr. Bailey provide a final clue to the next step of their journey and a new mystery; opening the door to a better understanding of where they come from and a more concise explanation of the universe. A final confrontation between The Wayfarer and the Drak Empire's battle fleet leave the explorers cornered and trapped.
The last mystery of the book is unveiled in the closing chapters as the final mystery is revealed to the crew of The Wayfarer. Many more questions are generated from the encounter, but the revelation allows an opening to greater understanding in the long-run, as Sophie brings Zoey into the fold of her personal mission and provides Dr. Bailey with the opportunity he needs to continue the search for answers.
The closing chapter finishes-out the first book and opens the door to the second book with hints to what they are looking for next and where they will be searching. A brief explanation is given regarding the ship and its crew before they prepare to travel to the first solar system for the second leg of their journey.
The Shadow of the Ancient series is primarily directed at college aged young adults and older, intellectually minded, readers. The genre, Quantum Fiction, is a hybrid-genre (Cross-Genre); incorporating genre specific details of science fiction, fantasy, and realism. In addition, the series attempts to incorporate clean humor, mystery, and action-suspense, along with properties of real-world intellectual concepts in theory and philosophy.
The structure of style heavily follows the traditional Hero's Journey. The story begins with a primary introduction of the main characters, character descriptions, and some back story.Then, the story moves into the rising action leading into the climax of the story, providing some more key details into the conflict and more descriptions and back story. After the climax, the story moves into the falling action by indicating the close is coming soon and providing elements of mystery (by adding more questions to the mix, to help assure uncertainty). Finally, the closing is brought in, added some more mystery, and presented new details to leave the reader wanting more (lead-in for the second book).
The main theme of the story is simple; Ancient Relics is a space opera. However, there are added themes to the mix. As stated before, Ancient Relics adds elements of fantasy, realism, and other themes to the over-all science fiction theme - which defines the novel as a work of Quantum Fiction.
The over-all theme is science fiction. Given this is a space opera, the background setting is a futuristic environment spanning an entire galaxy (the Trillian Galaxy). The main factions involved are space-faring civilizations in a dystopian universe of advanced civilizations warring until little remains of their original culture, technology, and history. The factions all have an invested interest in discovering their history, and each has their own center for archaeological research. Teams are sent to various parts of their galaxy in search of relics, writings, and other cultural clues to their past.
While Ancient Relics only, initially, identifies two primary civilizations (the Trillian Alliance and Drak Empire - which are at war with one another), the story leaves open for interpretation that there are other civilizations not yet explored; which will come in future expansions to the story.
Initially, there is little in the way of overt details indicating fantasy has any role in the creation of the backstory, details emerge that point to fantasy being enrolled into the story. Descriptions of varying races indicate a fantasy influence on the story; such as the Doran race - tall, thin, blond haired humanoids with pale skin and elongated ears not only describe the science fiction alien race known as the Tall Whites, but also - at least partly - describes elves of popular fantasy culture.
The Drak Empire, and descriptions of the sub-races in the Drak Empire, also point to hints of fantasy as they resemble a race of humanoids depicted in fantasy stories and video games - beings descendant from dragons. Additional details hint to a more mystical, or astral, origin to the Asein race; leading to further the assimilation of fantasy into the story.
All of the story details are based - even if only loosely - to information prescribed in science fact (non-fiction, real-world science). While not apparent or obvious, a detail oriented reader may notice several concepts introduced by the story are based directly on real-world templates, technology, concepts, theories, and philosophies. One of the primary contributors to the base story-line is the influence religion has on the characters in the story.
The action sequences throughout the story bury the reader in the events, leading way to a fast paced story. Given the first edition of the novel is only 26 chapters long, with over 40,000 words, a reader may not notice they have read for hours before taking a break. Read front to back - straight through - the book can be read in roughly 6 hours (depending on reading speed). Unlike many science fiction creations, there are few points in the story that "invent" nonsensical words, technology, or concepts. And, when such a case could be argued, the author describes and identifies the definitions of the fabricated words, describes the technology and how it works (in theory), and illustrates the understanding behind the concepts. This allows the reader to focus more on what is happening and less on how it happens.
There are only three battles throughout Ancient Relics. The first takes place in the introduction, the second takes place during the rise, and the final confrontation takes place over 2 chapters in the fall. The battles move quickly, and depict the placement and environments of the characters in the conflicts.
In a number of random locations, "clean" humor is used; that is, humor that does not use vulgarity, sexism, racism, or any other form of humor that comes across as obscure, taboo, or offensive. Many, of which, are subtle and to the point (overt). Some of the humor may even be considered dry, although a laugh or two may still arise from even the driest parts.
The primary story arch, as well as the secondary - larger - story arch are shrouded with mystery. While not like a mystery novel - where the protagonist searches through clues to solve a mystery (such as in the case of crime and punishment novels) - Ancient Relics covers the overt truth behind hints that a skilled mystery reader could solve quickly and easily. Some of the clues are overt, but the truth behind the mystery is much less likely to be solved as easily. Such is the case with the larger scope of the story; the secondary story arch.
While the main characters of the story-line search clues for answers to their questions, the characters remain unaware of the bigger picture they are stumbling into. This is where Zoey's role plays its part, and leads her down a separate path from the others. Very few details emerge in the primary story arch to hint as to what the secondary arch could be about; but a major overt clue is given when Sophie "explains" the truth to Zoey in the interrogation room.
The origin of the whole story-line began while the story's designer, Kenneth Sweeney, was deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005-06. There, he spent his free-time working on a science fiction themed RPG board game, similar to Dungeons and Dragons.
Upon his return home, he began studying Video Game Design with hopes of adapting the back-story he created into an MMORPG. From there, the project grew; bringing in close friends and family into the project. After several years of work on the game's design, Kenneth began developing the back-story into a more detailed canon of details. In 2013, he decided to incorporate the canon of the story-line into a series of novel to foreshadow the game as an introduction into the game's lore.
In 2015, Kenneth initiated the first steps to starting his own business, with the registration of The Tusk and Hoof Corporation (THC) as the official Doing Business As name for the start-up and the filing of copyrights for the manuscript Ancient Relics; which was initially published as an e-book on Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) site. In 2016, Ancient Relics was reformatted for print publication.