Ignition is bringing Arthurian legend to Vancouver

UBC doctoral graduate Emma Shelford is taking characters of Arthurian legend and setting them in modern-day Vancouver in her new urban-fantasy novel Ignition.

The book tells the story of Merlin, King Arthur’s mysterious magician friend who has been waiting for Arthur to return to life ever since he passed away centuries ago. Immortal and incapable of aging, Merlin works as a university professor in Vancouver.

However, a series of earthquakes and growling volcanoes thrusts Merlin back into action, as his concealed magical powers are the only way for Vancouver to avoid a potential catastrophe.

Although Vancouver isn’t exactly a common setting for fantasy literature, Shelford said the choice to set her novel in Vancouver was an easy one to make.

“I quite like the thought of having magic right around the corner,” she said. “I know Vancouver so well and I could see magic in Vancouver for sure.”

Born and raised in Victoria, Shelford pursued a doctorate degree at UBC in Earth and Ocean Sciences, where she trained to be a biological oceanographer. A long-time lover of literature inspired by fantasy writers such as Mary Zimmer Bradley and Madeline L’Engle, Shelford wrote much of her first book, Marks of the Breenan, on the bus to UBC while pursuing her doctorate.

“It’s a nice sort of release from my artistic side, I would say," she said. "When you’re just doing science it’s nice to branch out a little."

“I spent a lot of time on the bus in Vancouver. You commute a lot, and I just saw myself daydreaming quite a bit, and it happened to be on that subject matter. While I was waiting for feedback on my dissertation I had a bit of spare time, so I thought I’d start writing.”

Shelford spent less time on the bus this time around, which gave her a chance to fully plot out Ignition and write more of it on the computer.

With Ignition's release at the end of May, Shelford is currently finishing the second book in her Marks of the Breenan series, which she hopes will be released around November.

Ignition is also the first novel in Shelford’s six-part Musings of Merlin series, and she has already begun writing the second instalment. Each of the first four books in the series will deal with a different element. Ignition is based around fire, while the next three will deal with air, earth and water, respectively.