• Featured Novel: 'Legion: River' by Simona Colombo

    Simona Colombo's historical fantasy series The Legion focuses on the Secret Legion, a thousand-year old worldwide organization; its main purpose is to solve natural and supernatural mysteries of the universe through studies and missions assigned to its members. River, the first book, tells of a young man joining the Secret Legion and how this choice has affected his life and the life of people around him. When he joins the SL he is only 18 and, even if it happens accidentally, he is excited about this new life full of adventures and futuristic technologies. He also meets Aurora, who will become his wife, during a mission. Then something happens and River decides to leave the SL forever, but there will be one last important and dangerous mission to carry out: some legionnaires from the past need his help.

    The Italian author's interests in nature, science, horror, history, and paranormal events inspired her to create the Secret Legion as a reference to develop plots in different periods and locations for her self-conclusive stories. Colombo also travels a lot, and a lot of settings in her series are based on real-life locations that she's been to.

    Colombo decided to set her story in 1883 because was the year when Krakatoa blew up. The story of the island sinking and the following tsunami have fascinated and frightened her since she heard about it as a girl. Since then, films and books about this subject have continued to fascinate her. So much so, that she decided to go to Indonesia in 2013 to see Anak Krakatau, Krakatoa’s 'son', a new volcanic island that arose from the old caldera. It was a great experience that inspired her to write her books

    Interview with Simona Colombo

    Which kind of Paranormal activities in "Legion: River" do you think your readers will find the most interesting?

    Aurora, River's wife, has the gift, or the curse, of seeing and hearing beyond the border between our world and the afterlife. That's the talent that has attracted the attention of the Secret Legion. In this book she is kidnapped and taken in the afterlife and she can contact her family only during storms. This, of course, affects the relationship with her husband and young daughter.

    While River is looking for a way to bring her back, he is involved in the main mission told in the book: one of the seven gates of hell on earth is about to open in Australia. So readers will find ghosts and demons together with futuristic technologies.

    Of all the places you've traveled to, which do you think is the greatest inspiration for your work?

    Indonesia is one of my favourite destinations, I've been there several times exploring new islands every time. Those places combine ancient traditions and magic with modern culture and sometimes it is like a time travel through amazing landscapes. It is impossible not to be inspired there.

    Australia was also very interesting. The wild outback made me feel like there was something hidden in the desert, something to discover even if it looks like there is nothing at all between the red land and the huge blue sky

    What's the most challenging part of writing this book?

    Every book of the saga follows the adventures of a different legionnaire which intertwines with those of ancient colleagues. Of course, l needed to carry out some research to make the historical settings credible, so I read books, watch documentaries and use the internet to avoid historical errors. The criteria of choosing an era in which to develop my stories is simply down to personal choice. All of us have our own “favourite eras” and in my writings I like using those that struck my imagination. In the first chapter, River's flashbacks about his early missions alternate with the story of an archaeological expedition of 1883 when the tracks of 5 legionnaires are lost. I decided for 1883 because it is the year when Krakatoa blew up. In Legion, I wrote about that catastrophic event because the journal of a legionnaire caught up in that cataclysm ends up in River's hands and provides great revelations.

    Taylor, tells of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. It is the story of those bloody wars well known by everyone but of no one's interest, when the legionnaire, just like anyone else there, was waiting for an international intervention to stop the carnage.

    Among River’s memories, I made some other historical references, like the Twin Towers' fall two months before his daughter Maya’s birth, or the investigation into the disappearance of a group of hikers in the Urals in 1959 which was resumed by the Secret Legion 40 years later.I'd like to think that my readers would be encouraged to find out more about certain events, because they are part of the history of the world, rather than just the plot of Legion.

    What kind of futuristic technologies do we expect to find in the world of your novel?

    Among the Secret Legion members, there are several scientists and engineers. They were selected and invited to join the organisation for their talent, but also for their ideas, considered too weird or ambitious for the official science.

    The legionnaires consider science a dynamic entity, without limits nor preconceptions. Official researches define as “anomaly” everything that does not conform with or challenges a recognised theory. On the contrary, the Legion deals with anomalies, welcoming some daring ideas without prejudice. In addition to the creation of super technological facilities, the Legion mainly invests in 2 projects: Vesper, linked to time travels, and Horizon, connected to space missions.Nik Peacock, River’s father, is a physics genius and Vesper project director. One of his tests destroyed a Legion base in 1993, but a new lab was created in the Bolivian Andes in record time, next to an astronomical observatory, where researchers have been trying to contact aliens.

    Over the years, the Legion engineers have managed to make the fleet of Comets energetically self-sufficient and invisible to any radar. The legionnaires have had thin tablets made in Graphene since the 90’s, while the official science discovered this innovative material only in 2004. Among the air fleet, the Swallow Tail used by River in his rescue missions, is a jewel able to perform difficult manoeuvres that any other common vehicle would not be up to.

    In order to create such marvels of technology and fantasy, I was helped by an expert friend of mine and combining his advice with research on the internet, I created the free-thinking and green science of the Secret Legion. I tried to describe it in a simple way with the aim to integrate it into the plot without any technical rigidities. The science to the service of adventure.

    Do the plots of the various protagonists throughout the series interact with each other?

    Yes, sometimes they do. I wanted every book to be self-conclusive, but some characters will appear in other legionnaires' stories or they talk about events told in other books, giving more details or citing the adventures of a colleague.

    Why does the Krakatoa incident and other tragedies fascinate you? And how does that tragedy influence your story?

    I like when Nature reminds us that we are only guests on this planet. I visited Krakatoa Island and climbed the volcano with its smoky mouth on the top, scary and beautiful at the same time. I also went to Stromboli, an active volcano in south Italy, and watched its lava fountains during night. I love the power of Nature, it is both destruction and creation, renovation and transformation.

    I told the story of Krakatoa's eruption in this book putting a legionnaire on a ship invested by the subsequent tsunami wave. In the shipwreck, his journal is lost and the sea will give it back many years after with shocking information

    Did you have to research about the culture of specific time periods?
    Of course, l needed to carry out some research to make the historical settings credible, even if the plot comes from my imagination. During 1883 expedition, the legionnaires are equipped with the outfit available at that time and they travel with the means of transport of the period. I learnt a lot reading books, watching documentaries and looking for information and images on the internet.

    What are the most prevalent themes of your series?

    Men's curiosity. In the Legion saga there are scientists who pursue knowledge, explorers who travel in remote places following a legend, engineers committed to designing machines to travel in space and time, people who wants to discover more about natural and supernatural mysteries. This is all about men's curiosity, this is what drives a legionnaire to adventure.

    Furthermore I investigate the relationships between the characters: friendship, loyalty, love and quarrels too.

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