Omar Abdelaziz: First Egyptian Author to Break into the World of Fantasy

By Basma Mostafa


Having grown up surrounded by tales of children getting sent off to wizard school and several noble houses fighting a civil war over who should be king, Omar Abdelaziz became fascinated with fantasy novels, so fascinated, in fact, that the lines between reality and fantasy became blurred and the characters he read about found their way into his dreams and transformed his sleep into a vivid scene of events.

Much like watching a movie, Abdelaziz’s dreams have constructed plots and developed characters. “I first saw the two main characters of my novel, Prince Damien and Lady Maxine, in a dream I had in 2011. They were out celebrating their anniversary in a green meadow somewhere in East Germany when they suddenly saw a little girl running around. Because it did not make sense that such a little girl would be out on her own in such a vast space, they followed her into a cave, soon realizing that the girl was no more than bait used to draw them into an entirely different world,” Abdelaziz recounts.

Having been introduced to the very basic idea of his novel “War of Shadow: The Dark Throne”, Abdelaziz built on his characters and chose a setting for his story. “Not long afterwards, I was rushing to put their lives on paper as those two characters broke free from my control and — by having a will of their own — lived their lives freely in my imagination. Soon, the plot expanded into this huge world with several other characters who shared the spotlight,” Abdelaziz says.

While it may seem that it is usually the writer who crafts the destiny of his characters, they were completely in charge of their own fate in Abdelaziz’s book. “No one can actually believe that I was just rushing to document events that were naturally taking place in my head. A part of my mind was imagining all these scenes and witnessing all these conversations,” he explains.


Why Fantasy?

Growing up, Abdelaziz had read the entire collection of “Harry Potter”, “Lord of the Rings”, “The Hobbit”, “Wheel of Time” and “Game of Thrones”, which hugely influenced his interest and, as the emerging author himself puts it, created an “addiction to” the genre. He found that he was only able to escape the mundane reality of day-to-day routine through the plots, schemes and battles found in the pages of fantasy novels. In that genre, materialism has no place and worlds are instead built with power, love and steadfastness.

“Reading fantasy takes you into a totally different world, one where you can carry a bow and shoot arrows, practice magic and be a wizard; a place that you can be in complete control of,” he adds.
Following the path of “Game of Thrones” and “Lord of the Rings”, the novel is the first of a thrilling trilogy that depicts the struggle between good and evil. It captures how the world of darkness takes over that of light over the course of thousands of years.

The novel takes place in “Arkhalia”, a once peaceful, blooming realm that is torn apart when Lord Azarius’ arrogance and abhorrence strips his mind of its defenses, leaving it bare before the evil of Ibliss, who ensnares him. By Ibliss’ evil bidding, Azarius is transformed into a tyrant — a vassal of darkness — whose sole desire is to bring destruction and ruin upon the world.

Furthermore, Abdelaziz joined mixed martial arts (MMA) practice in 2007, an experience that helped acquaint him with real-life feelings of being in a fight. “I have been able to write the battle scenes in my novel as someone who has been there, someone who can vividly describe what it feels like to swing a fist at someone or move their elbow protectively over their face,” he describes.

The Challenges of Being a Writer

The journey of creating the novel “War of Shadow: The Dark Throne” took Abdelaziz four years of rigorous and focused writing. “I have always known that it usually takes an author one to two years to complete a book, but it took me longer as I have a full-time job as a Logistics Manager and I also teach at a university on Saturdays,” Abdelaziz adds. “I am also a father and a husband, so I always have the challenge of trying to stick to my schedule and learn how to prioritize tasks.”

Abdelaziz would write for two to three hours per day, build up the momentum until he was writing four or five hours, and by the final weeks of completing the novel, he spent 12 hours narrating the destiny of his characters. It may not have always been an easy ride, but the fruits of his labor finally paid off. The novel was released in early June by the Maqam Publishing House, and the second installment is planned to be out in stores in 2019 and the third in 2021.


War of Shadow: The Dark Throne

Because he dreams of getting his book in every bookstore overseas, Abdelaziz decided to publish “War of Shadow: The Dark Throne” under the pseudonym “Abba Ryan”.

“Before signing with Maqam, I tried contacting several international publishing houses; however, being an Arab writer based in the Middle East with the name Omar did not benefit me, and I was met with severe rejection from American and British publishers and literary agents. That is when I decided to go with my nickname ‘Abba Ryan’, as people in the West could easily remember a name like that. It also holds a meaning in the Arabic language as ‘the father of Ryan’ (his son),” Abdelaziz explains.

The reader is drawn into the world of “Arkhalia” from the outset by the book cover, which features a human-like figure holding a sword while traces of what seem like an annihilated world is portrayed behind him. Despite his evil facial features, his eyes still look human and one can almost detect a hint of sorrow in his gaze.

“The book cover resembles a human being, who is being ensnared by the ‘darkness’. Essentially, seeds of good and evil are engraved into our souls, yet deciding which will take over the other is the core of human existence,” Abdelaziz concludes.

The novel can be found in Al-Shorouk, Diwan and Alef bookstores.