Wars of Light and Shadow

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The Wars of Light and Shadow is a series of fantasy books by Janny Wurts which takes place on the world of Athera. The story explores the ambiguities of good and evil through the tale of two half-brothers, Arithon and Lysaer, set in conflict.

The idea for this series originated while the author was researching tactics and weapons. A documentary film on the brutal Battle of Culloden Moor gave her the historical sense of the fighting stripped of any romantic patina. It also helped her realize that education, written history and entertainment serve to justify the actions of the winners and portray the losers as morally wrong and evil. The series portrays the fictional conflict of Lysaer and Arithon in sympathetic terms, illustrating each side with equal pathos. The story tracks the martial, political and personal conflicts of the characters, and the different tactics used by each - a mass following in one case, and a solitary wandering in the other. Wurts narrates each character from their own perspectives, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions about the morality of individual actions[1].

Janny Wurts has written many other books outside of this series -- a complete list can be found on the Bibliography page.

Story Arcs

The entire story as envisioned by the author is organized into five story arcs. As the series progresses, some story arcs have been split into multiple bindings due to the physical limitations on the size of a bound book. When this occurs, the author ensures that each book within the arc ends at a reasonable stopping point in the action and the overall momentum of the plot culminates in the final book of the arc.

Major Story Arcs

Short Stories in this Universe

Janny Wurts has also written six short stories which take place in the Wars of Light and Shadow universe. These short stories are not required reading to enjoy the main story, but they provide insight and detail that will allow readers to understand and anticipate future events.

...if you read the related stories it will give you a window into what you are seeing in the novels. Each one fleshes out a facet (and sometimes even, previews) a major unfoldment that the story will cover - but if you have access to the short material, you will see it coming in the main novels in FAR MORE detail than you would if you looked at the novels, alone. I am not making it impossible to see these issues from the main story alone - but when the main story covers these points, there will not be NEARLY the insight and detail, as the focus of the novel can't shift sideways to accommodate.[3]

The author has provided a recommended reading order for the short stories:[4]

Author's Commentary

Spoiler warning: Contains plot elements from multiple books in the series.

The author states that each arc of the story has a specific creative thrust. "Each arc gradually deepens the reader's understanding of the other factions and the interaction/flow of the various forces inherent in Athera, coupled with those that live there."[6] While the series does not sprawl, it continues to unpack the context behind and beneath the straightforward action, altering the reader's perception of past and ongoing events.

  • Arc I sets the stage for the entire series.
  • Arc II shows the shifts in perspective of each half-brother resulting from the failure of their respective strategies.
  • Arc III lifts the vantage point of the reader to a world view, allowing them to begin understanding the various factions.
  • Arc IV starts staging for a view from the perspective of Athera's Mysteries -- a more planetary view.
  • Arc V will open the struggle to the Epoch level, finishing the series with all levels in play.



  1. Wars of Light and Shadow entry on Wikipedia
  2. Some editions have a single binding.
  3. Forum Post, February 18, 2007
  4. Reddit Post, December 6, 2017
  5. Forum Post, August 5, 2018
  6. Forum Post, December 15, 2004