Marshall Ryan Maresca Guest Post & Giveaway: Tsoulja Culture Report


From VBC HQ: We love both magic and mayhem, so it’s no surprise we’re excited about Marshall Ryan Maresca’s latest An Import of Intrigue (Amazon), which will hit bookstores on Nov. 1. Marshall’s here today to talk about the world of Maradaine, and we’ve snagged a set of the Maradaine Constabulary novels to give away to a lucky reader. Read on for more from Marshall:


An Import of Intrigue takes place in a part of the city of Maradaine called “The Little East,” a handful of blocks populated by enclaves of immigrants and foreigners from all over the larger world.  Most citizens of Maradaine avoid these enclaves, and their only understanding of other countries and cultures comes from Augustine Montrose’s memoir, My Travels of the World.  Here we look at an excerpt from his book, where he talks about one of the cultures encountered in An Import of Intrigue.

Tsoulja - Import of Intrigue Map

I believe I could spend ten lifetimes in Tsoulja, and never truly understand it.  My initial impression was of a place of simple tranquility, where the people live a balanced life, their environment at harmony with their modern civilization, their mundane hand-in-hand with their mystical. One can hardly feel otherwise when walking through one of their great cities, which are like nothing else I had seen.  Rek Nayim is an enormous garden, meticulously maintained and exquisitely beautiful, with the buildings all low and sparsely laid out.  I couldn’t imagine how such a place could be home to so many people, until I learned that the Tsouljans do not build up or out, but down.  All the buildings had a vast array of cellars and interconnecting tunnels— the true city was below ground.

While I never felt my initial impression was incorrect, I never found satisfaction in how it all worked. Nearly every aspect of Tsouljan life— governing, building, study, farming— seems to be dictated by unspoken agreement. Everyone simply does what they are supposed to, does what Tsoulja needs them to do.  Yet this occurs without any obvious centers of authority or trappings of power.  I felt like a clockmaker, looking inside of a strange clock to examine the gear work and finding only stones and strings.  I understand that Tsoulja works as a civilization, I am at a loss to understand truly how.

My direct questions would not yield clear answers.  Is Tsoulja a singular nation, is it a formal union of some twenty-odd principalities, or is it a shared cultural identity that these many countries on the Tyzanian continent share?  The answer to all three seems to be “Yes, but not exactly.”  Is anyone in charge?  Who are your rulers?  The answers to those questions were far too complicated for me to delve into here.

One thing I learned was how much of Tsouljan society, and with it daily life, is dictated by two cultural concepts: the linsol and the jhenla.  The linsol is a caste system of sorts, in that every child is assigned one of the four linsols at birth: Rek, Fel, Vil and Rup.  These words roughly translate to “Mind”, “Heart”, “Arm” and “Hand”.  Were I to assign a simple name for the Tsouljan castes, they would be Scholar, Priest, Soldier and Worker— but this would strip immense amount of nuance out of the meanings.    The aspect of linsol I found most fascinating was that , while it is assigned at birth, it has nothing to do with family or heritage, or with interaction with each other.  A Rek and Vil can, for example, freely couple and have children, and each child might be assigned any of of the linsol, as what matters most is the linsol fits the individual.  Of course, linsol is determined by a ritual involving position of the stars and planets at birth and the random throwing of marked stones.   However, the linsol is fully incorporated into identity: every Tsouljan’s name adds their linsol to their familial name, and they all dye their normally pale-white hair a color to show their linsol.

Jhenla might be translated as “destiny”, but it is wrapped in a sense of personal responsibility.  The concept basically states that by following one’s linsol, by doing the task that the universe has assigned them, they are serving their greatest possible purpose in life.  But included in that is the idea that you might know better than the universe, and thus can reject the linsol assigned at birth to find your own path, despite the hardship.  People who do this are called nek-vra, and they are both reviled and revered at the same time in a way that I did not fully understand— it is as if the nek-vra are outcast as pariahs, for they must endure hardship, but the bravery of their decision to stand against the universe itself is respected.

One thing that was clear to me in my time in Tsoulja is that they have a mastery of magic and mysticism that makes Druthal look like infants in comparison.  That is not to say everyone in Tsoulja is a mage or some other form of mystic— but those that are use it with same casual ease as you or I might walk down the street.  I do not believe, for example, that their underground existence would be possible without the use of magic in such a commonplace way.

It amazes me that a place so spiritual and yet resistant to easy definition was once part of the Tyzanian Empire, and sits right next to Lyrana, a nation that is deeply immersed in the practical, and the need to define everything…

An Import of Intrigue by Marshall Ryan Maresca // VBC ABOUT AN IMPORT OF INTRIGUE

This second novel in the Maradaine Constabulary series blends high fantasy, murder mystery, and gritty urban magic…

The neighborhood of the Little East is a collision of cultures, languages, and traditions, hidden away in the city of Maradaine. A set of streets to be avoided or ignored. When a foreign dignitary is murdered, solving the crime falls to the most unpopular inspectors in the Maradaine Constabulary: exposed fraud Satrine Rainey, and Uncircled mage Minox Welling.

With a murder scene deliberately constructed to point blame toward the rival groups resident in this exotic section of Maradaine, Rainey is forced to confront her former life, while Welling’s ignorance of his own power threatens to consume him. And the conflicts erupting in the Little East will spark a citywide war unless the Constabulary solves the case quickly.


Marshall Ryan Maresca grew up in upstate New York and studied film and video production at Penn State. He now lives Austin with his wife and son. His work appeared in Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction and Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas. He also has had several short plays produced and has worked as a stage actor, a theatrical director and an amateur chef. His novels The Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages each begin their own fantasy series, both set in the port city of Maradaine. For more information, visit Marshall’s website at www.mrmaresca.com.


Enter to win a set of the Maradaine Constabulary novels via the Rafflecopter form below. This contest is open to US/Canada addresses only, and the prize is provided by the lovely folk at DAW.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

3 Responses to “Marshall Ryan Maresca Guest Post & Giveaway: Tsoulja Culture Report”

  1. Sarah says:

    Yay! More books!!!!!

  2. Lingeorge says:

    This series looks interesting. I will have to read it.

  3. I have the first book on my TBR but like so many others I’ve yet to read it. Thanks for the post and giveaway.

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