Orkney unveils fantasy fiction answer to Outlander

The Norse mythology of Orkney has become the inspiration for a new series of fantasy books and online games that could boost tourism in the islands.

Tourists at the Ring of Brodgar. Picture: Adam Elder

Tourism leaders hope Legends of Orkney by American author Alane Adams will do for the islands what the Ann Cleaves murder mystery novels and TV series did for Shetland and the fantasy series Outlander has done for the Western Isles.

Adams’ first book The Red Sun introduces readers to 12-year-old Sam Baron, who discovers his mother is a witch and his father is a true son of the Norse god Odin. He has to travel to Orkney to help rescue his friends who have been taken prisoner there. The series of books will be tied to an interactive game.

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The author, from California, believes the explosion in mobile interactive entertainment has changed reading habits.

She said: “There are a number of reasons that led me to Orkney and Norse mythology. I wrote this book for my son who, like me, is a huge fan of fantasy mythology series.

“Although there have been a lot of movies lately featuring Norse characters, like Thor, what really drew me to Norse mythology was the number of different stories and myths to draw from.

“I was interested in exploring the idea of a witch that was a boy, so I began researching famous witches and I came across an Orkney witch trial of Alison Balfour.

“The tie to Orkney led me to remembering the connection between the many tales of King Arthur and Orcadian soldiers. My son and I were huge fans of the BBC Merlin series, so everything just seemed to lead me toward somehow crafting a magical world which Orkney could be the centre.

“As I explored deeper, I discovered Orkney has some great folklore around Odin’s stone and the Ring of Brodgar, which has a tale about witches being trapped inside the stones. I used this local folklore wherever possible to weave into the Legends of Orkney stories.”

The author has six books planned. The Red Sun will be released in August. The books will be launched along with associated online games.

Jenni Steele, VisitScotland’s marketing manager for film, culture and heritage, said: “We were absolutely delighted to hear that yet another adventure fantasy series will be set in Scotland. From ancient stones circles to our inspiring castles, Scotland is a paradise for writers who are looking to set their story against a dramatic backdrop.

“With Orkney’s countless archaeological treasures, amazing beaches, fascinating history and stunning scenery, it is not surprising that Alane Adams chose this as her setting.

“Let’s hope Legends of Orkney can help raise awareness of this beautiful part of Scotland and encourage even more people to visit the magical sandy white shores of Orkney.”

Tom Muir, an Orkney historian, author and storyteller, said: “Not only is there a fascinating history and pre-history to Orkney, the folklore and legends of the islands are equally intriguing and mystifying. They’re a rich seam for any fantasy writer.

“We have stories brought by the Vikings and tales that are probably earlier, but we don’t really know how ancient they are.

“Fantasy literature is just that, it’s a fantasy, but if Orkney inspires someone to write a series of works which raise our profile and get people interested in coming to see the islands, and perhaps learn more about our past, our stories and our legends, then it can only be a good thing.”