A Pattern of Shadow and Light Book Five (Update) | Official Author Website of Melissa McPhail

A Pattern of Shadow and Light Book Five Update

It’s been a while since I’ve updated everyone, and I’m fielding a ton of questions, so I think an update is probably due.

Here’s what I can tell you: book five is in the works. I’m about 270 pages in and I’ve written Ean and Tanis’s threads up to the end of part one, along with a smattering of other characters’ first chapters.

To give you some perspective, here’s what that looks like:

                                    1st Chapter                        Part 1                        Part 2

Ean                                        √                                  √

Tanis                                     √                                  √

Darshan                                √

Pelas                                      √                                  √

Franco                                   √

Isabel                                     √                                  √

Alshiba                                  √

Valentina                              √


Ansgar                                   √

Felix                                       √







Viernan                                 √




Baelfeir                                  √

Shail                                       √           


Looking at the list above, you can probably determine four things right away:

1) It doesn’t look like much is done when you see how much needs to be done.

2) The 270 pages that are done represent only a small fraction of the storylines that need to be covered in the book.

3) There are a lot of viewpoint characters in this story! And the list above doesn’t even include secondary viewpoint characters who I might need to use in order to tell a certain part of the tale, such as Björn, Loukas and Tannour, Thrace Weyland, Gwynnleth, Seth, etc.

And that, dear readers, dumps us onto the crux of my biggest challenge in writing book five. There are a LOT of viewpoint characters, and now more than ever, they intersect, entwine and weave in and around each other.

Some characters initial chapters have to be written so I can write other characters’ story threads. For instance, at a certain point, I had to get Isabel and Franco’s early chapters done so I could continue writing Ean and Tanis’s thread, even though these four characters’ threads might not seem to directly correlate. I had to write Valentina, Shail and Baelfeir so I could write Pelas, etc.

I have frequently started a chapter only to realize that I can’t actually get any farther into that character’s thread without having figured out what another character is doing. I have to leave that chapter and go tend to a new character; and when I get into that next character’s chapter, I realize, actually, I need yet a third character’s storyline resolved in order to get back to the other two. This is a new problem specific to this book.

But to attempt it the other way, that is, sequentially…imagine what it takes to really assume someone’s viewpoint. To be in their head, think their thoughts, use their vernacular. It takes a bit of doing. There’s a focus that’s necessary to really become that character.

Now look again at the list of characters above. Imagine trying to write the book in chapter order (assuming I could even figure that out at this stage). I’d be bouncing from one character to the next, changing viewpoints with each chapter, moving through that entire list of people, one after the other, just to even get a first chapter written for each of them. Lord above, that would be exhausting! Maybe GRRM could manage it, but I surely can’t.

I write organically, so I’m used to being able to run with a character to see where they go (half the time I’m chasing after them, just trying to keep up), but this book is requiring more plot development up front.

So that’s one aspect of this book that’s challenging me.

D) The last thing you probably realize from looking at the above list is there is no way I can finish the story in one book. Based on the outpouring of encouragement and support I received after my last blog post, I’m betting that makes a lot of you very happy.

Let me reassure the many of you who have written to me with concerns: I am definitely not going to rush through the story or cut out important threads just to cram everything into one book. This would serve only to appease my initial concept of ‘five strands, five books’, but would in no way serve my characters or you, especially when I’m clearly the only one who cares about this symmetry.

But it presents my second big challenge:

I think in story arcs of a particular length. Each main character has an overall arc for each book, but within that arc there’s a part 1 arc and a part 2 arc. Let’s call those mini-arcs. After putting over a million words into this series, my mind just conceives of the length of each character’s arc/mini-arc without putting much thought to it. 

A lot of characters’ threads at this time are only two mini-arcs away from the denouement. If I only had to write, say, seven viewpoint characters, we’d easily make this happen in one book. But because there are so many viewpoint characters now, in order to follow each character’s thread to its denouement, everyone’s story arcs are going to end up getting split over at least two books.

That means in order to keep the pacing exciting, I need each character to have four mini-arcs instead of two (based on the expectation that we’ll wrap the storylines up completely in book six).

Let none of this mislead you into thinking I’m complaining. On the contrary, I love the game of it. But it’s a new challenge, and it’s taking more time than usual to get all of the storylines off and rolling.

Thanks for sticking with me through this process!

64 Responses to “A Pattern of Shadow and Light Book Five Update”

  1. Ben Barlow says:

    Let me simply say that if the ending takes more than one book, I am okay with that. This series is worth the work and the dedication you (and the readers here) give to it. I will admit that I was getting a little worried that writing had stalled. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and an even better Yule/Christmas. Cheers!

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      Writing is always underway for me, Ben. Whether or not I’m making much headway…that’s a different story! Unique to this book, I’ve had to rewrite chapters several times. It’s partly due to the complication of the storylines and not having some of them fleshed out enough – and not being able to get them fleshed out until I finish what I’m doing, but unable to really finish it well because the others aren’t fleshed out…the Ouroboros in the worst way. In any event, I am definitely working on it steadily. 🙂

  2. Sean says:

    It looks to me like you are the right person for the job! It may seem daunting, but don’t loose faith. It will be worth it in the end. Your patient fan

  3. Jo Smith says:

    Awesome news! Just on a reread through Audible. I think I could listen to Nick read my shopping list for hours. He’s a great talent.
    I wanted to ask a couple of questions, if I may.
    1. Are there any plans to update the character list on your website, it’s really useful for keeping track of some of the less visual characters?
    2. Is the epithet ‘epiphany’s prophet’ something Isabel chose for herself or was it bestowed or is it a rafo?
    Thank-you for the many happy hours your writing has given me and so many others!

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      Hi Jo, I know what you mean about Nick. I’m so lucky to have him as the voice of my series!

      To your questions: 1) I can definitely add another character list marked with a spoiler alert. That’s why the current list is a reference only for book 1, because later lists give too much away. 2) Isabel has always been Epiphany’s Prophet. There’s a story there, but I will probably have to save it for the prequels.

      Thanks for your questions, and thank you for listening!

  4. Max Cunningham says:

    So maybe a book 6???? I would love to see the story go on just a touch. I have become invested in all of them

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I think definitely a book six, Max. I’m thrilled to know you’re invested. It’s one of the best compliments I could receive. Thank you for reading.

  5. Slick says:

    Wooooo!! Another book sounds great!! Symmetry is cool and everything but i think i’d prefer an extra book 😉
    I’m not a writer but it looks like you are doing a fantastic job to me, keep it up!!


    • Melissa McPhail says:

      You’re in good company with preferring another book over symmetry, Slick. 😉 Thank you for the well wishes and words of encouragement. They always help bolster me when a character is being particularly brutal to me.

  6. Mara Mann says:

    I love your discovery of it all and the sharing of that with us; thank you. Symmetry is beautiful, more books from you is better (well, so I say). Hugs and thanks for giving me another thing in life to so look forward to! Your books are mastery, my favorite and often shared about, gifted and referenced. Go as you will, it’s perfect.

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I’m honored and touched by your kind words, Mara. I feel so blessed to be able to share my world with others and know that they enjoy journeying within it as much as I do. Thank you for sharing my world with others, and thank you for reading.

  7. Gregg says:

    Take your time. I’m super excited that it will now be two books. Thanks for updating us. I love the story and always felt one book only may not do it justice so don’t fret, take your time. Even if it takes another year or two we’ll all be waiting since the story is that good.

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      Thank you so much, Gregg. It’s definitely heartwarming knowing everyone will stick with me while I muddle my way through the tangle of complicated storytelling I’ve created for myself. 😉

  8. Keith l holt says:

    When do you think book five will be out for us to read?

  9. Amanda says:

    Thanks for the update! I’m so excited to see where this story goes! It sounds like you write like RA Salvatore does, but with multiple characters and worldbuilding like Brandon Sanderson. It makes an awesome story, but I can see why it’s so complicated!

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      Those comparisons seem true to me, Amanda. And complicated is definitely the word these days, but I’m up for the challenge. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Maggie says:

    Totally fine with me! It gives me time to re-read all the books that came before again! Keep writing, I will keep reading!

  11. Kirk Coffin says:

    Whatever you do Melissa, I am sure it will be awesome. Wishing you the best of luck, how about a 3 month hint before letting the next book come out. That way I can read them over)). Thank you for writing this fantastic story.

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      Trust me, Kirk, I will be alerting everyone with plenty of time to reread when I know about publication dates! I know a brush-up on Alorin is usually needed (and hopefully fun). Thank you for your well wishes. I’ll put them to good use.

  12. Pamela Fairman says:

    You go, Girl! Your organic writing works. The books storylines weave in and out as a minuet. Your characters are highly developed and grow and evolve. I should well imagine this takes time and considerable mental calisthenics. When book 5 is completed, I shall buy it and read it and eagerly await book 6, if that becomes necessary. Thank you, so much, for sharing the story

  13. Darrell says:

    Hi Melissa, thanks for the update, how many pages do you anticipate being in books five and six?

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I would prefer to have the last two books be closer to the first three in word count. So that’s somewhere in the range of 330k and roughly 750-800 pages.

  14. Aaron says:

    Sounds like we might be getting all five strands of elae plus a Deyjiin book! I am a pretty recent reader and the existing books have me completely hooked. You are up there with the great authors in the world you are building. So please keep going and take as many books as you Need!

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I’m honored by your kind words, Aaron, and I’m thrilled you’re enjoying my series. Thank you for the encouragement. I’m excited about where book five is heading.

  15. Tim says:

    May the Force be with you!

    Oh, yeah. Wrong universe.

    Take as much time as you need. I’ve waited years for next installments, and thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the author didn’t rush or short-change themselves, the story, or the characters.

    You will tread the path before you.

  16. John P says:

    Thanks for the update! I really appreciate your work and I’ll wait patiently for the next installment knowing that you’re making progress. I’m not sure that Rothfuss and GRRM are going to get their series done but I know you’re going to finish yours! In the meantime, what are you reading now that you can recommend for us while we wait?

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      Thank you so much, John. I appreciate your faith in me. 😉

      Right now I’m catching up on Stormlight, but I posted a list of my top favorite fantasy a few months back. There might be something on this list that you haven’t read. I also recently enjoyed NK Jemison’s Broken Earth series, if you’re looking for something different.

      • Darrell says:

        I’m about to start on The Stormlight Archive vol 1, my very first time of reading Brandon Sanderson. Recently finished Trudi Canavan Successors Promise and at the end it transpires she is writing a fourth book in Millenniums Rule series, seems like you she realised a another book was needed to do the story justice.

  17. james harasymiw says:

    I really appreciate the thought and effort you are putting into this. It is well worth the wait. I have read many exciting multi-volume stories where the story is artificially ended leading to a sense of dissatisfaction with the time spent engaging in the story. Please keep writing with the integrity I am seeing and your fans including me will be loyal and satisfied. Jim

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I wholeheartedly agree, Jim. It feels like a crime when an author is forced to prematurely end a story thread due to space or some other constraint, which usually has nothing to do with the story but everything to do with the book business. I definitely want to do justice to these characters who have been such an integral part of my life for so long.

  18. Nevin says:

    I patiently await the next book as it develops on its on. Please take your time and let the characters tell their stories. I look forward to the development of the next book with patience to read the next episode of the greatest story I’ve ever read!!

  19. Victor Sanchez says:

    Hi Melissa,

    Thanks for the update! Now I look forward to these and I appreciate your willingness to interact with the fans. I can imagine the challenge you are facing as you have established so many view points. Interesting in that things take a life their own and applying structure to it and as you say keeping good pacing are vital. I imagine when you started you might not have anticipated so many characters whose stories become relevant to the overall plot. It’s almost like the story as it grows needs to mature like a fine wine. 🙂

    Have a happy holiday season and good luck!


    • Melissa McPhail says:

      It is definitely challenging, Victor! And no, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started – LOL. Happy holidays to you also!

  20. John Sewell says:

    As the books to date prove, you are up to the task of bringing this fantastic, complex story to its climactic and anticlimactic finish. Thank you for not compromising your dedication to your characters …or your fans.

  21. Matthew E Adcock says:

    Your books have been and still are phenomenal. I know you’ll figure it out and blow our minds away with this one. Keep up the great work. ;^)
    P.S. you could always make the ending into a trilogy. hehehe

  22. Kurt says:

    I am just now starting book 4 and enjoying your books very much. It would often take R.Jordan quite sometime between his writing the WOT series, but was always worth the wait. With so many characters converging toward one place in time, it may take more books. Looking forward to book number five and hopefully a sixth book.

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the series so far, Kurt. I would love to get feedback from you after you finish Kingdom Blades. It’s helpful to get my readers viewpoints on the story and characters, as I can lose perspective at this point. I appreciate your confidence and support. Thank you for reading.

  23. Michelle Vollmer says:

    I am truly looking forward to the next book or books in the series. But I must admit I was delighted to read that there will be prequels! I love the series, and rather found it on a fluke. Happy writing!

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I’m thrilled you’re enjoying the series, Michelle. I’ve been planning prequels but haven’t even begun planning the prequels. But I am looking forward to writing them, especially with the history being uncovered in book five. 😉

  24. Terrell Spearman says:

    I just wanted to say I really, really, REALLY enjoy your books and am patiently awaiting the next in the series. I have the books on audio and took them with me when I went on deployment this year and couldn’t stop listening. Keep up the amazing work!

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the books, Terrell. Nick Podehl is quite a talent. I feel blessed to have him as the voice of my series. Thank you for sharing your excitement with me, and thank you for listening.

  25. michael whitt says:

    I loved books 1-4 I’m anxiously awaiting book 5. do you have a working title for it yet?

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I’m so happy to know you’re enjoying the series, Michael. I do have a working title but I’m not going public with it yet. It’s far too early in the story to know if the theme will actually play out, and I don’t want to write a book around the book title. 😉

  26. Kamal says:

    I was introduced to your first book this year and eagerly consumed them all in audiobook format on Audible. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next one and I appreciate the open update on the progress and your writing process. While I’m looking forward to the story concluding, in also not looking forward to the series coming to an end. Good luck and hope to hear more (and hopefully read more) in 2018!

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I’m so glad to know you’re enjoying my series, Kamal. Honestly, I’m not looking forward to the series ending either, but this story does have a conclusion that needs to be reached. 🙂 Thank you for listening.

  27. Adam says:

    Thank you so much for giving such a thorough update. It is so refreshing to get such a detailed update. I will indeed celebrate there being 6 books!

  28. Aaron says:

    Hi, stealing a line from another great author this might be a RAFO. But I seem to understand that Elae is coded into 5 strands representing 5 aspects of one force. however my question is does Deyjin have a similar coding?
    Your books made my Christmas shopping so much easier as I could get others copies of book 1 to get them hooked too! Thank you

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      Aaron, I truly appreciate your giving copies of my series to your friends to introduce more readers to Alorin. Thank you so much!

      Elae’s “five strands” are merely one way of codifying the power. As is discussed in book four, there are other civilizations in the realm that don’t use that codification at all and do very different things with the lifeforce. Deyjiin doesn’t have the same codification as elae, as the Warlocks have never been that interested in defining their power. 😉

  29. Bill says:


    I’m glad to see you’ve resolved the question of 5 vs. 6 books. With how many POV’s you have in play, I agree, story over symmetry. I look forward to seeing where you take this story and the characters you obviously love so much.


  30. Matt Joseph Accolla says:

    I love this series and will have no qualms if it takes 10 books. Hell, have your husband or a friend write a companion series of 6 books and one day this series will be looked back upon in the same vein as Malazan!

    • Melissa McPhail says:

      I like where your head is at, Matt. 😉 But truly, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the series. Thank you for your support, and thank you for reading.

  31. Slick says:

    Ok I’m about recovered from book 3 to start number 4 XD. Thank you for posting progress reports on how far you’ve gotten, even though I’m not quite ready for 5 I feel so much better knowing what’s happening than all the uncertain waiting I usually have to go through waiting for a book. I love your style of writing and I take a lot of pleasure seeing how much attention this series is getting!! Keep up the amazing work Melissa!!

  32. Andre Parks says:

    My brother and I have read large fantasy novels since we were kids. To put it into perspective, I was about 5 or 6 years old reading novels and I’m now 33. That’s 27 years of reading novels. We’ve had hands down favorite series that hadn’t changed over all those year. Then I discovered Cephrael’s Hand and shared the books with him. And this series became hands-down, uncontested first place of favorite books. It really says something where you can’t put down the book. No matter which characters you’re reading about, you never have that “I just wanna hurry up and get back to X character” moments. You even love the “bad guys”. Pelas is one of my top favorite characters in it.

    One thing that makes these books stand apart is how character are put together but also a robust, unique magic system that is so in-depth. One of the things that makes books stand out as favorites is the magic system. And that’s pretty much which moves a book to favorite status–that and the characters. So top books for us are like:

    1. Cephrael’s Hand series
    2. Wars of Light and Shadow – Janny Wurts

    Those are the top two magic systems for me of all time.

    3. Valdemar series – Mercedes Lackey (Great traditional leyline/nodular magecraft)
    4. Sunrunner – Melanie Rawn
    5. Sword of Truth – Terry Goodkind
    6. Elvenbane – Andre Norton (a mix of magic and psionics)

    There are many other great books over the years. But nothing to us capture our mind quite like yours and Janny’s for robust magic system and story-telling.

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