Magic, monsters, battles and heartbreak. What more could you want from an epic fantasy novel?
That is just some of the content that makes up Dustin Bilyk’s debut novel Tournament of Hearts: The Librarian Gladiator, released last December on Amazon.
Though the book has only been out for a short while, it has already appearend on an Amazon best sellers’ list in the fantasy genre, placing him just ahead of Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) and right below George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones).
“I couldn’t believe it, I just remember sitting in my seat shaking, like what the heck is happening here? People are really enjoying it,” said Bilyk. “It was surreal.”
Bilyk describes his novel as fast paced, story driven and something that would appeal to the young adult fantasy lover.
“I got characters that’ll let you down, I got characters that even though they’re the good guys you’ll hate them at times. That’s what I want. I want to engage readers,” he said.
“I want to make them feel something as they sit down and cozy up with a book.”
The story is set in a small, isolated village called Hamelin, bordered by dense forests and mountains, which falls victim to a supernatural threat. The crooked council that governs the village devises an annual battle, called the Tournament of Hearts, where randomly chosen individuals must battle for their bloodlines.
Though great prizes are to be had by the winner, the loser and his family are ultimately sacrificed to the gods in the hopes that they will keep the monsters at bay.
Bilyk landed his publishing deal after winning an international short story competition based out of the U.K. Tournament of Hearts took him the better part of a year to write and he’s already working on the sequel.
“This is actually part of a series,” he said. “This is book one and I plan on having at least two more books that are part of the series. I’m about a quarter way through the next book.”
Bilyk said he’s been an avid reader and writer as far back as he can remember and attributes much of his skill to the teachers he had while growing up in Lloydminster, from his time at St. Joseph’s Elementary School right up to his stint at Lakeland College.
“I’ve been writing for quite some time, pretty much since I could read. I guess my passion for writing kind of began with reading. I grew up in Lloydminster and I was an avid reader from the time I could put a few words together,” he said.
“I remember being a part of a reading contest and saving up money to load up on books from the Scholastic catalogue. That was my thing, right? Other kids had hockey cards and all that but I had books. And I just never really stopped reading.”