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Author Justin Lee Anderson’s hometown inspires epic fantasy series

Author Justin Lee Anderson’s hometown inspires epic fantasy series

One of the major inspirations for me in writing The Eidyn Saga was that I wanted to write a story set in a place based on the history and etymology of my hometown, Edinburgh. It’s maybe surprising how much inspiration you can find in a little etymological research! Here are a few examples to give you a flavour of what I found, and what I created.


An area technically just outside Edinburgh, in Midlothian. The original Gaelic name is Baile Airneach, meaning ‘town of the hawthorns’. Hawthorn bushes bloom white flowers on thorny stems. I knew I was going to have a religious order of demon-slaying holy knights in the book, and so the Order of the White Thorns was born, known for their distinctive white armour, based in the monastery of Baile Airneach.


The name was originally Lepertoun, and while there’s some debate as to whether that was actually leprosy inspired or not, Lepertoun now serves as the epicentre for the horrific Blackening, which threatens Eidyn. The plague spreads by touch, leaving a black handprint seared on the skin, and causing the Blackened to hunt mindlessly for more new victims.

Gorgie and Dalry

These two parts of Edinburgh run into each other. Their names come from Gorgyn (upper wedge) and Dail Ruigh (meadow slope). That gave me the idea of a pair of twin towns separated by a cliff face, one at the foot and one on top. With that premise, I decided that the higher town would think itself superior to the lower, such that the town’s markets cater for vastly different clientele. The literally ‘upmarket’ Dail Ruigh serves pastries, fancy breads, jewellery and clothes while the ‘downmarket’ Gorgyn deals in meat, fish and basic (smelly) foodstuff.


From Traverlyn (the place of the learned one). Duddingston is home to the Sheep Heid inn, the oldest pub in Scotland (1360), named after a silver snuff box presented by James VI. The name also suggests “traveller’s inn” so I created Traverlyn as a town home to art, music and culture, with the country’s university and main hospital. All of this grew from the Sheep’s Heid, once a solitary inn known widely as a place for learned people to meet, listen to music, and enjoy a whisky.

Cramond and Corstorphine

Both out on the western edge of town. Cramond, at the mouth of the River Almond, was the site of a Roman fort called Alta Vera, and was at one point called Caer Amon (fort on the river). It’s also thought to be the oldest site of human occupation in Scotland, dating back to 8500BC. In Eidyn, Caer Amon is the site of a destroyed settlement dating back centuries, which is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of its dead. On a hill overlooking the settlement is the kirk of Crostorfyn – either from ‘cross of Torphin’ or ‘croix d’or fin’ (cross of fine gold, in French). It’s now a remote, little-used kirk, but does it hold a secret?

Justin Lee Anderson is the author of the award-winning Eidyn Saga from Orbit Books. The Lost War is out now. The Bitter Crown is out Dec 5 (US) and Dec 7 (UK).

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