Hello! I’m Deacon Nicholas Kotar, epic fantasy author, blogger about culture, conductor of sacred music, and full-time wrangler of 3 miraculous children.
As Western Christendom continues its spiral into decay and possible obsolescence, I’m inspired by Christian culture creators like the Cappadocian fathers, St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, Dostoyevsky, and Tolkien and Lewis. They all worked within a sometimes antagonistic, sometimes pagan culture to present a beautiful vision of Christianity that embraced man’s capacity to sub-create beauty to glorify God.
For myself, I try to find that expression of beauty through the telling of stories. There’s a well of profound and even spiritual meaning that makes old tales worth returning to again and again. In fact, as Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin suggests in his wonderful lecture “The Spiritual Meaning of Stories,” they are indispensable for those of us who have lost our ability to see and appreciate the beautiful and transcendent in life.
If you’re interested in finding out more about my fiction, I invite you to read my writer’s manifesto here.
A Light So Lovely
The wonderful writer Madeleine L’Engle once said, “We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”
While many Christians in America continue to wage culture wars to protect political ideologies, they do not realize that in some ways the war is already lost. Many non-Christians, especially the secular cultural elite, hate Christianity, not least because they associate it with a belligerent proselytism without nuance or beauty.
The Orthodox way of mission, on the contrary, has often taken a different path. Many missionaries spend years learning the culture of their place of mission, living among the people, doing acts of charity. Throughout that time, they allow their lives to be acts of beauty that tug on the hearts of those they encounter. By showing that light so lovely, they attract converts to them without the need for aggressive proselytizing.
It is time, in an increasingly pagan and secular America, to adopt this principle in our creation of culture. Only through an organic culture steeped in the liturgical and aesthetic tradition of Orthodoxy can we not only keep our children in the faith, but also attract seekers of the Light that is So Lovely.
It is my endeavor and hope to explore ways of creating and cultivating such a Christian culture for our post-Christian 21st century. That is the purpose of this blog and the fantasy fiction that I write.
An evil omen clouds the sky. A song of lore returns. Can one man’s quest save the world?
Voran, a young warrior of Vasyllia, lives in a dying world. As blight ravages the countryside and darkness covers the sun, he hears rumors of an ancient spirit that devours souls. He feels powerless to fight the oncoming devastation until a mythical creature entrusts him with a long-forgotten song. Legend has it that such a song can heal the masses, overthrow kingdoms, and raise humans to divine beings…
Armed with the memory of the song, Voran must hunt down a dark spirit before it achieves its goal of immortality. His quest takes him through doorways to other worlds and puts him on a collision course with seductive nymphs and riddling giants. With each step of the journey, the strength of the villainous spirit grows, as does Voran’s fear that the only way to save his world… is to let it be destroyed.
The Song of the Sirin is an epic fantasy retelling of the Russian fairy tale Prince Ivan and the Grey Wolf. If you like the hero’s journey, creative twists on mythology, and classic fantasy, then you’ll love Nicholas Kotar’s sweeping tale.
The Song of the Sirin is available on all online retailers.
The Curse of the Raven
A city ruled with an iron fist. A swordsmith just trying to survive. A choice that could heal the world…or plunge it into ruin.
Llun the smith is an artist at heart, content to make the most beautiful swords and nails and horseshoes in his city. But when his smithy is visited by the grand inquisitor of the secret police, his peaceful life is at an end.
He is offered the perfect job–to be the exclusive smith of the new order. Endless luxury, good food, and the freedom to create–it’s everything he ever wanted. But it comes with a price.
He has to make a seemingly insignificant object–a metal flask–as a gift to the new ruler of his city. Seized by a strange inspiration, he instead creates an object of great power that can heal thousands… or lead to a war that would never end.
The Curse of the Raven is available on all online retailers.
The Heart of the World
A land destroyed by war. An army of giants on the rampage. Can a broken girl heal the world before it dies?
All 16-year-old Khaidu ever wanted was her own hunting eagle. Her ten brothers laugh at her, since the rule-bound world of the Gumiren nomads has no place for a girl hunter. Not mention a cripple. But Khaidu has a secret. She masters the ancient magic of eagle-binding and captures the largest eagle her tribe has ever seen.
Except her eagle isn’t an eagle at all. She’s a dying queen under an enchantment. Khaidu’s binding unlocks an ancient curse of blood and loss. As the curse turns Khaidu’s people against each other, the bond between eagle and hunter shatters. To find her lost eagle, Khaidu will brave monstrous beasts, face an army of shape-shifting giants, and cross the known world…only to be faced with a terrible truth.
If Khaidu cannot save the queen in time, the world itself may die with her.
The Heart of the World is the third book in an epic fantasy series. Inspired by the Russian fairy tale “Finist the Bright Falcon,” it features complex characters, gorgeous magical landscapes, and unexpected plot twists. If you like creative twists on myths and legends and classic fantasy, then you’ll love this sweeping tale.
The Heart of the World is available on all online retailers.
The Forge of the Covenant
Lebía lives in a false paradise. Her loving family are enslaved by a dark Power with his own insidious purposes. Thrust into a parallel world outside time, Lebía must find an ancient magic to save her family.
Finally, she is faced with an impossible choice. To unlock the ancient magic, she’ll have to choose between herself and the life of her family.
The Forge of the Covenant is the fourth book in the Raven Son epic fantasy series, a retelling of the Russian version of Sleeping Beauty and the ancient legend of Atlantis. It is available on all online retailers.
My Other Blog
The more I research the history that shaped Russian fairy tales, the more I am astounded by the wealth of information I find. However, most of it is in Russian, and it seemed unfortunate to me that more people couldn’t enjoy it in English. So I began to translate some of the articles and posts I found and to feature them on my blog. The deeper I dig, the more fascinating the traditions and culture get. Here are some of my favorites, hosted on my author site:
- Seven Things You’ve Never Heard about Russian Weddings
- Five Myths about Russian Cuisine
- Cossack Family Values
I am a freelance translator from Russian to English, specializing in literary, historical, and religious texts. Here are some of the books I’ve translated the past few years.
See my translations page for more information.
I conduct Russian sacred music and am an occasional tenor soloist. I am the resident conductor of the Holy Trinity Monastery and Seminary Men’s Choir in Jordanville, NY. Previously, I conducted the St. John of San Francisco Men’s Chorale (see our recordings here) and the St. Cyrill and Methodius Youth Choir in the Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco, CA.
As a soloist, I have performed in several Classical works, including Stravinsky’s Les Noces, Handel’s Messiah, J.S. Bach’s The Passion according to St. John, and Brahms’s Zigeunerlieder. I am also a featured soloist on Ensemble Cherubim’s recent recording of Bortniansky’s concertos (purchase here).
You can hear an example of my solo work here.
I come from a family of Russian immigrants who moved from Russia after the Revolution, and I grew up in what was essentially a Russian ghetto in San Francisco. I spoke Russian before I spoke English.
My sister and I were homeschooled until a bright and sunny day when my mom had had enough of cat-herding. So she decided to open a school (thinking it would be less of a hassle, I suppose?), which she and my dad then administered for the next twenty years of their life (without taking a penny for it). This school, St. John of San Francisco Orthodox Academy, is a shining light of classical education in the Orthodox Christian community.
After graduating from UC Berkeley (yes, I studied Russian Literature, how did you guess?), I came back to teach in St. John’s for seven years. Those years were formative for me and for many of the teachers, because of the talent of the faculty. There were poets, philosophers, politicians, and musicians among my colleagues, and our regular tea-fueled conversations by the fireplace had something of the Inklings about them.
Eventually, a few of us teachers joined up to form a storytelling troupe, of sorts, called Conquering Time. We were an ensemble of performance and visual artists that staged original works of storytelling and traditional music. We also published some original poetry and prose.
My collaboration with Conquering Time produced four semi-staged musical pieces that we performed on both coasts of the US, France, and Russia. It also inspired me to write a novel called Raven Son, which was the kernel that eventually became The Song of the Sirin, my first completed novel.
Here is a clip of a choral selection from Conquering Time’s performance piece “The Gift”
I have always loved to travel, and have been to every continent except Antarctica (and I’d love to go there). Some of my travels were missionary trips to build houses for the poor or to instruct local Christian communities in the rudiments of the faith. Some were for my own edification, such as a summer in London studying theater (I met Ralph Fiennes. Lovely man!) I even spent a month and a half in a remote island monastery in the north of Russia (yes, in winter).
Finally, I decided to enter Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, NY, which I completed in May 2014. My family and I are still based in Jordanville, where I serve as a deacon, conduct the male choir, teach music, and pretend to be a homesteader. Our house in cow country is the best place from which to write.