Ah, John Jude Palencar, how do I love thee? Of all the “big name” fantasy & science fiction illustrators working in the genre, John Jude Palencar has always been my favorite. From a book fan and an art fan’s point of view, I have to say it’s gotten to the point that I will pick up a book simply because J.J.P. did the cover art. It was a fabulous piece of luck for me to be able to work with him in my very first season here at Orbit. Seriously, people, these are the kind of days you love your job.
John Jude Palencar is working on the mass market editions of all of Jo Graham’s books for us, (Hand of Isis is next) and the matchup between art and content couldn’t be better. I love the designs of the trade paperbacks, done by Mario Pulice, the Creative Director of Little Brown, and Debra Lill, a fabulous photographer and illustrator, but it’s always nice to change it up for a re-release in a new format. When the art (an actual oil painting! by Fed-Ex!) came into the office, I ran around like a giddy schoolgirl showing everyone. In fact, I will be very sad to have to eventually send the original art back to Mr. Palencar.
Black Ships is both an engaging fantasy tale and a creative retelling of The Aeneid by Virgil, told from the point of view of Gull, a Greek priestess serving the Goddess. (Don’t worry, you don’t need to know a thing about The Aeneid to enjoy the story in full, but just to whet your appetite, The Aeneid is the story of Aeneas, a trojan prince who escapes the Fall of Troy, who wanders the Mediterranean for a time before finally becoming the founder of Rome.) Gull is a fabulous mix of intimidating priestess and insecure girl, who has a fine line to walk between advising the King, serving the Goddess, and finding happiness for herself. I’ve read all of Jo Graham’s books so far and she spins a fabulous tale. They stand on their own as historical fiction and as fantasy, and it’s difficult to do both well. If you are a fan of Mists of Avalon, you have to read Black Ships and Hand of Isis.
John Jude Palencar was a pleasure to work with, and I can’t wait to see the finished art for Hand of Isis next! Below you can see the art as it was delivered. There’s going to be a full size print hanging in the Orbit offices soon, I guarantee it.