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Descent by Ken MacLeod

DESCENT Ken MacLeod

Author of 2013 Arthur C. Clarke Award-nominated Intrusion tells a science fiction story for the twenty-first century – what happens when conspiracy theorists meet Big Brother?
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THE LASCAR’S DAGGERGlenda Larke

The start of a brand new epic fantasy trilogy from the author of the Stormlord series – full of scheming, spying, action and adventure.
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Posts Tagged ‘Before the Fall’

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Writing like a Guy

Ever since I decided to use Francis as my pen name, the subject has cropped up. Why? Is there some gender reason? Is it because you’re writing from a male first person perspective? In part that’s true – although Francis is a family name, which is why I chose it initially.

Writing as a supposed male has had some interesting side effects though. I’ve surprised a few people who thought I was male, which I’m taking as a compliment about getting the character right. And the other area that surprised me was the idea of author inserts, and the assumptions that come with that.

As a reader, I completely understand the temptation to assume a character (especially in first person) is, somehow, a representation of the author as they are, or who they wish they were. Perhaps because first person is so personal and you get so far inside the character’s head, that it’s difficult to see how they could possibly not be some sort of self-insert. Read the rest of this entry »

LAST TO RISE – the stunning conclusion to the Rojan Dizon novels

Released today is LAST TO RISE, the third and final novel in the Rojan Dizon series by Francis Knight, following FADE TO BLACK and BEFORE THE FALL. The ending to this action fantasy series is intensely powerful and moving.

Things are at breaking point for the towering vertical city of Mahala. It has long been a city plagued by corruption, by the exploitation of the weakest – where the pain of the downtrodden has endlessly paid for the whims and fancies of the privileged elite.

But now things are reaching boiling point – as the city is under siege and Rojan’s desperate efforts to save the city using his forbidden magic are driving him further and further into the depths of madness. Although he’d gladly see this city burn, he will give his all to save those who mean something to him – as they’re all he’s got left.

This quote from Publisher’s Weekly really sums up how magnificent it is:

Knight’s Rojan Dizon trilogy conclusion presses its growing cast of characters into intense moments of loyalty and sacrifice to close with a sharp turn into darker, more rewarding territory . . . With Rojan’s best friend anchoring him to humanity on one side and his exhausting, bloody, agonizing magic driving him closer to insanity on the other, the novel takes on a propulsive, fractured energy that mirrors Rojan and Mahala’s increasingly frantic struggle for survival.

The series, which has grown in complexity since the beginning, reaches a profoundly moving conclusion that is both unexpected and entirely satisfying.

If you haven’t picked up the Rojan Dizon novels yet (starting with FADE TO BLACK) I urge you to give them a go, as it’s one of the most dynamic and readable series around from a very promising new British fantasy talent.

Fade to Black, book 1 in the Rojan Dizon series by Francis Knight, perfect for fans of Scott Lynch and Douglas Hulick Before the Fall, book 2 in the Rojan Dizon series following Fade to Black by Francis Knight, perfect for fans of Scott Lynch and Douglas Hulick

 

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Fade to Black, book one of the Rojan Dizon fantasy book series by Francis Knight - in a post talking about the introduction of guns to fantasy worldsFrancis Knight’s novel FADE TO BLACK (UK|US|ANZ) and the just released BEFORE THE FALL (UK|US|ANZ) are set in Mahala – a towering, vertically-built fantasy city. It’s a place that has long relied on magic, but is fast becoming mechanised – and now the first prototype guns are appearing. Francis Knight discusses below just what the introduction of arms can do to a world – fantasy or otherwise . . .

Whenever a significant discovery or invention appears, everything changes. Not always in foreseen ways either. I don’t suppose Edison or Babbage ever thought that their discoveries/inventions would mean that you’d be here today, reading this on a PC or pad. Did Edison consider that electricity would be used to carry out death sentences? Would Babbage have continued if he’d known the end result would be Rule 34?

Unforeseen consequences abound in history. If I invent this, it will make life easier for everyone! Only then, a war, or a revolution or plague, people being people, or even just a lack of imagination on the part of the inventor means that it all turns out rather differently.

The same thing goes for guns. Yes, many fantasy worlds use just swords/siege engines/whatever. But what happens to warfare when guns are added to the mix? Are they what people expect? Possibly not. The inventor of the Gatling gun noted that more died in war of infection and disease than gunfire. In 1877, Gatling wrote: “It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine – a gun – which could by its rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a large extent supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease would be greatly diminished.” And of course, that worked wonderfully. Read the rest of this entry »

BEFORE THE FALL – the exceptional follow-up to FADE TO BLACK

Have you heard what people have been saying about Francis Knight’s debut fantasy novel FADE TO BLACK (UK|US|ANZ)? Here’s a clue . . .

Word cloud for reviews of FADE TO BLACK, the fantasy debut by Francis Knight - a noir fantasy adventure that's "powerful", "emotional" "Distinctive", "brilliant", "Inventive"

If you’re amongst the hoard of readers who loved this thrilling and original tale set in the vertigo-inducing fantasy world of Mahala, you’ll be interested to hear that the follow-up BEFORE THE FALL (UK|US|ANZ) is released today.

Fade to Black, book one of the Rojan Dizon novels, by Francis Knight - a dark, noir fantasy series with a dystopian feel - perfect for fans of Scott Lynch, Douglas Hulick, Benedict Jacka and Ben Aaronvitch

Fade to Black – out now

Before the Fall, book two of the Rojan Dizon novels, following Fade to Black by Francis Knight - a dark, noir fantasy series with a dystopian feel - perfect for fans of Scott Lynch, Douglas Hulick, Benedict Jacka and Ben Aaronvitch

Before the Fall – released today

Last to Rise, book three of the Rojan Dizon novels following Fade to Black and Before The Fall, by Francis Knight - a dark, noir fantasy series with a dystopian feel - perfect for fans of Scott Lynch, Douglas Hulick, Benedict Jacka and Ben Aaronvitch

Last To Rise – released November

 

The latest book again features the reluctant hero, bounty hunter and pain mage Rojan Dizon. He’d love to keep his head down and out of trouble – but he needs to get some power back to the city, and his worst nightmare is just around the corner . . .

Then there’s not long to wait until the third and final book in the trilogy is released. It’s called LAST TO RISE – and it’s a truly explosive finale (yes I did cry…)

If you haven’t checked this series out yet, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Francis Knight interviews Benedict Jacka, author of the Alex Verus novels

In September we release CHOSEN (UK|ANZ), the fourth Alex Verus urban fantasy novel from Benedict Jacka. In an interview below, another Orbit fantasy star Francis Knight
(author of FADE TO BLACK – UK|US|ANZ, and the soon-to-be-released BEFORE THE FALL  -UK|US|ANZ) finds out more about the writing of this highly popular series . . .

Chosen, an Alex Verus urban fantasy novel by Benedict Jacka, perfect for fans of Jim Butcher, in an interview with Francis Knight, author of Fade to BlackFrancis Knight: So, Alex Verus, wizard in London. I suppose certain comparisons are inevitable, if a bit easy. So who and/or what were your inspirations for this series? I know when I start, the first idea generally morphs into something bigger. What was the initial spark, the first ‘what if…’ that led to the book becoming reality?

Benedict Jacka: The Alex Verus setting is an adult version of a YA setting that I’ve been using on and off for almost 15 years – the whole mage world and the magic types was something I first came up with back in 2000-ish.  Between 2000 and 2008 I wrote four YA books in the setting, all with teenagers as the main characters who all had elemental powers of some kind.  None of the books got published, so I kept giving up and shelving the series and trying something else.

In 2009 I decided to pull out the setting yet again to give it another shot, with an adult main character this time.  I was getting dissatisfied with the elemental mages as protagonists, though, and at some point I had the idea of using a protagonist whose abilities were information-based instead of brute force.  The rest of the story snowballed from there! Read the rest of this entry »

Benedict Jacka interviews Francis Knight, author of FADE TO BLACK

Next week sees the release of the fantasy novel BEFORE THE FALL (UK|US|ANZ), the second Rojan Dizon novel by Francis Knight (following FADE TO BLACK – UK|US|ANZ).

Below, another Orbit fantasy star Benedict Jacka, author highly popular Alex Verus novels, interviews Francis on the towering fantasy world of Mahala . . .

Before the Fall, book two of the Rojan Dizon novels, following Fade to Black by Francis Knight - a dark, noir fantasy series with a dystopian feel - perfect for fans of Scott Lynch, Douglas Hulick, Benedict Jacka and Ben AaronvitchBenedict Jacka: One way to describe the Rojan Dizon books would be dark fantasy – how did you end up moving into that genre, and what’s it like to write in compared to other things you’ve done in the past?

Francis Knight: By accident! It started off as an antidote to what I had been writing – romance – and went from there. I like to challenge myself each time I start something new, and this was it. Every genre has its restraints, and I wanted to explore not-so-nice “heroes” and not-so-Happy-Ever-After endings and lots of other things that a romance reader might be very disappointed to find in her book! In particular I wanted to explore how being a not particularly nice chap doesn’t have to prevent you from doing the right thing.

BJ: How difficult do you find it to write a protagonist of the opposite sex?  Do you find yourself asking guys for advice on how a male character would react in a particular scene you’re writing?

FK: The first time it was hard, I have to say. I actually find I prefer it nowadays. It’s a lot easier to separate my characters from me for a start! Also I love trying to get inside a guy’s head, see what makes them tick. I do sometimes ask husband/male friends/betas for advice about whether a guy would do X – but it’s just not that simple. It’s not about whether he’s a guy or not, it’s about who he is. Some guys would do one thing, and others would do the opposite. They’re still both guys.

Fade to Black, book one of the Rojan Dizon novels, by Francis Knight - a dark, noir fantasy series with a dystopian feel - perfect for fans of Scott Lynch, Douglas Hulick, Benedict Jacka and Ben AaronvitchBJ: So, the scenes in Fade to Black which go into detail on exactly what Rojan and the other pain-mages do to themselves to fuel their pain magic . . . did you deliberately make them wince-inducing or did it just work out that way?

FK: I actually tried not to be too graphic there, but it was necessary to show something, I think, or it wouldn’t have been honest. There’s a fine line between glossing over something important and showing graphic things that are unnecessary. Of course, that line is going to be different for everyone. I inferred more than I showed (I think/hope), but that goes for lots of things. Read the rest of this entry »

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There’s something about cities in science fiction and fantasy. I mean I love the countryside myself, born a country girl, but anyone can write it – there’s only so much you can do without it coming across as odd or unbelievable (unless you’re a genius, obviously).

But where people, or aliens, get involved, anything can and does happen. In real life, and in fantasy. So, I love fantasy cities, towns, places that people have made, because they reflect the people who live there and, crucially, how they think.

So, a few favourites . . .

The Fellowship of The Ring by  J. R. R. Tolkien, in a piece on fantasy worldbuilding by Francis Knight, author of Fade to Black Tolkien has his flaws but being unable to build believable yet fantastical cities is not one of them. I’d would love, I mean give an arm or something, to walk the ways of Rivendell, to see the Mallorn in Lothlorien, behold the golden hall of Meduseld in Edoras, wind the twisting streets of Minas Tirith. They are clearly fantasy posing as historical (okay, except the elves) but they feel so . . . real. Like they really do exist somewhere, I just haven’t found them yet.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, in a piece on fantasy worldbuilding by Francis Knight, author of Fade to BlackOther cities come near to that status in my mind (hey, you never forget your first love). Camorr, from Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamorawith its waterways, its dark and grubby underbelly, its Renaissance feel. A city that works, even though I know its fictional.

London Below, of Gaiman’s Neverwhere, a London that feels almost, just not quite, the real one. As though if I scratched the surface on say Bakers Street, I’d find the Marquis, and all the rest, just waiting for me.Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, in a piece on fantasy worldbuilding by Francis Knight, author of Fade to Black

Discworld’s Ankh-Morpork, which is so real to me I can smell the river when I open the pages of the book. Or maybe it just stinks that much! The little nooks and crannies that are a hallmark of an old, old city, the weird ways that seem normal to inhabitants but make outsiders wonder what drugs they must be on.

The thing that, I think, connects all these cities is their internal consistency. They work, such as they do, because thought has gone into working out how they work and why, factoring in how odd people tend to be. And each little factor just adds to the realness of the city.  Of course Ankh-Morpork has a thieves guild. Because it’s a city of moneymakers, and that’s a perfect example of taking what is there and squeezing it till gold coins fall out. The Elder Glass of Camorr shows us a city where things are not always as they seem, that even the city itself has two faces.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, in a piece on fantasy worldbuilding by Francis Knight, author of Fade to Black Minas Tirith and Edoras reflect the men and women who live there – on constant guard, where skill at arms isn’t just posturing, it’s necessary, and so are the defences and the oaths and honour the people who live there take so very seriously, and for good reason – oaths and honour are perhaps all that have kept them alive all this time against what lies to the East. Hobbiton, by contrast, reflects the hobbits – laid back, little thought to anything much except is it pleasing, to eye or stomach?

Fade to Black, book one of the Rojan Dizon fantasy book series by Francis Knight - in a post talking abotu the worldbuilding of Tolkien, Scott Lynch and Terry PratchettSo when I started ‘building’ Mahala for Fade to Black, I tried to make sure the city informed the people, and the other way around. My main character Rojan Dizon is who he is – a sardonic, womanising bounty hunter – at least in part, because of where he lives. I doubt he’d be such a cynic if he lived in Hobbiton. The very fact of the way the city is run, the geography of it, the politics of it, and how that affects him, has helped turn him into who he is. Anywhere else, Rojan’s brother Perak might have just been some amateur daydreamer who likes playing with things (and would have probably long ago blown himself up!), but due to Mahala’s reliance on alchemy, he’s given everything he needs and is told to go and invent things. Which he duly does, and then changes the city forever when he invents the gun.

That’s what makes a fictional city work or fail for me – it works, in context, with the people who inhabit it, they showcase each other. They just fit.

 

***

Francis Knight’s debut novel FADE TO BLACK (UK | US | ANZ), book one of the Rojan Dizon novels, is out now. Book two, BEFORE THE FALL (UK | US | ANZ), releases on 18th June this year. The third and final novel, LAST TO RISE, releases in November 2013.

Fade to Black, book one of the Rojan Dizon fantasy book series by Francis Knight - in a post talking abotu the worldbuilding of Tolkien, Scott Lynch and Terry PratchettBefore the Fall, book two of the Rojan Dizon fantasy book series, following Fade to Black, by Francis Knight - in a post talking about the worldbuilding of Tolkien, Scott Lynch and Terry PratchettLast to Rise, the third and Final Rojan Dizon fantasy novel by Francis Knight, following FADE TO BLACK and BEFORE THE FALL

 

 

 

 

How to make a fantasy book cover: FADE TO BLACK

It’s finally here! Today is the release date for FADE TO BLACK (UK | US | ANZ) by Francis Knight, one of the most hotly anticipated fantasy releases of the year.

The illustrator for the covers of this series, Tim Byrne, did an awesome job representing the vertigo-inducing city of Mahala, the setting for FADE TO BLACK and all the Rojan Dizon novels. We asked Tim to go step-by-step through the process of creating such a cool image:

I started off by doing a very quick sketch of the cover to get an idea of how the perspective might work. I wanted to convey the extreme height of the city of Mahala and how it might be if you were at the bottom looking up. I nearly always start a cover by positioning the type – as once I know where and how that is sitting, I know how much space I have left for the rest of the image.

Sketch by Tim Byrne for FADE TO BLACK by Francis Knight, the first Rojan Dizon novel and a highly anticipated fantasy debut

Next I started blocking in the faces of the buildings/vertical streets using an image of a mud face that I had – which I repeated, scaled and distorted in order to get the perspective to work. This gave me a base on which to start adding bits of buildings and windows.

Stage 1 of a cover by Tim Byrne for FADE TO BLACK by Francis Knight, the first Rojan Dizon novel and a highly anticipated fantasy debut

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Cover launch! BEFORE THE FALL by Francis Knight

The cover for BEFORE THE FALL, book 2 in Francis Knight's debut fantasy series, the Rojan Dizon novels - perfect for fans of Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora and Douglas Hulick's Among ThievesI’m delighted to unveil the cover for BEFORE THE FALL, the second novel in the Rojan Dizon series by the debut British fantasy author Francis Knight.

This superb new fantasy series kicks off at the end of this February with book 1, FADE TO BLACK (UK | US |ANZ). BEFORE THE FALL will follow in June 2013, and the final book in the trilogy, LAST TO RISE, will be out in November 2013.

I’m just loving the design for these books, created by the very talented illustrator Tim Byrne. The crazy, dizzying perspective on the covers really sums up just how mind-warping and unusual the city feels in the books.

The series is set in the vertigo-inducing fantasy world of Mahala, where the streets are built upwards from the shadow of a steep valley. While the dregs of society lurk in the city’s shadowy depths, the sinister Ministry rules over everyone from the privileged sunlit summit.

The novels feature the reluctant hero Rojan Dizon, a mage whose power relies on drawing magic from pain – both his own and other people’s. His powers are officially forbidden, but it turns out that he’ll have to use them if this city’s going to survive. And only one thing’s sure: it’s going to hurt.

We’ve all been raving about this series here in Orbit, as we really think it’s one of the top fantasy debuts to look out for this year. If you enjoy fast-paced adventure fantasy, such as Scott Lynch‘s Lies of Locke Lamora, Douglas Hulick‘s Among Thieves or even Ben Aaranovitch‘s Rivers of London, then this will be up your street.

Check out both covers in full below, and look out for the books later this year! Read the rest of this entry »

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