In ICE FORGED (US | UK | AUS) and REIGN OF ASH (US | UK | AUS), Blaine McFadden is sent into exile in an arctic prison colony for murdering the man who dishonored his sister. When a war destroys mankind’s ability to control magic and bend it to their will, out-of-control wild magic brings deadly storms, monsters pulled through rifts from other realms and a madness that drives its victims to violence. Blaine discovers that he might just be the only one who can put things right.
In WAR OF SHADOWS, Blaine and his convict friends discover that plenty of people are trying to kill them. Blaine’s attempts to fully restore the magic affect the new status quo. With the king and nobility gone, there’s a power vacuum, and some ruthless players have decided to fill that gap themselves. As warring factions fight over territory in the kingdom of Donderath, Blaine emerges as a warlord trying to restore the rule of law, amid betrayal, intrigue and opponents who will go to any length to see him dead.
I’m not nice to my characters. It’s true. Blaine’s had a rum go of it. Raised by an abusive father, forced to make a choice no one should have to make in order to save his sister and younger brother, condemned by the king and exiled to the edge of the world—it hasn’t been a good seven years. Yet Blaine rises to the challenge, not because he covets power, but because he doesn’t want to live in the world as it is, and someone has to step up to make the difference.
Blaine doesn’t go looking to be a hero. In fact, when he kills his father, he fully expects to die for the crime to spare his sister and brother from further abuse. An act of ‘mercy’ commutes his sentence from hanging to exile, but the Velant prison colony is known for its inhumane, grueling conditions. But Blaine finds it within himself to adapt, and that ability to change lies at the heart of the series. Blaine and his convict friends, as well as the survivors back in Donderath, find strengths they never knew they had when confronted with challenges they never expected to face.
Blaine’s story is also about the power of ‘the family you make.’ In the brutal environment of Velant, and then later as colonists in the harsh environs of Edgeland, Blaine survives because of the ‘family’ of loyal friends who band together to protect each other. Back in Donderath, his ‘found’ family combines with what remains of his blood family, and several key people are added to the group. Blaine’s companion’s skills, courage and loyalty make the difference for his survival and for having a chance to fix the magic and set things right.
I’m also having fun looking at how a kingdom reacts in the face of overwhelming disaster, destruction of both economic and governmental infrastructure and continued instability. That ‘perfect storm’ combination affects everything from food production to religious identity to social cohesion, turning everything that people thought they knew upside-down. It’s a crucible from which everyone emerges changed—if they emerge at all. And whatever solution is found, one thing is certain: nothing will ever be the same as it was before the disaster.
Depending on your view, that’s either a terrifying statement or the glimpse of hope at the end of the storm.
War of Shadows isn’t the end to Blaine’s story. I’m working on Book 4, SHADOW AND FLAME, right now. So there is more to come. Because surviving is just the beginning of the journey.
My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for stories and books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here: www. AscendantKingdoms.com.
Trick or Treat: Enjoy an excerpt from Ice Forged, and a bonus excerpt from Reign of Ash.
- - October 28th, 2014
There are no words to express how excited I am to share the epic awesomeness that is Gail Z. Martin’s new cover! War of Shadows has it all—danger, mystery, hope, despair, and the aftermath of battle just finished… or a battle just begun. Basically, everything you could ever want in an epic fantasy.
Blaine “Mick” McFadden has scored a victory and restored the magic, but new threats rise from the wreckage of the kingdom of Donderath. While the magic remains brittle and undependable, warlords both mortal and undead vie for power, fighting for control of the ruined Continent. McFadden and his unlikely band of convict heroes must choose their allies wisely as renegade talishte take long-awaited vengeance and powerful mages seek to control Donderath’s next king. Blaine McFadden must protect those loyal to him against the coming storm, and find a way to bind magic to the will of mortals before it destroys him, because time is running out…
War of Shadows is the third novel in the fabulous Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. If you are unfamiliar with the series, be sure to check out the first two books—ICE FORGED (US | UK | AUS), and REIGN OF ASH (US | UK | AUS)
Praise for the the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga:
” The immediate action in this story pulls the reader in… And with more than a few unexpected twists, this easy-to-follow storyline will leave the reader completely surprised and ready for the next book in the saga.”
— RT Book Reviews
“There’s plenty of action and plot embroidery, and the pages turn easily.” — Kirkus
This week is Gail Z. Martin’s annual #DaysOfTheDead blog tour! Head on over to her website to check out the cool interviews, extras, and giveaways happening all week long.
- - October 9th, 2014
The much-anticipated graphic novel of THE WAY OF SHADOWS, the New York Times bestselling epic fantasy of thieves and assassins by Brent Weeks, comes out this week from Yen Press and Orbit UK.
We interviewed Brent about the process of turning his classic fantasy tale into a comic book, and asked him all about his favorite examples of the medium:
JH: Was there anything that surprised you about having your work adapted into comic book form?
BW: The first time I saw Andy’s depiction of the Gyre estate, I had to stop for a second. The rest of the process had been pretty gradual—when we did character sketches, we went through a lot of emails, and a couple iterations of drawings, so they didn’t have the same surprise factor for me—but when I saw the Gyre estate, it hit me all at once. I’d described all these details; this was what I’d written about, but I’d never seen it as a whole. When your artist is talented, there are things about seeing a place that are simply better than reading about it.
The other thing that surprised me was how much little things can matter. Andy does great work with characters’ expressions, hitting just the right tone. That little extra extension on that line turns that grin from amused to sarcastic, or what have you. Similarly, something like how tight an alleyway is, can suddenly be important, because a character in a tight alley feels trapped, and acts differently than in a wide open street.
JH: Which particular character do you think has been captured most perfectly by Andy Macdonald’s art?
BW: I’ll go for a less obvious one. Roth is just the right balance of handsome and creepy.
JH: Was it a strange experience, going back so closely over THE WAY OF SHADOWS, or do you often reread and re-examine your older books?
BW: As little as possible! I always want to edit my old books. Hmm, that sentence could be tightened, couldn’t it? It was very challenging. One of the pleasures of reading my books is that there’s a ton of foreshadowing that looks like throwaway world-building on a first read that ends up being important two thousand pages later. So I had to not only load three books into my brain, but I had to anticipate how each necessary change of adapting the first novel into graphic novel form would ripple through the second and third books. “Okay, this doesn’t happen any more, and that was going to pay off in book 2 when this happens, so now, in graphic novel 2, we’re going to have to do this other thing instead… But does that cause problems in book 3?” Oh, and I was finishing a not-so-simple little novel called THE BROKEN EYE. My assistant, Elisa, was invaluable in the process of keeping everything straight.
JH: Comics and graphic novels are an essentially collaborative medium, requiring a lot of co-operation between the artist and writer. Have you ever worked on something that involved this much collaboration?
BW: Never to this degree. We made a book trailer for THE BLACK PRISM, and I wrote lots of emails and script ideas back and forth (far more than you would think necessary for a two minute trailer, I guarantee!), but that was over about a month. This was a different level entirely.
I should point out, too, that it isn’t just collaboration between artist and writer! The original script adaptation was by Ivan Brandon, and throughout my editor JuYoun Lee was invaluable in the process, not only in feedback and scripting, but also in allowing me to be the difficult artist from time to time. I mean, editors have to make the business work, so a few times I wrote to her, “Look I just added a page to this chapter. I know we’re already over, but we need a full page for this reveal, or it will lack punch. Here’s the new script.” I’m sure she knew exactly how much that was going to cost—art costs, printing costs, extra thickness to the book, possibly fewer books per box which can hurt ordering, and so forth if you do it more than a couple times—and she let me get away with it when we needed to.
That said, I try not to play the diva, especially when it’s a medium I’ve got little experience in. I was lucky to be joined in the journey by people who know a lot more than I do.
JH: Who are your favourite heroes from comics and graphic novels?
BW: Can I confess something? I’ve always enjoyed comic books, but for a long time I had a fundamental reservation about them as art. I thought they were bad art. Partly this is the fault of the whole Death of Superman debacle. Since then (if not before, I’m not an expert), but since then they’ve felt like the ultimate playground for Plot Armor. No character will ever die. No character will ever settle down with one girl, and that’s it for all time. There’s no final story, no closure, even though they pretend there is constantly. And the reason there can be no final story is because money. You can’t kill Wolverine for good, because no matter how many copies of that final plot arc you could sell, you’d be killing the goose who lays the golden eggs. Wolverine is your year-in, year-out steady earner, and he will be for fifty years. A hundred if Marvel has its way. So the story has to account for reboots, and refreshes, memory-losses and reunions. (In some cases, they do that far better than others.)
So, to purist, younger me, comics in the Marvel vein were the biggest examples of art prostituted to money I could imagine. And yet they got a pass somehow—because it’s fun and well-done, I guess.
But I had an idea recently of Wolverine (a favorite since I was young), as a mythic character, rather than as a disjointed franchise. When you read Homer’s Odysseus, he’s a complete man, perhaps the ideal man in the Greek understanding of virtue. When you read Virgil’s treatment of the same character (Latinized to Ulysses, but ostensibly the same character), you realize they have very little in common. Virgil is trotting out the Greek hero to make him look tawdry next to the real stud, Aeneas. (Who just so happened to play for the home team, Rome.) They aren’t the same character—when Virgil handles Odysseus, he handles him as a mythic type, there to be useful in setting up the story that Virgil really wants to tell.
So when you ask “Who is your favorite character?” I have to politely say I don’t believe Wolverine as Wolverine is really a character anymore. Mark Millar’s Wolverine isn’t my favorite, but the idea of Wolverine is.
That said, things are simpler where we have only one writer and artist: I really like Bode and Tyler Locke of Locke and Key by Joe Hill (amazing art by Gabriel Rodriguez).
JH: Can you recommend any comic books which are ideal for fantasy fans?
BW: If you’ve never read a graphic novel and are skeptical about the kind of stories they can tell, check out I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly, which features a fifth-grader named Barbara.
Marvel’s 1602 is a fun re-visiting of the Marvel characters if they’d appeared in Elizabethan times (and goes nicely with my thesis above!). Locke and Key is a little more on the horror side, and though I don’t enjoy horror, I thought it was amazing. Literally the best graphic novels I’ve ever read. Peter V. Brett (of The Warded Man fame) has done a 6 comic book arc for Red Sonja. As for others… well, I’m always looking!
JH: The ultimate comic book question: who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?
BW: I think Batman would know better than get in a simple fistfight with a bulletproof flying alien, so I like to think he’d change the rules of the engagement—a fight over who makes a tux look the best, perhaps, or who can destroy a villain first. Then I’d give an edge to the subtle thinker of the two.
- - October 3rd, 2014
We recently released THE FALCON THRONE – the new offering from the million-copy bestselling fantasy author Karen Miller. It’s been a real honour working with Karen on this novel – it’s epic, exciting, tragic and genuinely made me gasp out loud at certain points . . . And it’s now a joy to see the fabulous reviews which have been coming in for it, showing how much other people have been enjoying it too. Check out what people are saying below.
Blood, dirt and backstabbing . . . impressively elaborate and detailed . . . this dark world will draw you in – SCIFINOW
‘A truly epic read full of intrigue and betrayal anchored in wonderful characters – some I loved and some I loathed, but all I wanted to know more about. Whether it’s combat, politics or human interaction Karen Miller is on the money. Loved it‘ – John Gwynne
‘Complex and engrossing; fans of George R.R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie should particularly take note’ – PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
It will entrap you and hold you captive, you will look up from its pages to discover you have lost hours – APN NETWORK
‘The sheer scope and genius of this series dazzles . . . stylistically brilliant’ – SPECULATING ON SPECFIC
Excellent writing, amazing characters, intricate woven plotlines, and lots and lots of blood, most of that unfortunately spurting from the wrong people. No elves or dragons, but some of the most in-depth world-building I’ve ever read, and the heroes (and anti-heroes) could shake themselves off the page. This book drew me in with the opening sentence and held me until the end . . . I remain breathless from the read. – LIBRARY THING
Fans of George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan and other such writers of epic fantasy will find much to like here . . . a compelling read – READING LARK
- - September 24th, 2014
This month we released AGE OF IRON, a mega epic fantasy debut by stunning new British talent Angus Watson, and it seems bloggers are loving this one just as much as we do!
‘This debut is a whole heap of frenetic chaos, and is thoroughly entertaining from the get go … ferocious, unashamedly adult, fun with some fantastic characters and some great action packed moments.’ The Eloquent Page
‘A very down and dirty, gripping, enjoyable read. It is dark, twisted, funny and exciting.’ Tenacious Reader
‘AGE OF IRON brilliantly weaves the elements of history, fantasy, action and humor in this gripping novel. This is a solid must read for epic fantasy fans. I simply cannot wait to meet Dug, Lowa and Spring in the next installment.‘ Say It With Books
‘The acid test is would I read the next one? Yes, absolutely. Bring me my hammer, bring my beer, bring it on.’ SF Crowsnest
‘Lots of action and adventure with some dark humour thrown in. I found myself throughout the story often sitting with a grin on my face, or even chuckling to myself.’ Opinionated Cupcakes
‘AGE OF IRON packs quite a punch. If you like your fantasy action-packed, drenched in gore, dressed up with some black gallows humor – and revealing quite a bit about an age we know nothing about, then AGE OF IRON is right up your alley.’ Smorgasbord Fantasia
‘I absolutely loved AGE OF IRON. I raced through the novel and didn’t want to put it down. Each of the characters had something endearing which means that there’s not a chapter that feels like a waste. I would recommend this to history fans and readers who are looking for a read with strong female characters.’ A Universe in Words
‘Watson brings the setting to life vividly and his writing is entertaining and gripping. It really is a fantastic debut.’ Chicks That Read
Huge congratulations to Angus Watson on his absolutely stellar debut novel! You can follow Angus on Twitter for all the latest news about the Iron Age series, and pick up your copy of AGE OF IRON from all good bookshops and online retailers.
My Orbit-published epic fantasy trilogy AGE OF IRON is set in Britain during the . . . you guessed it . . . Iron Age. After looking around for about twenty years, I learnt about Britain in the Iron Age and I’d knew I’d found the perfect place and time to set a novel. Here’s why.
An Almost Blank Canvas
The Iron Age ran from roughly 800BC to 43AD, so was relatively recent. Your great times ninety grandparents might have been running around then. The Age of Iron trilogy is set near the end of the period, between 61BC and 54BC.
This period of history was much busier than most would think. There were roads, towns and massive hillforts all over the country. However, we know almost nothing about it because the ancient Brits didn’t write and in 43AD – a hundred years after my book is set – the Romans invaded successfully, stayed for 400 years and wiped out any oral histories. The pre-Roman population was pretty big, the estimates range from one to three million, so there were loads of people, and they weren’t cavemen who sat around saying ‘ug’. They were men and women like us – full of wit, passion, inquisitiveness, jealousy, anger, love and so on. So, throughout the long Iron Age, there must have been epic love affairs, huge wars, intrigues, trysts, adventures, disasters and more, all of which we know absolutely nothing about, which, for me, screams out an invitation for us to create stories to fill the void.
It was a massive joy to learn as much as I could about the period and then make up a world and people to fill it. Anyone else can walk up a hillfort and do the same (see point five for the best hillfort to do this on). Read the rest of this entry »
- - September 9th, 2014
This week sees the start of a truly epic new fantasy series. Some of you may know Karen Miller already from her bestselling Kingmaker, Kingbreaker series, which begins with THE INNOCENT MAGE, and led to her selling over a million copies to date worldwide. But this novel marks the start of a brand new stage in her writing career. This novel is on a bigger, more epic scale than anything she’s ever written before, and it just blew us away here at Orbit with its brilliance. THE FALCON THRONE (US | UK | AUS) is the tale of an unquenchable thirst for power – of the atrocities people will commit in order to obtain it, and the consequences for those who stand in their path. It’s an epic fantasy that is magnificent in scope, thrilling in its emotional power, and truly something that every fantasy fan should read.
It’s on offer for a very limited time, so now is a good time to check out the start to this series, which is sure to be hugely influential in the fantasy world. Congratulations to Karen on writing such a knock-out novel!
- - September 4th, 2014
THE BLACK PRISM (US | UK | AUS) by Brent Weeks is a New York Times Bestseller*, a Barnes & Noble Bestseller, a USA Today Bestseller, and it was the bestselling fantasy hardcover in the US and UK last week!
Congratulations to Brent from all of us at Orbit—so well deserved!
If you’re not familiar with the Lightbringer series—read a sample of the first three chapters of THE BLACK PRISM (US | UK | AUS) here!
Brent’s still on tour, so catch him while you can! Visit his Facebook page for more information, and if you’ve already finished THE BROKEN EYE, head on over to Goodreads to chat about it with other fans.
*List goes live on Sunday, Sept 7th.