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Fantasy Authors in Conversation: Anthony Ryan and John Gwynne

Authors Anthony Ryan and John Gwynne discuss their novels THE PARIAH (US | UK) and THE SHADOW OF THE GODS (US | UK) as well as historical influences on their works. And much more!

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Anthony Ryan: Hi John. Congratulations on The Shadow of the Gods, which you know I enjoyed immensely. It’s probably best if we deal with the big important questions first, to wit: what’s the difference between a sword and a seax?

John Gwynne: Hi Anthony, great to be here chatting to you. I’m so pleased you enjoyed The Shadow of the Gods, and I love your question about a seax, but before I get to that I’ve just got to say this; Vaelin Al Sorna [the main character in Ryan’s Raven’s Shadow series] is one of my favourite characters in fantasy, like, ever. He’s iconic and I imagine he will be remembered in the Fantasy Hall of Fame alongside characters such as Druss and Logen Ninefingers.

Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, onto the difference between a sword and a seax.

A seax is essentially a big knife, used during the Viking era for all manner of tasks. It’s a single-edged blade, with a broken back tapering to a point. Little to no crossguard, with the blade ranging in size roughly from 6 inches up to about 14 inches in length, although there are variations either side of these dimensions. The Norse were a practical and pragmatic people and the seax was a multi-purpose tool, useful for cutting kindling, chopping vegetables, gutting and skinning a meal, and stabbing your enemy (particularly useful whilst in the shield wall, which would be cramped conditions with little room to swing a blade, much like the Roman gladius). A sword during the same period was longer, tended to be double-edged and with a more prominent crossguard.

Another difference is the way the seax and sword would be worn. A sword would be scabbarded and hung from a baldric or belt to hang roughly diagonally across the hip. A seax would have a scabbard with two or three suspension points and usually would hang from your belt horizontally across your front, roughly around the area of your upper thighs. This was a comfortable position for rowing.

Just to blur matters a little, there were also examples of a langseax, or long-seax during the Viking period, which is a blade with the same design as a seax (single edged, broken back, small or no crossguard) but being longer, of a roughly similar length to a sword. I’ve read various theories on why the langseax was used, and one of the ones I like the most is that the long-seax was used for ship combat, because there would be no danger from a single-edged sword in a back-swing of cutting rigging. So much of ancient history is filling in the gaps and educated guessing, so as to whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but I like that logic.

Onto my first question to you, Anthony. I’ve recently read your latest novel due to be published later this year, The Pariah, which I loved. I felt a strong medieval and Robin Hood inspiration in its setting and style, though this is a much grittier tale, with a heavy dose of revenge thrown in. Can you tell me a little about your inspirations for The Pariah?

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Cover Launch: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO CONQUERING THE WORLD by K. J. Parker

If you’re already adept at defending walled cities and successfully ruling empires, and you’re looking for your next big challenge, we’ve got the perfect book for you. With the launch of A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO CONQUERING THE WORLD (US | UK) this November, World Fantasy Award-winning author K.J. Parker brings his acclaimed sequence of novels that began with SIXTEEN WAYS TO DEFEND A WALLED CITY (US | UK) to a refreshingly pragmatic conclusion. We’re thrilled to present the final book’s cover below.

Design by Lauren Panepinto

Praise for SIXTEEN WAYS TO DEFEND A WALLED CITY (US | UK) and HOW TO RULE AN EMPIRE AND GET AWAY WITH IT (US | UK)

“Readers are ensured a good time and a barrel of laughs to boot.” –Publishers Weekly

“Parker’s latest epic fantasy proves that all the world is, indeed, a stage, and Parker himself is a master impresario.” — Library Journal

“Full of invention and ingenuity . . . Great fun.” — SFX

“As with most of Parker’s work, there is a melancholy undercurrent that gives the humor weight. As heroes go, Orhan is a reluctant and flawed one . . . . [but] when Orhan works the problem, we can’t help but watch.” —Locus

“Launches a witty adventure series . . . Readers will appreciate the infusion of humor and fun-loving characters into this vivid and sometimes grim fantasy world.” –Publishers Weekly

Cover Launch: THE LAST WISH – ILLUSTRATED EDITION by Andrzej Sapkowski

Fantastic news for  the Witcher fans out there! This December, you’ll get to experience The Last Wish—the story collection that started it all—in a new form: a deluxe hardcover edition featuring seven stunning illustrations by seven award-winning artists.

We’ll be revealing the full artist roster soon, but today, our spotlight is on the incredible cover! ICYMI when it was revealed by Netflix during WitcherCon, here’s our favorite monster hunter as imagined by artist Tommy Arnold:

Cover art by Tommy Arnold, @tommyarnoldart. Design and art direction by Lauren Panepinto.

We asked Tommy why he chose this portrayal of Geralt for the cover, and here’s what he had to say: “Geralt is, in some ways, defined by his separation from humanity. There’s a loneliness to him. But like all consummate professionals, he’s most at home in his work. The peace he finds from existential questions in simply fighting monsters, the calm at the center of the storm—that’s what we were after here.”

This special edition is being designed by Orbit’s fabulous creative director, Lauren Panepinto, who adds, “One of the best things about working on The Witcher is the wealth of great scenes and characters—both human and mythological—that beg to be depicted. It has been very enjoyable for me to design this deluxe edition of The Last Wish around so many great artists who are also fans. There is a different artist for each of the seven stories (and maybe a bonus here and there), and each has a unique take on the characters within. The overall red and black palette will unify these diverse illustrations into a design-forward take on Sapkowski’s world. It’s been a joy to work with such a great team on such a fun project. Witcher fans are going to love seeing so many fresh views of these stories.”

The book is available for pre-order in the US and UK, so go ahead and toss a coin to your favorite bookstore!

Cover Launch: LEVIATHAN WAKES 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION by James S. A. Corey

Can you believe it’s been a full ten years since LEVIATHAN WAKES first published? The first book in the Expanse launched a stellar New York Times-bestselling nine-book space opera series that went on to connect with millions of readers, win a Hugo Award, and inspire a hit TV show. To celebrate, we’re launching a beautifully designed 10th anniversary edition of the book that started it all on September 21st (Pre-order in the US | Pre-order in the UK). Featuring a reversible cover, painted edges, a black and magenta foil case, and a stunning endpaper map, this edition is the best way to celebrate the modern masterwork of science fiction before it comes to a close later this year.

For the design of this anniversary edition, we wanted to highlight the incredible fanbase that has grown up around the Expanse, including all the great artists — both fans and professionals — who have contributed to the universe that grew around the books and show. We found poster artist Jay Clark’s homage to the Rocinante and his solar system map online, and commissioned him to adapt his work to this new edition. Meanwhile, we decided to honor Daniel Dociu’s original Leviathan Wakes cover art by reprinting it in its uncropped glory on the inside of the book jacket.

Praise for The Expanse

“It’s been too long since we’ve had a really kickass space opera. LEVIATHAN WAKES is interplanetary adventure the way it ought to be written.” ―George R.R. Martin

“This is the future the way it was supposed to be.” ―The Wall Street Journal

“As close as you’ll get to a Hollywood blockbuster in book form.” ―io9.com

“Riveting interplanetary thriller.” ―Publishers Weekly

“The science fictional equivalent of A Song of Ice and Fire…only with fewer beheadings and way more spaceships.” ―NPR Books

“High adventure equaling the best space opera has to offer, cutting-edge technology, and a group of unforgettable characters.”  —Library Journal (starred review)

Cover Launch: THE BONE SHIP’S WAKE by RJ Barker

We’re thrilled to reveal the cover of THE BONE SHIP’S WAKE (UK | US), the final book in RJ Barker’s swashbuckling Tide Child trilogy. Return to the high seas on 30th September 2021, and don’t forget to pre-order (UK | US)! But in the meantime, you can check out the beautiful cover below and read on for a taste of what’s in store for Joron Twiner and the crew of the Tide Child. . .

The sea dragons are returning, and Joron Twiner’s dreams of freedom lie shattered. His Shipwife is gone and all he has left is revenge.

Leading the black fleet from the deck of Tide Child Joron takes every opportunity to strike at his enemies, but he knows his time is limited. His fleet is shrinking and the Keyshan’s Rot is running through his body. He runs from a prophecy that says he and the avian sorcerer, the Windseer, will end the entire world.

But the sea dragons have begun to return, and if you can have one miracle, who is to say that there cannot be another?

Praise for the Tide Child trilogy:

‘Excellent . . . one of the most interesting and original fantasy worlds I’ve seen in years’ Adrian Tchaikovsky

‘Brilliant’ Robin Hobb

‘Swashbuckling awesomeness . . . a fascinating world and a twisty plot, both rooted in characters I came to care about. A definite winner’ John Gwynne

‘A vividly realised high-seas epic that pulls you deep into its world and keeps you tangled there until the very last word’ Evan Winter, author of The Rage of Dragons

‘A rip-roaring oceanic adventure, packed with violence and beauty. It’s about the beauty of the sea and the brutality of humanity, as well as huge sea monsters and ship-to-ship battles. A perfect storm of fantasy storytelling’ Starburst

You can find RJ Barker on Twitter @dedbutdrmng

 

 

 

Acquisition Announcement: THE MONSTERS WE DEFY by Leslye Penelope

Are you ready to discover the magical side of Washington D. C.? Orbit is delighted to announce the acquisition of THE MONSTERS WE DEFY, a riveting historical fantasy novel by Leslye Penelope, author of the Earthsinger Chronicles.

Set in 1925 Washington D. C., The Monsters We Defy follows a woman with the unique ability to communicate with spirits who must assemble a ragtag crew bestowed with magical gifts to pull off a daring heist and save her community from malevolent beings. Blending rich historical details, African American folk magic, and sharp social commentary, Leslye has crafted a caper that is sure to delight fans of Alix E. Harrow, P. Djeli Clark, Leigh Bardugo, and N. K. Jemisin.

I’m sure you’re eager to know more! Here are a few words from Leslye about what inspired her to write this novel:

“Girl Kills Detective,” “Sniping Negress Held for Slaying” — the headlines of the newspaper articles tell their version the story of Clara “Carrie” Minor Johnson, a seventeen-year-old girl from Washington, DC who was arrested during the Red Summer riots of 1919 for killing a policeman. 

That detective had been one of the policemen to burst into Carrie’s bedroom during the middle of the riot. Police claimed there had been a sniper shooting from the roof—neighbors dispute this. Carrie and her father hid under the bed. Shots were fired at the intruders and the police fired back, injuring both father and daughter. They lived; Detective Harry Wilson died. Eighteen bullet holes were left in the door to Carrie’s bedroom.

A jury convicted Carrie of manslaughter, but she was given a new trial after her original judge, on his deathbed, regretted not allowing her to use self-defense. The new district attorney dropped the charges, basically admitting the young woman was in fear for her life and that he would not get another conviction.

She was freed from jail at the age of nineteen and then disappears from history. Six years after Red Summer, in August of 1925, the Ku Klux Klan marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. The climate of oppression and terror for Black Americans had changed little. How might Carrie at twenty-three have viewed her world? What might she have done with her second chance?

I imagine a future for Carrie—this girl who fought back, who shot back, and lived, and ultimately went free. I imagine a life of struggle and agitation, of magic and love, and becoming an agent of change in her community. 

The Monsters We Defy uses Carrie’s history as a springboard for a story weaving Black folk magic, history, and romance into the adventure of a caper. A story not of Black pain, but Black survival and the pursuit of joy.

THE MONSTERS WE DEFY publishes Summer 2022. In the meantime, please join us in welcoming Leslye to Orbit! You can find her at https://lpenelope.com/ and on Twitter at @leslyepenelope.

Orbit US senior editor Nivia Evans acquired World English rights from Sara Megibow at kt literary.

 

Acquisition Announcement: THE UNDERTAKING OF HART AND MERCY by Megan Bannen

Get ready for your guaranteed most delightful read of 2022! Orbit is thrilled to announce the acquisition of Megan Bannen’s  adult debut, THE UNDERTAKING OF HART AND MERCY. Princess Bride meets You’ve Got Mail in this enchantingly quirky, completely refreshing fantasy with a rom-com-worthy premise, perfect for readers of The House in the Cerulean Sea and The Invisible Library. Set in a world equally full of magic and demigods as it is donuts and small-town drama, this utterly unique fantasy is sure to sweep you off your feet.

Hart Ralston is a demigod and a marshal, tasked with patrolling the wasteland of Tanria. The realm the exiled old gods once called home is now a forsaken place where humans with no better options or no better sense come seeking adventure or spoils, but more often end up as drudges: reanimated corpses inhabited by the souls of those who’ve died in Tanria before. Hart tells himself that his job is simple: neutralize the drudges with a quick zap to the appendix and deliver them back to polite society at the nearest undertaker’s, leaving the whys and hows of the drudge problem for men without the complexities of a god in their family tree. But working alone, Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder exactly those questions he’d most like to avoid.

Too much time alone is the opposite of Mercy Birdsall’s problem. Since her father’s decline, she’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son undertakers afloat in small-town Eternity—despite definitely not being a son, and in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart Ralston, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest. The work’s not the problem—Mercy’s good at it, better than any other Birdsall—but keeping all her family’s plates spinning singlehandedly, forever, isn’t how Mercy envisioned her future.

After yet another run-in with the sharp-tongued Mercy, Hart considers she might have a point about his utter loneliness being a bit of a liability. In a moment of sentimentality, he pens a letter addressed simply to “A Friend,” and entrusts it to a nimkilim, an anthropomorphic animal messenger with an uncanny connection to the gods, (and in Hart’s case, a bit of a drinking problem). Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born.

If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most–Mercy. As the two unlikely pen pals grow closer, the truth about Hart’s parentage and the nature of the drudges creeps in. And suddenly their old animosity seems so small in comparison to what they might be able to do: end the drudges forever. But at what cost?

Be prepared for THE UNDERTAKING OF HART AND MERCY to be your absolute favorite beach read of summer 2022, and in the meantime give a warm welcome to author Megan Bannen on Twitter @MeganBannen, Instagram @meganbannen, or her website https://www.meganbannen.com/! See you in Eternity!

Acquisition Announcement: THE BOOK OF GOTHEL by Mary McMyne

Everyone knows the story of Rapunzel—a young girl stolen away by an evil witch and forced to live in a tower. But do you know the real story? Do you know the story of the witch? We are thrilled to announce that Orbit’s sister imprint, Redhook, has acquired Mary McMyne’s lush, historical fantasy debut, THE BOOK OF GOTHEL.

For fans of Circe, Wicked, and Spinning Silver, THE BOOK OF GOTHEL is a tale filled with witchcraft and magic, crumbling towers, dark woods and evil princes, otherworldly secrets and forgotten tales. It’s a story about mothers and daughters, and the lengths we will go to for love. Beautifully rendered and rich in historical detail, this fractured fairytale spins the familiar story of Rapunzel on its head by centering its villain—Haelwise, the witch of the tower of Gothel. And we can’t wait for this captivating debut to sweep you off your feet!

Haelewise has always lived under the shadow of her mother, Hedda—a woman who will do anything to keep her daughter protected. For with her strange black eyes and even stranger fainting spells, Haelewise is shunned by her village, and her only solace lies in the stories her mother tells of child-stealing witches, of princes in wolf-skins, of an ancient tower cloaked in mist, where women will find shelter if they are brave enough to seek it.

But when her mother dies, Haelewise is left unmoored. With nothing left for her in her village, she sets out to find the tower of legend—a place called Gothel, where Haelewise meets a wise woman willing to take her under her wing.

But Haelewise is not the only woman to seek refuge at Gothel. It’s also a haven for a girl named Rika, who carries with her a secret the Church strives to keep hidden. A secret that just might explain why Haelewise keeps hearing her mother’s voice.

We can’t wait to share THE BOOK OF GOTHEL with you next year! And, in the meantime, please join us in welcoming Mary to Orbit/Redhook. You can find her on Twitter @MaryMcMyne and at her website.

Orbit US senior editor Brit Hvide acquired World English rights from Sam Farkas at Jill Grinberg Literary Management. Orbit UK editor Emily Byron has secured UK rights.

Acquisition Announcement: THE STARDUST THIEF by Chelsea Abdullah

Get ready for the biggest fantasy debut of the year! Orbit is thrilled to announce that we’ve acquired World English rights to a stunning, Arab-inspired epic fantasy: Chelsea Abdullah’s The Stardust Thief.

Set in a world filled with dangerous jinn, magical artifacts, and shifting dunes, The Stardust Thief tells the story of a legendary smuggler and a cowardly prince who are forced to quest out across the desert in search of the long-lost city of the jinn and a magical lamp. Weaving together tales from One Thousand and One Nights, American-Kuwaiti author, Chelsea Abdullah has crafted an enchanting novel that feels both familiar and entirely new. Perfect for readers of The City of Brass and The Bone Shard Daughter (US | UK), this epic quest will captivate and enthrall you, sweeping you away into a land where the line between stories and reality blur, and where magic lurks in the most unexpected places.

Neither here nor there, but long ago…

Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land.

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems.

We can’t wait to share The Stardust Thief with you next year! And, in the meantime, please join us in welcoming Chelsea to Orbit. You can find her on Twitter @chelsabdullah and at https://www.chelseaabdullah.com/

Orbit US senior editor Brit Hvide acquired World English rights from Jennifer Azantian at Azantian Literary Agency. Orbit UK editor Emily Byron has secured UK rights.

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Cover Launch: THE LIAR’S KNOT by M. A. Carrick

Welcome, readers, to the cover launch of THE LIAR’S KNOT, the second book in the dark and dazzling Rook & Rose trilogy by M.A. Carrick!

Take a deep breath and prepare for your return to Nadežra, the city where magic dwells in both dreams and nightmares, where thieves and noblemen both are liars, and everyone hides behind a mask. Nadežra, where a stubborn and quick-witted con artist, a charmingly ruthless criminal, and a legendary vigilante will risk everything in order to protect a world that is determined to fall apart. Nadežra, where nothing is quite as it seems…

Check out the stunning cover of THE LIAR’S KNOT below, and make sure to pre-order (US | UK)! And if THE MASK OF MIRRORS (book one of the trilogy) is still on your TBR pile, good news: THE LIAR’S KNOT is hitting shelves in December, giving you plenty of time to catch up! This is an epic fantasy series you don’t want to miss. But don’t take our word for it—read on for a taste of all the fantastic praise it’s received.

Illustrated by Nekro. Designed by Lauren Panepinto

Trust is the thread that binds. And the rope that hangs.

In Nadežra, peace is tenuous as a thread. Corrupt House Indestor has been destroyed, but darkness still weaves through the city’s filthy back alleys and jewel-bright gardens, visible to those who know where to look.

Derossi Vargo, Grey Serrado, and Ren, daughter of no clan, all know. Caught in a knot of secrets and lies, they struggle to decide who to trust and who to turn from—a precarious position indeed, even for a ruthless criminal, a notorious vigilante, and a brilliant con artist.

Because the power they are fighting is more ancient than they can fathom, and they have yet to discover just how deeply rooted its poison is. And in the end, it will take more than wits and knives to cut themselves and their city free.

Praise for The Mask of Mirrors

“Lush, engrossing, and full of mystery and dark magic.”BookPage

“Immersive…a feast to savor slowly.”BuzzFeed News

“Utterly captivating.” —S. A. Chakraborty, author of The City of Brass

“This novel will catch hold of your dreams and keep you from sleeping.” —Mary Robinette Kowal, author of The Calculating Stars

“Wonderfully immersive—I was unable to put it down.” —Andrea Stewart, author of The Bone Shard Daughter

“Exactly the fantasy adventure novel you’re craving.” —Tasha Suri, author of The Jasmine Throne

“A fantastically twisty read.” —Fran Wilde, author of the Bone Universe trilogy

“A tightly laced plot dripping with political intrigue. Carrick has built a strong foundation for things to come.” —Publishers Weekly

“An excellent fantasy novel.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“An intricate, compelling dream of a book.” —Melissa Caruso, author of The Tethered Mage

“A sheer delight!” —Katy Rose Pool, author of There Will Come A Darkness

“For those who like their revenge plots served with the intrigue of The Goblin Emperor, the colonial conflict of The City of Brass, the panache of Swordspoint, and the richly detailed settings of Guy Gavriel Kay.”Booklist (starred review)