Posts Tagged ‘historical fantasy’

Stealing from the fantastic past

The fantasy novel A Blight of Mages by Karen MillerDid you know that Henry VIII, famously infamous Tudor king of England, was the first English monarch to build a public toilet block? Well, he was. And if you’re wondering why he built it, that’s because he couldn’t stop his male courtiers from pissing inside his palace.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? Henry was the most magnificent, the most awe-inspiring, the most kingly king England had seen in a very long time. He was charismatic, athletic, intellectual . . . and ruthless. Everyone remembers him for the six wives and the two beheadings. What a lot of people don’t know is that he also had executed – or judicially murdered – more people than any monarch before him, or after. Over two hundred people killed: men, women, young, old, guilty – or simply inconvenient. They died because Henry wanted them dead.

And yet . . . despite his indisputable, terrifying power . . . he couldn’t stop his male courtiers from pissing inside his palace. On the floor, up the walls, in the corners – they were incorrigible, those male courtiers. And Henry couldn’t stop them. He couldn’t stop the massive thieving by his servants, either. His household budget was always ridiculously in the red because he couldn’t stop his underlings from pinching things, double-dipping, fudging accounts, eating more than their fair share, selling food out of the kitchens.

More power than any man or woman in his kingdom . . . and still, Henry was powerless. An extraordinary paradox, isn’t it? Surprising. Intriguing. (more…)

A Dark Historical Fantasy: THE FALLEN BLADE by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Cover for The Fallen Blade, a hooded figure on a bridgeJon Courtenay Grimwood is a familiar name to SF fans; the author of ten previous novels, he’s been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke award twice and the British Science Fiction Association award no less than seven times, winning twice.

For his eleventh novel, Jon decided to strike out in a fresh direction and write a historical fantasy novel. And where better to set the story than in the endlessly fascinating city of Venice?

As Jon himself explains: ‘It’s a cliché to say Venice is the city of sex and death but it is. Venice is dying and has been dying for over a thousand years. It’s layered with history, one era on top of another. And it’s made with pillars and windows and statues stolen from other cities the Venetians looted. To write Venice I just had to open my eyes and carry a notebook.’

The result of Jon’s three trips to Venice, hours spent pouring over dusty old maps and many months of writing, is THE FALLEN BLADE (UK | US | ANZ): a dark, gritty tale of passion and politics in 15th-century Venice – a powerful city with powerful enemies.

Duke Marco has the throne, but his ruthless aunt and uncle rule in his stead, scheming against their enemies and each other. The pawn at the heart of their struggle is the duke’s young cousin, Lady Giulietta. When she is abducted by Mamluk pirates, it is an outrage that will trigger war.

As the German emperor and Mamluk sultan gather their forces against the city, Venice is heading for a battle it will surely lose. Its only hope lies in a mysterious boy possessed of inhuman strength and speed – and a past wrapped in mystery.


Gritty, grimy, decadent and compelling” – SUNDAY TIMES

“His Venice is a dangerous place of dank, cut-throat malevolence, peopled by leap-off-the-page characters . . . a page-turning read” – GUARDIAN

“Dark and majestic” – FINANCIAL TIMES

“Grimwood creates a fascinating world and involving characters – most importantly, he makes us want to read the next two volumes of the trilogy” – INDEPENDENT

“The writing is elegant, the dialogue is sharp, the characters economically but well drawn, the action unrelenting” – SCI-FI NOW

THE FALLEN BLADE is out now in mass market paperback in the UK and ANZ, and in trade format in the US. The second novel in the Assassini trilogy, THE OUTCAST BLADE, will be published in May.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood can be found online at his website, as well as on Twitter.

New Epic Fantasy – THE GATHERING OF THE LOST – Out Today!

The cover for Helen Lowe's fantasy novel Gathering of the Lost

THE GATHERING OF THE LOST comes out today! 

It’s the second installment in Helen Lowe’s epic fantasy series The Wall of Night, and it’s out now in ebook and print.

 You can read the first chapter here on

It’s the day you’ve been waiting for ever since finishing THE HEIR OF NIGHT (UK|ANZ) – and if you haven’t read that yet, what’s stopping you? There are no excuses for not reading this fantastic series, that Robin Hobb called: ‘A richly told tale of strange magic, dark treachery and conflicting loyalties, set in a well-realised world.’

To celebrate the release, Helen’s got lots of giveaways on her website today – you could win signed books, signed posters and even have a character named after you in the next book, DAUGHTOR OF BLOOD!



Five years after the Darkswarm assault on her stronghold home, Malian of Night remains missing, believed dead in the wilds of Jaransor.

But not all accept her death and now her enemies are on the hunt. Suspicion falls on the heralds Terathan and Jehane, who find themselves caught in a web of intrigue and murder during the Ijiri Festival of Masks. They flee bearing word of a death on the wall – and a call to duty and honour that Malian must answer or be foresworn . . .

A History of the Reality of the History of the Grossbarts: Part 3 (The End of History)

“Follow our lead,” Ardanuy had told me just before we infiltrated the underground conference. “And save any accusations for the Q and A no matter what slander they sling. Better to take it on the chin than come off as amateur.”

This advice seemed at odds with the example they set, Ardanuy and Dunn both leaping from their seats with canes brandished as soon as Tanzer issued her proclamation. Before I could, as Ardanuy had instructed, follow their lead, both men were swarmed by members of the audience packing truncheons of their own. I stood, resolute in that moment to save my mentors, when something bit my hand and I dropped the pistol Dunn had given me. Staring down in horror, I saw a fat weasel dangling from my palm, blood running down the beast’s greedy throat, and when I moved to tear it away with my free hand I felt tiny, sharp claws settle on my shoulder. I froze. (more…)

A History of the Reality of the History of the Grossbarts: Part 2

Dunn’s flight had arrived late and so we drove through the night, past Pensacola, past New Orleans, arriving in Baton Rouge just after daybreak. Both professors sat in the backseat, which did not put me any more at ease, and only the throbbing pain in my legs from the drubbing Dunn had administered kept me awake. Ardanuy directed me to a ramshackle motel on the edge of the bayou called the SoCo Inn. The carpets were damp and the mattress smelled like an overfull ashtray someone had urinated on but I was beyond caring, and as Dunn and Ardanuy sat down at the warped card table in one corner of the room I passed out. (more…)

A History of the Reality of the History of the Grossbarts: Part 1

Bullington_Sad Tale Bros. Grossbart (TP)I first encountered Hegel and Manfried Grossbart as a child in an old book my parents picked up at a garage sale—Trevor Caleb Walker’s Enter the Nexus, Black Monolith. Not realizing what a rare find this century-old edition was, my parents gave me the glorified chapbook, thinking that Walker’s thrashing, inept verse was intended as limericks for children, a bit like the copy of Wilhelm Busch’s Max and Moritz that I so adored. At that age I did not even realize Walker was intending poetry and thought it was simply a bizarrely written series of short stories about graverobbing brothers being unkind to man, woman, and beast. I certainly did not appreciate the volume’s value, and so it went the way of so many old horror comics and paperbacks—worn out and abandoned after a few summers, and entirely forgotten by the time University beckoned. (more…)