The Giants’ Spear

 

It’s finally here! The end of the series!

Here’s the cover for Book 4 of The Weapon Takers Saga. The official release date for the eBook is 15th November, but it’s already available to buy on pre-order. What’s more, the price will be set at $/£2.99 until release day.

Feels weird to be saying the series is over, but looking forward to finding out what everyone thinks of it.

Visit The Giants’ Spear on Amazon

 

When Fantasy Ruled the Charts

Mention fantasy inspired music now and, if anything, you probably think about a niche genre of heavy metal. But once upon a time, in a land not so far away, fantasy was a major inspiration on some of the music that troubled the charts, and on their artwork. Here are some of the albums, all released between 1967-75, from an era when fantasy ruled the charts.

1973. An iconic album cover featuring mystical sites on earth, Tales from Topographic Oceans by Yes, was written at the high point of progressive rock-a genre full of complex lyrics and music that was well suited to literary ideas. This is a concept album inspired by ancient hindu texts. Ridiculed by some for its pretension, you don’t get music like this in the charts any more. Key track: The Ancients/Giants Under the Sun

 

1969. Led Zeppelin II by Led Zeppelin, complete with a steampunk style cover featuring German WW1 fighter pilots. The moment when Led Zeppelin first mix their folk blues music with mystical storytelling. No doubt much of the link between heavy metal and fantastic themes can be traced back to this album. Key track: Ramble On

 

1972. Demons and Wizards by Uriah Heep. Another prog rock cover, combined with heavy music inside. This record is full of fantasy influenced songs. Key track: The Wizard

 

 

 

1968. This debut by psychedelic outfit Tyrannosaurus Rex long held the record for the longest album title: My People Were Fair and Had Sky in their Hair…But Now they’re Content to Wear Stars on their Brow‘. Full of Marc Bolan’s whimsical lyrics, this album was always going to be fantasy influenced when the bongo player was called Steve Peregrin Took. Key track: Dwarfish Trumpet Blues

 

1967. The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion by Scottish folk duo The Incredible String Band was one of the classic psychedelic albums. Key track: Mad Hatter’s Song

 

 

 

1968. A Saucerful of Secrets by Pink Floyd. The last Floyd album featuring Syd Barrett, it retains his interest in fairy tales and fable. Key track: Let There Be More Light

 

 

 

1975. Warrior on the Edge of Time by Hawkwind. Really, any Hawkwind album would do. What makes this one stand out is the fantasy style cover – and the fact that many of the lyrics were provided by Michael Moorcock. Key track: The Wizard Blew His Horn

 

1971. Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by The Moody Blues. A great cover, this is prog rock with some mystical elements. Key track: Emily’s Song

 

 

 

What do you think? Anything missing? Any more recent music deserving of a mention?

Autumn Update

Wow, time flies, and I note that I haven’t added a new post to the website in a while.

I have been busy, though. The big news is that I have finished the final book of my fantasy series, The Giants’ Spear. This series has taken so much of my time and effort in recent years that it’s strange to say it’s over. When I say it’s finished, I’m talking first draft, so there’s still work to do. I think fans of the series will find the ending suitably epic. At the moment it’s come out at around 110,000 words, so exactly the same length as books 1 & 2. Odd, how 3 of the 4 books have ended up the same length like that.

The aim is to get it published by the end of the year. As a way to introduce new readers to the series I will also be releasing an eBook box-set of books 1-3 (cover above). The release date for this is 28th October.

There is more news to come and I will aim to update the website with it. If you would like more regular updates you can subscribe to my newsletter, which gets emailed once or twice a month.

Epic Fantasy Heists – The Fantasy Focus Podcast

My first ever podcast interview is now up on the Fantasy Focus website!

It was a lot of fun chatting with Jamie and a great experience for me. Have a listen as I discuss The Weapon Takers Saga and my writing journey with fellow Fantasy author Jamie Davis.

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams

Being the first book of The Last King of Osten Ard, a series sequel to the seminal Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.

These days references to the ground-breaking fantasy series Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams tend to be as an inspiration to GRR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. The similarities have been identified and are but a google search away. The danger is that Memory, Sorrow and Thorn becomes a side note in someone else’s chapter in the history of fantasy rather than getting chapter of its own, which it richly deserves.

To help make this point, Williams has now returned to Osten Ard thirty years later (both by our reckoning of years and theirs) with a new series.

Doing so after such a long gap brings its risks. Williams pulls it off, producing something familiar enough to feel like a continuation, but different enough to account for the passing years.

 

CHARACTERS

One problem Williams had was an inheritance of a massive cast list from the original series, combined with the need to introduce fresh characters for this one. He blends the two well, aided by the fact that he gives himself 300,000 words to do it. He avoids easy get-outs, such as having a cull of older characters in the first few pages, and is respectful of his earlier characters.

I didn’t re-read the first series before jumping in with this book, and it is quite possible to enjoy this book without having read the earlier ones. Having said that, you are a little overwhelmed with characters early on here, in a way that wouldn’t happen if it was a totally new series.

His original characters: Simon Snowlock, Miriamele, Tiamak etc — have been aged convincingly, from young heroes to weary rulers. This older cast, with their wounds both physical and emotional, combines well with Williams’ gentle, melancholy writing style.

A number of new characters are, in effect, the bad guys, and seeing their point of view definitely adds something to the tale, and is one example of Williams moving with the times in his approach to this series.

 

WORLDBUILDING

This is Williams’ strength. Of course, he is revisiting a world he created thirty years ago, but the size of it—the history, politics and religion of each culture that come together to make it a living, breathing world, remain impressive.

This level of painstaking worldbuilding is perhaps old-fashioned now, with the current penchant for in your face attitude and violence from page 1. And one issue with Williams’ style remains: the pace. Boy, I remember how slow The Dragonbone Chair was first time around. It’s the biggest barrier to people enjoying his work. And The Witchwood Crown isn’t much better—incredibly slow-build, with things only really picking up in the final quarter.

 

PLOT

Tanahaya, a Sitha, travels to Erchester, the capital of Osten Ard, but is ambushed, almost dying from her wounds. Although the humans attempt to treat her, she remains on death’s door, and why she was targeted remains unclear.

The King and Queen, Simon and Miri, have become care worn after ruling their kingdom for thirty years, and suffering the loss of their only child, John Josua. The question of inheritance looms large, as their grandson and heir, Morgan, is considered a wastrel, though there is more to this story than most characters can see. Political troubles begin to simmer in the far-flung corners of the High Ward and they must rely on their old friends to keep the peace.

Meanwhile, in the cold dark mountain of Nakkiga, Utuk’ku, the Norn Queen, has awakened. Nezeru, a half-blood Norn Sacrifice, is assigned to a hand of Norns who are ordered to leave their realm in search of dragon blood.

In truth, there must be at least twenty POV characters here, scattered across the realms of Osten Ard. I enjoy that level of complexity, but of course not everyone will. It takes a good while, but by the end of the book you can see these threads starting to come together.

 

Overall, if you are ready to get invested in a deep world and a huge cast of characters, to put in the time as the story develops, then you should enjoy this tale from a master of epic fantasy.

The Jalakh Bow – Out Now!

The Jalakh Bow is now available to buy on Amazon. The paperback edition has been released and the eBook is on pre-order, with a release date of 30th March.

Greg Patmore is again going to narrate and produce the audiobook version, and I am hopeful for an autumn release of this.

I’m excited about some promotion news coming up in April, so stay tuned for that!

 

The Jalakh Bow

The Jalakh Bow, Book 3 of The Weapon Takers Saga, has just had its cover reveal over on the Fantasy Hive — check it out, there’s a full series blurb and they’ve displayed all three books in the series – I love seeing all the books together!

 

The formal release date will be 1st April and the eBook is likely to go up on pre-order before that. The book is already up on Goodreads here. I have quite a few things planned to coincide with the launch, so stay tuned! 

I’ll leave you with the blurb for the book to whet your appetite:

 

The weapon takers have bought themselves some time to complete their quest. But when their enemies return, they will find that they have become more ruthless and more terrifying than ever.

In the steppe lands of the far north, Soren must seek out the bow of the Jalakh tribes. In Kalinth, Belwynn must face a mysterious evil disguised as a friend. And in the high mountains of his Krykker homeland, Rabigar must learn a bitter lesson: nowhere is safe.

The Jalakh Bow continues the action-packed series, The Weapon Takers Saga. The series concludes with Book Four, The Giants’ Spear.

 

 

Beyond The Shadows

The grimdark fantasy anthology Beyond The Shadows is now live on Amazon. There’s been a great initial response to the release, with positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

There are 15 stories in the anthology, including my own, Stiff’s Standoff. I’m now a third of the way through the book myself and I’m impressed with the variety of the stories that I’ve read so far. I’m also surprised it’s such a HUGE book – I’ve taken a picture of the paperback which gets across how many words we collectively put out!

Beyond The Shadows on my bookshelf

The eBook version has a new release price of 0.99 until the end of the month, when it will go up to 3.99, so now is a great time to get it.


Bolivar’s Sword Audiobook Out Now!

Greg Patmore and Bridget Thomas have done another fantastic job with Bolivar’s Sword. They really bring the cast of characters to life and I thought it was such a fun listen. Greg was recently nominated for Best Narrator at the 2018 SOVAs and I’m so pleased I’ve got him on board for the series!

The audiobook is now available at Audible, Amazon and iTunes. You can have a listen to the sample below.

audible.com

audible.co.uk

Introducing Lothar ‘Stiff’ Sauer

When the editor of Beyond The Shadows gave the writers some direction for the anthology, he suggested a ‘grimdark’ tone. If you’re new to this term, this is used to denote the relatively recent crop of books whose characters can be described as ‘morally grey or ambiguous’; which forego the traditional good vs evil storylines of fantasy for worlds which are more realistic, or cynical, depending on your outlook. Some of the most well known writers awarded this label are GRR Martin, Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence.

While my current series has some elements of grimdark, it sits more squarely with the traditional fantasy blueprint of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. So my story for the anthology, Stiff’s Standoff, introduces an entirely new scenario with new characters. The main character, Lothar ‘Stiff’ Sauer, isn’t trying to save the world. He’s the leader of a small mercenary group (four of them, including himself) trying to make some money, competing against better leaders with bigger crews.

‘Come on, Stiff,’ said Peter. ‘There’s seven of us here. All professionals. We’ve been preparing for days. What have you got? A fat archer, a psychopath, an old man supping too much beer, and you’ve somehow blundered into a score. You’ve always been sensible. Known when to take a risk and when to back off.’

Patronising shit, thought Lothar, feeling himself rile up. Since when do I take advice from him?

‘I’ll give you 50 pieces for your trouble, Stiff,’ said Anke, making it sound generous. ‘You turn a tidy profit for a day’s work, everyone gets to leave with their reputation intact.’

Now she was doing it. Trying to buy him off for spare change. But Lothar knew something was up. He knew Peter and Anke plenty enough to tell that. Both trying a little too hard to appear nonchalant.

Fantasy characters can tend towards the heroic and the invincible. Lothar is neither – he is an ordinary man in an unpleasant world. He’s just trying to survive in it.

‘What a shithole,’ he murmured, looking around.

He saw a collection of wooden shacks, leaning against each other, on either side of the two roads that met here. The only substantial building was the church, set in its own grounds on the north-east edge of the village. He smiled to himself bitterly. Poor fuckers the world over kept themselves poor by giving all the spare money they had to the Church. It was the ultimate long odds gamble of the desperate and the hopeless.

Footsteps behind. He knew them to be Mirko’s.

‘Shithole,’ said a gravelly voice.

Lothar nodded. He considered the wooden shacks and the people who lived inside.

‘What possesses someone to decide to live their life in a place like this?’ he asked.

‘Because the place they’ve left is worse.’

To survive in this world, Lothar has developed a personal motto. Don’t get into something you can’t get out of. When temptation comes his way, will he stick to his motto and survive another day? Or will he get dragged into a situation from which he can’t escape?

Beyond The Shadows is set to be released on 5th January, featuring 15 short to mid-length stories.