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Brian Staveley

Fiction and Excerpts [23]
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Fiction and Excerpts [23]

Skullsworn: Chapter 2

Pyrre Lakatur is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer—she is a priestess. At least, she will be once she passes her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. The problem, rather, is love. For to complete her trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the seven people enumerated in an ancient song, including “the one who made your mind and body sing with love / who will not come again.”

Pyrre isn’t sure she’s ever been in love. And if she fails to find someone who can draw such passion from her, or fails to kill that someone, her order will give her to their god, the God of Death. Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to fail, and so, as her trial is set to begin, she returns to the city of her birth in the hope of finding love … and ending it on the edge of her sword.

Brian Staveley’s new standalone novel, Skullsworn, returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess-assassin for the God of Death—publishing April 25th from Tor Books. Read Chapter 2 below, or click here to start with the Prologue.

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Skullsworn: Chapter 1

Pyrre Lakatur is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer—she is a priestess. At least, she will be once she passes her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. The problem, rather, is love. For to complete her trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the seven people enumerated in an ancient song, including “the one who made your mind and body sing with love / who will not come again.”

Pyrre isn’t sure she’s ever been in love. And if she fails to find someone who can draw such passion from her, or fails to kill that someone, her order will give her to their god, the God of Death. Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to fail, and so, as her trial is set to begin, she returns to the city of her birth in the hope of finding love … and ending it on the edge of her sword.

Brian Staveley’s new standalone novel, Skullsworn, returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess-assassin for the God of Death—publishing April 25th from Tor Books. Read Chapter 1 below, or click here to start with the Prologue.

[Read more]

Skullsworn: Prologue

Pyrre Lakatur is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer—she is a priestess. At least, she will be once she passes her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. The problem, rather, is love. For to complete her trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the seven people enumerated in an ancient song, including “the one who made your mind and body sing with love / who will not come again.”

Pyrre isn’t sure she’s ever been in love. And if she fails to find someone who can draw such passion from her, or fails to kill that someone, her order will give her to their god, the God of Death. Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to fail, and so, as her trial is set to begin, she returns to the city of her birth in the hope of finding love … and ending it on the edge of her sword.

Brian Staveley’s new standalone novel, Skullsworn, returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess-assassin for the God of Death—publishing April 25th from Tor Books. If you’re new to the series (or just want to read them again) you can get the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne ebook edition—collecting The Emperor’s Blades, The Providence of Fire, and The Last Mortal Bond!

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You Have to Make Your Fantasy City a Character. Looking at the New Map for Brian Staveley’s Skullsworn

There is a cliché in the discussion of any book or movie that involves a vivid urban setting: The city isn’t just the backdrop; it’s one of the characters. Usually, I disagree. A meticulously observed and lovingly rendered city—you smell every whiff of pepper and hot grease seeping out from behind alley doorways; your heel skids in the vomit slopped up against the wall beside the tavern; you hear the kids three stories up drumming on the fire escape with pilfered kitchen knives—makes any story richer, and more immersive.

That doesn’t mean the city is a character.

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Revealing the Cover of Skullsworn, Set in the World of The Emperor’s Blades

I’m struck, sometimes, by all the ways in which writing a book is nothing like playing hockey. I was never very good at hockey, but I liked it, and played through the start of high school. Hockey, of course, is a team sport. This means that individual players can leave the ice and the game will keep going. Not only that, but your team can score goals without you doing a damn thing. This isn’t to say you don’t bust your ass every time you’re on the ice, but that when your line is taking a breather on the bench, things are still progressing.

Not so much with the writing of books. If a writer takes a breather to make a cup of coffee, no one subs in to keep pushing the chapter forward. I never come back to my computer to discover I’ve scored another few paragraphs without noticing. Which can be demoralizing.

As a result, I get disproportionately excited for those rare times in the process when someone else is actually pushing the story forward without me: when my wife, or agent, or editor goes to work on the text. Or in this case, when Richard Anderson and Irene Gallo, the artist and artistic director, get their hands on it. The feeling is like flopping over the boards and onto the bench totally exhausted, muttering to them, “I don’t know if we’re winning or losing, but go do something awesome…” And then they do.

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Cartography and its Discontents

Sometimes I think I wrote three quarters of a million words of epic fantasy just so I could have my own damn map. In this, I am badly, deeply misunderstood by both my wife and my agent, neither of whom, I am certain, has so much as glanced at Isaac Stewart’s gorgeous map, despite the fact that it’s inside the cover of every damn book I’ve ever published. And I fear that they are not alone. I’ve come to realize that their ranks are legion, that there are literally millions of readers out there with no interest in maps, who will blithely skip past the most beautiful, crucial pages of a novel just to get to the actual words.

Cartographical philistines and longitudinal troglodytes, this post is for you.

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The Logistics of World Building: Algebra for Fantasy Writers

There are days—horrible, dark days—when I end up doing more algebra than writing. You remember those word problems from high school?

If Valyn is flying west on a Kettral, covering 300 miles a day, and Ran il Tornja is riding north-east on horseback, covering 100 miles a day, and Gwenna is running due south, covering 50 miles a day, will they all actually meet where they need to meet at the end of the damn book, or will you need to rewrite the whole ass end of the thing? You idiot.

And that’s actually a pretty easy one. When you start thinking about the nuances of travel, there are all sorts of variables: terrain, vegetation, injury, oceanic currents, weather, war, laziness, bowel movements, wrong turns… It’s not unusual for me to have twelve tabs open on Google, all researching some aspect of travel. How fast is a trireme? A quinquireme? What about in a crosswind? How much do those Mongolian steppe horses eat, anyway? How long did it take to navigate the length of the Erie Canal?

At a certain point, you can forgive Robert Jordan for deciding that every major character in the Wheel of Time could just cut a hole in the air and step directly into whatever place they wanted to go. In spite of all the odious algebra, however, there are narrative and dramatic opportunities inherent in the necessity of all that travel.

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The Last Mortal Bond: Chapters 6 and 7

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all—Valyn, Adare, and Kaden—come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.

The trilogy that began with The Emperor’s Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire in Brian Staveley’s The Last Mortal Bond—available March 15th from Tor Books and March 24th from Tor UK. Read chapters six and seven one below, or head back to the prologue.

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The Last Mortal Bond: Chapters 4 and 5

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all—Valyn, Adare, and Kaden—come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.

The trilogy that began with The Emperor’s Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire in Brian Staveley’s The Last Mortal Bond—available March 15th from Tor Books and March 24th from Tor UK. Read chapters four and five one below, or head back to the prologue.

[Read more]

The Last Mortal Bond: Chapters 2 and 3

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all—Valyn, Adare, and Kaden—come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.

The trilogy that began with The Emperor’s Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire in Brian Staveley’s The Last Mortal Bond—available March 15th from Tor Books and March 24th from Tor UK. Read chapters two and three one below, or head back to the prologue.

[Read an Excerpt]

The Last Mortal Bond: Prologue and Chapter 1

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all—Valyn, Adare, and Kaden—come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.

The trilogy that began with The Emperor’s Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire in Brian Staveley’s The Last Mortal Bond—available March 15th from Tor Books and March 24th from Tor UK. Read the prologue and chapter one below, and check back for further excerpts throughout the month of February!

[Read an Excerpt]

My Kinda Scene: Unforgiven and Clint Eastwood’s Achilles Heel

In a new feature for the Tor UK blog, authors share their favorite scenes from film, TV, and books. The wonderful Brian Staveley, author of the David Gemmell Morningstar Award winner The Emperor’s Blades and its sequel The Providence of Fire, explains why one little drink in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven leads to so much trouble…

I was a sophomore in high school when I first saw Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. I hated it.

I’d been raised on HS&GS—Horse Shit and Gun Smoke, my dad’s acronym for Westerns—and I’d come to expect a few things out of a movie starring Eastwood. I expected him to grimace. I expected him to slouch indifferently in his saddle as he rode into town. And, more than anything, I expected him to kick ass.

In the opening scenes of Unforgiven, however, Eastwood’s character—William Munny—can’t shoot a can off a post at twenty paces. He’s a tired, over-the-hill gunslinger, a man who’s lost his will, nerve, and savagery, an outlaw turned pig farmer who falls in the mud whenever he tries to catch a pig. There are hints and intimations that he used to be dangerous, deadly, terrifying—especially when he was drunk, which used to be all the time—but by the time the movie starts, he’s sworn off both violence and whisky. He’s desperate for money—needs to take care of his two kids—and so he reluctantly accepts One Last Job. It seems unlikely that he’ll succeed at it. In fact, he doesn’t seem likely to succeed at anything. For the first four-fifths of the movie he looks, moves, and talks like a busted up old man. As a high school sophomore, I wanted nothing more than for him to get over it, to get his act together and start shooting people. That’s what I was there for!

[Then we come to THE SCENE.]

A Sonnet is not a Martini: The Art of the Narrative Turn

This is the third installment in a series of posts focusing on points of connection between poetry and epic fantasy, the previous two can be found here and here.

Like the martini, the sonnet has been around long enough that it sometimes seems like everyone has her own version. Forget about the days with limited options—shaken or stirred, Petrarchan or Shakespearean. For quite a while now, even those features once deemed essential—fourteen lines, for instance—have been tested. A world in which you can order a martini without any gin is a bleak, dystopian hellscape, but I feel more sanguine about our centuries of experimentation with the sonnet. The curtal sonnets of Gerard Manley Hopkins, for instance, strike me as brilliant, as do Robert Lowell’s mostly unrhymed sonnets. I used to teach these, and my frustrated students always had the same question: If you can do any of this, what makes a sonnet a sonnet? To my mind, there’s still a clear answer: the turn.

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Series: Moving from Lyric Poetry to Epic Fantasy

King Lear: The Syntax and Scansion of Insanity

Maybe it’s because I have this facial recognition problem that makes it tough for me to tell the difference between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, but I don’t think fictional character is a question of faces. Or bodies. Or clothes. Or even actions, actually. Those things are important, but I’ve become pretty convinced that the hot beating heart of character is language. If you know how a character talks, you know how she thinks, and if you know how she thinks, you know how she acts.

This isn’t my idea. It’s the whole premise of theater. A play’s script is a record of spoken language. The task of those producing the play is to translate that language into character and scene. Sometimes there are stage directions, but stage directions are secondary. You can imagine performing a play stripped of its stage directions, but cut out the dialogue and you’ve got nothing.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Shakespeare, who was sparing with his stage directions and brilliant with his language. We can take, as one of the innumerable examples, the case of King Lear. We can look at how this horrible, tragic figure is built up from a series of syllables set on the page, one after the other.

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Series: Shakespeare on Tor.com