Between Gideon’s Angel and The Raven’s Banquet, a pair of headlong, alt-history hybrids, Clifford Beal established himself as a speculative presence to be reckoned with, and it’s my pleasure to tell you today that his horizons are fast expanding. The Guns of Ivrea is coming, alongside a sequel tentatively entitled The Witch of Torinia, both of which books look to explore fascinating aspects of the past by way of a fully-fledged fantastical filter. From the author:
Readers might know my fantasy work has been firmly in the realm of “secret history.” That is, fantasy that is set in our own timeline but where the fantastical occurs off the beaten path and whose existence is concealed by both the real and fictitious characters that inhabit the pages. In essence, supernatural events might have really happened but no one ever wrote about it to tell the story. The new novel, The Guns of Ivrea, is traditional, high-octane epic fantasy—a completely new world and a kingdom called Valdur.
That said, The Guns of Ivrea wouldn’t be a Clifford Beal book if it didn’t bring a little history into the picture:
I tackled the challenge of a secondary world epic by trying to create a distorted mirror of our own renaissance era. Similar level of technology and innovation, dress, and society. I like to think of it as an epic fantasy that Cesare Borgia might have scribbled after a few pitchers of wormwood wine and maybe some mouldy rye bread. Valdur is inhabited not just by men but by merfolk, basilisks, satyrs, krakens, cockatrice, griffons and manticora to name but a few of its more exotic denizens. I’ve made a very conscious decision not to go overboard on world-building but rather to drive the novel by the characters and their personal challenges. The Guns of Ivrea will, in its own way, deal with issues such as racial strife, love, friendship, treachery, and even drug addiction. It’s definitely not all black and white hats. Most of them are deliciously grey and conflicted.
Grey, you say? Why, I wouldn’t want it any other way!
Included in the cover copy is a closer look at a couple of those conflicted characters:
Acquel Galenus, former thief and now monk of no particular skill, indifferent scribe and even worse chorister, uncovers a terrible secret under the Great Temple at Livorna, one that could shiver the One Faith to its core. A secret that could get him killed. A secret that could enable an older more sinister form of worship to be reborn.
Pirate princeling Nicolo Danamis, mercenary to the King and captain of the largest fleet in the island kingdom of Valdur, has made one deal too many, and enemies are now closing in to destroy him.
Citala, fair-haired and grey-skinned, the daughter of the chieftain of the Merfolk who inhabit the waters of Valdur, finds herself implacably drawn to the affairs of men. She puts events in motion that will end her people’s years of isolation but that could imperil their very existence.
All their fates will intertwine as they journey across the land, through duchies and free cities riven by political intrigue, religious fervour, and ancient hatreds. Alliances are being forged anew and after decades of wary peace, war is on the wind once again…
And with war comes conflict little and large—one of Beal’s sundry specialties, according to Solaris’ Jonathan Oliver, who championed the aforementioned author as “one of the modern masters” of fighting fantasy:
His knowledge of historical conflicts and his deep research means that he knows how a fight should work. As such, his action scenes really are exhilarating, and this is no mean feat as I think action scenes are one of the hardest things to get right in a fantasy novel.
But The Guns of Ivrea is also as rich a new fantasy series as you are likely to see, full of intrigue and great characters. This is Cliff’s first epic fantasy novel, but having read the manuscript, you’d have thought he’d been writing this stuff for decades. An assured and exciting writer to be introducing to the world of fantasy.
So let’s recap: The Guns of Ivrea is a full-on epic fantasy boasting kick-ass battles, a cast of complex characters and not a little historical authenticity. What’s not to want?
Asked and answered: only the still somewhat distant release date—The Guns of Ivrea is on Solaris’ slate for publication early next February—but better then than never, no?
Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.