Take heart, epic fantasy fans—Gollancz has your back.
Hot on the heels of its Shadows of Self cover reveal, Gollancz has launched the symbolism-laden look of a brand new Arabian Nights-inspired book dubbed “a must for fans of Brandon Sanderson” thanks in part to “its deliciously original magic system.” Twelve Kings, aka Twelve Kings in Sharakhai in the States, is the next novel by Bradley Beaulieu, author of The Lays of Anuskaya, and the start of the much buzzed-about Song of the Shattered Sands saga.
In the cramped west end of Sharakhai, the Amber Jewel of the Desert, Çeda fights in the pits to scrape a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall of the cruel, immortal Kings of Sharakhai, but she’s never been able to do anything about it. This all changes when she goes out on the night of Beht Zha’ir, the holy night when all are forbidden from walking the streets. It’s the night that the asirim, the powerful yet wretched creatures that protect the Kings from all who would stand against them, wander the city and take tribute. It is then that one of the asirim, a pitiful creature who wears a golden crown, stops Çeda and whispers long forgotten words into her ear. Çeda has heard those words before, in a book left to her by her mother, and it is through that one peculiar link that she begins to find hidden riddles left by her mother.
As Çeda begins to unlock the mysteries of that fateful night, she realizes that the very origin of the asirim and the dark bargain the Kings made with the gods of the desert to secure them may be the very key she needs to throw off the iron grip the Kings have had over Sharakhai. And yet the Kings are no fools-they’ve ruled the Shangazi for four hundred years for good reason, and they have not been idle. As Çeda digs into their past, and the Kings come closer and closer to unmasking her, Çeda must decide if she’s ready to face them once and for all.
Twelve Kings’ UK cover art is simultaneously striking and rich in imagery, as the aforementioned author explained:
“I love that Çeda is stepping out from darkness and into light. I love that she’s holding a pair of shamshirs as she does. I love that she’s treading a dangerous path, a path lined by thorns and blood. It captures the essence of this book with a glance. Add to that just how eye-catching the overall design is, and I think Gollancz have come up with a real winner.”
That certainly seems to be the consensus. Aidan Moher of A Dribble of Ink was especially impressed by the way the designers drew attention to Ceda, The Song of the Shattered Sands’ protagonist, by “making her identifiably badass and female […] without over-sexualising her”—a sentiment Bradley Beaulieu supports, of course:
Çeda […] is a pit fighter, and clearly that aspect of her life is shown front and centre here. But Çeda’s persona in the pits is only one small part of her story. She also works from the shadows against the Twelve Kings of Sharakhai. She’s been biding her time for years, ever since her mother’s death at the hands of the kings, waiting for the right moment to strike.
That moment finally comes when she goes out on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir, the night when the two moons are full and all are forbidden from treading the streets. It is on this night that one of the asirim, the fearsome defenders of the Kings, stops her and whispers a long-forgotten words in her ear. That one strange event—a thing chillingly linked to her mother’s death—gives Çeda a way to uncover the secrets the kings have worked so hard to bury in the sands.
I don’t have a whole lot to add to that. I tell you what, though: the DNA of the design does rather remind me of Gollancz’s cover art for Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller chronicles, not least last year’s The Slow Regard of Silent Things. Be that as it may, this is a bloomin’ good look for what promises to be a bloomin’ good book. Twelve Kings by Bradley Beaulieu is out in the UK in early September.
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.