City of Ruin
Author – Mark Charan Newton
Publisher: Tor (UK)
Release Date: June 4, 2010
The New Weird. It’s that strange little literary movement that, according to Mark Charan Newton, is dead. And yet, he’s flying that mantle high, telling anyone who’ll listen that City of Ruin, the second volume of his Legends of the Red Sun series, has been let of its leash by virtue of a four book publishing deal; it’s going to be weirder, more true to Newton’s original vision of the sun-deprived Boreal Archipelago. Nights of Villjamur, Newton’s first novel (REVIEW), dabbled in the New Weird, but City of Ruin is meant as a love letter to two ailing genres (it’s also very much in the vein of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth novels and Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun), and promises to be the unrestrained novel Newton wanted to write in the first place (it’s not easy to sell giant spiders, floating spaceship islands and geriatric cultists to publishers, I guess.)
The New Weird movement is one I’ve only watched with vague disinterest from the sidelines. It just wasn’t for me. I’m too traditional, too happy to read novels I recognize. Why would I need weird for weirdness sake? At least, that’s what I thought. I was worried that the New Weird would take too much to wrap my head around, would be more trouble than it was worth. But, if City of Ruin is such an example of the genre then, well… the New Weird just isn’t as weird as the reputation that precedes it. Rather, it’s Fantasy with an open mind, Fantasy that steps away from Elves and Dragons and replaces them with smoking, male banshees and corpse golems. My early perceptions of New Weird were that I’d constantly be forced to reevaluate how I approached the place and setting of the novel, to push aside preconceptions and learn again how to listen to a story; but, really, in the end, a hulking, angry coin golem is just a fresh coat of paint on a troll, and a city-stomping cephalopod is just a dragon in disguise.
From Irene Gallo, at Tor.com:
With Crossroads, we wanted to show Perrin at his breaking point. After engaging in a despicable act he, in a fit of justifiable rage, finally chooses to throw away his axe of war. The trick was getting the moment right. Attempts to show the action came across a bit cartoony. Instead, we decided to depict the minutes just after. The point was to show what Perrin, in this character-defining moment, was leaving behind.
Striking the right emotional chord through mood and atmosphere would be no easy task. According to artist Greg Ruth, “There’s a time in winter here in New England where it’s early in the woods and the canopy of trees keeps the snow from getting too high on the ground, but it’s cold as hell and so deathly quiet. I loved the idea of trying as best as I could to convey that silence and chill as a kind of indictment on the bloody events that precede this scene. If the idea was to get the moment after the action, then the world surrounding the figure and the axe had to convey the emotion as much or more than anything else. Capturing that particular lighting was tough.”
The story of Wheel of Time is a fabric of profoundly difficult and personal decisions. In the end, Greg Ruth created a moment when a giant hero with the weight of the world on his shoulders is at his own private crossroads.
Greg Ruth‘s sumi-e styling is initially a little startling, giving the cover a bit of a cartoony, comic book feel, but as I look at it longer the heavy contrast between the white snow and the dark shadows fits the emotional tone of the scene depicted. I also love how we see Perrin through the arc of his axe, such an iconic image for his character.
No doubt about it, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is going to be one of the biggest publishing events of the year. Tor Books, looking to replace the soon to be completed (by Sanderson, nonetheless) The Wheel of Time series, is pumping a lot of money and resources into setting up the (allegedly) 10 volume Stormlight Archive as the next series to sit a top the Epic Fantasy heap. Whether it will work out that way or not remains to be seen. Still, early impressions of The Way of Kings are very positive, and Sanderson’s involvement with the final volumes of The Wheel of Time will certainly help him grow as an author.
While waiting for the late summer release of The Way of Kings, registered users at Tor.com (if you’re not registered, its free and absolutely worth the 120 seconds it takes) can listen to chapters 4, 5 and 6 in audio format.
Of course, the prologue and the chapters 1, 2 and 3 are available to read, as well.
And the full artwork:
Seriously, with the reveal of Joe Abercrombie’s The Heroes, this has been a bloody good day for cover art. Kraken‘s been blessed with some great cover art already (US/UK), but this one easily takes the cake. Just gorgeous artwork from Vincent Chong, and another wonderful design from the folk at Subterranean Press.
The UK releases of Joe Abercrombie’s novels are known for having some of the most iconic, beautiful covers in the genre, especially when put against the bland, lookalike covers pasted on the front of most novels being published today. So, kudos once again to the art team at Gollancz, for sticking to their guns and producing a fifth cover that’s just as lovely as the previous four. It fits Abercrombie’s style to a ‘T’, and looks like a book I’d be forced to pick up from store shelves (which I can’t say about the bloodtastic US cover, though it’s an improvement over Best Served Cold).
Plus, it’s got a map. I love maps.