Daily Archives: Thursday, April 12, 2012

ORB, SCEPTRE, THRONE, a MALAZAN novel by Ian Cameron Esslemont

In the nameless shanty town rambling westward of Darujhistan, an old woman squatted in front of her shack carving a stick beneath a night sky dominated by the slashing lurid green banner of the Scimitar. Her hair was a wild bush about her head tied with lengths of string, ribbon, beads, and twists of leather. Her bare feet where they poked out beneath her layered skirts were as dark as the earth the toes gripped. She droned to herself in a language no one understood.

An old woman living alone in a decrepit hut was nothing unusual for the shanty town, peopled as it was by the poorest, most brokendown of the lowest class of tannery workers, sewer cleaners and garbage haulers of Darujhistan. Every second shack seemed occupied by an old widow or grandmother, the menfolk dying off early as they do everywhere – the men claiming this proves they do all the hard work, and the women knowing it’s because men aren’t tough enough to endure being old.

And so this woman had lived in her squalid hut for as long as anyone could remember and none remarked upon it, except for all the surrounding old widows and grandmothers who amongst themselves knew her as ‘that crazy old woman’.

Squatting in the mud before her hut she brought the thin stick she was carving close to eyes clouded by milky cataracts and studied the intricate tracery of curve and line that ran end to end. She crooned to herself, ‘Almost, now. Almost.’ Then she glanced fearfully, and rather blindly, to the starry night sky and its intruding alien banner, muttering, ‘Almost now. Almost.’

Malazan fans are wide and plenty these days, so surely there’re a few people out there who will ravenously gobble up this excerpt from Ian Cameron Esslemont’s bizarrely titled Orb, Sceptre, Throne, the latest instalment in the overarching Malazan story. Me? I’m not one of them, for various reasons.

You can find the excerpt from Orb, Sceptre, Throne on Tor.com.

J.K. Rowling, author of THE CASUAL VACANCY

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

I’m calling it now, Fairweather was a squib.

In seriousness, I’m looking forward to this, despite it having no seeming ties to the Harry Potter universe. I was considered Rowling’s humour to be one of the under-appreciated strengths of the Harry Potter universe, and to see her embrace that in The Casual Vacancy has me curious. Plus, well, I’ve long had a soft-spot for small town murder mysteries and I think Rowling will do an admirable job, especially if she’s able to capture some of the community-as-character magic that helped Harry Potter climb to such heights.

The Casual Vacancy will be released on September 27th, 2012 by Little, Brown.