Though it was graced with some pretty snazzy cover art in the US (HARDCOVER and PAPERBACK) and some pretty horrible cover art in the US (PAPERBACK), none of it is nearly as interesting as the recently revealed cover art for a UK edition of the book.

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Love it? Hate it? Somewhere in between?

I’m mostly in the Love it camp. But then again, I’m a fan of cool minimalist art like this, and like the change from the generic painting-of-a-fantasy-character cover that’s so often bequeathed on Epic Fantasy. Since I haven’t read the novel, I can’t really comment on how closely it fits the tone and story, but it’s certainly something that would catch my eye on the shelf.

Thoughts?

While their press conference was centred around the announcements of new Mario and Metroid games, Nintendo had another ace up its sleeve, albeit it a small and vague one: artwork from an upcoming Zelda game for the Wii.

Teaser art for the new Wii Zelda

From an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the Zelda franchise:

Well, the story setting for this Zelda is, of course, in a completely different era and Link is older than he was previously. More approaching adulthood. There is one hint. Maybe from the art work you can see that he’s not holding a sword.

Source: Siliconera and IGN

Interesting, indeed. Considering that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was actually a game developed for the Gamecube and then ported over to the Wii, it will be interesting to see what Nintendo brings to the table with the first Zelda title developed from the ground up with motion control in mind.

In any case, considering it’s only a piece of artwork, one can assume that we won’t be seeing it on store shelves until 2010 at the earliest.

Through the first few months of the year, readers of A Dribble of Ink saw a lot of coverage of Nights of Villjamur, the first volume of Solaris Books editor Mark Charan Newton. Well, now readers in the UK (and those savvy enough to use The Book Depository) can get their grubby mitts on the novel, because it’s finally on store shelves!

Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton

A few highlights from some of my coverage:

Interview

I know you’re a big fan of writers such as M. John Harrison, China Miéville and Gene Wolfe and count them as big influences in your writing. What does Nights of Villjamur have to offer to fans of those writers. And, on the other hand, what does it have to offer to those who are more into lighter, more traditional fantasy?

I started writing in the first place after I read Miéville’s The Scar – I couldn’t find anything similar on the shelves. Nothing else did what that book did so I thought I’d give it a go myself, initially writing consciously under that dreaded New Weird banner…

I mean the New Weird was a bit of a misnomer – a stillborn literary movement which these days just leads to rejection letters. In editorial offices, the NW died years ago; so I had to resort to more traditional aesthetics.

But I hope that the spirit the New Weird (and New Wave for that matter) lives on in what I do now – an interest in doing something slightly different that the normal, writing with a conscious style, thinking of unusual themes and seeing if people want to think about different things. Mixing genres, too. So that’s what I think might appeal to fans of those writers. (And, for the very keen-eyed, I’ve slipped in a few references to them – someone in NOV, for instance, wears a Fuligin-coloured cloak, which is the same as worn by Severian in The Book of the New Sun.)

But, all this pretentious solipsistic nonsense aside, there’s huge amounts of fun shit in there too. In fact, it should be core to any modern book – you can’t write classics like Viriconium in the modern publishing world, it just wouldn’t be accepted by editors who are looking for a modern story. I love fantasy – I’m not ashamed to say I write it. I’m a fanboy at heart, I do read in the genre, and there’s a lot to celebrate here.

I mean, I’m not going to attack Tolkien simply for the sake of acquiring cool – I have RayBans for that task. I understand the importance of story and entertainment to readers. So I hope the pacing is good enough to appeal to the fans of lighter fantasy, that the narrative entertains, and that there are exciting enough creatures, and that the characters, although a little messed-up in the head at times, can charm…

In a nutshell: the deeper things are there if people want to find them, and if not, then that’s cool too. Literary endeavor should not exclude entertainment. (But I’d also add to that: entertainment should not be an excuse for failed literature…)

Review

Mark Charan Newton wears his influences on his sleeve, boldly name-dropping the likes of M. John Harrison, China Miéville and Gene Wolfe as driving forces behind his first novel, Nights of Villjamur. But where does that leave me, a self-professed anti-snob – a fan of Terry Brooks and John Scalzi, shy of those more literary works of fantasy, even downright terrified (if forced to be honest)? This was a question I asked myself as I cracked open Newton’s first novel, and I’ll admit I was afraid of the answer.

The most immediately jarring asset of Newton’s debut is the prose. Shockingly contemporary, one has to wonder if this tale of political intrigue might be set not on a fictional fantasy world, but in a far future version of our own, corrupted beyond recognition. Newton sets few ground rules with his prose – noirish and moody as it follows a washed up detective tackle a series of mysterious murders; erudite and pretentious when following the leader of a dark cult, tackling the morality behind necromancy; casual and loose as a roguish con-artist ignores every rule of the vicious noble circle into which he is thrown. I’ll admit to struggling with this early in the novel, with the prose seeming to get in the way of the story, but as the novel moves on, Newton’s command of the language tightens dramatically and I started to forget these concerns, instead focussing on the story and characters at hand.

Nights of Villjamur is being bandied about by reviewers and publicists as a literary fantasy, delving into the underused Dying Earth sub-genre and written to appeal to those looking for something more from their fantasy. While this is certainly true, I was surprised at how much more there was to the novel from the perspective of a Terry Brooks fan. I was worried I would find a dense, overwritten piece of philosophical literature hidden under a fantasy verneer (think Terry Goodkind’s Naked Empire, but not piss-poor), but what I found instead was a tightly plotted novel that worked just as well as a fantasy novel as it did a piece of introspective literature. In short, it would behoove potential readers to drop preconceptions of ‘literary’ fantasy and give Nights of Villjamur a fair shot. With a more than competent debut, Newton seems smartly poised to tackle a wide swathe of readers with Nights of Villjamur, and his future as a writer is bright, indeed.

Mark’s a good friend of mine, and has supported A Dribble of Ink since the beginning (regardless of any negative reviews I may have written about Solaris novels…) and I’m eager to spread the word about his first novel.

The Magic Kingdom of Landover by Terry Brooks
Terry Brooks is best known for his successful Shannara series which, along with Stephen Donaldson, reinvigorated the Epic Fantasy genre back in the late ’70s. Nowadays, The Sword of Shannara gets a bad wrap for being nothing but a rip-off of The Lord of the Rings (which it is, even at the admission of the author), and a not very good one at that (which one could fairly argue, though I don’t agree).

The thing is, most of what Brooks has written outside of The Sword of Shannara has strayed far away from LotR-rip-off territory. His Word and Void trilogy is a masterpiece of dark, Contemporary Fantasy and his Magic Kingdom of Landover series (which has a new volume coming out later this year, A Princess of Landover) is a fun, surprisingly dark series of independent novels.

The first of these novels, Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold! has just been made available for free download over at the Suvudu Free Library. It might not be for everyone, but I was pleasantly surprised when I gave the series a shot!

You can read/download a PDF of Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold! HERE. You can also get other versions of the book (Kindle, Sony Reader and Scribd) HERE.

Thanks to John at Grasping for the Wind and Tor.com, for pointing out that Audible.com is giving away Karl Schroeder‘s Sun of Suns for free!

Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder

I’ve been meaning to check out some of Schroeder’s work for a while (since finding out that he’s Canadian, like me…) and this will be the perfect opportunity to give him a shot and kill some time at work!

You can find the Audible.com version HERE.

You can also read the first three chapters HERE.