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Most fans agreed that Robin Hobb’s return to Fitz and the Fool in last year’s Fool’s Assassin was a roaring success. Fool’s Quest is the second volume in the trilogy, and it tentatively scheduled for release in August 2015.

This cover is a fantasy book cover. It looks a lot like the last cover, also by Alejandro Colucci. Fitz has an axe, which is good, and he continues to look older and more grizzled (as Hobb points out in her blog post announcing the new cover!) I like that Del Rey has created a natural progression in the artwork that starts off looking somewhat like YA, before traipsing into full-blown moody Fitzdom. Seems suitable, if you’ve read the books.

Standing atop a pile of broken weapons, the detritus of war, is very similar to the covers that appear on Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire Trilogy, so it’s interesting to consider the difference in posture and emotion of the two main characters. Cocky and victorious Jorg Ancartch, and brooding, sorrowful FitzChivaly Farseer. It’s an interesting contrast, though likely unintentional.

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When gamers think of Guild Wars 2, the concept art created by Kekai Kotaki and Richard Andersen (who are also two of the best fantasy/science fiction cover artists working today) comes blazingly to mind. It’s rich and unique, broad and diverse. I’ve never played a minute of Guild Wars 2, but the concept art is so wonderful that I’ve sought it out at every opportunity.

Kotaki is no longer with ArenaNet, so in comes Theo Prins, a new artist to work alongside Richard Andersen and the rest of the Guild Wars 2 art team as they continue to build one of the most vivid and beautiful worlds in gaming. Prins’ loose, impressionistic style fits perfectly alongside the art of Kotaki and Andersen, but he brings a pastel colour palette that those two artists don’t often utilize.

Prins “grew up in the Pacific Northwest and the Netherlands and spent most of his childhood drawing airplanes, cities and dinosaurs,” says his official biography. “As a teenager he financed flying lessons with aviation art commissions but dropped his idea of becoming a pilot when he discovered his passion for digital art.” More of his art can be found on his DeviantArt gallery and his official portfolio.

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Michael Whelan’s official website revealed that the legendary artist, who rarely works on cover art since semi-retiring to focus on fine art in the early 2000s, will be painting the cover art for Tad Williams’ The Last King of Osten Ard, Williams’ sequel trilogy to his modern classic, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.

The official back cover blurb provides some hints to what awaits Whelan:

In this new trilogy, Williams journeys back to the magical land of Osten Ard and continues the story of beloved characters King Simon and Queen Miriamele, married now for thirty years, and introduces newcomer Prince Morgan, their heir apparent. Also expanded is the story of the twin babies born to Prince Josua and Lady Vorzheva—a birth heralded by prophecy, which has been the subject of feverish fan speculation since the release of To Green Angel Tower in 1993.

This is tremendous news for fans of Williams and Whelan, as the artist’s work has become synonymous with Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Since the trilogy was released in the 90s, the North American editions have never featured different artwork. Let us hope, however, that we get more inspired work than Whelan’s last cover.

The first volume of The Last King of Osten Ard, The Witchwood Crown, will be released from DAW Books and Hodder and Stoughton in 2016. It is unclear if both publishers will use Whelan’s paintings, though the art that Whelan produced was not used on the Gollancz editions of Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance.

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MTV has announced the casting of Australian-New Zealand actor Manu Bennett as the Allanon in its adaptation of Terry Brooks’ The Elfstones of Shannara. This the fourth major role to be filled as casting continues for the ten-part miniseries, which airs in 2015.

Manu Bennett is the man behind the digital mask of (the much maligned) Azog from Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of The Hobbit. However, he’s probably better known for his role as Deathstroke on The Arrow. Judging by his physique in The Hobbit, Bennett has the size and athleticism necessary to play the lone Druid, so all that remains is the charismatic brooding and menace that make Allanon a fan favourite.

“Bennett will play Allanon, a druid who is the last of his kind in the world of Shannara,” said The Hollywood Reporter. “He is described as a wise, perceptive and serious man who knows something incredibly important has begun when the wise tree Ellcrys starts to die. He enlists Wil (Austin Butler) to fulfill his destiny and save the four lands.”

You ask me, there’s no more iconic character from my pre-teens and teens than Allanon. He’s right there with Gandalf and Alan Grant. Brooks’ Shannara novels were pivotal gateway pieces during my discovery of fantasy, and Allanon is a big part of the reason why I became so attached to Brooks’ world. There’s a gravitas to the Druid that helped to define the mentor/student role that has become a genre trope since Brooks released The Sword of Shannara 35 years ago.

Allanon is described in The Sword of Shannara as a towering, dark-skinned man, and it’s wonderful to see MTV following through on this by casting a Māori actor land for major role on the television series. I’d love to see this become a trend as MTV fills out the rest of the Shannara cast. Most of the characters Wil meets throughout the novel are Elvish (already established by the casting of Austin Butler and Aaron Jakubenko as a fair-skinned race), but there are a lot of other opportunities — notably Eretria and Cephelo, perhaps also Mallenroh — to cast native New Zealand or Australian actors in other roles.

THE ALLOY OF LAW by Brandon Sanderson

“Tor Books is eye-wideningly excited to announce that TWO new Mistborn novels by Brandon Sanderson will be released in late 2015!” announced Tor.com today. Sanderson fans were already aware that the first of these novels, Shadows of Self, was due for a 2015 release, but the announcement of a 2015 release for Bands on Mourning (which is, like, the most post-ironic black metal band collaborative name ever) is a pleasant surprise.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned in ten years of working with Brandon, it’s that he almost always delivers more than we’ve asked for and that he loves to surprise us,” said Sanderson’s agent, Moshe Feder.

Tor Books’s proclamation that Sanderson’s releasing two novels next year is a tad misleading. Shadows of Self will hit shelves in October 2015, but Bands of Mourning won’t arrive until January 2016.

Shadows of Self and Bands of Mourning are the concluding volumes in Sanderson’s Mistborn pedantically-named spinoff series, the Wax and Wayne Mistborn tetralogy. Given my enjoyment of the first volume, The Alloy of Law, I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of fun Sanderson has with Wax and Wayne on their next outing(s).

UPDATE – 12-19-2014: Sanderson has revealed that there’s actually a third Mistborn novel, tentatively titled The Lost Metal, coming. This will bump the full Wax and Wayne Mistborn series to four books at its conclusion. The final three volumes announced here will be feature a more traditional trilogy structure, with The Alloy of Law acting as a prequel/set-up narrative. The trilogy will include: Shadows of Self, Bands of Mourning, and The Lost Metal. Sanderson then plans to work on the next Mistborn trilogy, tentatively set in a world that mirrors the 1980s (or, he hints, there’s a possibility that he’ll write something set in an amalgam of the ’40s.)

Gollancz has announced that Shadows of Self and Bands of Mourning will be released in the UK in October 2015 and January 2016 respectively.