Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes

Lenk can barely keep control of his mismatched adventurer band at the best of times (Gariath the dragon man sees humans as little more than prey, Kataria the Shict despises most humans, and the humans in the band are little better). When they’re not insulting each other’s religions they’re arguing about pay and conditions.

So when the ship they are travelling on is attacked by pirates things don’t go very well. They go a whole lot worse when an invincible demon joins the fray. The demon steals the Tome of the Undergates – a manuscript that contains all you need to open the undergates. And whichever god you believe in you don’t want the undergates open. On the other side are countless more invincible demons, the manifestation of all the evil of the gods, and they want out.

Full of razor-sharp wit, characters who leap off the page (and into trouble) and plunging the reader into a vivid world of adventure this is a fantasy that kicks off a series that could dominate the second decade of the century.

Those in the know (i.e. his publisher, who wants him to succeed at any cost), claim Sykes, a 25-year-old, is going to be the debut author of 2010. You know, the next Patrick Rothfuss. I’m sure Blake Charlton and Tor Books, with the 2010 release of Spellwright, have something to say about that, along with Penguin Books and Paul Hoffman, who release The Left Hand of God in 2010. Still, if you ask me, you can’t have too many authors vying to debut novel of the year.

What really gets my attention about Tome of the Undergates, beyond the hype, is that Sykes is so young (same age as myself, as a matter of fact), and that’s almost reason enough to give it a go when I get my hands on a copy.

As for the cover, I won’t bellyache. I do like the water, though, and the general tone of the colours. I’m excited to see what Pyr Books, who is publishing the novel in North America, pulls together for their version of the cover.

Sykes himself is an amusing guy, and you can find him on his WEBSITE and on TWITTER.

  • Sam Sykes November 25, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Well, I can’t comment as to the hype, but I do hope you like the book enough to justify the investment! Thanks much for the blog mention, by the by!

    -Sam Sykes

  • aidan November 25, 2009 at 11:09 am

    This is when you’re supposed to tell me that, despite the raucous acclaim already levelled at you, you’re under-hyped.


  • Sam Sykes November 25, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Oh, seriously?

    I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but the book basically heals the sick and the dying and I think it once caused the lame to walk. I left my camera behind, but it seriously happened once.


  • James (Speculative Horizons) November 25, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    I received this behemoth of an ARC the other day, and am intrigued to see how it reads. A very brief glance over the prose gave me a tentative impression of Lynch/Abercrombie, which is certainly no bad thing. Gollancz certainly seem very positive about it.

    I seem to recall Sam talking about anuses at the Gollancz party…I hope there’s no mention of them in this book. :)

  • Angelo November 25, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Hey! It’s Geralt, the Witcher, in the cover!! :)

  • Liviu November 25, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    I am definitely interested in this one especially if the style is similar to Joe A or S. Lynch but let’s forget a bit about the hype; I was very unimpressed with Spellwright while Robert my co-editor at FBC liked it but not as debut of the year by any means, and while the Left Hand of God arc has not yet made its way to me from him, Robert was quite unimpressed by it.

    On the other hand I loved and almost was was blown away in the last half of Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Orbit’s debut of NK Jeimisin for 2010 and while Robert has not finished it yet he told me the same after reading about a half, so maybe that’s the novel to look for next year :)

  • aidan November 25, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    That’s essentially the point I was making, with tongue firmly in cheek. Early buzz like that, especially when it’s fueled by the publisher, is more or less worthless. Every publisher will tell you that they’ve got the debut author of next year. Most of the time they’ll be wrong.

    I actually had Jemisin’s novel there alongside The Left Hand of God and Spellwright, but took it out as it didn’t serve my example as surely. In terms of quality, I expect it could potentially be considered one of the best debut novels of the year, I expect the others all have a better chance of becoming a huge sales success.

  • Simon Spanton November 26, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Nice cover. Can only assume he’s left his hooded cloak on the boat. Or perhaps the pirates stole it . . .


  • aidan November 26, 2009 at 9:04 am

    That’s too bad, Simon. If he hadn’t had it stolen he probably would have sold 30% more novels, right?


  • Liviu November 26, 2009 at 9:50 am

    I see what you meant in terms of sales potential, though I only agree about this one (Tome) and The Left Hand of God as having an outright potential for tons of sales a la Rothfuss.

    Spellwright is quirky enough like Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, so I would say both have about the same entry chance as sales go and it will depend on all the intangibles from then on…

  • Sam Sykes November 26, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Personally, given the fact that more than one person has accused said figure of not wearing pants, I feel that the exclusion of a cloak will cut down on suspicions of being a flasher by at least 60%.

  • Mark Chitty November 27, 2009 at 7:40 am

    I feel sorry for the guy on the cover. Have you ever stood knee deep in cold seawater just as a wave hits the back of your legs? There go the family jewels ;)

    But seriously, this sounds like a book that is very much my cup of tea and one I’ll be keeping an eye out for :)

  • Ana November 27, 2009 at 9:32 am

    I am really looking forward to reading this one. But I have a little bit more than hype to move me: Sam Sykes’ story in The Dragon Book anthology (which he wrote with Diana Gabaldon) was one of my favourites (out of many great stories)in the collection. The characters were some of the weirdest/coolest I read in a while and if the ones in this novel are anywhere near as cool, I think we are all in for a great read.

  • aidan November 27, 2009 at 9:34 am

    That’s great news, Ana! I’m a big fan of Gabaldon, and, having met her a few times, I know how much she can teach a young author like Sykes. I should get my hands on that anthology.

  • Ana November 27, 2009 at 9:36 am

    You should – LOADS of great stories in there by Peter Beagle, Naomi Novik, Tadd Williams, Tamora Pierce and others.

  • Meredith January 25, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    I personally think that this could be an excellent first novel. It sounds a bit more original than a few I’ve read recently. If it’s anything like Peter V. Brett’s first novel in the Demon Trilogy (The Painted Man) then I know a lot of people will be reading it. We’re still waiting to get a hold of the second P. Rothfuss novel and a lot of people are getting impatient for it, as we’ve been waiting a full year, so this one could well be something for us to read in the meantime.

  • […] Sykes, author of the soon-to-be-released Tome of the Undergates, has been rounding up some of his most hated favourite bloggers and pinning them down for a few […]

  • […] appreciate the continuity with the series’ previous cover art, but here’s hoping Lou Anders will have the sense to put a better cover on the Pyr Books […]