Brian McClellan is know for writing doorstopping volumes of epic fantasy flavored with military action and complex magic systems, with worlds so sprawling they are explored across a trilogy of books or more). Case in point: his Powder Mage trilogy, a 1,900-page flintlock fantasy saga that has spilled over into a second trilogy set in the same world, beginning with last year’s Sins of Empire and continuing in May in Wrath of Empire.
That he’s written so many huge—and hugely satisfying—novels makes his other 2018 release all the more intriguing: War Cry, which comes out in August, is that rarest of breeds, the epic fantasy novella. It’s no mean feat to build a fantasy world and establish a new magic system and tell a satisfying story is so few pages. So when Tor.com Publishing asked us to show off the cover for the book, featuring art by Richard Anderson and design by Christine Foltzer, we also decided to ask Brian for a little more backstory on his latest creation.
Look for the cover and the interview below the official summary.
Teado is a Changer, a shape-shifting military asset trained to win wars. His platoon has been stationed in the Bavares high plains for years, stranded. As they ration supplies and scan the airwaves for news, any news, their numbers dwindle. He’s not sure how much time they have left.
Desperate and starving, armed with aging, faulting equipment, the team jumps at the chance for a risky resupply mission, even if it means not all of them might come. What they discover could change the course of the war.
What’s your elevator pitch for this book?
A fantasy world with WWII-type technology in which army rangers fight an endless war against shapeshifters and illusionists on the high plains.
What was the spark that led you to create this new world?
As cliché as it sounds, I dreamt the premise. I woke up the next morning and by the middle of the afternoon I had filled in an entire outline and was writing the first scene.
How does your process differ, writing a relatively slim book versus a big fat fantasy trilogy, especially in a genre that calls for a lot of worldbuilding?
Writing a trilogy of doorstop epic fantasy novels doesn’t just take tons of worldbuilding, it takes a load of careful planning. Creating multiple viewpoints that interweave across 2,000 pages of narrative is like building a 3D puzzle the size of your house. What I like about novella-length works is that they allow me to have some worldbuilding depth in them (the space to create a cool magic system, for instance) while not being so long that each one will take up ten months of my life.
How will this book surprise fans of your Powder Mage Military Fantasy series?
One of the things I always talk about when I do convention panels about writing is the importance of having a mix of the new and of the familiar. This doesn’t just apply to first chapters or narrative arcs, but also when you’re writing something completely different that you’re hoping your normal fan base will still enjoy. Fans of the Powder Mage books are still going to enjoy hard-hitting, action-focused military fantasy, but they’ll also find me playing in a totally new world, with a different level of technology (comparable to about 1935 in our own world) and different types of magic.
Tell us what is happening on the cover, magnificently illustrated by Richard Anderson.
I don’t want to give away too much, but that’s our hero, a ranger and shapeshifter named Teado. He’s not a sneaky type of shapeshifter, but rather a “turn into something resembling a Deathclaw from Fallout” kind of guy, and in this scene he has just watched a lot of his friends die. Things are about to get hairy.
What are your plans for this world, if any?
Nothing in concrete right now, but that being said it’s a world that has a lot of room for storytelling. If people like it, or if I get the irresistible spark for a new adventure, I’m more than willing to return.