We called Bradley P. Beaulieu’s Twelve Kings in Sharakhai “a promising start to a sandswept fantasy epic” and one of the best fantasy novels of 2015, so it goes without saying that we’ve been anxiously awaiting the sequel, With Blood Upon the Sand, due out in the February 2017. (September’s slim volume of linked novellas set in the same world, Of Sand and Malice Made, only made us hungrier.)
We can’t make the book come out any sooner, but we can give you an exclusive first look at the cover, thanks to the kind folks over at DAW Books. It features a stunning, evocative piece of art by Donato Giancola, perfectly in keeping with the work of Adam Paquette that graces the first book. This time, we get a closer look at pit fighter-turned-revenging angel Çeda, whose steely-eyed determination is downright frightening. Below the publisher’s blurb, we cede the floor to Brad, who gives us a look at a few ideas for the cover and talks about how the final version came to be.
Çeda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further their rule. She knows the dark history of the asirim―that hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the kings against their will―but when she bonds with them as a Maiden, chaining them to her, she feels their pain as if her own. They hunger for release, they demand it, but with the power of the gods compelling them, they find their chains unbreakable.
Çeda could become the champion they’ve been waiting for, but the need to tread carefully has never been greater. After their recent defeat at the hands of the rebel Moonless Host, the kings are hungry for blood, scouring the city in their ruthless quest for revenge. Çeda’s friend Emre and his new allies in the Moonless Host hope to take advantage of the unrest in Sharakhai, despite the danger of opposing the kings and their god-given powers, and the Maidens and their deadly ebon blades.
When Çeda and Emre are drawn into a plot of the blood mage Hamzakiir, they learn a devastating secret that may very well shatter the power of the hated kings. But it may all be undone if Çeda cannot learn to navigate the shifting tides of power in Sharakhai and control the growing anger of the asirim that threatens to overwhelm her…
Take it away, Brad…
I’m going to just go ahead and admit that I’m a total Donato Giancola fanboy. So you can imagine my excitement when my editor, Betsy Wollheim, let me know that he’d agreed to work with us for the cover of With Blood Upon the Sand. I really had no idea what to expect in terms of the process, nor did I know what the art was actually going to look like, but I knew the final product was going to be stunning. I mean, just take a look at his work—any of it!
We sent Donato the book, and then the wait began to see what he thought might work for the rough design. Eventually, we were sent the following sketches:
I’ve always loved these trademark sepia sketches from Donato, but it was downright thrilling to see them visualizing my book. The first piece shows a high-stakes chase scene over the rooftops of Sharakhai. The second is a more emotional, moody piece with Çeda and Emre making plans within the cabin of a sandship. And the last shows Çeda marching, sword in hand, across the dunes of the Great Shangazi with Sharakhai in the background and the twin moons in the nighttime sky.
I like all three for different reasons, but the one that stood out to both me and Betsy was the third one, focusing on Çeda alone. I love how dramatic it is. It’s not a high action scene, but there’s a ton of mood there already, even at the sketch stage. The shadow across the dunes is a great touch, as is the cloud of dust kicking up along the right. I love how the angle of the dune plays against the angle of the moons and the upright forms of Çeda and the city.
Clearly, we opted for that one. And then I dropped back into waiting mode once more. The days ticked by, and then the final artwork showed up in my inbox.
To say I was stunned would be an understatement. The sky is just gorgeous. Given the title, I love how Donato added red in the sand itself. That’s a very nice touch.
And Çeda! She looks badass, doesn’t she? I love the ebon blade she’s holding. It echoes her clothes nicely. And I love how the blacks and blues of her battle dress play against the sky and the billowing cloud, the red scarf plays against the red in the dunes, and the gold highlights play against the sand and the city. It’s a gorgeous piece overflowing with harmony.
Most importantly, I think it does the two things covers need to do. First and foremost, it’s eye-catching enough that it makes you want to pick up the book. And second, I think it echoes the mood of the book quite nicely. If Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is our introduction to Çeda and Sharakhai, With Blood Upon the Sand throws us head-first into the intrigue and danger that was steadily building over the course of the first book. I think the artwork does a great job of conveying that.
But that’s just me. What do you think?
We like it! Preorder With Blood Upon the Sand, out February 7, 2017.