Raymond E. Feist is a pillar of modern epic fantasy. His expansive Riftwar Cycle has a legion of fans to match its titanic scope, and countless authors name him as an inspiration. The majority of his work—some 30 novels—takes place in this single series (only one, the strange horror story Fairie Tale, is a standalone), so it is understandably major news that later this year he will release King of Ashes, the first book in a totally new epic fantasy universe.
To whet your appetite for what is sure to be one of the standout books of 2018, we’re sharing the exclusive cover reveal, as well as an excerpt from the novel. You’ll find both below the official synopsis. King of Ashes publishes in May.
The first volume in legendary master and New York Times bestselling author Raymond E. Feist’s epic heroic fantasy series, The Firemane Saga—an electrifying tale of two young men whose choices will determine a world’s destiny.
For centuries, the five greatest kingdoms of North and South Tembria, twin continents on the world of Garn, have coexisted in peace. But the balance of power is destroyed when four of the kingdoms violate an ancient covenant and betray the fifth: Ithrace, the Kingdom of Flames, ruled by Steveren Langene, known as “the Firemane” for his brilliant red hair. As war engulfs the world, Ithrace is destroyed and the Greater Realms of Tembria are thrust into a dangerous struggle for supremacy.
As a Free Lord, Baron Daylon Dumarch owes allegiance to no king. When an abandoned infant is found hidden in Daylon’s pavilion, he realizes that the child must be the missing heir of the slain Steveren. The boy is valuable—and vulnerable. A cunning and patient man, Daylon decides to keep the baby’s existence secret, and sends him to be raised on the Island of Coaltachin, home of the so-called Kingdom of Night, where the powerful and lethal Nocusara, the “Hidden Warriors,” legendary assassins and spies, are trained.
Years later, another orphan of mysterious provenance, a young man named Declan, earns his Masters rank as a weapons smith. Blessed with intelligence and skill, he unlocks the secret to forging King’s Steel, the apex of a weapon maker’s trade known by very few. Yet this precious knowledge is also deadly, and Declan is forced to leave his home to safeguard his life. Landing in Lord Daylon’s provinces, he hopes to start anew.
Soon, the two young men—an unknowing rightful heir to a throne and a brilliantly talented young swordsmith—will discover that their fates, and that of Garn, are entwined. The legendary, long-ago War of Betrayal has never truly ended . . . and they must discover the secret of who truly threatens their world.
An exclusive excerpt from the second chapter of King of Ashes follows:
Declan was driven by two desires: to forge his masterpiece and to make no mistake that would reflect badly on his master. He was an orphaned child, the son of a murdered tavern wench and a nameless father, who had been taken in by Edvalt and his wife Mila. His master was as close to a father as Declan would ever know. The smith was a taciturn man who rarely showed emotion, but he had always tempered his stern nature with kindness, and Declan had a fierce desire to please him.
The young journeyman pulled the blade close to his face for the briefest instant, a habit he had learned from Edvalt as a means of testing the metal’s readiness for the next step. Declan judged the combination of colours in the metal and the level of heat rising from the steel. The young smith pushed the blade back into the coals.
Declan nodded and Edvalt looked at Jusan and said, ‘You did well, too. Depart. Eat and rest.’
The younger apprentice needed no urging as he was hungry and tired, and he exited through the smaller door to the hall outside. Jusan knew that his lesson was over; the secrets now passed between master and journeyman might be his to learn one day, but it was not to be today.
Declan was to be shown the final step for the first time: the secret key to mastering the art of creating the blade.
‘Bellows?’ asked Declan.
Edvalt nodded agreement, and put down his hammer to seize the massive arms of the bellows.
Suspended by thick chains, each wooden arm was the length of a cart trace and as thick as a man’s forearm, the large bellows bag fashioned from toughened leather. The old smith threw his considerable strength into pulling the arms apart, and the intake of air was like a giant’s gasp; then he pushed hard, sending a fountain of embers upwards into the copper and iron hood above the forge that kept them from igniting thatch roofs in the village.
Declan studied the hue of the blank and found the perfect spot within the embers. Then, without a word, Edvalt released the bellows, stooped to pick up a shuttle of coals, and deftly sprinkled them at the edge of the fire. Declan put down the hammer and picked up an iron and, as Edvalt watched, began placing the new coals into the furnace, selecting spots where the new fuel would not lower the heat under the metal.
Then within seconds Declan moved to the bellows. As he worked, the heat washed over master and journeyman in waves, but they ignored the discomfort, their attentions focused completely. ‘Perfect,’ Edvalt muttered.
Years of patient training only manifested when the steel reached the proper temperature. Declan suddenly dropped the bellow handles and ducked underneath them. Seizing a pair of heavy tongs, he grabbed the near flaming metal as Edvalt released the coal shuttle and reached for his heavy hammer. Declan grabbed another hammer and without any instruction, struck down. As soon as his hammer cleared the steel, Edvalt’s smashed into the now malleable metal.
Perspiration poured from their brows, backs, and arms, yet the men continued to hammer in a rhythmic pattern born only from years of working together; the steel flattened out. ‘Now we make magic,’ said Edvalt in the single most poetic statement Declan had ever heard from the smith. He had assisted Edvalt before in making this sort of rare blade, but until now had never been permitted to witness the final step.
Edvalt went to a tool chest and lifted out a modest wooden box. Declan had noticed it on the first day of his apprenticeship and had often wondered about it’s contents, but he had never voiced that curiosity.
Edvalt opened the box and inside it Declan saw fine grains of something that looked like salt, glowing red-orange in the forge’s light.
‘Sand from the burning lands,’ said the master smith. ‘You need to learn to do this alone, so come and stand where I am. This is the last secret of our craft that I can teach you.’
Declan moved to the other side of the forge, the tongs and hammer ready. ‘Flatten,’ Edvalt commanded, and Declan started to beat the red hot metal, making it thinner on every blow.
‘Be ready,’ said the old smith, as he placed the box next to Declan. ‘When I say “now”, you must do three things very quickly: first, judge the colour of the steel. Then take a handful of sand from this box and sprinkle it down the very centre of the blade. When the sand sparkles like stars in the heavens, you must then fold the steel one last time.
Perspiration flowed in sheets down Declan’s face and chest, both from the heat and concentration. He studied the metal, moving the blade around as he struck, then just as he judged it ready to fold, he heard Edvalt say, ‘Now!’
Declan put his hammer down and pulled the blade towards him as he grabbed a handful of fine sand; he felt the weight of it, measuring the amount he needed, and sprinkled the sand onto the flaming metal.
Smoke and flame erupted. Sand sparkled and flared into tiny bright pinpoints of white, and some stuck to the surface. ‘More along the right edge!’ instructed Edvalt at exactly the same moment Declan decided he needed more on that side. The young journeyman felt exhilarated: he was creating the soul of the sword.