The most exciting, original and important new fantasy novel to be published since China Miéville's PERDIDO STREET STATION. A breathtakingly skilful debut.
A superb work of literary fantasy. In a truly original imagined world of breathtaking, sometimes surreal beauty, fifty utterly alien but disarmingly human immortals lead mankind in a centuries-long war.
Jant is the Messenger, one of the Circle, a cadre of fifty immortals who serve the Emperor. He is the only immortal - indeed the only man alive - who can fly.
The Emperor must protect mankind from the hordes of giant Insects who have plagued the land for centuries, eating everything and everyone in their path. But he must also contend with the rivalries and petty squabblings of his chosen immortals. These will will soon spill over into civil war.
Steph Swainston has written an astonishingly original literary fantasy. She writes beautifully. Her novel places her in a tradition of writing typified by Mervyn Peake, M. John Harrison and China Miéville. This is a breathtaking debut novel of the finest quality.
|Publisher:||Orion Publishing Group, Limited|
|Product dimensions:||4.40(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Steph Swainston is a qualified archaeologist with a degree from Cambridge and a research degree. She worked as archaeologist for six years, working on the dig that researched the oldest recorded burial site in the UK, before working as an information scientist. Her Castle novels have been highly praised by authors and critics alike. She lives in Wokingham.
Read an Excerpt
The Year of Our War
As soon as I arrived in Lowespass I bought a newspaper and read it in the shadow of the fortress wall --
RACHISWATER OFFENSIVE CONTINUES
The Castle has demanded eight thousand fresh troops to be raised from the Plainslands to join the Awian Fyrd on the Lowespass front. Awian soldiers led by King Dunlin Rachiswater have forced the Insects westward, exposing the remains of Lowespass town, which was lost in the Insect advance last year.
In a joint press conference held on Friday with Comet representing the Castle, King Rachiswater announced that five kilometers of ground had been recovered. He pointed out that this was the first time the Wall had been pushed back in twenty years. His Majesty appealed for "our brothers of the Plainslands" to send reinforcements so the advance could continue. Comet reported that the Emperor was 'pleased" with the success of the Awian operation.
Lowespass town now presents a dramatic sight, shocking to those who have not seen the works of Insects before. To the scorched walls and timbers -- the town was burned before evacuation -- Insects have added their complex of gray paper constructions with pointed roofs resembling houses. The ground is riddled with their tunnels.
Awian losses in the last two weeks were heaviest in the infantry, with one thousand fatalities and as many injured. Five hundred of the cavalry were killed, while the archers, all under Lightning's command, suffered twelve injured. None of the immortals has been harmed, and they continue to encourage the troops. Veterans of the campaign have been promised settlements in newly recovered lands.
Comet said that despite such determined efforts the terror of an Insect swarm appearing remains significant. He reported that the buildings stretch for kilometers behind the Wall. He said, "Flying over it is like --
I knew my own words, however badly reported, so I flicked to page five, where there was a cartoon with a surprising likeness of Lightning. The cartoon grasped desperately at a beautiful girl who was carrying a guitar. Her figure dissolved like a ghost into little woodcut hearts. The caption underneath read: Swallow? In your dreams.
Giggling, I folded the newspaper and shoved it into the back of my belt. I strode away from the fortress wall toward the cliff, hearing the river torrent below. Two strides, and I started running. I forced at the ground, accelerating, faster and faster to the edge of the cliff. Three, two, one. I spread my wings and kicked over the edge as the ground fell away. I turned in a long calm arc down toward the camp.
By day the Lowespass outpost filled the river valley with sound and splendor. Tents covered the ground completely, colored like scales on a butterfly's wing. Troops patrolled the Insect Wall, covered wagons drawn by exhausted horses rolled in along the rutted road. They unloaded at the fortress, took the wounded away. From the air, carts were the size of matchboxes, parked in a line. Shouts carried from the soldiers at training; those at rest sat in groups on the grass, or in the canvas city, under awnings, around fires. Pennants, which marked fyrd divisions, twisted like vivid tongues on the blunted mountain breeze. They were blue with white eagles for the country of Awia, a scallop shell for Summerday manor, a clenched fist for Hacilith city, stars, plows, and ships for the Plainslands manors. The Castle's flag was set in the center of the camp, a red and gold sun-in-splendor. Our symbol of permanence now shines on land reclaimed from the Insects, and soldiers passing beneath it glance up, smiling.
I flew in at midnight, practically blind, trying to remember how deep the valley was. I hurtled down it, balancing on long wings. The river looked like a strand of silver mirror behind the slashed black hillside, and not too far distant I could see the Wall.
Too fast. I'm going too fast.
Dividing the valley, Lowespass Fortress on its rocky crag soared above me as I dropped. The dark ground was spotted with red, the campfires of the fyrd. Closer still, I could see pale faces surrounding them, but no more. I felt unnerved that Lowespass was populated with silent soldiers ...The Year of Our War. Copyright © by Steph Swainston. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
What People are Saying About This
“Thoughtful, exuberant, incredibly inventive, funny but never whimsical or mannered: a blistering debut, and honest-to-God unputdownable.”
“Vibrant, colourful, tirelessly inventive and effortlessly weird, Stephanie Swainston has thrown the map away.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
First off, I've never read anything like this. I expected high or high-ish fantasy, and I get an odd world with winged people who don't fly, hungry insects, and female people who act like human (Rather than a warrior, or a slight creature). The protagonist is a drug addict, an immortal, and the fastest thing in the four kingdoms. He is one of the most complex, real characters I have ever read in a book like this. I love that there is no gender roles (eg women clean and look pretty and men go off to war). Women here are both mothers, warriors, shopkeepers, swordsmen, soldiers, and captains. And, its just accepted.Where the book fails, is how it ends. Its too quick, too sudden and happens in the last 10 pages or so. I also didn't like the conflict between Myst, Lightning, and Ata. It seemed too contrived.This is a first rate book by a new author, and while it has a few shortcomings, it was a very enjoyable read that sucked me in.
¿The Year of Our War¿ is a debut novel that puts one in mind of China Mieville. It¿s not your everyday, ho-hum, dwarves and elves kind of fantasy. This story spans two realities, one with four species and one with a zoo-full. And while the eponymous war is the central plot driver, the characters are the center of the story. In this low-magic fantasy, God created the world and then left. It left behind an Emperor with an excess of immortality. Over the centuries, the Emperor has formed a Circle of immortals, each the absolute best at one task or trade. They do not age and they are much harder to kill than normal humans. They serve at the Emperor¿s sufferance, however, and if a stronger or better mortal comes along and bests them, they can easily be replaced. The viewpoint character of this first-person narrative is Jant. While one race, the Awians, has rudimentary wings, Jant is a unique crossbreed and can actually fly. He is also blessed with superior running speed and endurance, making him the perfect Messenger, which is his title in the circle. He not only travels on the Emperor¿s business, he can also travel between the two realities mentioned above. This has the edge of the modern ¿New Weird¿ fantasy. There are classes and elites; species both imaginative and grotesque; some very nasty interpersonal politics (what else would you do if stuck with the same fifty people for centuries?); and some meticulously described medieval combat. There is also some graphic sex that is disturbing, although character-illuminating. One unique theme that I appreciated in reading it was the conflation of struggling with drug abuse (Jant is an addict) and waging war. The book is not without its flaws: there are some narrative notes that ring false, and the depictions of naval combat seemed very poorly written compared to the land-based battle scenes. However, instead of looking at a new writer and saying, ¿Gosh this doesn¿t suck. I¿ll bet they¿ll be good soon,¿ with this book one can say ¿This is really good. I hope the next one [already released] will be even better.¿
The book was awsome! For a first novel Steph did great! I read the book many times and could hardly find any faults. The entire story and plot was good. even the battles were done well. this book is one of the best and I recommend to anyone who can read to read this book!
I bought this book to take on vacation, along with several others. I enjoyed this so much, I reread it after several days, BEFORE any of the others (also good).I do hope this will be a series, I was to know the country, the people, and the possibilities better. I liked the way the background developed, along with the people. This was well-reviewed in the Guardian, and I usually trust their judgement. What a find!
For two millenniums the Insects have swarmed, trying to destroy the Kingdom of Awia though the Insect Wall has kept them confined to the Paperlands. Still they keep trying to breach the wall and regain what the humanoids took back from them. Ultimately they want to turn all of Awia followed by the Plainsland and Morenzia into lands of paper tunnels and hives. War is a way of life........................... The immortal King Dunlin Rachiswater of Awia and his Circle of fifty knights keep a vigil at Lowespass, near the Wall and one inside Insect territory. The assaults have increased lately and the monarch and his court are very concerned. Mercurius ¿Jant¿ Comet is a junkie with a criminal past who has the ability to journey to the alternate realm of Epsilon where he has built a castle that could prove to be the final escape once the inevitable Insects doom Lowespass and the surrounding lands as even the King anticipates that will one day happen..................................... This entertaining fantasy hooks the audience from the onset and never lets go as readers will wonder if the Insects will overwhelm the Kingdom and if yes what then. The story line is exhilarating as the action-packed tale moves quickly yet provides fans with a deep look at an intriguing society where immortals live, but are from perfect as the ¿hero¿ shows. Steph Swainston writes a fantastic gripping epic fantasy while paying homage to the Roman and Greek Gods..................... Harriet Klausner