Cover illustration by Didier Graffet.
Anthony Ryan has contributed a full-page frontis to his new novella, City of Songs. What makes this even cooler is that he’s sent us the original art, which we'll be sending to one randomly drawn person who orders direct from us.
About the Book:
ATHERIA - THE FABLED CITY OF SONGS
THE SHINING JEWEL OF THE THIRD SEA
WHERE THE MASKED EXULTIA CASTE HOLD SWAY AND VIE TO OUTDO EACH OTHER IN THEIR PATRONAGE OF THE ARTS,
SOMETIMES WITH DEADLY CONSEQUENCES…
Guyime, wandering, dethroned King of the Northlands, is drawn to the Atheria by his quest for the Seven Swords, the demon cursed blades of legend. But to claim the next sword he must first solve a seemingly impossible murder - a puzzle that, once untangled, will unveil secrets so dark they could bring the City of Songs to utter ruin.
Continuing the epic tale of The Seven Swords, City of Songs is an action-packed, darkly magical mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of the Raven’s Shadow and Draconis Memoria trilogies.
From Publishers Weekly (Starred Review):
“Ryan ingeniously combines magic and mystery in his outstanding third Seven Swords fantasy (after The Kraken’s Tooth)… The author makes this locked-room mystery as accessible to series newcomers as it is enthralling to established fans. With superior storytelling and prose very much in evidence, Ryan again proves that he has few peers at worldbuilding within the space constraints of a novella.”
City of Songs
Guyime had intended to make enquiries at the nearest customs post, but Lexius suggested approaching a suitably connected merchant house instead. “Atherian officials are notoriously difficult to bribe,” the scholar advised. “And the bureaucracy of this city is legendarily labyrinthine. Those of a commercially inclined nature are likely to more helpful, if profit is part of the enquiry.”
“Meaning we’ll have to have something to offer to ensure their cooperation,” Guyime said.
“Yes, and fortunately, my lord,” Lexius touched a hand to the hilt of the Kraken’s Tooth before casting a meaningful glance at the sword on Guyime’s back, “we both possess items that are sure to pique the interest of their Ultrius.”
Even as a king Guyime had never had much patience for the tedium that arose from dealing with bankers or merchants. Throughout his reign he had delegated such things to subordinates of appropriately loyal inclinations gifted with the correct temperament and knowledge. Fortunately, Lexius possessed the latter qualities in abundance. So, whilst Guyime and Seeker prowled the lobby of the Carvaro Mercantile Bank under the gaze of the half dozen guards flanking the door, Lexius approached a high, broad mahogany desk. Over the course of several hours the scholar continued to engage a series of clerks, senior clerks and supervising clerks with remarkably affable solicitation.
Guyime thought the clerks must all belong to the same family, so alike were they in their plain attire and pinched, narrow faces. Age was the only obvious indicator of status amongst them, although the lack of expression betrayed in response to Lexius’s enquiry increased with each face that appeared behind the desk. The first, and youngest, had been the most telling, although even his marginal narrowing of the eyes and twitch of the mouth at the mention of Ultrius Domiano Carvaro hadn’t revealed much.
“We will, of course,” the most recently appeared clerk said some three hours after they entered the establishment, “need to inspect and appraise the items in question before this matter can proceed any further.”
“Appraisal of antiquities would, naturally, be part of any negotiation,” Lexius replied with his boundless equanimity. “However, given the inestimable value of what myself and my colleagues have to offer, we could only permit it at a venue of our choosing and in the presence of the Ultrius himself.”
Guyime saw some expression on the clerk’s face then, merely a pursing of the lips, but it was accompanied by a thin sheen of sweat on his balding pate, and this room was cool. “That,” the clerk stated, voice clipped and flinty, “will not be possible at any juncture. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the customs of this city, but to imagine any member of the Exultia would condescend to place himself in such…” the clerk’s mouth twisted in disdain, “…company is absurd, sir. You will deal with me or you will not deal at all…”
His voice faltered to a halt at the echo of Guyime’s boots on the floor. The clerk’s narrow face paled at his approach but he managed not to quail until Guyime came to a stop and reached over his shoulder to draw the sword.
“My name,” he told the clerk, “is Guyime Mathille, formerly King Guyime, First and Only of His Name, known commonly as the Ravager, and this,” he tilted the sword as Lakorath giggled and allowed a faint blue glow to ripple along the steel, “is a demon cursed blade I have carried for the span of several mortal lifetimes. It is one of seven. My friend,” he nodded to Lexius, “carries another, the Kraken’s Tooth, recovered from the bowels of the city of Carthula, most of which recently fell into the sea, as I’m sure you will be aware. These swords are both for sale and the price matches their value. If your master wishes to purchase them, he can come and find us, in person.”
Guyime turned about, sliding the sword into the scabbard and offering a grim smile to the now tense guards at the door. “And if this brace of bastards tries to stop us, we’ll kill them.”
They found an upmarket boarding house amidst the cleaner neighbourhood several streets from the docks. A two-storey villa with a pleasant garden complete with fountain, it was frequented by the more successful breed of sea captain who preferred not to suffer the company of their sailors whilst ashore.
“How many rooms, good sir?” enquired the matronly woman who greeted them at the door. Guyime liked her for the creditable effort she made to conceal her nervousness, for they were an unusal trio and the sight of Lissah tended to unsettle most folk. Her demeanour also brightened considerably when Guyime handed her the full purse of triangles.
“All of them,” he said. “Just for tonight.”
The housekeeper’s fingers tightened on the purse, though her face retained an understandable level of uncertainty. “I have three other guests at present…”
“Tell them to leave.” Guyime’s gaze roved over the exterior of the building, judging the likely points of ingress for assassins. “For their own health,” he added, offering the housekeeper a smile which evidently failed to convey reassurance. “And you, good woman, would be best advised to sleep elsewhere this night. Don’t worry,” he patted her shoulder as he stepped through the door, “we’ll be gone by morning, although I can’t promise there won’t be some cleaning to do afterwards.”
“You’re sure they’ll come?” Seeker asked a few hours later. They stood together on the villa’s second-floor balcony, a fortuitous vantage point that offered uninterrupted views of the surrounding streets. She had her bow in hand with an arrow nocked to the string. Lissah had disappeared come twilight and Guyime knew she would be patrolling the rooftops, ready to communicate a warning to her mistress at the approach of any threat. The three sea captains in residence had displayed varying levels of reluctance in surrendering their berths, but there were few souls capable of maintaining courage when confronted by a demon cursed blade. The housekeeper had vanished by nightfall, but not before setting out some refreshment for her untypical guests.
- Didier Graffet
- Anthony Ryan
- 145 pages
- eBook Edition