A Brief Interview with Prince Jehal (13/4/2010)

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With the King of the Crags about to hit the shops (first reviews accumulating here) and the last significant rewrite of the final installment finished, today we interview the man who thinks he is the star of The Adamantine Palace, Prince Jehal.

So, Jehal, let’s start with something simple. You’re the crown-prince of Furymouth, one of the richest cities in the dragon-realms. Tell us a little about your home.

Jehal: Ah, Furymouth. The finest, riches city in all the nine realms. It’s hard to know where to start, but we have the possibly the finest palace in the realms, we have…

Finer than The Adamantine Palace?

Jehal: Well that’s a point we could debate if you like. The Adamantine Palace is, perhaps, better known and I suppose it’s bigger and has it’s Dragon Gate and yes, the Tower of Air is taller than any of the towers of the Veid Palace, but let’s not forget, my home is Vishmir’s home, the greatest dragon-king and speaker the world has ever known and the Veid palace was built by him. The Adamantine Palace has, what, half a dozen great towers? Eight maybe? Our towers may be smaller, but we have hundreds…

I’m not sure that size and number of towers is particularly a measure of anything…

Jehal: It’s a measure of wealth! I think you can assume that, for all the gaudy immensity of The Adamantine Palace, the Veid palace is far more refined and cultured. The art, the sculptures, the hangings, everything about my home is exquisite. You should come and visit; and if you did, let’s not forget the Field of Gorgutinnin outside, the chariot races, the most famous in all the realms. And the great Bronze Dragon of Furymouth, Vishmir’s Column…

Fine, fine. So where does all this wealth come from?

Jehal: From the fine stewardship of our realm by my fore-fathers, of course. From Vishmir onwards, we have been at he helm of the nine realms, even if we were never Speaker…

And the Taiytakei?

Jehal (smirking): It does help that we are the only sea-port in the realms and thus the only point of access for the Taiytakei traders, yes.

Some would argue that The Pinnacles were the heart of the realms, but let’s put that aside for a moment. Tell me about…

Jehal: Some would argue, but only because of history. The Pinnacles, home to my dear friend Queen Zafir, were perhaps the heart of the realms a hundred years ago, but times change. The War of Thorns brought their dominance to an end. By all rights, Furymouth should be the capital of the nine realms now. The Veid Palace should be the new Speaker’s Palace.

Something you seem to be working quite hard to achieve. Why exactly is that?

Jehal: Well as I’ve said, Furymouth is the richest and most significant city in the realms in these times, and yet since Vishmir, there hasn’t been a single Speaker from my family. Vishmir conquered the world, let’s not forget. No, the other realms are jealous of our wealth, that’s what it is. We may not have the raw dragon power of, say, the Queen of Sand or the King of the Crags, but we are the ones driving the realms forwards. Every innovation starts in our city. The realms would be better off guided by our enlightened progressive thinking, and the only thing that stands in the way is this cartel of the northern lords who think they can juggle the throne of the Speaker from one to another to the exclusion of those of us in south. Why? Because we are rich, that’s why! Because the only means they have to wealth is to suck the riches of the City of Dragons away into their deserts. Because they envy and fear us, that’s why! My father should have been speaker, and his father before them. I see no reason why I should meekly tolerate their conspiracies without hatching a few of my own. (With a wink): It seems only fair.

Conspiracies that involve murdering your fellow kings and queens?

Jehal: Oh please, does it always come back to that? I only ever murdered the one, after all. It’s not like I burned down town after town of little people, which is what routinely happens when dragon-lords fight. Isn’t it fairer that we keep our disputes amongst ourselves? Why force everyone to suffer just so that we can claim to have fought with ‘honour’? Is it ‘honourable’ to burn thousands of hard-working men, women and children just so that we can say we never slew another lord outside of some farcical idea of ‘noble combat?’ I may be alone, but I think not.

You, uh, claim to care a jot about the ‘little people’ as you call them?

Whatever I think of them has little bearing on whether they deserve to have some dragon burn their lives to nothing in a blink, or do you disagree?

But still. You start your quest for power by seducing a dragon-queen and then throwing her off her own dragon. Was that necessary? Wasn’t there some other way?

Jehal: No, to be blunt. The northern kings and queens act together. We in the south must do the same. Zafir and I see things in the same way. Her mother, I’m afraid, did not. Regrettable, but necessary. And as you will see, I have no objection to sharing power. I’m not in it for myself. I’m after a fair representation, that’s all.

As well as murdering Queen Aliphera, what about your own father…?

Jehal (angry): Oh I see. You think I’m poisoning him. Everyone else assumes that I must be. Does it not occur to you that sometimes people simply fall ill?

Convenient, though, for you.

Jehal: Because it makes me crown prince of the most powerful of the nine realms? Yes, I suppose it must seem that way. Given the choice, though, you know, I think I’d rather have back my father and my brother and my sister and my mother. Given the choice. Can you do that for me? No, I rather thought not.

Well, right or wrong, you seem to be well on your way towards getting what you want. What do you put that down to?

Jehal: Being smarter than the rest of them. Planning. A bit of luck. The usual things that make a man great. Look at Vishmir, look at Narramed, look at Prince Lai. And then look where they all came from.

Narramed came from The Pinnacles, and you could look at the first Valmeyan while you’re at it. But I take your point. What do you say to your critics?

Jehal: I have critics? Should I murder them? Apparently that’s what I do, after all.

People have looked at your rise and called you many things. Shallow. “Personality-free,” in particular sticks in my mind.

Jehal (with a shrug): And yet cunning, addictive (I imagine that one came from one of my legion of lady admirers). Nicely fleshed out (he leers). Everyone has their detractors. I put it down to envy.

And more commonly: villainous, vicious, nasty, ruthless, greedy, treacherous. Your nemesis, Hyram, calls you The Viper, and the name seems to stick. These are hardly the words used to describe the great leader you seem to aspire to be.

Jehal: (after a pause). I am a prince of dragons. My father is sick, my brother murdered my sister and my mother and was tortured to death for his crimes. Do I seem so different to them? Look at the kings and queens of the other realms. The noble Shezira who sells her daughters so she can claw her own way towards power – no one seems to mind that. The mighty Hyram. Take a good look at him and his pot-boys. Am I so different to them? Look around you at the lords who fly upon our mighty beasts and show me one who is clean. Show me one, just one, and I will throw away my palace and my finery and become a monk. Show me just one. But you can’t. Do you know why? It’s because of what we are. Because of the life we lead. Because we are born with dragons around us, because we live our lives among monsters who routinely smash men to a pulp through a careless flick of the tail. Who hurl their handlers through the air with an idle flap of their wings. Who crush men to death simply because they didn’t look where they were going. Who kill not with malice, but with indifference, and those, I remind you, are the tame ones. That is the life that surrounds a dragon-prince. Death comes and calls at random. Picks you up and plucks you out of your life. No, only two kinds of men live among dragons and survive. The brash and the bold and the cautious nervous ones who call them alchemists. If we dragon-lords are ruthless, it is because we have no space for second thoughts. If we are greedy, it is because we know every moment could be our last. If we are vicious, it is because we have learned that indecision is death. If we are villainous, it is because we know our own kind too well, and I am not an alchemist but a dragon-prince.

One Last Review (30/3/2010)

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Well, straight to the point, and here it is. There have been others for TAP since it came out in the US, but they don’t say anything that hasn’t already been said, while this one, I thought does. Even if it’s as thumbs doen in the end :-(

And that’s it. No more TAP reviews being posted, because here comes The King of the Crags. I have copies in my sticky hands and some of them will be coming to Eastercon with me (but not very many). Special opportunity to get an advance signed first edition copy for the two of you who are actually interested. One lucky fellow who won the spot the difference competition more than a year ago will get to be the first person IN THE WORLD to read it. Well, apart from everyone who had anything to do with its creation. And everyone who got advance review copies (and where are the reviews, boys and girls – you’re all being very good about waiting for release day, but it’s killing me here! Not even one of you being a bit naughty)?

OK, so maybe not the first person IN THE WORLD. Maybe about the twenth-seventh. But Lewis, it’s in the post right now and I hope you enjoy it. At some point I’ll dream up another competition. One that involves less waiting around for an entire year for the prize…

In other news, the re-write-athon continues. The penultimate rewrite of OOTS got rudely interrupted last week by the copy-editing of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice. It’s wierd jumping back and forth between the two because they’re really very different. The dragons books move at a hectic pace, jump from character to character and deliberately show the world in fragments. TTA… doesn’t.

Anyway, that’s out of the way now. OOTS is still just about on schedule to be rewritten by mid-April and then comes…

MYSTERY PROJECT X. In which I get to write some new material for the first time in six months and about which I shall say nothing. Yet.

Dragons World Tour: Poland (12/3/2010)

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Brief news flash: TAP has been bought by the Poles. Which means the dragons of The Adamantine Palace will soon be playing with Geralt of Rivia on his home turf…

Details later, when I actually know them.

New Best Friends (14/10/09)

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My new best friends are… Stephen Youll, ROC publishing and Brent Weeks

Because look at  the US cover for The Adamantine Palace. Look! LOOOOOK! Is it not a thing of beauty? Is it not perhaps the best classic high fantasy cover art of ALL TIME?

Fantasy dragons the way fantasy dragons should be!

Fantasy dragons the way fantasy dragons should be!

Alright, I’m biased. But it’s definitely unquestionably the best classic high fantasy cover art with my name on it. The French were good, but this, this is awesome.

Stuff like this makes the endless re-write-athon seem just a little brighter (Gazetteer now sent for proof-reading. Next task: Last edit for King of the Crags and then that is done).

The Adamantine Palace (19th March 2009)

Adamantine Palace (draft) cover art

View the trailer, read an excerpt or see the map

So how did this come about? You can thank/blame Simon Spanton at Gollancz, and my agent John Jarrold for sending him my way. I’d spend the last couple of years writing books far faster than anyone was reading them, I had a backlog of several years of submissions queuing to be looked at and I was looking for something else to do. I’d probably been annoying the hell out of John bugging him every few weeks about what was going to get sent out to whom and when. Patience, is one of those virtues where someone else got most of mine. Simon, meanwhile, was on the hunt for someone who’d write something sexy, snide and action-packed with dragons in it. No busty bimbo riders either (I think that’s a quote, but I could be wrong).

It just so hit the spot. It took me and my muse a weekend to sketch out the skeleton of a trilogy and everything to fit together perfectly almost first time (this happens more often than you might think). I think it took about a week to send a first pitch back to Gollancz. Five chapters, one trailer and one synopsis later and we had a deal. The day after that, the Germans bought it too. After two decades of getting absolutely nowhere, that big blue hand that works for the Lottery was finally pointing at me. Or that’s how it felt. Mostly still does.

TAP is finished now. Whether it’s sexy, snide and action-packed you can judge for yourselves, but the dragons kick ass. I think that’s one thing all the reviewers agree on.  They aren’t reasonable, rational, thinking creatures, they don’t speak in a clipped English accent, they aren’t cute and cuddly, you can’t bargain with them and they don’t have a convenient weak spot just under their left armpit. They were (and still are) a lot of fun to write.

I think this is a pretty comprehensive list of reviews as of June 2009, by the way, at which point I pretty much gave up keeping track. So sorry if you got missed out:

…the combination of the fantastic with keen observation and sheer impudence reads something like Anne McCaffery as filtered through the mind of Oscar Wilde.” Locus (and yes, I liked that one so much that I transcribed it)

“A fast, sharp, ruthless read.” Joe Abercrombie

“These are the predators; the ones that floss with velociraptors. … One of the best fantasy books of the year.” Blood of the Muse

“…will appeal to fans of both classic and contemporary fantasy. In short, Gollancz has discovered another winner” Fantasy Book Critic (who later list King of the Crags as one of their top ten anticpated novel of 2010)

“With a marvellous sweeping prose, a twisting plot and a lead character that is both venomous and awesome, this novel screams out for attention it rightly deserves.” SF Crows Nest

The book is an entertaining mix of Pern and Westeros, with the knowing characterisation of Abercrombie and the endearment of Novik.SFFworld.

“This is a terrifying appetiser from what will surely be seen as a landmark in dragon-orientated fantasy.” dwscifi

“…full of everything that I like about fantasy right now; strong characters, a complex plot and loads of dragons.” Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review.

Roll over McCaffrey, there’s a new Dragon Lord in town.” (Gareth Wilson FALCATTA TIMES )

“The characterisizations and pace of the book are excellent. The dragons, especially, make for an interesting story all on their own. Bookgeeks

“…what I like most about The Adamantine Palace was the level of excitement that accompanies each moment of the book. This excitement grows with each page causing the reader to literally sit at the edge of their seat waiting for the exciting conclusion.” Whatchamacallit Reviews

“…an absorbing, satisfying read with plenty left in the locker for the future instalments … Dragons are back at the top of the food chain, in all their fire-breathing primal glory.” Speculative Horizons

A review of TAP and KOTC together: “The first book was a marvellous debut.  The second book trumped it hands down.  The excitement, thrills and spills anticipated in the final book promise to be an incomparable fantasy ride.” M/C reviews

Mike at King of the Nerds sums up what I was trying to achieve with the dragons perfectly: “Yes and while you might let out a cheer when you first meet [the dragon] it dies in your throat pretty quickly leaving you with an uneasy sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach and the sudden need to back away very very slowly.  I loved that.” Others may feel differently, but that’s exactly the reaction I wanted.

Or try this from SF Crows Nest:

“With a marvellous sweeping prose, a twisting plot and a lead character that is both venomous and awesome, this novel screams out for attention it rightly deserves. It’s a novel that clearly acknowledges its debt to the dragon sub-genre but is so strongly plotted through its characterisation that it pushes itself up into the realms of high political fantasy to threaten the likes of George R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan.”

“Deas has a deft hand with worldbuilding and history. I absolutely loved all the strange and sinister little touches, like the Scales, that he put into his world. I could have gobbled up twice what he put in without blinking.” Smouldering Ink

“I highly recommend The Admantine Palace to all readers of fantasy. Even if it has been years since you last read a book about dragons, don’t hesitate to give this one a try. You will not be disappointed.” SFF Chat

“The blend of action and politics was a good one, just enough on both sides to make you anxious to get back to each piece as the point of view changed from chapter to chapter.” Tea and Tomes

“A word of warning: If you like this book by page 50, be sure that you have the next volumes at hand. You will want to continue reading after you finish this book.” Weirdmage Reviews

“It’s not a deep work, but I found The Adamantine Palace refreshing, unique, and engaging.” It Didn’t Happen

Now some people have read The Adamantine Palace and hated it, I guess. Maybe for exactly the reasons this reviewer loved it so much. But it’s still a real kick to read a review like this and know that there’s someone else who read my words and got out of it what I was trying to put into it.

It’s not all roses though. The other half of the world apparently would have liked another 100 pages to flesh out the world and the characters (The Ranting Dragon sort of sums up the dilemma: “Though you will immediately notice the depth of this world, it has not been given the attentions it deserves yet. However, that is what gives The Adamantine Palace its tempo, and I’m unsure if that’s such a bad thing.” Yes, the exploration of the world in TAP is skeletal. A deliberate choice that came with running the story on rocket fuel – interesting that there’s almost exactly a 50/50 split in opinion as to whether it was a good one or not. If you want to explore the world without the story, go help yourself to the free gazetteer and map). Generally they still generally say rather nice things. So I guess it’s a matter of what presses your buttons.

“A blisteringly well-written tale … an inspiring debut.” Sci-Fi Now

“First-time novelist Stephen Deas has certainly passed the Novik test.” SFX

“The story runs like a whippet.” Deathray

“a quick, fun political thriller on the same level as a Hollywood blockbuster or modern video game that uses dragons cleverly enough to feel somewhat original.” from Neth Space

“Short chapters, with alternating points of view, set a cracking pace from the outset. The language is vibrant with dialogue that moves the story briskly along, yet revealing the levels of political machinations throughout.” Temple Library Reviews

“If Christopher Paolini decided to go on a meth-fueled writing bender he probably still wouldn’t come close to writing his dragons so devilishly.” Oh, wait, not that bit… this bit “…short, tight chapters that push the story along in a Thriller type fashion. However, the pushing is at a sacrifice to the characters and the world-building.” from the Mad Hatter

“A promising start to a new series from an author worth watching.” Waterstones.

“The Adamantine Palace is a fast, furious and entertaining book that grabs hold of the reader and whisks them off like a rollercoaster. The dragons, as promised, indeed kick ass.” The Wertzone.

Mr Deas has, in my opinion, created the most terrifyingly natural and malign dragons to have ever graced the page.” AntiSF

“…fast, furious and action packed…” Vilutheril reviews

“In summary though this is an entertaining and enjoyable book that definitely left me wanting to know what happens next…” The Bookling

“a whole heap of rip-roaring fun and no mistake.” (Pauline’s Fantasy Reviews.)

In short: dragons, intrigue, poison, mercenaries and a Big Dark History. If you like that sort of thing then this is definitely worth a look. Sandstorm Reviews.

“It finally begins to come to life on page 135, when we get up close and personal with a wonderfully unusual dragon … If Deas can improve his world-building skills … [spoiler deleted] … future books in this series will certainly be worth reading.” Lisa Tuttle, the Times online.

“Deas’ novel reminds me of nothing less than the much-praised Song of Ice and Fire series… with dragons!” Libris Leonis, although finding the twists and turns of the last few chapters too much.

“The dragons are frighteningly compelling and the desire to see how all the political machinations play out make Deas’s debut a page-turner.” The San Francisco Book Review

“On the whole though, if you’re a fan of George R. R. Martin’s brand of intrigue-heavy plotting, or Joe Abercrombie’s style of heavy realism, or even if you just like dragons, you may well find this a worthwhile addition to your reading list.” The Specusphere

“…a fast, fun escape into a world with just enough political intrigue and some pretty nasty dragons.” Nethspace, who also is astute enough to observe that the enslavement of the dragons “has subtle parallels to aspects of our own world culture and leads to some interesting and troubling questions.” Yes. Indeed.

…a great book and well worth the read. Ty’s Book Review, but

“It can be difficulty to distinguish one villain from another as they all seem bent on outdoing one another.” Fresh Fiction Reviews

The book smuggler pretty much sums it up with “I swear that to read this book, is probably the closest you will ever get to being inside say, the Borgia’s inner circle.” and “…the plot in this book is utterly fascinating…” but “I am, essentially a character-driven reader who missed someone to connect with and to truly root for (or even against).” It’s true that most of the characters are selfish bastards. It’s pretty clear that for some people, this works, and for others, it really doesn’t. Alternatively: “If you are looking for a fast paced story, this novel will deliver. But if you also want characters you care about (either love or hate), or a new world with a deep history, like me, you might be disappointed.” Alright already. We have a sizeable body of opinion now. A character to root for. A bit more depth. Can it be done without losing the pacing? Only the reviews of King of the Crags will reveal the answer.

Some people just seem a bit bemused.

“[Dragons] … restored to all their scaly fire-breathing glory.” The Daily Telegraph

One person gets it but loathes it. There’s always one.

“It is all glitter.” Strange Horizons

True, perhaps, but very, very shiny…

OK, now it’s two (somehow I missed this one back in 2009. Probably as well):

“Stephen Deas’ commitment to telling a good story is laudable – it is hard not to appreciate the many individual twists and turns, even if they seem to be for naught. Similarly praiseworthy is the aggressive abandonment of traditional world-building, whether I’m comfortable with it or not.” But “Without understanding (or caring) more about the characters, it is impossible to understand how the pieces fit together – or what value they have.” – Pornokitsch

Shame, because I think he might have appreciated where the second and particularly the third book better, and a trilogy, done well, should always be more than the sum of its parts. But you have to judge each book alone as you see it too. Ah well.

Other covers: France

french-cover

America

Fantasy dragons the way fantasy dragons should be!

Fantasy dragons the way fantasy dragons should be!

Americ Poland

polish cover

How to Make an Author Happy (17/7/09)

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I get a bit of fanmail these days. Not a lot, but a bit. Latest example:

“Just a short note to let you know this was one of the best bits of fantasy i’ve read in a long time. A book with a proper villian and more plotting than Guy Fawkes. Hope there’s plenty more to come.”

Short and sweet, and you know what, it’s made my evening. Thanks Chris, wherever you are. The rest of you, next time you read a book you really like, why not tell whoever wrote it. You could make their day too.

Dragons world tour: France (1/7/2009)

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Copies of the french edition arrived through the post today. Tres jolie, not that I can really read them. Always interesting to see how certain turns of phrase get translated, though. Four copies is a bit much for the library, though so I reckon there’s one going begging. Anyone want it? First come, first served.

Vive La France (Dragons World Tour: France) (17/6/09)

Posted in News

Bon chance, mes amis. J’espere que vous ce trouvez c’est merveilleux!

So allegedly it’s out. And allegedly I learned some french once, too. Fortunately the book was translated by a nice woman called Flo rather than me.

Also a new review. The usual split of opinions, only this time packed into a single review. “I swear that to read this book, is probably the closest you will ever get to being inside say, the Borgia’s inner circle.” and “…the plot in this book is utterly fascinating…” but “I am, essentially a character-driven reader who missed someone to connect with and to truly root for (or even against).”

I’ve added some commentary over there.

Dragons world tour: France (27/5/09)

Posted in News

Just when there wasn’t anything happening… French edition coming out on 16th June. The city in the background could easily by Furymouth. Dragon’s not quite how I saw them (no front feet), but suitably large and muscular I reckon. No rider either. Would have made a good cover for book three but that’s starting to give things away…

Dragons World Tour: New Zealand (20/5/09)

Posted in News

OK, I’ll admit to a double-take when I saw this. I suspect the contents on the end of this link changes. Never mind – trust me that in New Zealand, Womans Weekly was offering TAP as a competition prize. Got the right idea these antipodeans. No messin’.

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