The Beast of Calatrava

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By , January 29, 2013

After a brief break for the holidays, we’re back with a new Foreworld SideQuest. This one is called The Beast of Calatrava, and is available today from 47North.

After a battle left Ramiro Ibáñez de Tolosa’s face terribly disfigured, the knight of the Order of Calatrava abandoned his sword for a pastoral existence. But his beastly appearance horrifies all those who cross his path—with the exception of his adoring and pregnant wife. Can he keep Louisa and their unborn child safe from the war that is coming to Iberia?

As Ramiro prepares for his child’s birth, Brother Lazare of the Cistercian order searches for a means to inspire men as he travels with the crusading Templars. He seeks swords of legend—named blades carried by heroes of old–believing such symbols have the ability to rally men in a way no king could ever accomplish. But when he learns of the stories told of the mysterious monster that haunts the Iberian battlefields, he wonders what sort of power this new legend might contain—the legend of a man whose scarred face and cold demeanor cannot hide his heroic soul.

Written by our resident work-horse, Mark Teppo, The Beast of Calatrava kicks off 2013 with a bang. This is our fifth SideQuest (check out the releases category of the blog for the rest) for those who are keeping track. 2013 is going to be an exciting year for the Foreworld Saga, and we hope our readers enjoy the steady stream of content that we’ve got planned.

In fact, let’s celebrate the new year of Foreworld stories. The ebook versions of Book One and Book Two are on sale for $2.99. If you haven’t started in on the epic story, now is the time. Book Three comes out in less than a month.

Shield-Maiden

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By , November 27, 2012

The next Foreworld Sidequest, The Shield-Maiden, is out today via 47North.

Sigrid is a Shield-Maiden who yearns to break free of the restrictions of her father’s home and join the Sworn Men in an actual raiding expedition. When a small diplomatic party that includes members of the Shield-Brethren lands at her family’s holding on Göttland, the party’s second in command, Halldor, sees in Sigrid a vision of beauty and power that might challenge—and even destroy—many men.

And when bloody chaos ensues at a nearby Viking fishing village, Sigrid proves she has more than mere talent: she has Vor—the fate sight—an astonishing focus in fighting that sets her apart from nearly all who have ever lived and puts her in the rare company of the finest Shield-Brethren.

But as Sigrid and her family confront her otherworldly ability, will it prove to be a gift to be celebrated, or an affliction to be cured?

This one is written by the husband-wife team of Michael “Tinker” Pearce and Linda Pearce.

Lion in Chains

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By , October 30, 2012

The next Foreworld SideQuest, The Lion in Chains, is out today via 47North.

Many were displeased with the “peace” King Richard of England brokered in the Holy Land, and his return from the Crusades wasn’t greeted with cheers, but rather shackles. Now a “guest” of the Holy Roman Emperor, the Lion-Hearted is being held for an exorbitant ransom…so much money that it seems unlikely that the silver will make its way from Britain to Germany. For converging on the caravan are a number of groups with very different motives: French troops who want the silver to continue their war with the English, mercenaries intent on causing chaos, English longbowmen looking to protect their country’s future, and Shield-Brethren hoping to ensure King Richard’s freedom. With a surprising cast of characters, The Lion in Chains is a Foreworld SideQuest that illuminates a decisive moment in European history in an unexpected way, revealing another secret in the long-reaching narrative of the Shield-Brethren.

This one is written by newcomer, Angus Trim, one of our resident sword makers, in collaboration with Mark Teppo, one of The Mongoliad writers.

Mongoliad Book Two

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By , September 26, 2012

The second volume of The Mongoliad is out today, via 47North. In paperback, hardback, and ebook.

In this, the riveting second installment in Stephenson and company’s epic tale, we witness the aftermath of the world-shattering Mongolian invasion of 1241 and the difficult paths undertaken by its most resilient survivors.

The Shield-Brethren, an order of warrior monks, search for a way to overthrow the horde, even as the invaders take its members hostage. Forced to fight in the Mongols’ Circus of Swords, Haakon must prove his mettle or lose his life in the ring. His bravery may impress the enemy, but freedom remains a distant dream.

Father Rodrigo receives a prophecy from God and believes it’s his mission to deliver the message to Rome. Though a peaceful man, he resigns himself to take up arms in the name of his Lord. Joining his fight to save Christendom are the hunter Ferenc, orphan Ocyrhoe, healer Raphael, and alchemist Yasper, each searching for his place in history.

Dreamer

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By , September 25, 2012

The second SideQuest, Dreamer, is out today via 47North.

During the Fifth Crusade, the bloody siege of Damietta grinds to a stalemate and a young Christian soldier begins having visions. Raphael of Acre, a young initiate of the Shield-Brethren, becomes a war hero during a vicious battle for control of a Muslim stronghold. One of his companions, Eptor, is wounded in the battle and falls under the influence of strange hallucinations. When a superior plots to manipulate Eptor’s visions into war propaganda, Raphael struggles between duty to the cause and duty to his faith. Unable to reconcile his roles as Christian and soldier, Raphael seeks out an unlikely source of counsel — the great pacifist Francis of Assisi.

Sinner

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By , August 25, 2012

The first novella in the Foreworld Side Quests is now available as an ebook from 47North.

A severed head and a cry of “Witchcraft!” start a frenzied witchhunt in a sleepy German village. When Konrad von Marburg, a Church inquisitor, arrives on the scene, innocent and guilty alike find themselves subject to the inquisitor’s violent form of purification.

Two knights of the Ordo Militum Vindicis Intactae, Andreas and Raphael, soon arrive in the village. Though each journeys on a separate path, they quickly band together to confront the inquisitor as he whips the townspeople into a righteous bloodlust.

When her dead husband’s severed head appears on her doorstep, a local woman is charged with practicing heretical rituals, it is up to the knights to discover the truth behind the brutal murder before the torches are lit and the woman is burned at the stake.

Their task proves daunting, though, as the townspeople have their own long-buried secrets and sins that they want to keep hidden—even if it means allowing the sacrifice of an innocent woman.

With Sinner, Foreworld scribe Mark Teppo forges the first link in a chain that leads to the world-shattering events of the Mongoliad series.

Art by Mike Grell

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By , August 22, 2012

Famed comic artist Mike Grell will be providing character illustrations for The Mongoliad deluxe editions. Each volume will contain upwards of twenty illustrations, done in black and white, of the numerous characters of the three-volume epic. Here, in fact, is his illustration of the Spaniard, Eleázar.

Mr. Grell has had a long career in the comics industry, doing seminal work on Green Arrow, Warlord, Starslayer, and Jon Sable Freelance. Over the course of his career, he brought such influences as late 19th / early 20th century pulps, Cold War era spy thrillers, and ecological and environmental awareness to the forefront of his work on these titles. Additionally, we understand the man knows how to throw a properly medieval-themed fête.

He has posted two more of his illustrations at his website.

Mongoliad Book One Review Roundup

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By , August 20, 2012

The first volume of The Mongoliad has been selling well, and we’re coming up on the release of the second volume (as well as the hardback release of both Book One and Book Two). This is as good a time as any to run through the reviews that were written about Book One.

  • Blogcritics: “The characters are intriguing, the plots interesting and complex without being convoluted, and the fighting and descriptions of battle scenes realistic and exciting while not shirking from describing the more brutal truths of the horrible things humans are capable of doing to each other. In other words this has all the characteristics of being a must-read series in the making.”
  • Fanboycomics.net: “Think Lord of the Rings without all that pesky fantasy. Group A tries to walk and ride from here to there. Along the way, interesting things happen. In this case, group A is an order of knights who are, perhaps, the best fighters of the European style. Here is Europe, and there is the seat of the Mongolian Empire. Why is to assassinate the most powerful man in the world. Along the way is a tremendously good read.”
  • Great Geek Manual: “. . . expect a long, richly detailed read fraught with nerd-worthy minutia, protracted exposition, and action sequences that read like they were shot in bullet-time. In short, this is historical fiction for geeks and nerds.”
  • io9: “The first book to come out of the app that Stephenson and friends created in 2010, this off-beat alternate history of Eurasia could be your new obsession.”
  • Kirkus Reviews: “The Mogoliad was born as a community-driven, enhanced serial novel set in the year 1241, when only a small band of warriors and mystics stood between Europe and the Mongol Horde. But don’t let its unconventional beginnings steer you wrong; this story is pure adventure, with much swordplay and swashbuckling.”
  • Locus: “As it stands, the book itself is a romp through this thinly fictional historic period, one that is full of well-described swordplay and richly imagined characters. The transitions between the voices of Bear, Teppo, deBirmingham, Bear (again), Brassey, and Moo is seamless. The Mongoliad: Book One feels like the start of a truly epic adventure.”
  • Publishers Weekly: “An outstanding historical epic with exceptional character development and vivid world building… In addition to the heroic battles—including swordfights, archery, wrestling, and martial arts—romance, political intrigue, and promises of betrayal and rebellion are suffused throughout this cinematic tale.”
  • Shelf Awareness: “. . . individual chapters crackle with a fast-paced energy, particularly the vigorous action scenes.”
  • Tor.com: “The pacing is taut throughout, and as befits the original serialized format, each chapter ends with a solid hook that pulls the reader along swiftly to the next part of the story. And unsurprisingly, given the book’s origins in the study of pre-Renaissance fighting techniques, the fight scenes in particular are written exceptionally well, with a clarity and subtlety missing from just about every other representation of medieval warfare in prose or on film.”

Speaking of the hardcover release, here is the final cover for Book One.

Well, almost final. It’s missing the mention that there are a dozen plus character illustrations by Mike Grell.

What Genre is The Mongoliad?

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By , August 18, 2012

Our chief scribe, Mark Teppo, was asked to write a little something about the genre classification of The Mongoliad for Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist. As it has been some time since that post went up over there, we’re not above pulling a copy here for our records.

. || . || . || . || .

One of the comments I hear regularly when I tell people about The Mongoliad is “Oh, well, I don’t read epic fantasy.” They don’t mean to be dismissive about it; they’re just pointing out that, in all likelihood, they’ve already checked out of this conversation and the rest is simply going to be me talking to them while they think about butterflies or chocolate covered bonbons or the like. I’d don’t really want to be dismissive in return, because, really, “epic” and “fantasy” are two words that mean a lot more than the sort of thing that Tolkein wrote.

Here’s the thing: I understand labels. I understand genre marketing. I get that people like to put things in neat little boxes so that they know how to approach them. I also started off my career writing “urban fantasy” books that don’t have werewolves, vampires, or the undead in them. I call the Codex books “occult noir” and no one understands what I’m saying; I say “urban fantasy” and we have, at least, a general starting point.

For a moment, then, let’s consider this claim that The Mongoliad is an epic fantasy. What’s epic about it is the amount of research we did. We wanted to write a Western martial arts adventure story, one that was true to the actual fighting techniques of the time. Fighting techniques that are, only now, being rediscovered and taught in martial arts schools around the world. You know what? There’s a lot more to fighting with a sword than simply hitting the other guy first.

And as we went down the rabbit hole of martial arts, we realized we couldn’t short-change the rest of the story as well. So, when we talk about how Rœdwulf’s bow is constructed and how he fires it, it’s because we dug up copies of Roger Ascham’s Toxophilus, a 16th century manual of proper construction and use of the longbow. When we talk about the composition of the forests around Legnica, it’s because we sourced–as near as we could fathom–historical from Polish naturalists who are keen on the history of their local greenery. (We also had a list of about twenty bird species that were native to the area and we would have worked them all in somehow, but, well, we had to draw the line somewhere.) The point is: we wanted to get as many of the details right as we could, because history is so much, much more fantastic than you can ever imagine.

We had a conversation once about where to file The Mongoliad. Was it alternate history? Not entirely. Was it a secret history? Somewhat. Did we make things up? Certainly. Did we stretch the truth a bit? Most definitely. Our knights, for example, use techniques that aren’t entirely codified for another two hundred years (the key word here is “entirely”); their use of armor is about fifty years ahead of the rest of the Europe (they’re bad-ass outliers, of course). And there are things that we make up entirely (the Binders, for instance). Oh, and the entire crypto-pagan mythology that underlies all of Foreworld?

Well, I’ll argue we didn’t make that up, but then again, I’m the one who has a soft spot for esoteric mystery schools.

You could argue the difference between science fiction and fantasy is the application of faith. The difference between regular fantasy and epic fantasy is then, perhaps, the amount of faith you have to bring with you when you read a story. We’ve written a story about medieval Europe, and guess what? They had a much, much different baseline for faith than we do now.

It’s just an adventure story, really, a long-form novel that illuminated a period of history that is wonderfully rich in both its belief systems, its technologies, and its martial arts. We call our version of history Foreworld, because it is a different state of the world. How much you believe what we’ve written is up to you, but I can tell you that both more and less of the work is true.

In which case, maybe the best way to classify The Mongoliad is to call it an Epic Historical Fantasy.

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