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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Arkhel Conundrum by Sarah Ash + Q&A with the author (by Justine Bergman & Mihir Wanchoo)




Sarah Ash is an author whom I got introduced to thanks to her Tears Of Artamon trilogy It was right around the time that I was discovering the wonders of the fantasy genre. Amid the titans of the fantasy genre, I found her world inspired by east European/Russian legends as well as Dracula to be refreshingly unique. Sarah's world was filled with characters of all stripes, magic that was ancient and terrifying, plus a plot that slowly turned towards an apocalypse. All in all her books hold a special place in my heart and I've over the years begged her to continue the story. Previously I've blogged about them and the fascinating world that she had created.

A few days ago she unfurled a big surprise by requesting us to hold a cover reveal for the sequel book to the Tears Of Artamon trilogy. I was able to convince her amid my giddiness to answer a few questions about the spectacular cover & what readers can expect from this fourth volume

Without further ado, may we present
The Arkhel Conundrum



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The Arkhel Conundrum by Sarah Ash                                        (Cover art by Les Edwards/Edward Miller)
Welcome back to Fantasy Book Critic Sarah, it’s truly a pleasure for allowing us this opportunity to host this cover reveal. How have you been?
SA: It’s truly a pleasure to be invited back, Mihir – thank you so much!

What made you decide to come back to world of Artamon after a decade?
SA: In truth, I’ve never been away. (Although I enjoyed myself very much writing Tide Dragons, the two-volume fantasy series set in Heian Japan which I brought out in 2014 and 2018.) But I was also writing about how Kaspar Linnaius first became a magus in Drakomancer (a novel I’d still like to bring out if I get the chance) and that led me to return to Gavril and Kiukiu.

You have had some wonderful cover art with the Artamon books (US, French & UK covers)? Please tell us about your artist Les Edwards/Edward Miller and why you decided to go with him?
SA: Les Edwards/Edward Miller and I go way back as Les was the cover artist for The Lost Child (Orion/Gollancz 1998) and created a very atmospheric cover image that was just right for a story set in an alternate medieval French kingdom. I then fell in love with Edward’s work when I saw his art for the Subterranean Press editions of Scott Lynch (those luminous colours!). So he was my Number One artist to go to – and I was really thrilled when he accepted the commission. Les/Edward has created a remarkable range of inspiring art for Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy and his site is well worth a visit.

Let’s talk about that gorgeous vista cover. How did it all come together? What were your instructions/suggestions for it? How did you and the artist collaborate to create the fascinating cover?
SA: I was so pleased when I saw the cover art that I confess I shed a few tears (of happiness!); it was just what I was hoping for. Here’s the brief that I sent to the artist (as well as the synopsis and first chapters):
"Much of the book is set in wintertime in Azhkendir, ‘the land of snow and shadows’ in Gavril Nagarian’s kastel which is set between the forest of Kerjhenez and the mountains."

My French editor, Stephane Marsan (Bragelonne) once said to me that he preferred covers with landscapes. (Something that Les Edwards and Edward Miller are very good at doing!) One of your paintings on the website that I keep returning to is the wonderfully vertiginous ‘The Gorge’, which I love. The other artwork I keep returning to is ‘Footprints in the Snow’ because of the snowscape which feels ‘right’ for a snow scene.’

The Arkhel Conundrum by Sarah Ash

Let’s talk about The Arkhel Conundrum’s chronological place in the Artamon saga, how far along is the book set after the events of Children Of The Serpent Gate & Flight Into Darkness?
SA: Even though I was tempted to do a Twenty Years After (or Artamon TNG) and even began to outline what would happen to the grown-up children of the main protagonists, I knew instinctively (and from readers’ requests) that I just had to explore what happened immediately after Children of the Serpent Gate. So it starts roughly nine months after the fall of the Serpent Gate. I wanted to find out how Gavril would fare without his daemon Drakhaoul, Khezef. Has he returned unscathed from the Serpent Gate after Khezef’s final departure – or is he damaged in some way? And then there’s the matter of the promise made by Kiukiu to the Guardian of the Jade Springs in return for the restoration of her youth. Embarking on married life with so many secrets that can’t be mutually shared is probably not the best start for the young couple. Is their love for each other strong enough to survive?

Can you share something about the book that’s not mentioned in the blurb and why fans of the Artamon saga should be excited for this new addition?
SA:The hint is in the title: The Arkhel Conundrum! And here is a little extract from a conversation between Emperor Eugene and Baron Sylvius, the imperial spymaster:

But all the Arkhels perished in the Clan Wars; all, except Jaromir.”

Apparently not. My agents were following up on a quite different lead in Tourmalise when they stumbled upon some unexpected information.”

If I mention that adventuress Lilias Arbelian is also in Tourmalise, fans of the earlier Artamon stories will realize that she’s probably up to no good...

Thank you for your time Sarah and for giving fans like me a return into the lives of Kiukiu, Gavril, Eugene, etc. According to you, what will be thing that makes this fourth volume a special one?
SA: Thank you so much for inviting me to talk about the new book, Mihir – it’s because of your encouragement and the much appreciated comments from other fans that I’ve been able to return to the world of Artamon and spend more time with the characters! But what also makes this fourth volume special for me is the appearance of new characters (that I hope readers will enjoy meeting) and the chance to investigate some of the darker mysteries that lie behind the origins of the Drakhaouls.
The Arkham Conundrum by Sarah Ash

Order The Arhkel Conundrum HERE (US) and HERE (UK)

OFFICIAL BLURB: Azhkendir, land of snow and shadows, harbours many secrets – and a powerful ancient winter deity is awakened when a foreign mining company begins to strip out the rare mineral resources beneath the mountains. Old clan hatreds are stirred up. The High Steward of Azhkendir, Lord Gavril, and his wife, Spirit Singer Kiukiu, hope to seek help from the Emperor Eugene. But their onetime enemy turned ally is distracted by his competition to build a flying machine. Is someone from their past trying to destabilize the fragile peace of the empire? Or are there supernatural forces involved? The Magus, Kaspar Linnaius, may have the answers...but he has disappeared and no one knows where he is or how to contact him.

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