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Friday, September 17, 2021

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Given To Darkness (Ikiri Book II) by Phil Williams



Some stories come ready-formed. You have the ideal character or plot concept and just have to lay it out there. Others live with us, repeating over and over in our heads, evolving until their time comes. The Ikiri Duology was the latter variety, and its scant two-volume tale condenses a long history of experimentation.

The first novel I wrote (not counting Discworld fan-fiction), circa age 13, concerned a cult massacring a backwater town. It was Assault on Precinct 13 crossed with the opening scene from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. It also contained: 
(a) a global conspiracy involving corporate hitmen, and 
(b) a criminal who’d been part of a charismatic gang. I rewrote that story a few times, testing out the details for a more epic tale to come.

That more epic tale involved the criminal gang trailing this cult’s secret back to its source. It pointed to the place of power that would eventually become Ikiri (back then, just the Source). Even while writing that first novel, I was picturing Reece Coburn and his gang racing across the world to resolve this bigger problem, in an adventurous cross-between Lupin III and a Tarantino movie.



Kept From Cages is a close embodiment of the novel that followed, written over twenty years ago. I must’ve rewritten it about six times since, with some drastically different details and set pieces, but the overall arc remained almost identical. Characterwise, Reece Coburn, Max Stomatt and Seph Mason have always been there; Katryzna appeared early and has always had the same spirit but wildly different story paths; Sean Tasker was actually based on an antagonist from the earliest novels and Leigh-Ann was a newcomer for the latest version. Multiple characters who were always there before no longer are, too – I’ve lived with Reece’s highly cynical best friend and a ubiquitous sinister hitman, for example, for many years, and they’re notable absent now.

Such changes evolved as I wrote multiple sequels to the original two stories; one found Ikiri underground in a desert, another saw it a mile up in the sky (accessible by the world’s most absurd elevator). I toyed with different resolutions which were variously small-scale or looked towards global destruction. Ultimately, I never quite finished the story. Instead, I wrote interconnected novels. A prequel where Katryzna fought ghosts in a desert town, exposing the background research of the search for Ikiri. A sequel saw her on a boating holiday with painfully normal people, which was both hugely entertaining and narratively irrelevant. There was also an arch-prequel told through a series of short stories about assassins and supernatural research, following a moody fixer, Spirit Eyes (long deceased in the Ikiri Duology).

I rewrote one or more of these novels every couple of years, resolving the best stories for these characters alongside how best to combine a love of action films, fantasy literature and pseudo-religious iconography. It was complicated, and you might get a sense of that reading the duology now: there’s a lot of background that informs almost everything that’s included in the final product.

Around the time I started self-publishing, I parked the complex exercise, until I sparked on the idea of Ordshaw’s interconnected world. From the outset, I realised how Ikiri fit into the framework of the mysteries I was developing for Ordshaw (a world that had a whole separate long-winded background). And in writing the Sunken City Trilogy, I not only nailed down how things fit together with Ikiri, but built the confidence to finally condense this sprawling mass into a finalised set of books. Writing The Violent Fae was particularly important there: it was difficult to pull together everything the first two Ordshaw books laid out, but once I’d done it, I knew I could do it again.

Moving onto the Ikiri Duology, Kept From Cages was a lot of fun to write. Given To Darkness, however, was where the real work came in. I needed to consolidate, once and for all. Tough decisions had to be made. Two early stories crept back into play, and I wrote entire subplots about Cutjaw and mercenaries, both of which were ungainly tangents. I whittled at it like you wouldn’t believe, sifting through the very best of what I could draw on from those decades of backstory. And the result has come out, I think, fairly tight.

It’s not over, of course. Those side-stories and complex connections itch to be explored later. And while many favourite characters from Under Ordshaw are absent in this duology, I did write the Sunken City Trilogy with connections to Ikiri in mind. But Reece Coburn’s original adventure, and his tussle with the Legion and the resolution of Ikiri, at least, are now cemented in this complete duology. I look forward to sharing it.

One thing, at least, was much simpler for the sequel, and that was the cover. It took me a long time to nail down the style I wanted for Kept From Cages, but with that in place I always had the intention of producing something similar for the sequel, seeing as they are two parts of the same story. The picture speaks for itself, though, I guess, so without further do, here’s the cover to Given To Darkness – out October 19th!



Author Information: Phil Williams is an author of contemporary fantasy and dystopian fiction, including the Ordshaw urban fantasy thrillers and the post-apocalyptic Estalia series. Given To Darkness, out October 19th, is the concluding part to the standalone Ikiri Duology (following Kept From Cages), which come as books 5 and 6 in the wider Ordshaw series. Phil also writes bestselling reference books to help foreign learners master English. Phil lives with his wife by the coast in Sussex, UK, and spends a great deal of time walking his impossibly fluffy dog, Herbert.

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