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Sunday, May 1, 2022

EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL + Q&A: The Umbral Storm by Alec Hutson (interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Pre-order The Umbral Storm over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Crimson Queen
Read Fantasy Book Critic's interview with Alec Hutson

Today we have the pleasure of having Alec Huston over to reveal the cover to his newest series opener. The book The Umbral Storm is an epic progression fantasy that Alec mentioned in his ATFB interview a couple of weeks ago. Read ahead to know more about the world and series and also checkout the fantabulous cover.
Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic Alec. How are you doing amidst these crazy times?

AH: Hi Mihir, thanks for having me. I’m okay! Shanghai is going through a rough patch right now, with the government aggressively pursuing their Zero Covid policy in the face of Omicron, so I’ve been forced to stay in my apartment for the last week (as has the rest of the city)

Q] Let’s talk about how The Umbral Storm came to fruition? What was your inspiration for this new fantasy story?

AH: Ah. I’ve always had a soft spot for the movie Highlander, and found the idea of supernatural warriors contesting between each other, then claiming the strength of their defeated foes to be intriguing. I had an idea of a fantasy world revolving around this concept and thought it was fairly fertile soil for a book, and after a while a story germinated.

Q] The artwork for The Umbral Storm is spectacular (to say the least). What were your main pointers for your cover artist as you both went through the process of finalizing it? What were the main things that you wished to focus on in it?

AH: The artist is Mansik Yang (he also goes by YAM) and he’s tremendously talented. He’s done a number of other popular progression books, such as Bastion and Iron Prince. I thought since I was making a foray into the subgenre I would ask if he’d be interested in doing the cover, and very luckily he was.

As to my directions – I try to keep out of the way of talented artists, as they know their business much better than I. I gave him a scene in the book, and he asked me to prepare a brief outlining some of the details of the scene, and then he conjured up this cover, which I’m extremely pleased with. I have to also mention the work of the tremendously talented Shawn King at STK Kreations, who does absolutely transcendent typography and cover design. 

 Q] Is The Umbral Storm a standalone or is it the first book of a series? What can you reveal about your plans for the series (number of books)? Is The Shaded Few the series title?

AH: First book in a series. I have the sweep of the plot in my head, but I haven’t decided if I’m going to try and fit it into a trilogy or make it longer. I think the world could sustain a longer series, but I think I’ll have more clarity once I really get into the meat of the second book. And yes, The Sharded Few is the series title.
Q] Can you share something about the book that isn’t mentioned in the blurb and why should fans should be excited for this new story (besides being a new story by you)?

AH: Well, I think my strength as a writer has been my worldbuilding and perhaps my sentence-level prose. I think The Umbral Storm has those qualities that my readers appreciate, but I do think I may have grown a bit in terms of characterization. I like the arcs several of my the main characters take in this first book, and I’m excited to see where they end up by the end of the series.
Q] You also have previously released around 25 chapters as part of Kindle Vella. Has the story changed much from what was released previously? Did amazon approach you for Vella or was it an experiment for you to test these new waters?

AH: I’ve done several rounds of re-writes since I finished the story on Vella, and while the general sweep of the story remains the same I have refined the writing quite a bit and changed names and places and fixed all those little continuity errors that creep in during the writing of first drafts. In terms of why I wrote it on Vella – I just wanted to see what it was like writing Web Novels. They’ve certainly gotten extremely popular in recent years, and I’m very comfortable releasing work through Amazon, so I thought it was an opportunity to see if I liked (or was good at) at the medium.

And no, Amazon didn’t approach me . . . nor did the story really receive any support from Amazon. I had a dedicated core of readers who kept up and read every chapter, enough that the book was constantly starred as one of the favorites on the site, and yet it was never featured or given any sort of attention by the archons running Vella. I think Amazon will have to do a lot to make Vella work in the future, honestly. If I could go back, I’d probably release the book on Royal Road, as there’s almost no organic discovery possible on Vella.
(Cover Art by YAM (Mansik Yang) and Design-typography by Shawn T. King)

Q] Can you tell us more about the world that The Sharded Few series is set in? What are the curiosities (geographical, mystical, etc.) of this world?

AH: The central conceit of the world is that a great artifact was shattered, and it was found that when its fragments were embedded in flesh great strength and powers were granted. The more shards a warrior carries, the more powerful they become. Martial orders arose around the largest pieces of this artifact – each of which has a particular aspect, like storms and blood and stone – and they contest between each other to gather the shards and dominate the world.

That’s the surface-level understanding of what’s happening, but there are more layers and mysteries to be discovered. And while not as good as either book, I want to say it’s a bit like Cradle crossed with Game of Thrones. That’s the story I wanted to write, anyway.  
Q] For someone who has not read any of your novels, how would you describe the type of stories that you write?

AH: What I’m trying to do with my writing is instill a similar sense of wonder to what I feel reading fantasy books. I’m attracted to stories with deep lore and history, plenty of mysteries and revelations.
Q] In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

AH: Just that I appreciate all you wonderful fantasy readers out there, and I hope you find many wonderful worlds to get lost in.


(Cover Art by YAM (Mansik Yang) and Design-typography by Shawn T. King)

Pre-order The Umbral Storm over HERE
Add The Umbral Storm on Goodreads 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: A thousand years ago the Heart of the World was shattered, its fragments scattered across the lands. 

In the chaos that followed, martial orders arose to gather the shards, for it was found that great powers were granted when these pieces were bonded to the flesh of the chosen. These are the Sharded Few, warriors imbued with the divine energies that once coursed through the Heart, driven to absorb enough fragments to claim godhood. 

Deryn has known nothing in his life except suffering. Orphaned at the edge of the realms, indentured to a cruel slaver, he has little hope of escaping his circumstances. But elsewhere, ancient powers are stirring, new alliances threaten the peace of the old order, and against all odds, Deryn will find himself a player in a game unlike anything he could have imagined.



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