Twelve Kings Tuesdays — A few formative novels
Only six weeks remain until the release of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai in early September. Six weeks! It’s coming both too slowly and too quickly. I’m just trying to keep my head above water as the date approaches!
So here we are again. In my continuing weekly series, I’m posting an image or two from the Pinterest board I created for inspiration. I’ll be talking a bit about each image, why I chose it, how it affected the story, and so on. This week, I’m taking a slight diversion to a second Pinterest board I created to collect some ideas on what the cover for Twelve Kings might look like. You can find that board here. I wanted to collect those pieces of art that might help inspire the art designers. You can look at the cover art for Twelve Kings to see how closely I hit the mark.
One of the trilogies that really struck me when I first read it was C.J. Cherryh’s The Faded Sun trilogy. It was my first exposure to a fantastic or spec-fictional world based on our own Arabic cultures, and I loved it. I devoured these books. As much as I loved the story itself, there are some books where the artwork really nails the feel of the book. That was true here with these gorgeous pieces of art, especially the one by Michael Whelan for Kutath. I remember flipping back to the cover often, just imagining the world, what it would be like to live there, to meet those people.
I’ll be honest. I don’t remember a lot of the story itself at this point. It’s been three decades since I’ve read it. But I remember the feel of it, and that’s what spurred me, in part, to tackle a story set in a vast desert with a massive city at its center. And speaking of cities, I have to mention another novel (a shared-world anthology, really) that had a major influence on me, and that’s Robert Asprin’s brain child, Thieves’ World.
I loved (LOVED!) the city of Sanctuary and the seedy, mysterious, powerful characters and stories that inhabited it. Hans and Tempus are still two of my all-time favorite characters, but there were so many wonderful stories in those early anthologies. (I did start to lose interest after about 6 of them, but the first handful remain some of my favorite books ever.)
I’d long wanted to scratch the itch to write a desert story. (In fact, as my last series, The Lays of Anuskaya, progresses, you can see more and more of the Persian-influenced Aramahn coming into the picture, culminating in long stretches of desert scenes in the final book, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh.) And I thought Sanctuary was such a rich place to write a story. It was the “armpit of the empire,” a meeting point of old and new as the Rankan Empire drove into Ilsigi territory, with pantheons of gods vying for power, who in fact commingled even as they fought. Above all, I loved the vastness of Sanctuary and the hidden wonders it contained.
The feel of that is what I wanted to explore with Sharakhai. Sharakhai is in some ways a mere city state. But in effect it controls trade throughout a massive desert bordered by four powerful kingdoms, and because it controls trade, it has amassed incredible wealth and power among all four kingdoms and the desert itself. It hasn’t done so without making enemies along the way, however. The twelve immortal kings of Sharakhai are hated by many. And what better to sow the seeds of a story than cruel kings in a desert metropolis?
So, thanks, Ms. Cherryh and Mr. Asprin and the contributors to the Thieves’ World anthology, for the inspiration. And to Michael Whelan and Walter Velez as well. I owe you all a debt of gratitude.
How about you? What are the the most powerful, early stories you read?
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, Book One of The Song of the Shattered Sands, is available for pre-order in the US via Penguin Random House, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble and in the UK via Amazon UK and Waterstones. Audio versions will also be available via Brilliance Audio and Orion/Gollancz Audio.