Del Rey Spectra 50 Page Fridays: Ari Marmell


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This week’s excerpt comes from The Conqueror’s Shadow by Ari Marmell, a great throwback of a book and one that’s close to Del Rey Spectra editor David Pomerico’s heart:

“I love all the books I work on.  But—like I suppose it will be when I have children—there are some that are a little closer to my heart than others.

This book is very much in the category of “close to my heart.”

Why?  Because this was my first.  And not to get crude about it, you always remember your first, whether the experience is good or bad.  Luckily for me, this experience was and is great.  And it starts with the author: Ari Marmell.

I’ve heard that authors can be difficult to work with, especially when you’re editing them.  I mean, it makes sense: my job is to pat them on the head, say “Good job,” and then seemingly change the entire manuscript.  With Ari, this has never felt like an issue.  Sure, we’ve butted heads—we’re creative types, you know!—but we always worked constructively.  The results of which was The Conqueror’s Shadow, the excerpt of which is now before you.

What drew me to this story?  Mostly it was the fact that it was complete and utter fun.  I might not have the fantasy pedigree of some other readers—I grew up in the eighties, and that meant we were post-Lord of the Rings and pre-Song of Ice and Fire.  Fantasy was in a weird position: heavy on hack-and-slash, a little light on depth.  That’s not to say there weren’t good stories—quite the contrary.  People like David Eddings, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and Terry Brooks were going strong, and writing wonderful novels.  But part of what made them wonderful was that there was perhaps something comfortable about them—there didn’t seem to be a challenge to the reader.  They were fantasies, pure and simple: ways to escape, to know the hero was a hero, and that he was going to win, kill a lot of monsters, and get the girl in the end.

As a young man, these were all very appealing things to me.

But I grew up, and so did fantasy.  And yet I never quite stopped loving the quest, loving the journey to defeat the Big Bad with a group of adventurers.  I just didn’t quite care so much how “good” the good guy was anymore.

The Conqueror’s Shadow hit me with both aspects of the genre at once: it was a fun and funny adventure, but had a distinctive dark side to it.  The protagonist was a murderer, and although he seemed to have mellowed, he was pretty much the epitome of “you can take the homicidal conqueror out of the battlefield, but you can’t take the battlefield out of the homicidal conqueror.”

Or something like that.

What I think readers ended up with was a frightening and fascinating new fantasy “hero,” Corvis Rebaine, the Terror of the East.  I think they also got a book that appeals to both readers of Joe Abercrombie and, oddly, Eddings.  A book that’s at once dark and chilling, humorous and oddly touching.  You may hate Corvis’s actions, but I think you’ll find you love Corvis.

I know I do.

Happy reading.”

–David Pomerico, December 2010

Remember to look for a new excerpt every Friday and be sure to give us feedback, suggestions, or any other tips for future DRS 50 Page Fridays.

Please enjoy this extensive excerpt of The Conqueror’s Shadow, available now in hardcover and ebook and in paperback on 12/28.
THE CONQUEROR’S SHADOW by Ari Marmell, Excerpt