There are a number of lovely things about being a writer – two of my favourites are getting to read new books early (I am nothing if not mercenary when it comes to reading) and meeting and making friends with cool people within the SFF community. Den Patrick was someone I met around about the same time that Juliet Mushens, Super Agent and Queen of the Selfie, was reading through my manuscript. It was a nerve-wracking time, and Den kindly bought me a giant hot chocolate and talked me down from my panic. He’s also one of those writers who has an interesting list of past jobs to put on his author bio – if you ever need advice on painting tiny model orcs or how to put a spreadsheet together, he’s your chap.*
And now I’m lucky enough to have an early copy of Den’s first novel, The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, a book which pleases me on many levels – for one thing, it demonstrates the unique breadth and variety of the fantasy genre. While my book is all dodgy taverns and dusty tombs, TBWTPB takes you somewhere quite different: it’s a little bit Renaissance Italy, a little bit Gormenghast, with a dollop of the X-Men thrown in for good measure, and the resulting mixture is the sort of unique tale I don’t think you’ll find anywhere else. It concerns Lucien de Fontein, a boy born with a strange disfigurement and fostered into a noble family, while growing up in a world of intrigue and tantalising strangeness. Lucien is an Orfano, one of a group of mysterious foundlings with strange disfigurements and abilities, treated with both fear and awe by the inhabitants of Landfall. Lucien, already trying to make his way in a world filled with unknown dangers and secret agendas, stumbles across something he shouldn’t have, and the repercussions for himself and for the Kingdom of Landfall will be enormous.
There is a game Den is playing with the reader here, where glimpses of this world generate more and more questions, until you are tearing through the book to get to the answers. Lucien too is an appealing character full of self doubt and vulnerability, the next in the great line of fantasy’s outsiders, those characters you come to side with and then care about deeply – the FitzChivalry Farseers and the Tyrion Lannisters. Den’s writing is lean and atmospheric, taking very little time at all to immerse you in the unsettling shadows and miasmas of his world, while his use of flashbacks in alternating chapters give Lucien’s journey an extra layer of meaning. It’s a debut novel that’s going to knock your socks off, and I reckon it will grow to be one of the most original fantasy series out there. So don’t say I didn’t tell you.
On Monday the 10th of March, Den and I are appearing together at Blackwell’s Bookshop on Charing Cross Road, where we will be interviewed by the alarmingly clever Jared from Pornokitsch. There will be book chat, witty pondering on the nature of the fantasy genre (probably) and Den and I will compete to see who can wear more items of black clothing. Do come along!
* I did try with the spreadsheets, honestly Den, but I got distracted by the colour coding.