Author Archives: Matt Karlov

The Lordless City release date and cover reveal

At last! The Lordless City will officially be released on August 9 — that’s just over a month away. To whet your appetite, here’s the cover and the blurb.

Arandras Kanthesi, now master of a golem army, is determined to resist the allure of his newfound power. But war is coming, and Arandras must lead his charges into the very maelstrom he sought to avoid.

The god Azador has set its sights on Spyridon, a city whose leadership is riven by discord. Eilwen, the former Woodtrader who is still haunted by the murderous beast within her, and the rogue sorcerer Clade race to defend Spyridon from threats both within and without. Yet each is torn between the good of the city and their own ambitions, and the forces arrayed against them wield a power beyond their imagining.

As the enemy cannons draw near, Arandras discovers the shocking truth about the golems he commands. Appalled, Arandras is forced to make an unthinkable decision — one where any choice will see him branded a monster…

What’s the hold-up with The Lordless City?

I know. The Lordless City was supposed to be out by now. Late last year I was telling anyone who asked that the book was finished, the only thing left to do was to sort out some final details around publication — cover, maps, that sort of thing — and that they could expect to see a release sometime around February or March. But here we are in May and the book is nowhere to be seen. What happened?

The answer is that I’ve had some major delays with one of those last details — specifically, a new map of the city of Spyridon. Towards the end of last year I lined up an artist to draw the map, and they agreed to a timeline that had me pretty confident I could meet the planned release date. But unfortunately that artist turned out to be overcommitted with other work, leading to repeated delays as I waited for them to start working on the map. By April, with no end in sight, I was left with no choice but to cancel the commission and look for an alternative artist.

The good news is that I’ve been able to find an outstanding replacement artist who has stepped into the breach and is making excellent progress on the new map. I’ve seen some drafts and I’m excited at the work that’s being done. Frustrating as the delays have been, I’m pleased to say that there’ll be no loss of quality — the new map will be every bit as good as those that appeared in The Unbound Man.

That’s all well and good, you say, but that still leaves the main question unanswered. When will The Lordless City be published?

Right now I’m eyeing August as a likely release month. Having been burned once, I’m reluctant to be any more specific until I have the finished map in hand and am completely sure that I can meet a particular date. But I’m as keen for this book to make its way into the world as you are, and I’ll be doing everything I can to make that happen as quickly as possible.

I’m sorry for the delay. I’m grateful for your patience. And I hope to be able to announce a firm release date soon.

Things I Like: 2018 Edition

These are some of the things I enjoyed in 2018. Not all of them were released this year — in fact, one item on the list debuted in the mid-1980s! — but I first encountered them all in the past 12 months. Here’s what I liked, and why.

Favourite book: Rejoice, A Knife To The Heart by Steven Erikson. Less a novel, more a classic SF idea story, this tale of first contact puts just about every aspect of human society under the microscope. Erikson is unrelenting in his critique of humanity’s power structures, but he never fails to maintain empathy for those caught up in them. It’s hard not to see the world differently after reading this book.

Honourable mention: The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. This fantasy is a penetrating examination of empire: the benefits it claims, the violence it requires, and the resistance it engenders. Intelligent, uncompromising, and featuring a compelling central character, this is an outstanding debut novel.

Favourite show: Counterpart. The concept for this spy thriller can be boiled down to four words: Mirror Universe taken seriously. That would be enough of a draw by itself, but throw in an intriguing alt-European aesthetic, well-drawn characters, and some wonderful performances — not least from series star J.K. Simmons — and the show becomes unmissable. The title sequence alone is a thing of beauty.

Honourable mention: The Orville. Seth MacFarlane’s comic-drama take on Star Trek is the kind of show that could go wrong in so many ways. One of the reasons it works is that despite the jokes, it nevertheless holds sacrosanct the same thing Trek does: that core vision of an inclusive, post-scarcity future. Somehow, applying a layer of humour gives MacFarlance cover to be sincere about the things that really matter.

Favourite movie: This Is Spinal Tap. Yes, this is the classic heavy-metal-band mockumentary from 1984, which somehow I had never seen until just last month. There’s not much to say about it that hasn’t already been said, except that it still holds up remarkably well in 2018. A rare case where the hype is entirely justified.

Honourable mention: Thor: Ragnarok. New Zealand director Taika Waititi injected some welcome humour into the Marvel movie series with this entry. Though the first third or so is a little slow, things pick up with the arrival of Korg, who steals every scene he’s in. After that, the movie never looks back.

Favourite game: Civilization VI. Sid Meier’s turn-based strategy series has been with us for 27 years, and though Meier is no longer the primary designer, each new installment continues to be as addictive as the last. The biggest change in Civ VI is “city unstacking”, which forces players to rethink their approach to managing the land around their cities. There’s still nothing quite like the experience of taking a single stone-age settler and building a society capable of colonising another planet.

Honourable mention: Torment: Tides of Numenara. This is the spiritual successor to the classic RPG Planescape: Torment, and its inclusion here will come as no surprise to anyone who read my previous piece on that title. Tides of Numenara doesn’t quite match its illustrious predecessor, but it’s an intriguing, thought-provoking game even so. Highlights include the richly imagined setting and several of the companion characters, one of whom is written by fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss.

Update on The Lordless City

It’s been a long time between updates. Almost a year, in fact. But while this blog has lain idle, I’ve been working away at a revised draft of The Lordless City, which I’m pleased to say is now complete. This draft is even now winging its electronic way to my alpha readers, who will read it and tell me how closely it resembles the story I want to tell.

The second draft of The Lordless City is shorter than the first: down from 157,000 words to 152,000 words. Interestingly, this is the opposite of what happened with the second draft of The Unbound Man, which grew by some 9,000 words. This difference reflects the kind of changes that were required in each case. For The Unbound Man, several sequences in the first draft had to be scrapped and replaced with some entirely new pieces. But there was very little of that for The Lordless City — aside from a small section in part 1, most of the work for this draft involved clarifying, cutting, and generally tightening the story.

Of course, the big question is: when will The Lordless City be out, already? Alas, it’s still too early to tell. Much will depend on the feedback from alpha readers and the editing process to follow. Needless to say, further updates will appear here as they become available — and, I hope very much, with significantly greater frequency than in the past year!

First draft of The Lordless City complete

Finally! The first draft of The Lordless City is officially done. Weighing in at 157,000 words, it’s slightly longer than the first draft of The Unbound Man (154,000 words) but slightly shorter than that book’s published length (163,000 words) — which is to say that it’s right in the zone I was aiming for.

I’m told some people find first drafts the most enjoyable part of writing a novel. Not me. First drafts are hard. The process of translating the story in your head into actual words is long, laborious, and embarrassingly incomplete, at least to begin with. But the only way to write a good story is to start with a version that’s not so good. You can’t make improvements to something that doesn’t exist.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s some good stuff in that draft, stuff that I’m excited about and that I think you’re going to enjoy. The job now is to refine all of that raw story mass and shape it into a well-formed whole: to smooth off the rough edges, correct the balance of various elements, and make sure each piece is working as well as it can. And that’s what I’ll be working on next.

Things I Like: Planescape: Torment

What can change the nature of a man?

That’s the question at the heart of the classic 1999 video game Planescape: Torment. The game follows The Nameless One who wakes up in the mortuary with no memory of his past. He soon discovers two disturbing facts: he recently died, and this is not the first time this has happened.

Planescape: TormentIn many ways, Planescape was ahead of its time, offering rich characters, strange locations, and a thought-provoking story to rival the cream of today’s titles. The Nameless One is joined by a intriguing assortment of companions as the game progresses, from a cynical floating skull to a pyromaniacal mage who The Nameless One once took as an apprentice. The setting is similarly fascinating: the game takes place primarily in the city of Sigil, overseen by the ominous Lady of Pain and home to such unlikely establishments as the Brothel for Slaking Intellectual Lusts.

But it’s the story where this game truly shines. The game focuses far more on dialogue than combat, offering a remarkable range of options when conversing with other characters. And as The Nameless One slowly uncovers the truth about his past lives, the central question weaves through the narrative, forcing the character — and the player — to explore its depths. Can the loss of memory change the nature of a man? Can pain? Can love? Or can nothing at all?

Refreshingly, Planescape poses the question without trying to give you the answer. Rather, it allows you, the player, to answer it each time you play. And it does so in a way that is guaranteed to stay with you long after the game is over.

For The Glory Set Before Them

It’s here! My new short story For The Glory Set Before Them is now out. Check out the blurb and store links below.

I hope you like it!

For The Glory Set Before ThemI am Barais neb-Ohel, combat sorcerer under Captain Shansherai. We are summoned to fight and die in service to the All-God and to all Kefira, home of our fathers.

It will, I am told, be glorious.

Widower, diarist, and mediocre sorcerer, Barais neb-Ohel makes an unlikely soldier. When his squad receives orders to reclaim a much-contested fortress from the hated Gisleans, Barais is thrust into the forefront of a long-running war. But the squad’s numbers are few, his own abilities are desperately limited, and as their journey progresses he finds himself questioning the rightness of their cause.

For The Glory Set Before Them is a meditative military fantasy which will draw you deeper into the fascinating world of Kal Arna.

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