17 Novels: Prince of Ravens

Good news: Today the UPS guy dropped off my very own copy of Restless Lightning! The book’s official release is October 23, but this is the first time I’ve been able to hold it in my hands and flip through the pages. I’ve been writing for a long time now, but I don’t mind admitting it: There’s nothing like getting your first look at a new book with your name on it. I’ll definitely sneak out on Wednesday and see if I can spot a copy in the wild!

Speaking of spotting things in the wild, let me take this opportunity to shout about a couple of upcoming appearances. First, I’ll be at A Good Book in Sumner, Washington, on Saturday 3 November, from 6 pm to 8 pm. I’ll be teaming up with author Joseph Brassey for a fun conversation about combat scenes in fantasy and sci-fi stories. Next, I’ll be a guest at AcadeCon in Dayton, Ohio, on Friday and Saturday 9-10 November. I’ll be hosting a couple of Q&A/signing opportunities, and I just might be looking for a chance to play a game or two while I’m there.

Okay, time for the last entry in my look back at my older novels: the return of Jack Ravenwild.

Prince of Ravens

After I finished my Blades of the Moonsea series, the Wizards Book Department asked me to write a stand-alone book for the 2012 release year. Once again, they gave me carte blanche to go where I wanted to go in the Forgotten Realms . . . so I decided to return to a personal favorite of mine, and take a look at a long-awaited sequel for City of Ravens.

My first challenge was that the Forgotten Realms timeline had moved ahead by a hundred years from the 3e to 4e era. (Our idea was that 4e:3e was rather like Star Trek Next Generation: the original series. As I’ve noted elsewhere, the fans didn’t come with us on that ride.) Anyway, I had a significant problem: Jack Ravenwild should be long dead. I thought about it for a while, and came up with a decent mechanism for how Jack survived into the new age. It turns out that the world of D&D features various sorts of spells and curses that can magically imprison people for a very long time, and it wasn’t hard to see how one of Jack’s enemies might have visited this fate upon him. Problem solved!

Then the Book Department came back and said, “Oh, and this needs to be about drow, because the whole year’s going to have a rise-of-the-dark elves theme.”

Huh. If there’s anything Jack wouldn’t want to be a part of, it would be dealing with clever and murderous dark elves. That’s the sort of problem he would cheerfully leave to someone more heroic. I very nearly dropped the idea at that moment . . . but sometimes the collision of unrelated things can spark good stories. I remembered that the wild mythal that Jack discovered in City of Ravens was a device of ancient drow magic, and I realized that there was an opportunity there to tie Jack to something the drow might need very badly. And so I reworked my outline to highlight drow as the major problem threatening Raven’s Bluff when Jack is freed from his imprisonment after a hundred years of suspended animation, and ran with it.

Prince of Ravens turned out to be a pretty good sequel, IMO. Jack is still a conniving rogue who isn’t half as clever as he thinks himself to be, and his various setbacks and misadventures in the process of becoming a hero despite his determination not to be one make for a pretty entertaining read. And it turns out that a few familiar characters from City of Ravens turn up in surprising ways despite the hundred-year gap.

On the down side, Prince of Ravens suffered from a last-minute shift in format that hamstrung its release. Instead of publishing it as a paperback and distributing it in the normal bookstore channels, Wizards decided to release it as an e-book only. I was pretty unhappy about that; it cut the sales numbers by 90 percent since our footprint in e-books was nothing like our physical shelf presence, and hit me in the royalties-per-copy pretty hard, too (e-books being cheaper than paperbacks). The whole business model for the Forgotten Realms novels was, well, sort of in flux at the time, and it wasn’t clear to WotC that it made sense to publish anyone but Bob Salvatore in the Realms line. Ultimately it *is* a business, and sometimes hard business decisions are made. But to this day I suspect there are lots of people who read City of Ravens and who’d love to read a sequel, but they have no idea that Prince of Ravens exists.

Anyway, if you liked City of Ravens, go pick up the Prince of Ravens e-book. It’s a fun read with a much stronger dose of humor than I normally feature in my writing, and Jack’s just fun to write.

 

 

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