“There is in every delicate thing, no matter how precious, nor how beautiful, a challenge. Break me.”
I have collected the information currently available online about Mark’s upcoming new trilogy, Red Sister, including Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Mark’s blog & various interviews and will update it in the future as more becomes known.
Mark was inspired to write the upcoming series by this Tomasz Jedruszek art, which was ‘a cover that his publisher suggested on Twitter at the beginning of 2014 if there were a Princess of Thorns written by Mary Lawrence’! Mark shared the picture on Facebook and commented underneath: “I do rather want to write the book to go with it now!”
The draft of the first book was finished in August 2015 and currently (before editing) stands at 167,632 words as his second longest book after The Liar’s Key.
It features a female protagonist called Nona, who is training to become a fighting nun. It’s set in a new world (not in the Broken Empire) and is written in third-person narrative.
The first book is set to be published in 2017 by HarperVoyager in the UK & Australia, and by ACE in the USA.
NEW: Quick update HERE!
“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.
From the forward aspect of the convent you can see both the northern ice and the southern, but the finer view is out across the plateau and over the narrow lands. On a clear day the coast may be glimpsed, the Sea of Marn a suggestion in blue.
At some point in an achingly long history a people, now lost to knowledge, had built one thousand and twenty-four pillars on the plateau, Corinthian giants thicker than a thousand-year oak, taller than a long-pine. A forest of stone without order or pattern, covering the level ground from flank to flank such that no spot upon it lay more than twenty yards from a pillar. Sister Thorn waited amid this forest, alone and seeking her centre.
Lano’s men began to spread out between the columns. Thorn could neither see nor hear her foe approach, but she knew their disposition. She had watched earlier as they snaked up the west trail from Styx Valley, three and four abreast, Pelarthi mercenaries from the ice margins, furs of the white bear and the snow-wolf over their leathers, some with scraps of chainmail about them, ancient and dark or bright as new, depending on their luck. Many bore spears, some swords, one man in five carried a short-bow of recurved horn. Tall men in the main, fair-haired, beards short or plaited, the women with lines of blue paint across their cheeks and foreheads like the rays of a cold sun.
Here’s a moment. All the world and more has rushed eternity’s length to reach this beat of your heart, screaming down the years. And if you let it, the universe, without drawing breath, will press itself through this fractured second and race to the next, on into a new eternity. Everything that is, the echoes of everything that ever was, the roots of all that will ever be, must pass through this moment that you own. Your only task is to give it pause – to make it notice.
Thorn stood without motion, for only when you are truly still can you be the centre. She stood without sound, for only silent can you listen. She stood without fear, for only the fearless can understand their peril.
Hers the stillness of the forest, rooted restlessness, oak slow, pine quick, a seething patience. Hers the stillness of ice walls that face the sea, clear and deep, blue secrets held cold against the truth of the world, a patience of eons stacked against a sudden fall. Hers the stillness of a sorrow-born babe unmoving in its crib. And of the mother, frozen in her discovery, fleeting and forever.
Thorn held a silence that had grown old before first she saw the world’s light. A quietude passed down generations, the peace that bids us watch the dawn, an unspoken alliance with wave and flame that lets both take all speech from tongues and sets us standing before the water’s surge and swell, or witness to fire’s consuming dance of joy. Hers the silence of rejection, of a child’s hurt, mute, unknowing, a scar upon the years to come. Hers the unvoiced everything of first love, tongue-tied, ineloquent, the refusal to sully so sharp and golden a feeling with anything so blunt as words.
Thorn waited. Fearless as flowers, bright, fragile, open to the sky. Brave as only those who’ve lost can be.
Voices reached her, the Pelarthi calling out to each other as they lost sight of their numbers in the broken spaces of the plateau. Cries rang across the level ground, echoing from the pillars, a multitude of footfalls, growing closer. Thorn rolled her shoulders beneath black-skin armour, she tightened the fingers of each hand about the sharp weight of a throwing star, her breathing calm, heart racing.
“In this place the dead watch me,” she breathed. A shout broke out close at hand, figures glimpsed between two pillars, flitting across the gap. Many figures. “I am a weapon in service to the Ark. Those who come against me will know despair.” Her voice rose along with the tension that always presaged a fight, a buzzing tingle along her cheekbones, tightness in her throat, a sense of being both deep within her own body, and above and around it at the same time.
The first of the Pelarthi jogged into view, and seeing her, stumbled to a halt. A young man, beardless though hard-eyed beneath the iron of his helm. More crowded in behind him, spilling out into the killing ground.
The Red Sister tilted her head to acknowledge them.
Then it began.”
“Everywhere has its ghosts, but in most places those ghosts are at least hidden in the corners, or tucked away at right-angles to the world, waiting their moment. In the Rellam Woods you could see the ghosts, patterned on the gloom beneath the canopy, the distortion of their faces frozen into the bark of ancient trunks. And you could hear them too, screaming into the silence, not quite breaking it but making it tremble.”
“There is in every delicate thing, no matter how precious, nor how beautiful, a challenge. Break me.
No bride of the Ancestor can see life as anything but the fragile, wondrous gift that it is. From the alpha to the omega we are all brothers, sisters, children, born of unity, bound for unity.
And yet … and yet … those who take the red are trained to listen. Break me.”
“She is deadly pale, strange in her beauty, her hair jet and jagged, cut close. Her habit is faded, stained, trailing ragged tails of cloth, but it is still red, and as she runs she looks like death descending from some high place.”
“A book is as dangerous as any journey you might take. The person who closes the back cover may not be the same one that opened the front one. Treat them with respect.”
“I have been too young to know, and I have been too old to care. It’s in that oh so narrow slice between that memories are made.”
“The enemy of my enemy may be my friend … of course the friend of my friend is often a jerk.”
“They ran, pursued by a terror they couldn’t name, something larger than the sister who stood behind them, but perhaps as small as the disappointment in her eyes when they turned to flee.”
Art by tamaiyoku
Link to the Red Sister Acquisition Announcement from the London Book Fair on Mark’s blog
Wow. it looks really great!
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Looks awesome, Mark!
This sample is intriguing on many levels in relation to your previous trilogies. I feel that Thorn as the protagonist may be a mixture of Jorge and Snorri. A deep thinker who is utterly fearless and totally remorseless when it comes to combat.
I’m probably projecting this onto her with the little bit that’s released here. Also knowing that this world is a departure from the Broken Empire, I’m looking forward to exploring the world you created.
With the figurative multiverse you have in your head, this should be fun. It’ll also keep the settings fresh and allow the nostalgia to grow for the Broken Empire for the future.