Friday, June 21, 2013


Ken Scholes's first novel, Lamentation, won the American Library Association’s RUSA Reading List award for best fantasy. Lamentation went on to later win France’s Prix Imaginales award in 2010. The Psalms of Isaak series continues to pick up fans and critical acclaim internationally, published in France, Germany, Japan, Russia and Spain in addition to the US.

Scholes applied the Page 69 Test to Requiem, the fourth book in the series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
And then the light was back, excruciating in its brightness, and Charles heard an incoherent babbling that rose and fell in its pitch. That voice, he recognized instantly.

It was his own.

Forcing his eyes open, he saw the look of rapt surprise on Winters’s face, her mouth hanging open even as she tried to hold him to the ground. She called his name again, and he barely heard it above the sound of the nonsensical words that flowed out of him. He tried to stop, and the effort of it made his body tremble. He was vaguely aware now of others gathering nearby, following the horrific sound that rose from him.

Winters repositioned herself to cradle his head in her lap. She brought her mouth to his ear. “Listen to me, Charles. This will pass. Relax into it.” He felt his muscles seizing and spasming, and he stopped fighting to close his mouth. He let the words pour out of him until finally, after what seemed like hours, he was spent and empty, sprawled in the mud and cradled gently by the Marsh Queen’s strong and scar- latticed arms.

He panted for enough air to speak. “What happened?”

“It’s hard to explain,” she said. “But I’ve experienced it before. As have all the dreaming kings before me.” Her brow furrowed. “Neb, too.”

A medico broke through the crowd to kneel beside him.

“It’s the dream,” Charles said.

Winters nodded. “It is. What did it tell you? Usually they bear words or images of some kind.”

He swallowed water from the canteen the medico offered. “I don’t know,” he said.

But he did know, and the knowledge made his head ache all the more.

“Are you awake?” the girl had asked him.

“I am functional,” came the metallic reply. And it was a voice he would never forget.

It was the voice of the Watcher.
It’s good to be back for another Page 69 Test here on the edge of Requiem’s release into the world. And in this case, I do think page 69 is a good example of the book. In this scene, we’re in the POV of Brother Charles, the Androfrancine Arch-engineer responsible for the creation of Isaak and the other mechoservitors in use by the Order.

Charles is a man of reason and science and in this book, after seeing the result of the metal dream on his creations in earlier volumes and after spending time with Winters, the dreaming queen of the Marsh, he begins to experience – and be confounded by – his own dreams. And he begins to follow them though he doesn’t understand where they’re coming from or what their purpose is.

Dreams are a pretty common trope in fantasy and deeper back, a part of our mythology. In crafting the Psalms of Isaak, I drew more from mythology than fantasy, with prophetic dreams being the vehicle through which information is delivered to key people within the series, starting early on in Lamentation. Only, I twist things a little in ways that I won’t go into for fear of spoilers. But the dreams of the series reach a crescendo on page 292 of Requiem and set the hook for the last volume, which I’m working on now.

One of the best compliments ever paid to the series came from a French reader: “Your books make us dream.”

I like that notion quite a bit.

And I’ll hope to be back next year for Hymn’s Page 69 test. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll give Requiem a try (and the earlier volumes of The Psalms of Isaak, if you haven’t already.) Maybe we’ll all share a dream or two together.
Learn more about the author and his work at Ken Scholes's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lamentation.

The Page 69 Test: Antiphon.

--Marshal Zeringue