Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Ken Scholes is a winner of the Writers of the Future contest whose short stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies since 2000. His first novel, Lamentation, debuted from Tor in February 2009. Canticle was the second and Antiphon is the third of the five-book series, The Psalms of Isaak.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Antiphon and reported the following:
Antiphon, Page 69:

"And I have saved your son's life," she reminded him. "What does that merit with you?"

Rudolfo nodded slowly but found no words to accompany it.

Her voice became even more muffled, heavy with emotion. "Your son will be the salvation of our world," she said. "We have pledged blade and heart to his well-being and to the well-being of his parents." Her voice was at the door now. "I will ask you to reconsider my offer of aid. You have many enemies in the Named Lands and your borders are not secure. Allow me to assist you or, if you can not abide a Machtvolk presence on your soil, send your wife and child to me and I will watch over them until this threat has passed." Her voice was near the door now. "It will pass, Rudolfo, and when the Crimson Empress arrives, she will make all things right."

He squinted but could not even make out the ghost of her. She will make all things right. That would be quite a trick. He considered his next words carefully, tasting them like iron shavings in his mouth before he spoke them. "Ria," he said in a quiet voice, "do not come to me in this way again and do not broach my borders without announcing yourself."

The door handle moved beneath a hand he could not see. "I will do what I must to preserve the life of this child of promise," she said, and her next words stung him though he knew she meant them to. "The question remains, Lord Rudolfo, as to whether or not you will do the same."

Rudolfo heard Jin's swallowed gasp and looked over to see her face red in wrath she could no longer conceal. Still, Jakob slept on.

As the door swung open slowly, Aedric looked in. "Was there someone -- "

When Ria moved past him, the First Captain leaped back and reached for his knives, his lips puckering to whistle third alarm.

"Let her go," Rudolfo said, hearing the weariness in his own voice. Even as he said it, his fingers were moving. Do you believe her message?

Jin Li Tam sighed. She had not spoken through the entire exchange and he could see that her lips were a tight, pale line. I believe her but I do not trust her.

Yes. "I concur," he said.

Then, he reached for his glass of chilled peach wine but found that his interest in it had passed. Instead, Rudolfo fixed his eyes upon his sleeping son and pondered the darkening paths that lay before them both.
Above is the pre-copyedited manuscript for what is now page 69 in Antiphon, volume three of the Psalms of Isaak. For those of you who haven't read the series, you may want to avoid any potential spoilers.

I would have to say that this page is indeed indicative of the novel as a whole -- a novel that is largely about trust and making the best bad decisions when no good decisions really are left. Here, we see Ria -- the Machtvolk Queen first introduced in Canticle -- having snuck magicked into Rudolfo's Seventh Forest Manor with a warning and an offer of aid for the Gypsy King and his family. Jakob, the son born to him and Jin Li Tam in the second volume, features heavily in the Machtvolk gospel as The Child of Promise and though Ria is their enemy, Rudolfo is discovering that those who once held kin-clave with the Forest Gypsies now see he and his family as allied with the dark forces -- including Ria's Machtvolk -- that are pressing upon the Named Lands.

As the book progresses, Rudolfo watches loss and fear of loss reduce his effectiveness as a leader even as he learns that trying to hold to tradition and past ways of coping is not serving him well. Jin Li Tam and Winters find themselves slowly figuring out that the levels of mistrust created by recent events in the Named Lands are interfering with their own ability to work together and trust each other as they, too, grapple with making the best of a bad situation. Petronus, the life-long humanist and former Androfrancine Pope, finds himself dreaming dreams and hearing voices leading him deeper into his place of exile in the Churning Wastes. Vlad Li Tam, the spymaster and Machiavellian manipulator, finds himself inexplicably falling in love and pulled by that love onto an unexpected journey with the remnants of his family to discover yet more secrets of the ancient world. And Neb...well, he learns a lot more about himself and his role in the Home-Seeking dream.

I do hope that if the page above and my brief words about it resonate with you, you'll pick up the books and give them a try.
Learn more about the author and his work at Ken Scholes's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Lamentation.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue