Monday, February 22, 2016

"Chains of the Heretic"

Jeff Salyards's debut hard-boiled fantasy novel Scourge of the Betrayer began the series called Bloodsounder’s Arc and was followed by Veil of the Deserters.

Salyards applied the Page 69 Test to Chains of the Heretic, the final installment of the series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
A horseman came riding hard towards the convoy. I’d been with the Syldoon long enough to know that rarely boded well. Scouts never galloped up to report that our enemies had been swallowed up by marshland or stricken by the plague.

Braylar called out, “Report, Syldoon.”

The scout sat straighter in the saddle as he saluted, the morning sun giving him a golden silhouette, totally at odds with the news he delivered. “Urglovians are moving to intercept us, Cap, heading southwest. And Denvin reports the army to the west is closing in, too. Can’t see slipping between them, not if they got any brains at all and got men patrolling ahead.”

Braylar pulled Bloodsounder off his belt. “So be it. Ride down the line, and tell the lieutenants we head due east now.”

Braylar’s personal retinue felt comfortable arguing tactics with him, but the men were a different story. Still, some doubt crossed the scout’s face, as if he wasn’t sure he heard the order correctly. But before Braylar could berate him for dawdling, he replied, “Aye, Cap. Due east.”

Clearly, the rank and file didn’t know much about what bedeviled their captain, so they had no reason to suspect he was about to march us straight into the Godveil.

As the scout rode off, Braylar gave me a long look. “If your assertion proves correct, you could very well rescue all of us from doom. And if it proves false—”

“I will be the second man to die,” I said, wondering if I would keep the goat in my stomach.

The captain twitch-smiled. “You are beginning to think more and more like a Syldoon. It is time you dress the part. I asked the men to put a spare gambeson and nasal helm in the wagon. They should be somewhere in the back.”


“Put them on, you dolt. If we do somehow survive the Godveil, we have no idea what to expect on the other side, and I would like to keep you alive long enough to congratulate you for your mad, mad plan.”

I stood, nearly falling off the bench as the wagon rocked over the hard ground, and my heart felt like it was trying to beat its way out of its ribcage. I swallowed hard. “Aye, Captain.”

He said, “Oh, and Vendurro jiggered together a scabbard to fit Lloi’s blade. Syldoon don’t favor sabers or curved swords in general, so it took some work. So buckle that around your waist as well and be sure to thank him later. You have no competency with the thing, I know, but should you find an enemy in your face, it will prove more useful than trying to club them with an unspanned crossbow. More importantly, I don’t want you damaging any more crossbows.”

He laughed at his own joke and then said, “Well? Get to it, Arkamondos. It is uncharted territory ahead for us all.”
When you pick an excerpt to share, you can obviously be judicious and select a chunk of writing that will engage a reader, hopefully intrigue them, and something that ideally encapsulates the flavor or feel of the whole book.

The Page 69 Test, on the other hand—where you strip out page 69 and see what you get—is more dicey. You might end up with something totally confusing or incomplete (being such a small sample size), or not representative of the book as a whole, or really spoilerish. When I opened Chains of the Heretic to 69 to see what I’d find, I had a feeling it might be a non-starter, but I lucked out. Page 69 actually captures the spirit of the book pretty well and comes at a good moment.

It has some pointed Arki and Braylar banter (and the book is full of snarky and sarcastic dialogue, so that’s apropos), and some mounting dread as Arki wonders if he’ll brown his britches, as this bit immediately precedes the company embarking on a seriously dangerous and possibly suicidal gambit. It might be a tiny bit spoilery, but the marketing copy already alerted the reader to the fact that our intrepid band will cross the Godveil at some point in the book, and this happens pretty early on, so it’s not ruining any big discovery for the reader. If page 69 actually showed what was beyond the Veil, I would have backed off this immediately, because that surprise is well worth waiting for. There is some crazy, creepy stuff over there.
Learn more about the book and author at Jeff Salyards's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Scourge of the Betrayer.

--Marshal Zeringue