THE HOUSE OF CATS AND GULLS by Stephen Deas (COVER REVEAL & EXCERPT)
We’re delighted to bring you a cover reveal for The House of Cats and Gulls by Stephen Deas which is due to be released 22nd February 2022 from Angry Robot.
This is the much anticipated sequel to The Moonsteel Crown and just like book one, this is a darkly funny, fast-paced fantasy adventure with a true ensemble cast of characters and is perfect for fans of Scott Lynch and Jen Williams.
Here’s the official blurb:
Myla has returned with Orien to her native Deepwater to face her past. Learning she’s in trouble, Fings and Seth head off on a rescue mission. Myla doesn’t need rescuing, thanks, but now that they’re in Deepwater, Seth delves into the secrets of a dead warlock and Fingers digs into the truth of his missing brother.
But as the trio converge towards a conspiracy against the throne, Deepwater is attacked by an incomprehensible enemy. As demons, madness and the walking dead stalk the plague-ravaged city, Myla discovers that saving her friends and family is more important than a glorious death, and Seth embraces the darkness within.
Without further ado here is the cover followed by a few words from Stephen:
“I liked the deep blue cover of The Moonsteel Crown. My very first fantasy trilogy (The Adamantine Palace etc.) had gone a similar way, with a dark green, blue and then red covers so I thought it would be nice to follow that pattern now that I’m writing fantasy again. I think I suggested the deep green tone for this one – we’ll see about the next (it might have to break the pattern). I think we all agreed that it would be cool to keep some sort of circular motif – the ring of clouds from The Moonsteel Crown becoming the circle of the well in The House of Cats and Gulls. The well wasn’t my idea but I liked it so much that I changed the story a little (there IS a well in The House of Cats and Gulls, and you’ll know it when you get to it, but it started life as something else). We swapped several ideas about the well – whether we were looking down into it or up out of it, and what we should see. The gulls we ended up with fairly obviously come from the title of the book. I was quite taken with trying to put cats in as well. We also thought about looking down at a whole crowd of Dead Men looking back up, and about replacing the gulls with… a certain different kind of winged creature, which may or may not appear towards the end of the story.”
The House of Cats and Gulls is due for release February 2022 and is available for pre-order from:
We also have a treat for you as you can read an exclusive excerpt from chapter one below! Fair warning, this does contain spoilers for book one.
THE MONTH OF STORMS
“It’s simple enough,” said Myla. “About halfway through the Month of Contemplation, the Imperial Guard stop patrolling the roads from Varr to the City of Spires. After the festival of the Equinox, they start again. In between, anyone who can pick up a big stick and shout a lot indulges in their seasonal pastime of mugging travellers stupid enough to be out on the winter roads. It fits nicely between the end of harvest and the start of planting, when the locals really don’t have enough else to keep themselves busy.”
Orien stifled a yawn. “But we’re past Midwinter and the patrols are still out. I’ve seen them.”
“Yes. This year is different. I don’t know why. Something’s going on.”
For the last two days, Myla had sat on a boat and drifted down the river Arr, current, sails and oars all pushing them onwards. On the first day, she’d been alone, thinking it had been the right choice, that she’d done the only thing she could, given where she was going and what was waiting when she got there. But then, on the second morning, as the boat was about to leave, Orien had appeared. He must have ridden through the night and close to murdered both himself and his horse to do it, but there he was. And in truth she was glad, even if Orien had spent most of the rest of that day wearing an expression of confusion, curiosity and an irritating smugness.
“Do you have any idea how long it takes to ride from Varr to Deephaven?” she asked. Orien didn’t know much about anything except starting fires and who was stabbing whom in the back in the Imperial Court in Varr. “I didn’t want to get stuck in Neja or the City of Spires for three months.”
“Pah!” Orien waved a hand. “Ice and snow and banditry are but petty trifles to a fire-mage.”
“I seem to remember that when we had some ice and snow and bandits, I had to rescue you and haul you to the nearest waystation because you could barely sit straight in the saddle.” Myla hid a smile as she thought about pushing him into the water. In coves and inlets around the riverbanks, the ice was almost thick enough to take a man’s weight. But no. Orien was a paying passenger as much as she was. There’d be difficulties with the boat’s crew if she pushed him overboard.
And, for better or for worse, she liked him.
“Anyway,” said Orien. “That’s not what I meant. What I meant wasn’t why are you here as in why this boat at this particular place and time; what I meant was why did you leave Varr in such a hurry, and why did you go without telling anyone?”
Typically for Orien, he’d waited most of the day before asking, dedicating the rest of their time to how clever he’d been. The last time they’d been together had been on Midwinter’s night, the two of them standing on an old forgotten bridge over a canal in the dead of night, handing over a dead Emperor’s crown to an unsettlingly young slip of a sorceress who happened to be the same dead Emperor’s daughter, all on an unlikely off-chance that it might stop a war. Everything afterwards had apparently gone exactly the way Orien had said it would: Midwinter had passed; the old year had died and the new had bloomed into life; Ashahn II, six years old, sat on the Sapphire Throne and had been crowned Emperor of Aria; later, in a quieter but perhaps more significant ceremony, his elder sister had been named Princess-Regent. The Levanya, her uncle – great- uncle, actually, and whom half the court had expected to take the throne for himself – had prostrated himself and pressed his head to the feet of his new Emperor and Regent, just like all the other courtiers, and that had been that. It would have meant war if the Butcher of Deephaven had taken the crown. The consensus according to Orien was that the Levanya now planned to marry his grand-niece and take power that way instead; having met their new Regent, albeit briefly, Myla wasn’t at all sure she fancied his chances.
The next morning, while the merchants of the Spice Market nursed sore heads and sipped tea and wondered loudly among themselves whether this new regency would see out the year, Myla had quietly left the city. Elsewhere, the Princess-Regent had given her Imperial Seal to a new guild: The Guild of Fire-mages. Since this was exactly what Orien had wanted all along, Myla imagined he was now going to be insufferable about it all the way to Deephaven.
Closer to home, she knew Fings had managed to keep three bags of the Emperor’s silver, enough to set him up for life if he was careful, which he wouldn’t be. Arjay and Dox had taken over the Unruly Pig. Even Seth had been different, although Myla wasn’t sure why. No one had been thrown into the Kaveneth. Everyone was happy who wasn’t dead, and she didn’t think Blackhand would be missed for long. There might have been a few tears for Wil. All in all, everyone had got what they wanted except her, because what she wanted wasn’t possible. The closest she could get was waiting for her in Deephaven and was very unlikely to have a happy ending.
“Well let’s see… On the one hand, I did help return the Emperor’s crown. On the other, I was one of the people who stole it in the first place.”
“But you didn’t know what you were stealing!” interrupted Orien.
“You think that will save me when the Guild Mages come calling? Yes, we didn’t know until we had it in our hands, but I can’t pretend I didn’t have a shrewd idea we were stealing something that might have been more than a little important.”
“Lady Novashi is clearing up that little matter for you.”
“And then there’s Sulfane.” Sulfane, who’d put Blackhand up to the theft, telling him there was a fortune to be made while all along setting him up to take the fall. “I did ruin his plan and stab him a couple of times, so he’s probably quite annoyed about that. And then there are the Torpreahns who came after us in the snow. They’re probably annoyed too.” She rounded on Orien then, the one thing she was truly angry at him about. “I left Sulfane alive for a reason, you know! You were supposed to make sure the Guild got him. They were supposed to have someone to blame that wasn’t me and Fings; and Sulfane was supposed to give them the Torpreahns and get them off our backs too. When I left him, he was bleeding and could barely stand. How did he get away?”
Orien had the decency to look sheepish. “He can’t have gone far. The Guild will find him.” He didn’t sound much like he believed it.
“Whatever Sulfane was doing ran deep. Something to do with a priest and something called the Twelfth House, not that I know what that is, or care. And then,” moving quickly on, because Orien looked all set to interrupt her again, “most of all, there’s the small matter of Jeffa Hawat’s headless corpse. Sulfane saw me kill him, so thanks again for letting him slip through your fingers. Between the Torpreahns, Sulfane, the Imperial Mages and House Hawat, frankly it’s the Hawats that trouble me the most.”
“Yet here you are, heading straight for them.”
Yet here she was, doing exactly that. And yes, it had been tempting to stay in Varr. To sit quietly on her hands and say nothing; to stay where she was and see what happened, or maybe wait for spring and then slip away, further east to Vyan and Tzeroth, or south to Torpreah, somewhere where House Hawat might not reach her.
“Are you going to kill him?” Orien asked.
She looked at him long and hard, puzzled until she realized he was serious. “Kelm’s Teeth, Orien! I’m not an assassin.” At least, so she kept telling herself. “Besides, even if I did, what then? Kill his whole extended family and all his friends too? Because they would come after me.”
Myla looked across the river, at the water rushing steadily by. Truth was, she didn’t know. “Did Fings never tell you why I ran from Deephaven? Why a washed-up sword-monk ended up in a place like the Unruly Pig?”
Orien shook his head.
“Well. Long story short: Sarwatta Hawat did something I didn’t like and so I stabbed him in the balls. He got quite angry about that. Unfortunately, he’s rich and powerful, so I made it look like I’d burned to death in a fire and ran away. When Sarwatta discovers I’m still alive and that I’ve killed his brother, he’ll have my entire family arrested, tortured, and eventually executed, and he’ll do all of that to try and lure me in. He’ll go after everyone I care about until he gets what he wants. So, Orien, the reason I left without telling anyone is that I’m going to save us both that trouble and put an end to this, one way or another. I didn’t tell you I was leaving because, frankly, I’m most likely walking straight towards a lingering and unpleasant death at the hands of someone I despise. It’s as hard to live with as it sounds, and I didn’t want to have to deal with you trying to stop me.”
She watched the expressions flicker across Orien’s face as he caught up with what she was saying. Sardonic amusement, then more serious, then looking for the trick, then seeing there wasn’t one. Shock as it hit him that she mostly expected to die. Refusal and outrage. And then finally, the dawning realization that there wasn’t a single thing he could do about it.
“Show me another way and I’ll take it,” Myla said.
“I’ll talk to my mistress… She has the ear of–”
“A pardon from our new Princess-Regent?” Myla laughed. “Even if you had that power, Orien, which I don’t think you do, Sarwatta would never accept it. He’d simply find another way, and if he can’t touch me, he’ll take it out on my family. No. I have to find something he wants even more than revenge, then find a way to give it to him.” Which, frankly, would be impossible.
“That’s really why you left Varr without telling me?”
“You would have tried to talk me out of it. I was afraid you might succeed.” She touched his cheek. His skin was warm. “I’m glad you came, though. Truly. Even if you should probably have stayed at home. Oh, and… please don’t try to talk me out of it.”