Ignite becomes Arcanum
January 16th 2013
So marketing didn’t like the title of the fantasy brick. After thrashing around several ideas (many, many severals), this is what we’ve come up with: Arcanum. A good Latin word, meaning a secret. And if there’s one thing the book is full of, it’s secrets.
A thousand years after Alaric the Goth crossed the Alps with his rough alliance of northern tribes and wild, spell-wielding shamans to crush the Roman empire, Europe has become an almost civilised place.
Despite the wars that wash across the continent, the little mountain kingdom of Carinthia remains untroubled and untouchable. Rich through trade and centuries of peace, it owes its success to being the home of the Order of the White Robe, whose legendary hexmasters can destroy whole armies by turning the field of battle into a glittering lake of lava.
Magic is Carinthia’s wealth, its protection and its way of life. So what does a magic kingdom do when it runs out of magic?
What indeed. Arcanum is now mostly finished. It’s the most ambitious story I’ve ever attempted. It’s certainly the longest – the first draft was over 300,000 words, and I’ve got that down to 280,000 in the second. The most gratifying part of reading the manuscript through was that when I was encountering words that I hadn’t seen for over a year, it still read well and felt like the beginning belonged to the end, despite it being so far removed from it.
The other joy was finding that, despite all the statecraft of contending kingdoms and principalities, it remains intensely (and often uncomfortably) personal for the characters involved. If I’ve learnt anything from writing the Petrovitch books, it’s this: make sure there’s always something to lose. And there is, on every page: status, wealth, power, knowledge, love, life, legacy – the whole kingdom, even.
Arcanum is due out in November. There’s still a bit of work to do. But there will be maps. I’ve never written a book that needed maps before.