• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor



Last year, I mentioned Sam Sykes’s first book, THE TOME OF THE UNDERGATES. BLACK HALO is the second book in the AEON’S GATE trilogy, and even better than the first.

These books are epic fantasy. Meaning—I’m told—that characters and storylines are writ large. This is certainly true of BLACK HALO, which includes the most striking assemblage of vivid misfits ever to try to save the world (or at least themselves) from demons—and a jaw-dropping array of creepy opponents, ranging from six-foot purple-faced female elite troops and jewel-wielding sexual sadists to the Akaneed, a giant cross between jelly-fish and sea-serpent, especially dangerous when mating. Add in the Omens, a chorus of harpy-like doom-sayers, giant cockroaches with rainbow-colored farts, and green Schicts (don’t ask), and you can be reasonably sure that Our Heroes are in for adventure on a grand scale.

Add in the heroes’ personal problems—Asper, a priestess with a lethal left (not as in a talent for boxing; as in, people she touches with her left hand suddenly aren’t there anymore), Dreadaleon, a young wizard whose illicit use of magic causes his body to begin to break down (one of the more striking symptoms being flammable urine), Kataria, a Schict in love with a human but who has been taught to regard humanity as a disease, Lenk, the human in question, who is in love with Kataria but can’t pursue his feelings because there’s an ancient warrior inside his head who won’t have it, Denaos, a self-professed coward and professional assassin, whose dreams are more dangerous than anything he meets while awake, and Gariath, a red dragon-man who can’t quite figure out what he’s doing in the company of these morons but can’t bring himself to abandon them, either—and you have a True Epic, believe me.

I won’t even try to describe the plot, cool as it is. What you have here is a world of Highly Original fantasy, populated by people so real you occasionally want to punch them in the nose—when you aren’t rolling on the floor laughing at the things they say to each other.

You can read an excerpt from BLACK HALO here,

And here is an entertaining interview with Mr. Sykes.*

(Excerpt from interview):

What is it about your work that you would recommend to someone who had never read you before?

Sam Sykes: Vigor. Imagination. Energy.

The nicest thing anyone ever said about my writing was Scott Lynch suggesting I swing for the fences every time I write a sentence. I take this to be high praise of my skills with a baseball bat (shortly after saying this, he asked me to go hit people with said instrument) and also interpret it like this:

I don’t see a big reason not to do whatever the hell I want in writing. This entire genre was born on that idea and I have absolutely no qualms throwing everything I have into what I’m writing about, from the weirdest things with the deepest emotions to the mundane things twisted by their own philosophy.

To summarize it: I wrote a section in which a dragonman, driven to suicidal impulse by the sudden extinction of his species, takes a man’s failure to kill him as a personal insult and promptly stomps the poor fool’s crotch in.

You know you want it.

If you do want it,  click here for the Amazon link;  autographed copies are available from the Poisoned Pen bookstore–email patrick@poisonedpen.com .

Amended here to note that Sam just called to tell me that his first book, TOME OF THE UNDERGATES, has been short-listed for the David Gemmel Award for Best Fantasy Debut!  Yay, Sam!!

*Given that interview, I’m not sure I should admit this, but in the interests of Full Disclosure—Mr. Sykes has fifty percent of my DNA, which may have something to do with his style, if not his subject matter.

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31 Responses »

  1. I discovered the Outlander series last summer when I bought An Echo in the Bone, and became totally hooked! I went to Amazon and bought all of the prior books and am just starting Voyager. Being of Scottish ancestry and having visited Scotland not too long ago, I’m loving the historical information that is part of the series. I know your readership is predominantly female, but there’s plenty for the male readers to enjoy! I like knowing that I have plenty of reading material that I love for the next while!

  2. Hi Diana,
    I’ve been a fan for 20 years and have just discovered the web page. Thank you for the methadone list and Christopher Brookmyer. I’ve also got Tome of the Undergates, don’t quite know what to read first;good job that it’s the Easter break.
    best regards.

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