If it was possible I would love to have a room decorated with the artworks of Raymond Swanland. I affirmed my admiration of Raymond Swanland’s exceptional talent on plenty of occasions before and I’ll repeat it with every chance I get, although lately I find myself more often speechless and left in mute reverence before his wonderful art. As is the case with the latest two examples, the book covers of K.V. Johansen’s “The Lady” (Pyr Books) and R.S. Belcher’s “The Shotgun Arcana” (Tor Books). Both writers benefited from the artwork of Raymond Swanland on their book covers before, K.V. Johansen on “Blackdog” and “The Leopard”, the first novel in the “Marakand” series, R.S. Belcher on “The Six Gun Tarot”, the prequel novel of “The Shotgun Aracana”, so these two new ones are a welcomed continuation. Not only that, after all only a glimpse of these two covers makes my fingers twitchy with the desire to hold the books and look closer at their covers and makes my wish to dig within the pages of the said books stronger. I simply cannot offer much resistance to Raymond Swanland’s artworks.
Possessed by a ghost who feeds on death, the undying assassin Ahjvar the Leopard has been captured by the Lady of Marakand, enslaved by necromancy to be captain of her Red Masks. His shield-bearer Ghu, a former slave with an uncanny ability to free the captive dead, follows Ahjvar into the war-torn lands of the Duina Catairna to release him, even if that means destroying what is left of Ahj's tormented soul.
Deyandara, the last surviving heir of the Catairnan queen, rides into a land ravaged by disease and war, seeking the allies she abandoned months before, though they have no hope of standing against the army led by the invulnerable Red Masks of Marakand and the divine terror of the Lady.
In the city of Marakand, former enemies ally and old friends seek one another's deaths as loyalists of the entombed gods Gurhan and Ilbialla raise a revolt, spearheaded by the Grasslander wizard Ivah, the shapeshifting Blackdog, and the bear-demon Mikki. The Lady's defenses are not easily breached, though, and the one enemy who might withstand her, the Northron wanderer Moth, bearer of the sword Lakkariss, has vanished.
R. S. Belcher's debut novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, was enthusiastically greeted by critics and readers, who praised its wildly inventive mixture of dark fantasy, steampunk, and the Wild West. Now Belcher returns to Golgotha, Nevada, a bustling frontier town that hides more than its fair share of unnatural secrets.
1870. A haven for the blessed and the damned, including a fallen angel, a mad scientist, a pirate queen, and a deputy who is kin to coyotes, Golgotha has come through many nightmarish trials, but now an army of thirty-two outlaws, lunatics, serial killers, and cannibals are converging on the town, drawn by a grisly relic that dates back to the Donner Party...and the dawn of humanity.
Sheriff Jon Highfather and his deputies already have their hands full dealing with train robbers, a mysterious series of brutal murders, and the usual outbreaks of weirdness. But with thirty-two of the most vicious killers on Earth riding into Golgotha in just a few day's time, the town and its people will be tested as never before - and some of them will never be the same.
The Shotgun Arcana is even more spectacularly ambitious and imaginative than The Six-Gun Tarot, and confirms R. S. Belcher's status as a rising star.