“Imaginative and richly rendered . . . Sparks frames all of this in haunting, near-poetic detail, such that the readers can smell the toxic red sand and perhaps taste the blood. Recommended for people who crave fresh post-apocalypse chaos—because Sparks’s post-apocalyptic chaos is pretty fresh, at that.”—NK Jemisin, The New York Times
Powerful war machines of the far-future collide across a barren desert world in this post-apocalyptic debut novel from award-winning Australian author Cat Sparks.
Seventeen-year-old Star and her sister Nene are orphans, part of a thirteen-wagon caravan of nomadic traders living hard lives travelling the Sand Road. Their route cuts through a particularly dangerous and unforgiving section of the Dead Red Heart, a war-ravaged desert landscape plagued by rogue semi-sentient machinery and other monsters from a bygone age.
But when the caravan witnesses a relic-Angel satellite unexpectedly crash to Earth, a chain of events begins that sends Star on a journey far away from the life she once knew. Shanghaied upon the sandship Dogwatch, she is forced to cross the Obsidian Sea by Quarrel, an ancient Templar supersoldier. Eventually shipwrecked, Star will have no choice but to place her trust in both thieves and priestesses while coming to terms with the grim reality of her past—and the horror of her unfolding destiny—as the terrible secret her sister had been desperate to protect her from begins to unravel.
Meanwhile, something old and powerful has woken in the desert. A Lotus Blue, deadliest of all the ancient war machines. A warrior with plans of its own, far more significant than a fallen Angel. Plans that do not include the survival of humanity.
Skyhorse Publishing, under our Night Shade and Talos imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of titles for readers interested in science fiction (space opera, time travel, hard SF, alien invasion, near-future dystopia), fantasy (grimdark, sword and sorcery, contemporary urban fantasy, steampunk, alternative history), and horror (zombies, vampires, and the occult and supernatural), and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller, a national bestseller, or a Hugo or Nebula award-winner, we are committed to publishing quality books from a diverse group of authors.
Australian author Sparks's debut novel, set in a strange postapocalyptic world, is all middle with no beginning or end. Star is a child of the Sand Road who dreams of wealth and adventure in the port town of Fallow Heel. Quarrel is an ancient warrior who knows his current mission will be his last. Both are forced onto the Black Sea, not to seek their fortunes but to continue a war that most of the world thinks is over. Sparks demonstrates technical skill with prose, but the start of the book is a confusing jumble, fragmented by the introduction of several characters' points of view scattered over a variety of settings. The mood is relentlessly bleak. The protagonists lack agency, which leads to a feeling of prologue rather than resolution. A satisfying conclusion is impossible; the book ends with the feeling that a stage has been set, but the story is yet to come. That promise is the only hope Sparks offers in this relentlessly grim narrative.