Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Cover Identity | The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra R. Clarke

I've had call to talk about Strange Chemistry on a couple of occasions already. For those of you net in the know, it's an up-and-coming imprint of Angry Robot Books with a specific focus of speculative fiction of the YA variety. So obviously, I'm interested in it.

It doesn't hurt that friend of the blog - and friend of the me - Amanda Rutter (formerly of the gone but still not forgotten Floor-to-Ceiling Books) is leading this particular charge. I'm very keen to see, finally, some of what she's got in store for us all, be we young or old.

As of an email from Amanda a couple of days ago, one contender has roundly risen above the others in my eyes. That would be The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra R. Clarke, and not - or not solely - because of Amanda's description of it as an experience alike The Arabian Nights as written by Scott Lynch or Throne of the Crescent Moon's Saladin Ahmed. Though in this case, with a new author, that sort of comparison certainly helps.

As does cover art as appealing as the image embedded above. All sorts of purdy, isn't it?

Truth be told, though, it was a couple of info-nuggets in Cassandra's bio that served to excite my interest. Firstly, foremostly, it was the mention of the author's attendance at Clarion West in the summer of 2010. In the past these star-studded workshops - instructed by writers like George R. R. Martin, Gene Wolfe, Roger Zelazny and Gardner Dozois - have given an incredible array of literary talent a real leg up in the industry. Amongst the other alumni of Clarion West: Kristine Katheryn Rusch, Rachel Swirsky, Margo Lanagan and Daniel Abraham.

So Cassandra R. Clarke has a lot to live up to!

By now you must be wondering: what's the other thing, then? Well I'll be the first to admit my reasoning here is a bit silly, but Cassandra hails from Houston, Texas, and of all the places I stopped off in during my month in America, I was - entirely to my surprise - at my happiest in Houston.

Oh, for another night out in the Heights...

In any event, what's The Assassin's Curse all about? Well here's a bit of blurbage:

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. And when Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn’t really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together. To break the curse, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks — all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic, and the growing romantic tension between them.

The bad news is that The Assassin's Curse isn't due out till the other side of the summer - most of you will have to wait till October to get your grubby paws on it - but would you believe I've got good news, too? At least I do for those of you based in the UK.

Thanks to Amanda, I have a single ARC to give away in early May, which is to say soon, and all you need to do to stand a chance of winning it is riddle me this:

Which popular author will be bringing the
fight to the club at Clarion this summer?

Please send your solutions to thespeculativescotsman [at] gmail [dot] com and mark your subject headers appropriately. I'm going to give you till this time next week to get your answers in.

Good luck, everyone!


  1. I absolutely love what Angry Robot and Strange Chemistry have been doing with their covers. They're among the best designed books out there at the moment I think, rivalling even my beloved Allen and Unwin for innovation.

    Shallow graphic designer geekdom aside though - I'm actually looking forward to reading this one too. The blurb promises all kinds of exciting.

  2. Not so shallow! A good design can go a long way, especially when it comes to unproven authors published by a brand spanking new imprint.

    And the blurb *is* enticing. That is excepting the last part of the last sentence... then again that's sure to sell as many copies as the purdy artwork, so for now I'm holding nothing against no-one. :)

  3. ARGH! Yuck. I hadn't read that ( are we to count ourselves lucky they haven't mentioned a love triangle?) I was going by the goodreads blurb, which appeals more to me, to be honest, and which I had assumed you'd quoted. My fault for skimming the end of your post for fear of spoilers!

  4. You know, if we ask real nice, I bet someone could still rustle up a love triangle for us... :)

    But let's not be meanies! Me, I positively enjoy triangles. They're not as awesome as circles, but almost. And love is good too. So.

  5. I'll tell you what though, Niall, it's a good demonstration of what a blurb can and can not do for a book isn't it? I read the goodreads blurb and thought 'Oh yes please! I'll have some of that, and no hesitation.'And that's how I still feel about it because that's what sold me on the premise. However, if I'd seen the blurb you used here and it was all I'd had to make my mind up, I'd still be sitting on the fence because there's something about it that doesn't appeal to what I think I'd like to read. And it's the same book, just with a different marketing slant! This marketing lark is a really delicate business isn't it?