Sam Sykes is the author of The Aeons’ Gate trilogy, a vast and sprawling story of adventure, demons, madness and carnage. Suspected by many to be at least tangentially related to most causes of human suffering, Sam Sykes is also a force to be reckoned with beyond literature. Here at Fantasy Book Review we have read the first two books in The Aeons' Gate trilogy, Tome of the Undergates (8.9/10) and Black Halo (7.6/10), while the third book, Skybound Sea, was listed as one of our most anticipated reads for 2012.
Bored one Saturday afternoon having finished writing Skybound Sea, Sam was soliciting bloggers for interviews in an attempt to brighten up his day, so Ryan Lawler duly obliged. The following impromptu interview took place on Twitter (@SamSykesSwears and @RyanL1986), so expect some short questions and even shorter responses.
Sam Sykes: I am bored. Bloggers, lets do interviews.
Ryan Lawler: Ok, first question. Who is Sam Sykes?
Sam Sykes: A huge jerk.
Ryan Lawler: Where is Sam Sykes?
Sam Sykes: Seventh circle. Got himself a real nice pad here. Rent's a bitch, so rooms with the centaurs.
Ryan Lawler: I imagine Centaurs must be a pain in the ass to live with. What inspires Sam Sykes?
Sam Sykes: Everything. Everything at all times. All that is or ever was. The need to tell the story is what inspires. Also beer.
Ryan Lawler: So how do you translate your need to tell a story into words on the page? Has it gotten any easier for Skybound Sea?
Sam Sykes: Amazingly so. My lunatic enthusiasm was tempered with age and experience.
Ryan Lawler: In your post "Girls Gone Moral", you talk about moral complexity. Is there still a place for "pure" good vs evil stories?
Sam Sykes: Tricky. The reason morality should be presented as multifaceted is because the story's aim should be to explore those moralities and how those moralities affect the characters. You could make the argument that you could do a pure good vs evil conflict, but it would be largely an exploration of how good vs evil works or how good and evil affect characters, which is a foregone conclusion.
Ryan Lawler: So multifaceted morality is part of what makes us human. Do you think the same rules apply to non-human characters?
Sam Sykes: That's sort of the core of it, isn't it? That's how the story becomes multifaceted in its morality. If the non-humans have different way of looking at things, can justify their viewpoints, have logic behind their motives, are they wrong because they aren't human? It's that question that enhances the characters and the world at the same time. So, yes, non-human characters are capable of multifaceted morality. Their culture should be represented and explored.
Ryan Lawler: When can we expect to see Skybound Sea?
Sam Sykes: Skybound Sea will be out in a few months.
Ryan Lawler: Who else in fantasy should we be reading right now?
Sam Sykes: Saladin Ahmed is hot shit.
Among humans, none have power like mages. And among mages, none have will like Sal the Cacophony. Once revered, now vagrant, she walks a wasteland scarred by generations of magical warfare.
The Scar, a land torn between powerful empires, is where rogue mages go to disappear, disgraced soldiers go to die and Sal went with a blade, a gun and a list of names she intended to use both on.
But vengeance is a flame swift extinguished. Betrayed by those she trusted most, her magic torn from her and awaiting execution, Sal the Cacophony has one last tale to tell before they take her head.
All she has left is her name, her story and the weapon she used to carved both.
Vengeance is its own reward.
"At almost 700 pages, I can't help but admire the sheer skill and cleverness of the plot that unfolds throughout this wrist-breaker. It never felt bogged down or excessively long. Sal's blood-soaked backstory was handled brilliantly by Sykes and added some truly gut-punchy moments. His timing is just utter perfection! Complex characters, great dialogue, intense action, a compellingly bonkers magic system, intricate worldbuilding, brutal violence, humor, romance, A FUCKING GIANT RIDING BIRD NAMED CONGENIALITY. I just adored this book so completely!"
Lenk and his band of murderous misfits are loathed by society, spurned by all merciful gods, and motivated only by their distrust of each other. Hired to track down a stolen book, Lenk finds his skills put to the test facing fishlike beasts, psychotic purple warrior women, and the ferocity of an ocean that loathes him as much as his own people do. Plus, he has to keep his companions from killing each other so he can save that pleasure for himself.
"A fantasy world completely different to our own, savage monsters that want to conquer the world, a magical artefact that holds the power to control the world, and a team of adventurers on a mission to retrieve the magical artefact from the savage monsters thereby saving the world. It sounds like a familiar story doesn't it. A story that you have probably read in some shape or form many, many times. But what if the adventurers were the bad guys? What if the adventurers were despised because all they do is run around the place messing up everyone's shit? What if all the members in that band of adventurers truly hated each other, and I mean the sort of hate that goes right down to the bone? Well you would probably get Tome of the Undergates, a story that feels familiar due to the use of familiar fantasy tropes, a story that makes its own fantasy tropes to create an experience that is unlike anything else."
Love (and lust), faith, and death play are huge part in Black Halo, commanding much of the narrative’s stage. Sykes dissection of death is truly marvellous; proving as thorough an examination of it as Jesse Bullington’s The Enterprise of Death. Though the characters deal it out so deftly, it also consumes them to the core, enabling some insightful and occasionally quite profound prose.