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Lord of Rhinos

Mark Smylie, author of Artesia and the Barrow, has a Patreon

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Mark Smylie published the Barrow back in 2014.  Its a grimdark fantasy set in the world of Artesia that Smylie had previously created in a series of graphic novels.  As I recall several members of the board were big fans of that book. At this point he's planning on self-publishing the second book.  There was a lot of scuttlebutt back then that he wasn't able to publish the second book due to disputes between him and his comic book publisher.  He doesn't make mention of it, so maybe those rumors were false.

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I have long wondered at the state of things.

I'm sad to see that there's no Patreon tier level for getting the next issue of Artesia Besieged, though. I could consider $20 a month for a page a week, or even every two weeks...

I see he explained the situation with this novel and his previous publisher in the Patreon introduction. 

 

ETA: I see Smylie has been active the last few months at the ArtesiaRPG subreddit, with lots of bits of world-building trivia revealed for those who enjoyed his Known World, as I have done.

 

Edited by Ran

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51 minutes ago, Gaston de Foix said:

I've been looking for a new book to pick up.  Any insights into style/character/prose quality?

See here for background and some light review commentary. What I will say is that it definitely feels like a first novel, that my reference to issues with his being a visual artist first relates to the fact that I think his writing is overly verbose and descriptive (and this doesn't seem to have changed substantially, reading the two prologue chapters unlocked on the Patreon) and not particularly beautiful so as to make it a pleasure to dig through to get to the meat of the story. But it's a very deeply built setting, one that he has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about, and he's able to set up some remarkable and memorable set pieces while also having no problem creating characters who are off-putting-but-interesting.

The Barrow itself is a sort of sword-and-sorcery quest against the epic backdrop of the setting. As to characters, the main one is Stjepan Black-Heart, who is the younger brother of Artesia, the titular character from the (stalled) comic book series that first introduced readers to the setting. She doesn't feature in the first novel at all, as it takes place prior to the events of the graphic novels and Stjepan and she haven't seen one another in a good while. Stjepan is... interesting, an educated man in a rather barbaric world, caught up in things bigger than himself. He's also bisexual, and in general sex is rather very present in the book; it's a very sexually free setting (as anyone who's read the Artesia comics would know), and the Goddess of Perversion has a role in things (through her worshippers) so lets just say there's some pretty deviant stuff going on, and Smylie does not shy away from explicit description. The other notable character is Erim, a warrior woman disguised as a young man, who has her own issues in relation to her sexuality and her place in the world.

There's a excerpt from the start of the novel that kind of features a lot of what I say above. If the actual setting intrigues you, Smylie has two sourcebooks available for free here which provides some of the essays and other information he provided in the annuals and elsewhere, with a smattering of his artwork.

Edited by Ran

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Interesting - I really liked the tone of The Barrow. I may jump on the $5, assuming there is a modicum of editing to the in-progress chapters.

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Signed up for the Patreon and he's up to the 9th chapter now. Moving at a good clip, and has shared unpublished art and new maps and other interesting tidbits A little depressing, as a fan of the comic, that it's ever clearer that he's basically given up on ever resuming Artesia Besieged, but so it goes. 

One thing I have to say is that The Witcher TV series kind of feels, in its geopolitics and general culture, not that far from Daradja and the Middle Kingdoms. Certain bits of the show really made me think, "That's basically how it'd play out in Artesia's world." 

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On the off chance anyone might be interested, thought I'd update by noting he's released the 20th chapter (well, 18th proper chapter, plus a two-part prologue) today. I believe Smylie has indicated he had 50-odd done so far, and his updates have been at a good  and steady rate. Plus he's been releasing maps, a cleaned-up hand expanded istory of the world, and other things, as well as interacting with patrons in the comments.

It all comes together to make me feel like this is one of the most thoroughly built fantasy worlds of recent vintage. He has an enormous amount of stuff figured out, especially as regards the cosmology and history.

As to the story itself, I won't lie, Smylie still over-describes things -- I still think his having started as a visual artist makes it impossible for him to not convey all the details he'd put in if he was drawing something for the comic, and his having so much world building done means he can't but help reveal it when he can -- but Black Heart is flitting around characters in an interesting way, giving a broader picture of the setting. And one chapter, for Artesia fans, is noteworthy as it brings Daradja and some of its (very) notable characters back on the stage (it is also a very NSFW chapter, because, well, of course it is, given who features). 

Edited by Ran

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I know nothing about the story or world, but those maps are intriguing.

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