A lot of the problems of being a teenager involve getting people take
you seriously, even when you are good at something or have something
important to say. I thought a lot of readers would sympathise with
someone getting this sort of treatment, so I put Corran together.
He is fourteen, scrawny, and fences with an iron pipe because he can’t
afford a sword, but he is really dedicated, rather like a teenage
hacker trying to crack some important system. Even though people do
not realise it, he is already very good.
His sister, the student Zelder, has very different problems. She is
very bright, but is only seventeen, and did not realise how nasty
upper class boyfriends could be until her first sweetheart got her
thrown into jail just so his parents would not think he was dating
the wrong sorts of girls. Now her worst nightmare has happened, because
she is in the care of her little brother. Her parents have sent Corran
to Quentaris “look after her and keep her out of trouble”.
The challenge was now to get a happy ending for both Corran and Zelder.
There was no challenge at all getting comedy out of their situation,
that part wrote itself. Most of the book revolves around the idea
that appearances are not always what they seem, and that even infuriating
people can help to save the day. Corran’s over-enthusiastic,
unstoppable bravery keeps Zelder alive through some very bad situations,
while Zelder’s scholarship and incredible memory are what finally
The fencing and martial arts are all fairly accurate, as I tried out
most of the moves at the karate and fencing clubs before writing them
into the story. Years ago I did actually know a young fencer who could
not afford a competition sabre, so he practised with an iron pipe.
The story also helped Quentaris develop, as well, because I needed
to develop details of parts of the city that were not yet laid out
All that glitters is not gold!
While moored to a new world Quentaris
is approached by another sky-city. The traders on board seem friendly
and generous, offering the Quentarans food and gems, but are they
setting a trap for Quentaris?
What are the equens. Can they really
heal the sick? Why can’t
Tab Vidler use her special powers any more? How do the screeching
Loraskians so easily defeat Quentaris? And what is that trickster
Fontagu hiding in the slaughterhouse?
Gewgaws, Ornaments and Hooey
Tab Vidler stared out over the Quentaris battlements towards the
new sky-city hanging in the air, half-shrouded in cloud. It had
appeared with the dawn on Quentaris’s port side three days
before. Tab could make out guards patrolling the parapets and sailors
scurrying over its burgundy sails like insects. They were so close
that Tab felt sure if she threw a stone she could hit one of them,
but so far nobody on either side had thrown anything — not
Verris’s marines stood watch at the City Wall,
while in the Archon’s Palace the Grand Council squabbled
over what to do. The new sky-city was smaller than Quentaris, but
more nimble. It was a joy to watch how it moved. But still reeling
from the assault by Tolrush, Quentaris was too weak to defend herself
against further attack, let alone start one. Meanwhile, Quentaris,
moored to the world below by a great anchor, drifted gently on
the tide of the wind, and its people held their breath.
they were going to attack they would have done it by now,’ Tab’s
friend Philmon muttered under his breath.
Tab could hear the long groans of
the masts and the flapping of the vast sails above her. Somewhere
in the city behind her a blacksmith hammered with the rhythmic
clank of metal on metal. Merchants murmured as they traded with
one another. Even the children played hooey in the squares in hushed
‘Why are you whispering? It’s not as though they
can hear you,’ Tab
Philmon stared at her, surprised. ‘I have to get back to
work, anyway,’ he mumbled, and slouched away with his hands
in his pockets.
Tab rubbed her forehead. She was ashamed of being
peevish with Philmon, but her head hurt. She had been casting about
for an animal to mind-meld with for days, but all she was getting
was a crackling noise. The fuzz inside her head made her irritable.
She was also plagued with the fear that her skill had only been
temporary — that
she might never be able to do it again. What would that make her?
Just an ordinary rift orphan. What would she be good for?
called after her friend. ‘I just wish something
‘Hear, hear!’ called one of the marines. A
rumble of chuckles rolled along the wall.
‘Look!’ growled another of the marines, Vrod the troll — pointing
with a clawed finger adorned with brass rings. ‘You is getting your wish,
Vrod made Tab nervous. Sometimes he looked at her as though
she were a snack.
Tab shaded her eyes with her hand. Vrod was right.
A small vessel was setting sail from the sky-city and heading for
Quentaris. She traded a glance with Philmon and they both broke
into a run, heading to the old throne room in the Archon’s
Palace where the Grand Council met.