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New Treasures: The Barrow by Mark Smylie

Monday, March 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Barrow-smallThere are few publishers as dedicated to true sword & sorcery as Pyr Books. I still remember how delighted I was at the 2010 Pyr Books panel at Dragon*con, when publisher Lou Anders announced “Sword & Sorcery is Alive and Well at Pyr” and unveiled a host of exciting titles to prove it.

It’s been a few years since then, but Pyr’s dedication to the genre has not flagged. The latest example arrived earlier this month: The Barrow, Mark Smylie’s dark fantasy of the grim search for a powerful sword in a very dangerous place.

To find the Sword, unearth the Barrow. To unearth the Barrow, follow the Map.

When a small crew of scoundrels, would-be heroes, deviants, and ruffians discover a map that they believe will lead them to a fabled sword buried in the barrow of a long-dead wizard, they think they’ve struck it rich. But their hopes are dashed when the map turns out to be cursed and then is destroyed in a magical ritual. The loss of the map leaves them dreaming of what might have been, until they rediscover the map in a most unusual and unexpected place.

Stjepan Black-Heart, suspected murderer and renegade royal cartographer; Erim, a young woman masquerading as a man; Gilgwyr, brothel owner extraordinaire; Leigh, an exiled magus under an ignominious cloud; Godewyn Red-Hand, mercenary and troublemaker; Arduin Orwain, scion of a noble family brought low by scandal; and Arduin’s sister Annwyn, the beautiful cause of that scandal: together they form a cross section of the Middle Kingdoms of the Known World, united by accident and dark design, on a quest that will either get them all in the history books… or get them all killed.

Mark Smylie is a true renaissance man. His graphic novel series Artesia was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2001, and his role-playing game based on the comic won an Origins Award in 2006. He founded Archaia Studios on 2002, publishers of Mouse Guard, The Killer, and many other acclaimed comics. This is his first novel.

The Barrow was published March 4 by Pyr Books. It is 607 pages, priced at $18 in trade paperback and $11.99 for the digital edition. Check out the excellent website with elaborate pics of the main characters.


  1. I got a chance to review The Barrow last month and it was a ton of fun. It’s definitely a darker, more mature sort of epic fantasy, one that reaches deep into the roots of pulp sword-and-sorcery, but which refuses to hold back on the sex and the violence.

    Comment by BeautyInRuins - March 17, 2014 3:43 pm

  2. I might have to check this out, despite the awful Hollywood cover.

    Comment by CMR - March 17, 2014 9:23 pm

  3. I wouldn’t turn down a review copy of this one, if Pyr felt like sending one.

    Comment by Sarah Avery - March 19, 2014 11:09 pm

  4. Sarah,

    I can send you the ARC we received… as long as you’re not getting too backlogged on review copies!

    Comment by John ONeill - March 20, 2014 1:25 am

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