Back in 2002, Ace Books tried an unusual experiment with Paul Kearney’s The Monarchies of God novels. They were originally published in the UK starting in 1995, but when Ace brought them to the US, they released the books just one month apart.
As I noted in my April article, the experiment wasn’t a success, and the books went out of print fairly quickly. At the time, however, I said that Ace never repeated the experiment, and that’s not actually true. They attempted the same thing at least one more time, with Chaz Brenchley Books of Outremer, originally published in three fat volumes in the UK in 1998-2002, and reprinted as six paperbacks in the US, one every month, between June and November 2003, with covers by John Howe and Barbara Lofthouse.
Near as I can figure out, this experiment wasn’t any more successful. The books were never reprinted, and are now long out of print.
To be honest, I can’t really explain why the experiment didn’t work. Chaz Brenchley is a popular novelist, and he did fine with his later US fantasy releases from Ace, such as Bridge of Dreams and River of the World, and the books were well reviewed. Here’s a sample of some of the praise heaped on the Outremer books when they were first released:
A fantasy sequence to rival the most impressive in the genre — Orbit
The intensity verges on horror at times… compelling reading — Locus
Beautifully crafted and a joy to read… I can’t wait to see what happens next — Northern Review
Drama and spectacle to spare… The kind of dark, painful power rarely seen in the literature of heroic fantasy — Cemetery Dance
Perhaps it’s true that, as Neil Gaiman and others have pointed out, fantasy readers need a little time between novels to live with their favorite characters. Whatever the case, Ace — and other major publishers — have been demonstrably leery of publishing individual volumes of a lengthy fantasy series in quick succession ever since.
Here’s the blurb from the back of the first volume, The Devil in the Dust:
From award-winning author Chaz Brenchley comes the first book in the powerful new series about Outremer — a harsh and barren kingdom born of blood and at war with the world around.
For forty years, the Order of the Knights Ransomer has been the sword-arm and conscience of the kingdom. Their stronghold is Roq de Ranon, an ancient and mysterious fortress that is the key to Outremer’s defense. But nomadic tribes on the kingdom’s borders threaten to reclaim this land that was once theirs. And a heretic state within Outremer has magically closed itself off — and been marked for destruction by the Order.
Marron, a young knight training to be a Ransomer, and Julianne, daughter of the King’s Shadow and betrothed to a man she’s never met, are journeying to Roq de Ranon. There each of them will be put to the test, as they become inextricably bound up in the coming upheaval that will decide the fate of Outremer.
The Books of Outremer was originally published in paperback in three volumes in the UK by Orbit:
Tower of the King’s Daughter (1998)
Feast of the King’s Shadow (1999)
Hand of the King’s Evil (2002)
They were published in mass market paperback in the US by Ace Books between June and November 2003. All were paperback editions with a $6.50 cover price. The covers are by John Howe (#1-4 and #6) and Barbara Lofthouse (#5). There were no digital editions.
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