John Hornor Jacobs’ first novel was Southern Gods (2011), which was shortlisted for the Bram Stoker Award. His new fantasy series began with The Incorruptibles (2014), and the second volume, Foreign Devils, was just published by Gollancz in the UK. Both novels feature the mercenaries Fisk and Shoe, in a fantasy western setting that mixes ancient Rome, savage elves, the wild west, daemons, and the Autumn Lords’ Empire, which hides a terrible truth at its heart.
Here’s Black Gate author Myke Cole on the first volume:
The Incorruptibles gives us the very thing we read fantasy for: something new. The Incorruptibles joins Red Country in what I hope will become a new sub-genre, the fantasy western. Westerns are American stories, and Jacobs’ Arkansas roots show in his gritty, hard-bitten tone. The Incorruptibles shakes like a rattlesnake, sings like a bullet, whispers like a tumbleweed dancing over hardscrabble.
And Pat Rothfuss on the same volume:
One part ancient Rome, two parts wild west, one part Faust. A pinch of Tolkien, of Lovecraft, of Dante. This is strange alchemy, a recipe I’ve never seen before. I wish more books were as fresh and brave as this.
In an interview earlier this year, Jacobs talked about his influences:
If I had a favorite Southern genre writer, it would be Manly Wade Wellman whose Silver John stories influenced my first novel, Southern Gods… which is a Southern Gothic mashed-up with 1950s crime noir smothered in eldritch evil.
Anyone whose cites Manly Wade Wellman as a major influence is okay in my book.
Here’s the description for The Incorruptibles:
In the contested and unexplored territories at the edge of the Empire, a boat is making its laborious way up stream. Riding along the banks are the mercenaries hired to protect it — from raiders, bandits and, most of all, the stretchers, elf-like natives who kill any intruders into their territory. The mercenaries know this is dangerous, deadly work. But it is what they do.
In the boat the drunk governor of the territories and his sons and daughters make merry. They believe that their status makes them untouchable. They are wrong. And with them is a mysterious, beautiful young woman, who is the key to peace between warring nations and survival for the Empire. When a callow mercenary saves the life of the Governor on an ill-fated hunting party, the two groups are thrown together.
For Fisk and Shoe — two tough, honorable mercenaries surrounded by corruption, who know they can always and only rely on each other — their young companion appears to be playing with fire. The nobles have the power, and crossing them is always risky.
And although love is a wonderful thing, sometimes the best decision is to walk away. Because no matter how untouchable or deadly you may be, the stretchers have other plans.
And the sequel, Foreign Devils:
The world is on the brink of war.
Fisk and Shoe – mercenaries, very much not wanting to get caught in the middle of a political whirlwind – must deliver a very important message, and find a very dangerous man. They have caught the eye of the powerful men of the world, and now the stakes are higher than they like.
And the Emperor has decreed that Livia Cornelius, pregnant with Fisk’s child, must travel to the far lands of the Autumn Lords on a diplomatic mission. It will mean crossing half the world, and facing new dangers. And in the end, she will uncover the shocking truth at the heart of the Autumn Lords’ Empire.
A truth which will make the petty politics of war and peace unimportant, and will change the world.
Both volumes were published by Gollancz. So far only The Incorruptibles has been published in the US, but the UK edition of Foreign Devils is available through online sellers like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. The publication details are:
The Incorruptibles (320 pages, $16.95 in trade paperback, $4.99 digital, October 1, 2015) — website
Foreign Devils (480 pages, $16 in trade paperback, $13.99 digital, September 17, 2015 [UK]) — website
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