I bought the hardcover edition of Anthony Huso’s debut novel The Last Page after reading Matthew David Surridge’s review in Black Gate 12.
The Last Page is a high fantasy steampunk novel, and a love story. We follow the sexually charged relationship between the improbably named Caliph Howl, heir to the throne of the northern country of Stonehold, and a witch named Sena. The two of them meet at university, go their own ways, and then come together again after Caliph has become king and Sena has acquired a vastly powerful magical tome… what really makes the first book work is its language. The prose is strong, quick and dense in the best ways. The diction, the word choice, is inventive; the imagery is both original and concise. At its best, Huso’s language recalls Wolfe or Vance…
The last time I was in a bookstore I did a double take when I saw the trade paperback edition, which has been given a dramatically different cover. The hardcover edition (above left) was packaged as an urban fantasy, with a beautiful woman with glowing eyes on the cover. The paperback (at right) has been completely redesigned as a fantasy adventure novel, showing a huge fleet of airships massing over a sprawling fantasy landscape. If you’re not paying attention, it’d be pretty easy to mistake it for a completely different book.
It’s not that unusual for a novel to be redesigned for a new edition, especially if the original edition isn’t as successful as the publisher thinks it should be — or to bring it in line with series redesign. Either is possible in this case, as The Last Page was followed by a sequel, Black Bottle, which has a cover (at right, click for bigger version) that’s much more in line with the paperback edition.
The Last Page was published by Tor, who also tweaked the book description as part of the redesign. Here’s the jacket copy for the hardcover edition.
The city of Isca is set like a dark jewel in the crown of the Duchy of Stonehold. In this sprawling landscape, the monsters one sees are nothing compared to what’s living in the city’s sewers.
Twenty-three-year-old Caliph Howl is Stonehold’s reluctant High King. Thrust onto the throne, Caliph has inherited Stonehold’s dirtiest court secrets. He also faces a brewing civil war that he is unprepared to fight. After months alone amid a swirl of gossip and political machinations, the sudden reappearance of his old lover, Sena, is a welcome bit of relief. But Sena has her own legacy to claim: she has been trained from birth by the Shradnae witchocracy — adept in espionage and the art of magical equations writ in blood — and she has been sent to spy on the High King.
Yet there are magics that demand a higher price than blood. Sena secretly plots to unlock the Cisrym Ta, an arcane text whose pages contain the power to destroy worlds. The key to opening the book lies in Caliph’s veins, forcing Sena to decide if her obsession for power is greater than her love for Caliph.
Meanwhile, a fleet of airships creeps ever closer to Isca. As the final battle in a devastating civil war looms and the last page of the Cisrym Ta waits to be read, Caliph and Sena must face the deadly consequences of their decisions. And the blood of these conflicts will stain this and other worlds forever.
That copy, with its focus on “court secrets” and “a brewing civil war,” pushes more traditional fantasy buttons. All that is gone for the paperback, which teases the reader with an urban landscape where “the streets are clogged with beggars, aristocrats, and necromancers.” See the complete revised text below.
The hardcover was well received, and not just by Matthew. Black Bottle reprinted a sample of some of the terrific reviews The Last Page received on its back cover (at right, click for bigger version.)
The city of Isca is a dark jewel in the crown of the duchy of Stonehold. In this sprawling urban landscape, the streets are clogged with beggars, aristocrats, and necromancers, and the monsters one sees are nothing compared to the horrors living in the city’s sewers, waiting to surface and wreak havoc upon the world.
Caliph Howl is the reluctant High King of them all. Thrust onto the throne at the age of twenty-three, Caliph has inherited Stonehold’s dirtiest secrets. After months alone amid a swirl of gossip and political machinations, the sudden reappearance of his former lover Sena Iilool is a welcome bit of relief. But Sena has her own legacy to claim: trained in espionage and the art of magical equations writ in blood, Sena has been sent by the Shradnae Witchocracy to spy on the High King.
Yet, there are magics that demand a higher price than blood. Sena secretly plots to unlock the Cisrym Ta, an arcane text containing the power to destroy worlds. Or reshape them on a whim. The only key to the book lies in Caliph’s veins, and Sena must decide if her obsession with power is greater than her love for the man she must betray.
As the final battle in a devastating civil war looms and the last page of the Cisrym Ta waits to be read, Caliph and Sena must face the deadly consequences of their decisions. And the blood of these conflicts will stain this world, and others, forever.
The jacket art for the hardcover edition of The Last Page was by Phil Holland. The cover of the trade paperback was by Stephan Martiniere. The cover for Black Bottle was by James Paick. All three were published by Tor.
Here’s the complete publishing details.
The Last Page (431 pages, $25.99 in hardcover, August 17, 2010)
The Last Page (448 pages, $17.99 in trade paperback, $9.99 digital, June 24, 2014)
Black Bottle (445 pages, $27.99 in hardcover, $7.99 digital, August 21, 2012)
Black Bottle does not have a paperback edition. There are only two volumes in the series.
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