The Dominions of Irth Trilogy by Adam Lee (Avon Eos, 1998-2000). Covers uncredited
The first science fiction website I ever launched was the SF Site, way back in 1995. I partnered with Rodger Turner, Neil Walsh, and Wayne MacLaurin to start Canada’s first big SF book blog, and it was a big success, with plenty of early traffic and award nominations. Best of all, we were soon on a first-name basis with the publicity departments at most of the big publishing houses. That’s how I met Andy Heidel at Avon, who helped me understand their big relaunch as they morphed from Avon Nova into Avon Eos in 1998 — including why they jettisoned cover art in favor of purely design-focused covers (“We’re trying to be the next big thing,” Andy explained).
I loved Avon Eos, and their dedication to quality SF and exciting new authors, but I didn’t love those covers. Frankly, I think readers didn’t know what to make of all the abstract shapes and colors, and especially the lack of identifiable heroes or storytelling elements, and they stayed away in droves. Eos eventually reverted to traditional covers, but I don’t think it ever recovered, and it is no longer a functioning imprint.
I think that misfire hurt most of Avon’s authors in the late 90s. Including “Adam Lee,” the pseudonym A. A. Attanasio adopted to publish his critically acclaimed Dominions of Irth trilogy in the US. The series appeared with a series of generic cover designs, and pretty much sank like a stone. “Adam Lee” died a lonely death, and Attanasio returned to publishing under his own name.
Back covers to The Dominions of Irth Trilogy
It’s a pity, as the books themselves are highly regarded. The Orlando Sentinel said they were “In the best tradition of epic fantasy… one of the more inventive imaginary world settings in recent years,” and Kirkus called them “Altogether remarkable.” Here’s just some of the press they received.
Library Journal wrote:
Lee constructs an eerie universe of immeasurable beauty and terror peopled by unique interpretations of standard fantasy creatures. Light and Darkness confront one another in a compelling work that spans multiple worlds.
and Locus said:
Real pleasures… The story takes us everywhere… a mad mix of Low Fantasy, High Myth (and Finance), Space Adventure, offhand humor and moments of serious philosophy… the author’s eloquence reaches a dazzling height.
The books were originally published in hardcover under Attanasio’s name in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton, and reprinted in paperback by New English Library with much better covers by Mick Van Houten (see below).
The Dominions of Irth Trilogy, UK editions, published as A. A. Attanasio
(New English Library, 1996-1999). Covers by Mick Van Houten
Here’s the complete details for the Avon Eos paperback editions.
The Dark Shore (495 pages, $5.99 paperback, March 1998) — cover uncredited
The Shadow Eater (335 pages, $5.99 paperback, April 1998) — cover uncredited
Octoberland (309 pages, $6.50 paperback, April 1999) — cover uncredited; background: Thomas Canty
Avon Eos never bothered with digital editions, but Attanasio released them himself in 2013. Copies are $4.95 each, you can check them out here.
See all our recent coverage of the best vintage SF and fantasy here.