In the Palace of Shadow and Joy, Between Princesses and Other Jobs, and Among the Gray Lords
(Baen Books, July 2020, July 2023, and January 2024). Covers by Don Maitz and Kieran Yanner
Dave Butler first came to my attention with the Witchy Eye series. It was pitched to me as epic fantasy set in Colonial America. I took this to mean Alternative History, which is interesting but not really my cup of tea. After several rounds of recommendations from people I trust, I finally took the leap. And that’s when I read this line right here:
Not since St. Martin Luther nailed the skin of the Eldritch ’eretic Cetes to the church door in Wittenberk an’ cried ‘’ere I stand!’ ’as such powerful preachink been ’eard by Christian ears, I trow!
Saint Luther? Nailing the skin of a heretic to the door of Wittenberk, rather than the Theses? Brother, if you know me, you know how all in I am at this point. By the time I was done with the book, David Butler had entered the hallowed halls of authors whose books I buy the day they drop.
Which brings us to the Indrajit and Fix novels.
The Witchy Eye series: Witchy Eye, Witchy Winter, Witchy Kingdom,
and Serpent Daughter (Baen, 2017-2020). Covers by Daniel Dos Santos
The first was In the Palace of Shadow and Joy, which followed a pair of struggling opportunists as they form a Jobber Company (think D&D party, but full of bards rather than min-maxed murder hobos) and try to make their way in the ancient city of Kish. It was light, it was funny, it was exciting, and it opened the door into a whole world of adventurous possibilities. I was hooked.
The people of the world of Kish are a strange mish-mash of humans, all unique and odd in their own way. Indrajit Twang has eyes on the side of his head and a distinctly fish-like appearance. He’s the four-hundred and twenty-seventh poet of his people, and possibly the last, holding the epic tale of their history and lineage in his head, and occasionally declaiming it, to everyone’s annoyance. He’s in Kish to find someone to take up the mantle of poet number four-hundred and twenty-eight.
Fix, on the other hand, grew up in the bad part of Kish, though you might be hard pressed to figure out where the good part of the city might be. In their adventures they meet dog people, bat people, and quite a few types whose lineage is best left unexplored. When they’re hired by a Risk Merchant to protect the life of a popular opera singer, things get strange, and then stranger, and then downright dangerous. It’s a romp.
Book two in the series just dropped. Between Princesses and Other Jobs is technically what’s called a “fix-up novel,” a series of interconnected short stories, as well as a new novella, all featuring our favorite Jobbers as they make their way through the streets of Kish. These stories have appeared across a wide variety of anthologies, but they’re now collected in a single volume. It’s a mad collection, and worthy of your attention.
The Gray Lords, book three in the series, will be releasing next year from Baen. I know nothing about it, other than the fact that I’ll be buying it the day it appears. As should you, gentle reader. As should you.
Tim Akers was born in deeply rural North Carolina, the only son of a theologian. He moved to Chicago for college, where he lives with his wife. He’s the author of The Hallowed War trilogy, the Burn Cycle series, and the Knight Watch novels. His newest novel Wraithbound was published in April from Baen Books. His last article for Black Gate was In Defense of Elves.