Excerpt from Sam Sykes' TOME OF THE UNDERGATES

Has Sam Sykes' Tome of the Undergates piqued your curiosity? Here's an extract to give you a taste of the novel. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Lenk can barely keep control of his mismatched adventurer band at the best of times (Gariath the dragon man sees humans as little more than prey, Kataria the shict despises most humans and the humans in the band are little better). When they're not insulting each other's religions they're arguing about pay and conditions. So when the ship they are travelling on is attacked by pirates things don't go very well. They go a whole lot worse when an invincible demon joins the fray. The demon steals the Tome of the Undergates - a manuscript that contains all you need to open the undergates. And whichever god you believe in you don't want the undergates open. On the other side are countless more invincible demons, the manifestation of all the evil of the gods, and they want out. Full of razor-sharp wit, characters who leap off the page (and into trouble) and plunging the reader into a vivid world of adventure this is a fantasy that kicks off a series that could dominate the second decade of the century.


The voice was alien and convoluted, as though it couldn’t decide what it wanted to convey. It was deep and bass, but tinkled like glass, and carried with it a shrill, mirthful malice.

“Tell us,” it spoke, “what drives the landborne to try the same thing over and over and expect different results?”

Lenk arched a brow. Wherever the speaker was, it seemed to see this.

“You have been pounding at the stone for some time,” it sighed. “Have you not yet realized it moves by will? Our will?” It giggled and spoke at the same time. “All moves at our will, at Her will, earth and water alike.”

“You haven’t moved me,” he spat into the water.

“Haven’t we? You drew your horrid metal at the sound of our song.”

“Conceded,” Lenk muttered, “but it’s no great accomplishment that the sound of your voice makes me want to jam something sharp into you.” He raised the weapon in emphasis. “Show yourself so we can get this over with.”

“Curious. What is it that drives you to fight? To think that we wish to fight you?”

“I’ve been doing this sort of thing long enough to know that if I’m aware of someone referring to themselves as ‘we’, they’re typically the kind of lunatic that I’ll have to kill.”


“Time is too short for that sort of thing, you understand.”

“One would think all you have is time, unless we decide to move the stone.”

Lenk ignored the echoing laughter that followed, searching the waters for any sign of the speaker.

The stirring began faintly, a churn in the water slightly more pronounced than the others. He saw a dim shape in the gloom, the inky outline of something moving beneath the surface. Soon, he saw it rise, circling at the very lip of the rock.

It was when he saw it, so dark as to render the void pale, that it dawned on him.


“The servants of uncaring gods and the blind alike have spoken that name,” the creature replied, its voice bubbling up from the gloom. “To others, we are Voice and Prophet to Her Will. The landborne forgot all those names long ago, however.” Its voice was quizzical. “Tell us, what maidens with green hair have you been consorting with?”

“Hardly the point.”

“The point? The point?” It became wrathful, a great churning roar that boiled to the surface. “What heathen consorts with blasphemy with such casualness? Such callousness?”

“Yeah, I hear that a lot.”

“Speak to us.” The black shape twisted towards his outcropping. “What did she promise you in exchange for vengeance? Treasures of the deep, perhaps, the laden gold of the drowned? Or were you overcome with sympathy for her plight? Perhaps she appealed to your love of false, uncaring deities.” Its voice became a slithering tendril, spitefully sliding up from the deep. “Or are you the breed of two-legged thing that lusts to lie with fish-women.”

“I’ve come for the tome.”

The shape froze where it floated. The voice went silent, its pervasive echo sliding back into the deep.

“You cannot have it.” It spoke with restrained fury. “Landborne…you all covet things you have no desire to learn from, you seek to steal them from their proper authority.” Its echo returned with a tangible, cutting edge that seeped into flesh and squeezed between sinew. “Do you even know what holy rites this book contains?”

“I don’t care,” he snarled through gritted teeth. “I gave my word I’d return it.”

“Your word is an iron weight in deep water. What is your true purpose to come with such heresy in your heart?”

“One thousand pieces of gold,” he answered without hesitation.

“Meager riches!” the Deepshriek roared. “Fleeting! Trifling! They give you pleasures you will forget and in exchange forsake your purity and chastity. You would trade power, the power to return the Kraken Queen to her proper seat for shiny metal? There are infinite worlds of golden garbage in the deeps, forever clenched in the drowned hands of those who would die with it. You are no different.”

“I haven’t even been paid yet. If I die, I won’t even have gold to drown with.” The irony was lost on him in a sudden fury. “I’ve seen what comes out of the deeps. I’ve seen it die, too.”

“So it was you,” the Deepshriek seethed from below. “I heard the cries of the shepherd as you callously cut it down. And so did Mother Deep hear the wails of her children.”

“I didn’t kill it,” he replied, “but I put a sword in it. That’s one thing I can do to demons.”

“Demon?” It loosed an infuriated wail. “Demon? A word birthed by the weak and covetous to rail impotently against the righteous. You display your ignorance with such callousness.”

“I don’t care.”

You are blinded and deafened by hymn and terror for your false gods. You would deny your place in the endless blue. You were not there, as we were, in ages past when Great Ulbecetonth reigned with mercy and glory for her children.”

“If you really are so old as that, you’re well past-due for a sword in your face.”

“This book has the power to return Her,” the Deepshriek ignored him, “to return Her from worlds of fire and shadow to which She was so cruelly cast.” Its voice became shrill, whining, pleading. “Join us, landborne. It is not too late to forsake this quest and aid our glorious mission. You, too, have a place in the endless blue…for the moment.”

“I’ve heard stories that a demon’s promise is the bait to hook the mortal soul.” Lenk eyed the shape, growing larger and darker beneath the surface as it slid toward his ledge. He held his sword tightly, planted his feet upon the stone. “I’d sooner believe that shicts bottled my farts than believe...whatever in Khetashe’s name you are.”

The black shape rose wordlessly to the surface. Straining his eyes, Lenk thought he could make out the shape of stubby, jagged fins, like those of a maimed fish, and a long, threshing tail that spanned an impressive distance from the creature’s already impressive mass.

Shark, he recalled the name of such a thing.

“We tried, Mother Deep, how we tried.” The Deepshriek muttered, whined and snarled all at once. “Let this waste of promise not enrage You.”

The surface rippled, parted. Lenk hopped backward, leveling his sword before him. A pair of glittering, golden eyes peered up at him and he stared back, baffled. A woman’s face blossomed from the gloom in a bouquet of golden hair wafting in the water behind her.

Somehow, he had expected the Deepshriek to be more menacing.

Slowly, her visage rose from the gloom entirely and Lenk found himself staring at a pair of enchanting eyes set within a soft, cherubic face the color of milk. She smiled, he found himself tempted to return the expression.

And she continued to rise. There were no shapely hips or swelling breasts to compliment the beautiful face. From her jawline down, she rose from the darkness on a long, gray stalk of throbbing flesh. Her smile was broad, delighting in Lenk’s visible repulsion as he recoiled, sword lowered.

But he could not turn away, could not stop staring. He spied another feminine face, another pair of golden eyes framed by hair of the blackest night. Another bobbed up beside it with a mane of burned copper. They shared their golden-locked companion’s smile, revealing sharp fangs as they rose on writhing stalks.

In hypnotic unison, they swayed above Lenk, their sharp teeth bared, golden eyes alight against the green fire. They glided gracefully through the water to the outcropping’s flank, visibly delighted as Lenk hesitated to follow their movement.

“What,” he finally managed to gasp, “in the name of all Gods are you?”

“We,” they replied in ghastly symphony, “are your mercy.”

The golden-haired head snaked forward suddenly, its lips a hair’s width from Lenk’s face.

“And no god will hear you down here.”

2 commentaires:

Liviu said...

No all caps words in the excerpt?

This one leads the worst book of the year list for me by a mile

Anonymous said...

nice one, pat. hope you are enjoying your vacation:)

now I have a question that has been lingering on my mind for a while. is it possible to do grim and gritty YA fantasy [on a joe abercrombie\scott lynch\steven erikson level]?

any feedback will be much appricieted, thank you.