In Selenoth, the war drums are beating throughout the land. The savage orcs of Hagahorn and Zoth Ommog are on the move, imperiling Man, Dwarf, and Elf alike. The Houses Martial of Amorr have gone to war with each other, pitting legion against legion, and family against family as civil war wracks the disintegrating Empire. In the north, inhuman wolf-demons besiege the last redoubt of Man in the White Sea, while in Savondir, the royal house of de Mirid desperately prepares to defend the kingdom against an invading army that is larger than any it has ever faced before. And in the underground realm of the King of Iron Mountain, a strange new enemy has begun attacking dwarf villages throughout the Underdeep.

Beneath the widespread violence that has seized all Selenoth in its grasp, a select few are beginning to recognize the appearance of a historic pattern of almost unimaginable proportions. Are all these conflicts involving Orc, Elf, Man, and Dwarf the natural result of inevitable rivalries, or are they little more than battlegrounds in an ancient war that began long before the dawn of time?

Epic fantasy at its deepest and most intense. A SEA OF SKULLS is Book II in the ARTS OF DARK AND LIGHT series that began with A THRONE OF BONES.

A SEA OF SKULLS is 449 pages, DRM-free, and retails for $5.99 on Amazon and at Castalia House. This is the early edition of the book; those who purchase it now will receive a free copy of the 850-page final edition in ebook format if they a) buy the book on Amazon and send a copy of the Kindle receipt to voxday-at-gmail-dot-com right away or b) buy the book from the Castalia House store.

UPDATE: just to be perfectly clear, New Release subscribers are free to download the bonus book from John Van Stry regardless of where they purchase A Sea of Skulls.

Every author faces a few decisions when he writes a book, particularly when writing a sequel. Be driven by the market or be driven by the vision. Write more of the same that has proven popular or go where the story takes you. These are not binary decisions, but a series of gradients, and while the consequences of those decisions vary, there are no right or wrong decisions per se, only more effective and less effective decisions which depend entirely upon the perspective.

I made two choices in writing the second book of Arts of Dark and Light, and I have no idea if my decisions will prove to be popular or not. The first decision was that it had to be better from my perspective and more true to my original vision than its predecessor was. That’s why it has taken longer to write. Before, I was only dealing in existing human cultures. Now, I had to work in 3+ inhuman cultures as well, which proved considerably more difficult. The second decision was to increase the contrast. A moral dilemma where there is neither potential loss to the character nor moral consequence is no true dilemma. A choice that is obvious to everyone but an idiot is no true choice. Good people do bad things, and bad people do good things, but the character of a man is seldom defined by a single act. And, I decided, even the most minor character deserves to be taken seriously, presented fairly, and speak with his own voice. Or her own voice. As an example of what I mean by that, here is a sample of the text at Castalia House.

In other words, this is a “damn the torpedoes” book. It should be interesting to learn who likes it better than A THRONE OF BONES and who likes it less. But I hope you will enjoy it, and I hope those of you who read it will be as diligent about posting serious and substantive reviews as you were with its predecessor.

As a side note, I find it incredible to observe that, according to Amazon’s page count, there is now more Selenoth, with 1837 pages of Summa Elvetica + A Throne of Bones + A Sea of Skulls, than there is Middle Earth proper, with 1531 for Lord of the Rings + The Hobbit. It’s not as good, of course – how could it possibly be – but it is worthy of the title “epic”. I should mention that there will be print editions in April-May and they will be the final edition.

Thanks very much to Matthew, Robert, and Kirk for all their hard work in getting this out before the end of the year.