An uneasy truce between the four races has lasted for twenty years.
The Dusters, a race of cat people from the north, have invaded and now former soldier Mika must make a grim choice: take up the sword again or watch everything he loves burn.
With his old friend from the military, Gair, and a mysterious, half-breed Duster, Mika makes his way from his Northern border home to the southern capital, across the frozen wastes of the Duster homelands, and deep underground where the legendary Gallochs dwell. He is desperate to unravel the mystery of the invasion and how it’s connected to his origin. But hunted by his own kind and unable to trust his companions, he discovers that to save his family, he may have to defeat not only the Duster army but the very Gods themselves.
Penned by award-winning author, Adam Stemple, Duster is an epic, page-turning fantasy for adult readers who like their tales grim and dark but with just enough light at the end of the tunnel to keep them wanting more.
Fans of Martin’s Game of Thrones, Abercrombie’s The First Law Trilogy, and Estes’ Fatemarked will all find something to enjoy within.
"I can, without reservation, recommend everything Adam Stemple has written, and Duster is no exception." — Steven Brust, best-selling author of The Baron of Magister Valley
"No one writes bastard-son-of-a-bitch characters as brilliantly as Adam Stemple." — Naomi Kritzer, Hugo-Award-Winning Author of Catfishing on Catnet
Praise for Adam's first novel, Singer of Souls
"One of the best first novels I have ever read." — SFWA Grand Master, Ann McCaffrey
*STARRED REVIEW* "A dour, nihilistic, absolutely marvelous grunge fantasy!" — Ray Olson, Booklist
"Fans of Charles de Lint and Clive Barker will find much to like!" — Publishers Weekly
Tropes: Antihero, Born Hero, Cross-Species Friendships, Enemy to Ally
Word Count: 89000
Setting: Secondary Fantasy World
Languages Available: English
The three Duarsteri characters on the blade stood for death, revenge, and a long journey finished. The knuckles of the hand holding the sword had characters on them, as well: faded, crude tattoos that spelled out “Half-Breed” in the language of the North.
“We have a problem, stranger?” I asked, careful not to move my jaw too much. The tip of the sword was tickling my neck right under the jawbone, and even a tiny bit of downward pressure would slit my throat quite nicely.
The creature holding the weapon didn’t answer immediately. He was pale and fleshy for one of his race, the “half” of “half-breed” being human, I assumed. Probably an unfortunate tavern girl, like the many I employed, ravaged by his father in one of their Bromvawrs, cattle raids disguised as holy missions. I mentally spit at the thought. At least when men raped and pillaged, we didn’t dress it up as religion.READ MORE
Been a lot less Bromvawrs since the Second Duster War ended, I thought. Probably be seeing fewer of his kind in the coming years.
The Duarsteri had taken a beating in the Second, and been mostly quiet since. And now that a whole generation had grown to manhood without knowing the constant raids and occasional war that marked the Borders' eighteen-hundred year history, there was even some trade back and forth. Not that there was much more on the Duarsteri side of the mountains than snow and ice. Though, given this latest opportunity to judge their workmanship so closely, I had to admit that they made decent blades.
“Ferran-human-you-know?” His voice purred and growled as he ran the words together, his long ears twitching with each syllable the only hint that the words were separate.
I knew there were other objects in the room: rough wooden tables, wobbly chairs I’d made myself, a fireplace with a ceremonial sword hanging far above it. But all I seemed to be able to see was the weapon at my throat.
“I might,” I said as calmly as I could manage. “I might not. What’s it to you, Duster?”
The Duarsteri’s fur bristled at the slang and the sword pressed harder into my neck. “Nothing-he-is-to-me-but-to-you...” He bared his teeth, exposing long canines capped with steel. “Your-life.”
“Yours, too.” I pulled my hand up from under the bar and pointed a plain-looking stick at his midsection.
His whiskers twitched once. ”Poke-me-you-plan-until-I-surrender?” He gave a short yowl—a Duarsteri laugh.
“Oh, it might not look like much,” I said. “But this wand was enchanted by Armalis himself when I fought with him at Southing Hill.” Even twenty years later, the name of Armalis provoked a reaction.
“Armalis,” he hissed, then spat. “You-lie.”
I shrugged, still careful not to move anything above my collar. “Try your luck, cub. But tell me where your mother lives first, so I can send her three coins for your mawrkriss.”
He stared hard in my eyes, but he couldn’t find any fear there. I’d been well trained. He growled once, deep in his throat, then whipped the sword away from me. Sheathing it angrily, he stalked out of the tavern.
“Mika?” said my wife, as she exited the kitchen. “I thought I heard voices. Do I need to get breakfast out early?”
I turned to look at her. Jehanna was a little bigger than she used to be—bearing three children will do that to a woman—and the black ringlets that still framed her face so prettily had been edged with gray for some time now. But my heart still jumped at the sight of her, and I still had to back the occasional younger man off when he mistook her for one of the tavern girls.
“No, dear heart,” I said. “It was just someone looking for Ferran.”
She frowned, tiny lines springing to life around her dark eyes. “And what has your son done now? He didn’t come home again last night.”
“Always my son when he is in trouble.”
“And when is he not?”
She had a point there. Of all my sons, perhaps he was the most like me: a middle child, prone to recklessness and drawn to danger, destined for the army or the gallows. Or he might just get lucky and meet someone like Jehanna. Find a reason to live.
I ceded the point with my shoulders, and answered her first question. “I’ll find out soon enough.”
She nodded. “Are you almost done out here? I could use help in the kitchen.”
I flipped the stick over in my hand, revealing the feathers strapped to the other end. I waved it once more over the shelf I’d been dusting, then began to replace the bottles of blue island glass.
“Just about, dear heart. I’ll be right in.”COLLAPSE
Naomi Kritzer wrote:
"I can, without reservation, recommend everything Adam Stemple has written, and Duster is no exception." — Best-selling author of THE BARON OF MAGISTER VALLEY
Naomi on Goodreads wrote:
"No one writes bastard-son-of-a-bitch characters as brilliantly as Adam Stemple" — Hugo award-winning novelist, Naomi Kritzer, author of CATFISHING ON CATNET
"‘Duster’ is the phenomenal new fantasy novel from Adam Stemple, The subject of dead gods has been presented to readers before, but never told quite like this. Adam has a gift for storytelling, weaving his words around you and ensnaring you in his world."