Farisa’s Crossing is the first novel in a series (“The Antipodes”) featuring a strong female protagonist, circa-1895 (“steampunk”) technology, and mysterious sorcery. It’s undergoing heavy revision and improvement, and I’ll likely be publishing it between October 1, 2018 and November 30, 2020.
It’s too hot. An ancient calamity has left the tropics uninhabitable, and impassible. Civilization thrives near the North Pole, where temperate climates exist; but the equatorial ocean reaches 47°C (117°F), generating hurricanes that last for months. Deserts broil. Jungles are full of strange creatures like skrums, ghouls, and the squibbani, who seem to have order and civilization of their own.
The hemispheres have been out of contact for at least 2,000 years. While rumors exist of a high-altitude path– the Mountain Road– between the two worlds, no one has ever crossed it and returned. The path, as well as is known, goes through dangerous cities, cursed caves, and deserts that can cook a man whole… and then vanishes, still more than a thousand miles from the equator.
State of the World
In the known world, humans have won. Dragons, orcs, and elves have been pushed to the margins, while the human population exceeds 1 billion. Technological marvels like steamships, telegraphs, and machine guns dominate the world. Trains achieve a blistering pace of 25 miles per hour. Plank turnpikes, supporting ornate horse-drawn carriages, connect the cities. Yet, all is not well. The industrial economy is in decline. Age-old ethnic hatreds are broiling. Cryptic graffiti on city walls indicates danger, while refugees pour into and out of continents. Economic inequality is tearing civil society apart, while threatening changes in climate suggest a terrifying future.
The Global Company
Fifty years ago, Alcazar Detective Agency was a private, corporate army that busted unions, rigged elections, and occasionally hunted down a witch or sorcerer. Now it’s the Global Company. It used to work for businesses; now it is the only business that matters. Alcohol, fuel oil, railroads, espionage and murder-for-hire; it does everything it can, and controls 70 percent of the known world’s economy. It hasn’t lost its taste for mayhem, and it’s running out of world to conquer. An executive includes a grisly murder in a corporate presentation– and his career thrives for it. Mysterious suicides by high-ranking officials mount. Atrocities are committed by (and within) the Company that even its patriarch, Hampus Bell, cannot prevent.
Though the largest stakeholder by far, and the world’s only trillionaire, Bell isn’t even safe from his own firm. He faces internal intrigue, bureaucratic incompetence, and the mysterious syr Konklava. Moreover, he seems to be losing his mind, advocating restraint and notably eschewing profanity one moment, and advocating cannibalism in the next.
The Blue Marquessa
Magic’s real. No one doubts that. However, mages suffer from a terrible disease known as “the Blue Marquessa”. Every spell has a cost; in this world, everything has a consequence. A mage must be careful; the practice has led many to insanity or early death. It’s considered rare for one to live past the age of thirty.
Farisa is “from everywhere and nowhere”, a refugee who managed to get a teaching gig at the most prestigious university in the world. She’s a brown-skinned girl in a snow-white land, a bookish erudite in a dumb war, and a lover in a world where hate thrives. When she loses her job, when her house is burned down, when she’s accused of a crime that she could not possibly have committed, and when ancient monsters begin crawling out of hell, she’s forced to rely on her wits… and her magic, for all the dangers that come along with it.
26 April ’94
It’s two o’clock in the morning. It’s humid, but the sky glows red. Something awful happened. Farisa remembers only vague details. She fought something, and she won, and now she’s got to the hell out of danger. Barefoot, in ill-fitting clothing, having run for twenty or more miles already, she hurls herself into the declining industrial city, Exmore. Danger finds her before she’s in town for five minutes, and promises to follow her up to (and, maybe, past) the edge of the world.
The two most powerful people in the world are drawn into a conflict that neither of them wants to fight. Farisa must avoid Hampus Bell (and his spies) to survive. Hampus must find Farisa, or he’ll face danger within his own company. The only safe place left for Farisa is… the Antipodes. But she’s not the only person who wants to go there. Ongoing wars are pushing refugees to the South, while the Global Company runs out of world to conquer, and its grandest aspirations require more “living space” than the known world has. The stakes get higher and higher with every mile, and soon it’s not only Farisa’s fate that hangs in the balance… if the worlds are joined again, the planet itself stands at risk.
Farisa meets a gun-toting steam-era knight in a leather jacket, a beautiful resistance fighter with a secret past, and one of the most dangerous spies in the world. She purchases Jakhob’s Gun, a trash novel believed to hold coded messages. She fights orcs and ghouls and dragons and even other mages. Her skills develop; her wits sharpen. She finds love and friendship. At the same time, her memories of that awful night– the night her world fell apart, the night the monsters spilled out of hell– return, and she realizes not only who she is but who she was, and that might be the most dangerous thing of all.