The daring ‘Murder in Corvis’ mercenaries are back – get a peek at what’s in store.
Fantasy author Richard Lee Byers expands his novella Murder in Covis into a trilogy that focuses on the Black River Irregulars. The first installment – Black Dogs – is due out October 12 in print and digital; and it’s now available for pre-order.
Skull Island eXpeditions spoke with the author about the upcoming novel and what readers can expect from Colbie Sterling’s ragtag band of guns for hire.
1. Your upcoming Iron Kingdoms novel Black Dogs revolves around the mercenary group known as the Black River Irregulars (or the BRI, for short). Can you give us a little background on the group? Who are they? Are they heroes, villains, or something in between?
The BRI is a mercenary company founded and led by Colbie Sterling, a field mechanik and ’jack marshal. She formerly belonged to a different company but grew dissatisfied with the lackluster leadership, and so she struck out on her own. She’s started her own outfit with dreams of growing it into a true army-for-hire and winning fortune and martial renown in the process.
The reality is that currently, at the start of their journey, the BRI are a long way from being the mighty legion of Colbie’s ambitions. There are only a handful of members, and so the group ends up taking on jobs that are appropriate for a small force of formidable but diversely talented people, missions where they often operate as adjuncts to the City Watch or as what people in our world might call private detectives. That doesn’t keep some of the jobs from being extremely dangerous or highly important to the well-being of Corvis, their home city, Cygnar, their country, or even the Iron Kingdoms as a whole.
They certainly aren’t villains. To me, they’re heroes, although the degree of altruism varies from one to the next. Some, like Colbie and Eilish Garrity, the arcanist and investigator, are pretty noble at heart. In contrast, Milo Boggs, the alchemist, has a criminal past and shady instincts that emerge periodically.
Of course, they’re all mercenaries, and even the most heroic ones are looking to get paid.
2. Black Dogs is a follow-up to your Iron Kingdoms novella “Murder in Corvis,” which is also about the BRI. Can you tell us how the two pieces are connected?
“Murder in Corvis” is the origin story. It tells how the original four members of the BRI first meet and how Colbie ultimately convinces Eilish, Milo, and the trollkin bounty hunter Gardek Stonebrow, all of whom are initially resistant, to team up. Along the way, they solve a gruesome series of murders in Corvis’s Undercity.
In Black Dogs, the BRI has been operating successfully for a while. They’re feeling a little cocky, but they’re about to face their greatest challenge yet.
3. We’re adding to the ranks of the Black River Irregulars in Black Dogs. What can you tell us about the new recruits?
There are three, two of whom appeared in “Murder in Corvis” as antagonists of sorts.
Canice Gormleigh was a Llaelese gun mage of the Loyal Order of the Amethyst Rose. She eventually deserted the Llaelese Resistance, fled to Corvis, and set up shop as an outlaw enforcer-for-hire.
Natak Warbiter is an ogrun warrior who considers Canice his korune.
Pog is a mild-mannered little gobber ‘jack mechanik.
At the start of the book, none of three aspires to join the BRI, nor do the members of the BRI have any interest in recruiting them. But a crisis throws them all together, and things evolve from there.
4. Since the Black River Irregulars are our heroes, for better or worse, who are the villains? What challenges will the BRI face in Black Dogs?
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the bad guys are the Black Dogs, a formidable Khadoran bratya, or crime syndicate that has decided to expand operations into Corvis. The first step of their campaign is an attempt to take over all the illicit activity in the Undercity.
I’m pleased with how the Black Dogs turned out. They’ve got some creepy, vicious, sadistic members. Since I’m a horror writer as well as a fantasy guy, I enjoyed spending time with them.
5. I know it can be hard to choose, but which was your favorite scene in the book and why?
It is indeed hard to choose, but there’s one where Eilish and Gardek are scouting a Black Dog operation. This being adventure fiction, things don’t go as planned, and the pair land in terrible danger. I like this sequence because there’s a fun, snarky dynamic between the University-educated sleuth and the street-smart bounty hunter, and I got to play with that quite a bit in this scene.
6. Black Dogs is the first book in a trilogy about the BRI. Can you give us any hints where our intrepid band of mercenaries might end up in the next book?
Since I’m within a week or two of finishing up the next book, I can indeed. It’s called Black Crowns, and it takes the BRI into Llael on a job that turns out to be far more important than they imagined. Along the way, they knock heads with the Northern Crusade, the Khadoran military, the Resistance, whose agents still remember Canice as a deserter in need of executing, and the ghastly forces of Cryx.
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