Excerpt: Out of the Deep

Synopsis

Pierce and the heroes of Gorgonbane defeated the subterranean conqueror Kash one year ago. Since then, monster infestations have increased a hundredfold. It’s good for business, but bad for the citizens of the reluctantly joined nations.
 
When a strange new entity crashes a dangerous extermination mission, everything falls into chaos.

Revelations about the world and whispers of a new form of magic litter the path from doom to an unexpected beacon of hope.

What is the Underlord Kash’s prophesied threat? Can Gorgonbane save the continent from destruction? And who will Pierce have a crush on next?
 
Find out in Out of the Deep – Hero’s Metal, book two.

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Excerpt: Out of the Deep

By T.J. Marquis

This excerpt is shared with the permission of the author.

“What’s that?” asked Sev. He pointed to the far side of the town. Everyone looked.

There was a ridge of towering, broken rocks there. Beyond, a diffuse yellow light grew, like plaque between a giant’s teeth. It wasn’t the yellow of life like the gloss of a bloodhoof’s coat, or the shine in Scythia’s eyes. It was something else.

The ulants on that side of Moni stirred, shuffling irritably away from the ridge. Pierce looked up at Sev, but the forgemaster shrugged. Yellow light peeked around each jagged stone.

“Does the ulant have any natural predators?” Scythia asked Deathgripz.

The stablemaster’s eyes were open wider than Pierce had ever seen them, but she shook her head. 

“None that I know of,” she said. “Like I said, they don’t taste good.”

“Wait, how do you know they don’t taste -” Pierce started. Axebourne waved him into silence.

“We’d better move,” said Axebourne. “We have to get between the light and Moni.” When no one moved, he raised his voice. “Now!”

Gorgonbane sprang into action. They circled the three wagons and left Sugar in charge, galloping their mounts southeast in a wide arc. The ground sloped downward and the eastern approach to Moni was hidden behind the town, so Pierce couldn’t see the ulants there anymore. But he could hear them now, uttering lame-sounding complaints in voices like bovine, uuuuuuuhhhooo.

Gorgonbane were forced further south to avoid the shuffling herd, and the yellow light grew. Pierce thought that each concentration of the light had a core of dimness, of grey, rather than white. Falselight.

“I see shapes in the haze,” Scythia called back from astride Nova.

A shape detached from the encroaching wall of yellow falselight and seemed to slide or hover across the rocky ground toward a lone ulant. The creature did not flee, for the shape betrayed no aggression.

Axebourne was in the lead. He leaned further into his flight and sped up. Everyone followed him – if Axebourne was in a hurry, something was certainly wrong.

An appendage reached out from the lone shape as if to pet the ulant. The creature uttered its pitiful call, loud enough to be heard above the rest of the herd. Gorgonbane could close the distance swiftly, but Axebourne came to a stop and held up a hand for everyone else to do likewise.

The shape touching the ulant stretched out a second limb. This close, Pierce could see that his perception of the creatures’ grey heart hadn’t been an illusion. Its core was dim, not bright. The ulant complained again, sounding uncomfortable now. Something kept it from moving away from the yellow shape, though. The being grew long, spindly fingers and took hold of the ulant’s hide. Now the creature struggled, but just a bit, six legs pushing away halfheartedly.

The ulant’s veins lit up orange – yellow light infecting its slow, red blood.

“We should flee,” said Sev. “Something is wrong.”

Axebourne kept his hand in the air, and he shook it once to silence any further talk.

The falselight faded from the ulant’s veins and its skin shifted from pink to yellow. Its legs twitched and its meaty abdomen dipped toward the ground. The yellow shape clenched its fingers tighter around the ulant’s hide and it screamed, a frantic version of its calmer complaints – uuuwhoo? Its veins lit up again, then its skin. Its form began to dissolve into sickly translucence. One final low from its toothy mouth, and the ulant went silent. It lit up more fiercely, bright yellow at the edges, grey toward the center of its mass. The falselight being released it and floated away toward the rocky ridge, melding back into the now still wall it had come from.

The ulant bent its forelegs, using them as if to brush debris off its tiny head. It staggered to one side as if dizzy, righted itself, turned and moved toward one of its fellows. The other ulants edged away, unsure. More lows echoed off the stony ground, ulants opening their mouths wide. They champed irritably and bared their teeth, all of them white molars protruding from pink gums.

Pierce blanched again.

“Fly,” Axebourne said. “We have to get to the town. We shouldn’t have stopped. Sev, get back to my sister. Ready the wagons. Go!”

Coming soon: Dec 2021
Read more about this upcoming novel!
Read our review of the 1st Hero's Metal book!

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TJ Marquis Announces How Black the Sky Sequel

TJ Marquis Announces How Black the Sky Sequel

The next installment of Hero's Metal, a heavy metal pulp adventure, is slated for release in December 2021!

TJ Marquis confirmed on Twitter today, Nov. 29th, 2021, that Out of the Deep, the sequel to his heavy metal novel How Black the Sky, will be released this December.

The first novel, which we found “full of hardcore action, valiant warriors, and thought-provoking themes,” follows a band of warriors through epic battles defending against an invasion of Underworld monsters. The sequel promises to continue the driving action, with another “hollow earth threat predicted by their old rival, the Underlord Kash.”

A demibus of the two Hero’s Metal novels is also planned for release in December 2021.

Check out our positive, long-form review of the first Hero's Metal novel!

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Review: How Black the Sky

Publisher Description:

Pierce – a brash young man with rare blessings of strength and really bad news.

Axebourne – the fatherly berserker with infectious laughter.

Scythia – calm and motherly, her Circlet of Knowing reveals secrets.

Agrathor – a mighty spearman with an electric personality
and a terrible skin condition.

Ess – Second only to the First Great Master of Convergent
Reality Theory. Pierce thinks she’s hot.

They are Gorgonbane. Once mercenaries, now heroes, they are the only thing standing between Overland and the horrid Monstrosities of the Underlord. His lust for power has reached its peak, but the coming invasion may not be exactly what it seems…

The world of Chasmgard is a place with endless secrets and a strange cosmology.
A deep red sun crawls across a canvas of black, and nobody remembers why. Landlocked by a depthless Chasm, Overland and the Underlands have always vied for power and land.

In How Black the Sky, we join a band of legendary warriors who may just be at the end of an age.

Multiverse Books

Each novel and short story in the Multiverse comes with a map and basic world statistics for use in roleplaying and other non-commercial gaming scenarios. We have included only basic stats that should be adjustable for any use you have!

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Review: How Black the Sky by T. J. Marquis

Here at the Periapsis Press blog, we only post reviews of works we recommend, so you already know I enjoyed How Black the Sky. I encourage you to check it out!

How Black the Sky is a fun, heavy metal romp following a band of warriors through epic battles to defend against an invasion of Underworld monsters! The action-driven plot underscores a refreshing, brawlier representation of Christianity than is typically seen in fiction. This story serves as the first in the Hero’s Metal series.

This review contains minor spoilers.

Heavy Metal Action

Heavy metal is not merely a genre label for this novel. According to his forward, T. J. Marquis intentionally designed his characters around the members of a heavy metal band and drew thematic inspiration from progressive metal.

This certainly comes through in the intense action sequences, which describe not only the efforts of the team, but also focus on the skill of an individual (like a solo) and how they interact with the others in friendly competition, pushing forward the power of the band as a whole.

As a result, the battles are driving and densely choreographed—an entertaining combination of brute force and complex skill, cool people doing cool things. Moreover, the imagery is reminiscent of a heavy metal concert, with grandiose settings, cool weapons, and showmanship.

Post-History Fantasy Setting

The mechanics of Chasmgard are unique and interesting. They certainly go beyond the typical fantasy / post-apocalyptic setting and are deeper than a mere color change for the sky. Underland is not merely beneath Overland—it isn’t underground—but is layered. Underland has its own sky, with a moon that moves across it, and yet it still maintains a physical orientation, below Overland.

Overland itself has a post-history flavor. There are ruins and legends (for example, the sky wasn’t always black, but was once blue) that hint that the world wasn’t always in its present state.

I shy away from the term post-apocalyptic only because it isn’t yet clear that it was a catastrophic event that caused this and the term tends to be applied to settings that are or were the real world. While the latter could be a possibility, this first book makes no explanations, for even the characters themselves do not fully understand their world’s history nor the particularities of how it works. 

The result is a tantalizing mystery for later works in the series.

Plucky Pierce

Pierce, the main protagonist, was my favorite character. While significantly younger than the original members of the Gorgonbane group, he holds his own in both bravery and skill in battle. However, his humility, positive attitude, and inquisitiveness make him fun to follow in the story. I hope to see more of him in future stories.

Pierce serves as a vehicle for the audience to learn about the other characters, since he is the new guy in the group. If Gorgonbane is a band, then Pierce is a fan who has stumbled into a dream-come-true opportunity to work with them. His interactions and the stories that they tell him develop the audience’s knowledge of these established heroes.

This first Hero’s Metal novel does spend a lot of time on this, but as all of the characters are, as I mentioned, cool people doing cool things, I found the stories of valor forgivable since they are entertaining. One weakness that does result is the lack of tension due to half of the tale occurring in retrospect and the other half shaded with the suspicion that these awesome characters will likely survive to the next book.

The Glorious Paths

A most thought-provoking element of How Black the Sky is the Overlander’s religion The Glorious Paths. This is a uniquely executed reflection of Christianity, and I found it intriguing how it put forward a different aspect of God’s character in this depiction than commonly seen by depicting Him as “the Blacksmith.”

While most Christian fiction emphasizes the attribute of love (sometimes to the detriment of all other characteristics), Marquis’s Blacksmith, while loving, is unavoidably sovereign.

In the Great Sanctuary stands a sculpture of the Blacksmith, and on his anvil humanity is being forged: “Their legs were elongated into a tapered shape like the blade of a longsword, and the woman’s arm was stretched out to one side in a partial crossguard.” Everything, including the fighting and conflict, occurs at the Blacksmith’s will to “temper” his servants and prepare them to walk the Glorious Path.

This process is not necessarily pleasant. The people on the anvil grit their teeth, grunt, and scream. But the Blacksmith has a vision for them beyond the immediate process. The Overlander’s God is not only fully in control, he is also intentionally working to prepare them for a purpose beyond this life. His followers are “the weapons that would one day slay Oblivion itself.”

Pierce in particular wonders if he will be deemed fit to serve after “this time of shaping and testing.” I appreciate how this portrayal imparts the biblical beliefs that God’s ways are not our ways and this present life is merely a shadow of what is to come.

The idea of salvation is not touched on in this book, and the morality is rather hazy, but I look forward to seeing how these ideas develop as the series progresses!

Check It Out!

How Black the Sky is an enjoyable adventure full of hardcore action, valiant warriors, and thought-provoking themes. A great start to the Hero’s Metal series!

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Coming to Power Book Release

Coming to Power Book Release

T. J. Marquis releases a new "science-fantasy Multiverse adventure"

Author T. J. Marquis released the first novel in a new series The Arc Legacy on May 30th. He describes Coming to Power as an “American epic isekai.”

A unique perk of the stories included in this “Multiverse” is the inclusion of a map and basic world statistics for non-commercial gaming, such as roleplaying.

We have not yet read Coming to Power, but you can read our positive, long-form review of Marquis’s debut novel How Black the Sky here!

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