The story starts with a murder.
It is a warm autumn night in the Floating City, and the waterways are still between the turning of the tides, and a little fetid. A dark gondola moves across the grand canal with a tall man and woman seated together in the boat. They wear ornate masks of birds, beset with tawny orange feathers and jewelry, and hold hands gently. Were there not such a large blood moon this evening it would be possible to see a soft glow emanating from where they touch.
The gondolier also wears a mask – but his is a plain white face, as if all the features have been erased from it, except an enigmatic smile. Ahead of them is a large golden palace, that seems to float on top of the water. It is ablaze with light as if there were a party for a hundred guests going on inside. But in fact it is empty except for servants. The master and mistress of the house are on their way back from a troubling meeting of the city’s Seers.
They will have need to discuss it with each other until late into the night, but for now they sit in silence, the only sound the soft splash, splash, splash of the gondolier’s oar, moving them forward.
Craig Cormick writes:
And the murder happens just a few paragraphs later. Two murders in fact, as a fearsome monster rises out of the canal, fights with the two Seers and slays them. And as they die their splendid palace sinks beneath the waters – letting you know it was only their magic that kept it afloat.
The Floating City is the second novel in my Shadow Master series, set in a world very much like Renaissance Italy, and this city is very much like Venice, but where magic and demons abound.
There are four pairs of magic Seers, protecting the city – one pair for each season, and they are slowly being killed off. As are the City’s Council of Ten. Monster and masked assassins and spies everywhere, all battling for control of the city. And just when things get desperate – the mysterious Shadow Master appears. He is armed with lightning fast swords, advanced gadgets and a sarcasticwit. He also has a scribe follow him around the city, while he dispatches his form of justice, and has him write the city’s history anew.
But that’s only half the story. The other half revolves around three very strong female characters, the Montecchi sisters: Giuliette, Disdemona and Isabella, who are each struggling to write their own destinies.
You might have picked them as being similar in name to Shakespeare’s characters: Juliet, Desdemona and Isabella from Romeo and Juliet, Othello and the Merchant of Venice – which is only half right. For I’ve gone back to the original Italian stories that Shakespeare adapted his plays from, and used those “origin” characters and plot structures within the novel. The original stories are worth checking out if you’re interested in seeing the way that Shakespeare built upon them and changed them: Luigi da Porto’s Giulietta e Romeo of 1530, Ser Giovanni’s Il Pecorone (the Dunce) of 1558, and Giraldi Cinthio’s Hecatommithi of 1565.
As for the starting point, or hook, I wanted to start the story at a major plot point, and then fill in the back story afterwards as we romp along – much as Shakespeare did in plays such as Hamlet. I think action is a great driver of plot and characterisation.
I also think the Shadow Master books are a fast-pace and fun read. And what I enjoy about them as the author, is when readers ask me, ‘So when are you going to explain a bit more about just who that Shadow Master character actually is?’ – I keep saying, ‘Well – maybe in the next book.’
After all, where is the fun in giving away all the mystery?
About the author:
Craig Cormick is an award-winning Australian author and science communicator. He has published over 20 works of fiction and non-fiction, ranging over several genres. He has also published over 100 short stories.
The Shadow Master was published to widespread critical acclaim by his wife and mother in 2014, and they have great expectations for the Floating City!
You can find Craig online at his website craigcormick.com
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