I am delighted to share the cover of my upcoming middle grade fantasy adventure novel CITY OF ISLANDS. This story has lived in my heart and mind for a long time, and I am so happy that it is getting such a stunningly beautiful cover.
I first began writing the book that would eventually become CITY OF ISLANDS for NaNoWriMo in 2010. I had spent that summer at the Clarion Workshop for science fiction and fantasy writers, and I was just starting to successfully submit and sell my first short stories. I decided I might as well try writing a novel. I won NaNoWriMo that year, but I didn't finish the novel. I set the unfinished manuscript aside, and just a few days later started another novel entirely--the unsold novel that would lead to me getting an agent and, eventually, writing and selling Shallow Graves.
But the idea for CITY OF ISLANDS stayed with me. Most of all, it was the city itself that I could not leave behind: that foggy, strange, magical archipelago city full of wonders and oddities. It felt so incredibly real to me I knew I would have to write something for it eventually. I couldn't get it out of my mind; I could see the islands, the ships, the shadows darting under the water. A few years passed before I realized it was the perfect setting for a middle grade fantasy novel, and once that happened CITY OF ISLANDS began to take shape.
Because this story is so very rich in setting and atmosphere, I very much wanted the cover of the finished book to reflect that--but I also wanted it to focus on Mara, the main character, who loves the water and loves diving for treasures. It's hard enough to explain how an imaginary people and places makes you feel in words, even when you have an entire book to do it. It's even harder to convey that feeling to the illustrator charged with giving your book a cover.
But I was lucky: this beautiful illustration is the work of artist Jensine Eckwall, who has captured perfectly this story of a moody, magical archipelago city and the girl named Mara who lives there. The deep shades of blue, the mysterious bones, the bright glow of the magical lantern, and Mara reaching so confidently as she dives, all of it is perfect for how this book and its world feel to me. (And just wait until you see the map in the final book--it's every bit as fantastic and perfect!)
Here it is, in all its moody blue glory:
In a foggy archipelago called the City of Islands, magic drifts on the air as songs. Twelve-year old Mara has always been fascinated by the spell-songs and dreams of becoming a great mage. Orphaned as a little girl, Mara was taken in by a bone-mage called Bindy. But when Bindy was killed by a rival, Mara lost both her home and her best chance to learn magic.
Now Mara is a servant for the powerful Lady of the Tides. She earns her keep by diving in the murky ocean, searching for magical treasures that might please the Lady. Mara still yearns to learn magic, but it’s hard for a poor, orphaned servant to dream when the path to becoming a mage is open to only an elite few.
Then one day, while diving for the Lady, Mara finds the skeletons of strange hybrid creatures: a lizard with wings, a horse with horns, and many more, the likes of which have not existed in the city for centuries. The entire trove of bones is humming with a powerful spell-song.
Mara is convinced the bones will earn her the opportunity to study magic. But rather than rewarding her discovery, the Lady gives Mara a challenge: to learn where the magical bones came from by sneaking into the Winter Blade, an island fortress ruled by the very same sorcerer who killed Bindy years ago.
What Mara finds will reveal chilling truths about her own past, as well as secrets about the history of her beloved city that are more dangerous--and magical--than she had ever imagined.
CITY OF ISLANDS will be coming out Summer 2018 from Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins. You can add it on Goodreads here.