I wrote The Gimlet Eye after Paul Collins approached
me about writing the third instalment in the ‘Lost City’ series
of Quentaris books. Paul had written the first, and Alyssa Brugman
had done the second, so I felt flattered to be invited to become
one of the Chosen Few. I mean, look at the list of authors who’ve
written Quentaris books - who wouldn’t want to part of that
I’d never written much fantasy before, so this felt like
a good place to start, since Quentaris is an established world
with established characters. I don’t know how impressed Paul
and Michael were that I killed off one of those recurring characters
in the first chapter, but sometimes bad things happen to good people!
I left pretty much everyone else alone. Eventually.
Without wanting to give away too much of the story for those who
haven’t read it yet but are planning to, I really liked the
idea of using a playhouse as one of the central settings and themes
of the book. In my mind I pictured the Globe, the old London playhouse
in which many of William Shakespeare’s great plays were performed.
Those playhouses were like the cinemas of the day, and they were
rowdy, exciting places, where you could buy tickets for the good
seats and stalls around the edges, or you could pay less and stand
on the straw-strewn floor in front of the stage, a bit like a mosh-pit
I also wanted to have some fun with the way plays were written
back then, with characters plotting against other characters, mistaken
identities, and of course an assassination plot or two. And all
of this was a perfect setting for one of my favourite Quentaris
characters, the actor Fontagu, who is so incredibly puffed up with
his own self-importance. He was a lot of fun to write, especially
when his fragile ego was bruised by things others said about his
But of course there needed to be a lot of action as well, so I
included break-ins, kidnappings, watery worlds crowded bizarre
creatures, and mysterious hidden lane-ways inhabited by Fallowclan,
a kind of half-child, half-old woman. It was so enjoyable to let
off the handbrake and go hard at some fun, rollicking adventure,
and I’m really grateful to Paul and Michael for giving me
chance to get stuck into some fantasy. I hope you enjoy reading
it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Much has changed in the sky-city of Quentaris.
With the Archon dead, dark forces have come into play. New faces
are appearing, familiar ones vanishing, and the horrid Florian
has claimed the throne. Then, as Quentaris slips quietly through
a vortex into the watery world of the Yarka, Tab Vidler and her
friends suddenly realise they are the city’s only hope.
Plots, intrigue, magic, mystery, high adventure and more – everything
you’ve come to expect from the Quentaris series.
The Archon was dying. In his palace, beside the Square
of the People and in the shadow of the great mainmast and sails
that towered over Quentaris, the old man lay breathing his last.
The room was silent, save for the deep, sighing, gasping breaths
of the man who had spent so much of his life serving Quentaris.
His nephew Florian Eftangeny sat by his side, his plump face devoid
of emotion. It wasn’t Florian’s way to show anything
as weak as sadness.
In fact, the only emotions he’d ever been known to show were
anger, envy, bitterness, arrogance and occasionally fear. None
of the good emotions, like love, or empathy, or gentleness.
‘You may touch him, my lord,’ the court physician said in a whisper.
Florian grunted. ‘Why would I want to do that?’ ‘He’s
in pain, my lord. He might like you to hold his hand.’
Florian turned his head slightly. ‘In pain, you say?’
‘Yes, my lord.’
‘Then easeit!’ Spittle flew as Florian shouted at the
physician. ‘In the name of all that’s magical, man, give him something
to relieve him of it!’
The physician swallowed hard, gave a quick nod, and scurried out
of the room.
‘Melpeth,’ Florian snapped, pressing his fingertips to his temples.
The servant lad came over, bowing his head low. ‘Yes, my
‘Melpeth, I’m still waiting for the magicians.’
‘Yes, my lord,’ Melpeth murmured, quickly backing away with his
head still bowed. Then he too turned and scuttled out.
‘Idiots,’ Florian said. I’m surrounded by idiots.’
‘Why do you even want the magicians here?’ asked a voice from the
shadows that gathered amongst the wall hangings on the far side of the room. ‘What
do you think Stelka and her brood of gibberers are going to do for him now?’
‘They need to see this, Janus,’ Florian replied, flapping his hand
towards the tiny, shrunken man in the bed. ‘They need to see that it’s
gone too far now, even for them. They need to know that there’s nothing
that even they can do. That...’
‘That it’s your turn?’ Janus stepped forward into the light,
eyes still hidden by the dark triangular shadows of his brow. ‘Florian,
I’m only saying this because I’m your friend. I wouldn’t
say this to just anyone.’
Florian looked up. ‘What’s that? What do you need to
say to me?’
Janus walked across the cold marble floor on silent feet, stopped
in front of Florian, and dropped to one knee. ‘My lord,’ he
said. ‘It is your time.’
Florian’s eyes darted towards the Archon’s face. ‘Janus!
He’s not even dead yet!’
‘Florian. You know that there is the power that is assumed, and the power
that is taken, and they’re not equal. They never have been, never will
‘I course I know this – we studied the same texts,’ Florian
‘If your uncle dies now — if he simply stops breathing – you
will assume great power.
You’ll be leader of Quentaris...’