Em's place

Writing, anxiety-wrangling, tea.

A scattering of Split Worlds news

By Emma on July 15, 2014

It’s been a while since I wrote about the Split Worlds, but now there are three things I want to mention – oh, four actually – so I thought I’d jot them all down here.

British Fantasy Awards shortlist

Between Two Thorns has been shortlisted in two categories in the British Fantasy Awards: Best Fantasy Novel and Best Newcomer. I’m desperately excited about this. Sorry to report it late, but the shortlist was announced when I was still really quite ill.

The Locus Best of 2013 poll

I’m delighted to report that Between Two Thorns made it into the top 25 fantasy novels of 2013! It was voted in at #23 and considering the majority of the 22 books that came before it were written by very well known authors published by the giant publishing houses, I’m really quite chuffed. Thanks to everyone who voted (and apologies for not letting people know about the vote, again, another thing that passed me by in surgery and recurrent complications land). Also thanks to the ever lovely Gareth L. Powell for letting me know.

Now onto artwork!

The fabulously talented Jennie Gyllblad announced she was doing a special offer on portraits and I leapt at the chance to have one drawn of Cathy (Jennie was kind enough to agree as it’s trickier to paint a portrait without a reference photo). Here’s a snippet of the scene it’s based upon:

He took a step back, looking her up and down as the faerie scowled at her. “Do you know the story of Cinderella?”

She nodded, unable to speak, the dread clogging her throat.

“It must have been one of your favourites?”

“It couldn’t have been,” the faerie said before she could reply. “In Cinderella it was her sisters who were ugly.”
Lord Poppy swatted it away. It flew up into one of the trees and stamped its foot on a branch.

“Doesn’t every girl dream of being Cinderella?”

“I didn’t,” Cathy admitted, truth being the best policy in Exilium.

His face fell. “Really? Another surprise. You seem to be woven out of them. I want to keep you. I don’t care about contracts made in the Nether anyway, only those made in Exilium really count for anything.”

“But… but you said I was needed in Aquae Sulis!”

“Oh, yes, that’s true,” he sighed. “Well, that settles it. You will be my Cinderella–”

“I could just miss the ball,” she offered, not liking where he was going.

“No! I won’t hear of it! It’s the first ball of the season, and I want my new favourite to be there, and be the centre of attention.”


“Enough!” he said and she shut her mouth. “I have never met a mortal with so many words ready to interrupt! Why are you making such a fuss? Any young woman in the Great Families would give many years of their life to have what I’m about to give you.”

She had to accept that whatever he was going to do, it was going to be awful and inevitable.

“But before you go,” he said, lifting her chin, “let me give you some advice, to help with your third wish. Send a servant into Mundanus to purchase canvases and paints. The rest will become clear.”

“I can’t paint!”

“You should try,” he replied. “I want you to fulfil your potential. You wouldn’t want to disappoint me, would you?”

“No, my Lord,” she said, focusing on the grass and poppy flowers instead of his black eyes.

“Excellent. Now…” He stooped to pick one of the poppies at his feet and then blew gently across its petals. “Close your eyes. Good. Now breathe in deeply.”

She felt a petal tickle her chin as she breathed in the scent. In Mundanus the red poppy was scentless, but in Exilium it smelt divine. She felt dizzy, then a tingling on her skin and her shoulders felt bare. Something was tickling her legs and she felt a slight pressure around her waist. With horror she realised the robe had gone, replaced by something much lighter.

“Don’t open your eyes until I tell you,” he whispered in her ear. “Now, as much as I want to stay and play with you, I understand Lady Rose will be at Court today and I wouldn’t want to miss the look on her face when I mention your name.” He sighed like a sated lover. “I will watch your progress with interest, Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver.” She felt his hand on her back, a tingling across her face and chest as something changed in front of her. “Open your eyes!” he said and pushed her forwards.

She felt the gentle brush of the threshold between Exilium and the Nether across her face as she stumbled through. She was at one of the side entrances of the ballroom in the Aquae Sulis Assembly Rooms, usually kept closed during the minuets so that people didn’t stray onto the dance floor and interrupt the dance.

As she just had.

The music stopped and the dancers moved back, startled by the sudden appearance of a young woman staggering into their midst. A dreadful silence filled the room as she stood shivering, every eye upon her.

Cathy by Jennie Gyllblad

Cathy by Jennie Gyllblad

The faces blurred into a tableau of expressions ranging from shock to amusement. She looked down, seeing a gown made of poppy petals floating out from her waist to mimic the shape of a ball gown. The petals were clinging to her upper body like they were held by a static charge but she was decent at least, and wearing shoes so soft they felt like they’d been stitched out of petals too. Her hair felt strange.She couldn’t lift her face as she felt the attention upon her, a thousand memories resurfacing: of saying the wrong thing, tripping over skirts, sneezing at exactly the wrong time and all the agonising moments in between. She was eight again, standing next to the piano, her family, the Irises, the Censor and Master of Ceremonies all watching and waiting for her to sing and nothing but the dying croak of a sick bullfrog emerging. Over the years she’d soaked up the disappointed expressions as people saw her plain features after admiring her beautiful sister, the kindest in Society offering a maddening pity instead, none of them wondering whether there was a sharp mind beneath. And, all the while, the awful urge to laugh in the tight, nervous staccato the fear always brought with it.

Isn’t it gorgeous?

And last but not least, I was sent this astounding piece of art by another absurdly talented artist (and Split Worlds fan) Jess Legon.
Amazing Split Worlds logo by Jess Legon
How amazing is that?!

Right, I’m off to make something out of fabric and then something out of words. Stay frosty.

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