A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.

What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.

About Darkhaven

Cover_image_DARKHAVEN_AFE_SmithAyla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

Book title: DARKHAVEN
Author: A.F.E. Smith
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release date: 2 July 2015 (ebook), 14 January 2016 (paperback)
Price: £1.99/$3.99 (ebook)

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Never mind Darkhaven, what about …?

“She descended a short flight of steps cut into a sheer rock face, and found herself on a ledge overlooking the lower rings of the city. Tiered roofs stretched down and out, red tiles and golden wood and grey-blue slate. She identified the dark smoke rising from the factories, as well as several lighter puffs of steam – travelling fast – which must be the trams that partly circled the lower rings. Even from here, with four rings behind her and only two ahead, the city merged into the horizon. She couldn’t make out where Arkannen ended and the rest of Mirrorvale began.”

A blog tour can feel rather self-indulgent, what with all the talking about myself and my book. So as part of the tour, I’m presenting a series of posts that recommend other books you might enjoy. Each post picks out some great fantasy novels that have a particular feature in common with Darkhaven.

Today’s list, and perhaps the one I found easiest to complete, is my Top Five books that are set in quirky cities. Because I love books that are set in quirky cities!

Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman9 July image 1

I had to start with this one! This is the book that defines urban fantasy, for me: Richard Mayhew helps an injured girl and finds himself drawn out of the London he knows into a fantastical underworld, London Below. There he meets a whole assortment of characters, faces many trials, and gradually learns to be at home in this strange new world. Of course, London is a city that lends itself to fantasy reimaginings, being complex and atmospheric and simply dripping with history. And ever since I read Neverwhere, I’ve loved the Underground map with a passion. Actually travelling on the Underground can be a cramped and tedious process, but if you can look up at the stops on the line you’re on and remember Night’s Bridge and the Black Friars and the angel Islington … well, it becomes a far more magical experience.

9 July image 2Mortal Engines – Philip Reeve

Since we’re on the subject of London, here’s an even more fantastical version of it. You can’t really beat the opening line of Mortal Engines: “It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.” So awesome! I love the idea of these moving cities – cities as predators and prey – and the rest of the book doesn’t disappoint.

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch9 July image 3

Scavenger_day19 liked Locke Lamora for various reasons, but strangely enough, it’s my memory of the setting that has stayed with me more than anything else. Camorr is one of those fantasy cities that feels completely and utterly real – as if the author didn’t invent it so much as live there for years. And the plot takes the characters into various parts of the city, allowing us to discover it naturally. A wonderful example of setting as character.

9 July image 4Viriconium – M. John Harrison

The name of the series and the city that ties it together – and if you want setting as character, here it is in spades! Viriconium itself is pretty much the central character, an unknowable and decaying city that lingers longer in the mind than any of the characters who populate it. The series consists of a set of three novels and several short stories, and it becomes increasingly abstract as the reality of the author’s created world begins to fade. It’s hard to describe Viriconium just a few sentences, but if you like your fantasy weird then this may be the one for you.

The City & the City China Miéville 9 July image 5

And finally, I can’t have a list of quirky cities without mentioning China Miéville. Most of his books feature weird and fascinating cities, but The City & the City is notable for the uniqueness of its concept. Without being too spoilery, the central premise is that the two cities in the book – Beszel and Ul Qoma – coexist in largely the same space, but the inhabitants of each are conditioned to see only their own city and ignore anything that belongs to the other. It’s a wonderfully imaginative book – and, of course, it makes a pertinent point about our own lives and the parts of our society that we consciously or unconsciously choose to ignore.

Note: pretty much any book by Terry Pratchett that’s set in Ankh-Morpork would also make this list, because Ankh-Morpork is another wonderfully vivid fantasy city – though perhaps not so much quirky, because the whole beauty of Ankh-Morpork is how familiar it feels. (Apart from the magic leaks around Unseen University, I guess.) But I already recommended Pratchett in my Top Five books that combine fantasy and murder, so I’d probably better not do it again 🙂

So, did I miss any out? Which books would you suggest?

A.F.E. Smith
Author of DARKHAVEN, coming 2 July 2015 from Harper Voyager
Website          Twitter          Facebook          Goodreads

About fairysockmother

I am a Harper Voyager, UK author. Among Wolves, the first in an adult fantasy trilogy was released 2015. Grim Tidings followed in 2016 and Before Winter concludes the series in 2017! I have 19 traditionally published children's books including: the Abby and the Book Bunch series and a 2 Readers' Theater series both published through Magic Wagon, a division of the ABDO Group, at My first picture book, "The Christmas Cats" was released by Pelican Publishing in 2011. I have reviewed YA material for VOYA magazine for almost 28 years. Follow me on Twitter as FairySockmother and visit my website:
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  1. Betty W says:

    I enjoyed reading about your top 5 books and I really can’t think of any to add other than J. R. R. Tolkien works! This sounds like a fascinating book! Thank you for the great post and contest!

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