Fantasy author Jon Courtenay Grimwood takes readers behind the scenes of his new novel, The Fallen Blade, which is an RT Top Pick! RT reviewer S.L. Rosania says readers "can really feel and smell" the author's 15th century Venice, brought to life with dangerous intrigue, dark secrets and all sorts of things that go bump in the night.
So how do you pin down a love story between a living girl and a boy who isn't quite sure what he is other than not entirely normal? Then throw in werewolves and witches, introduce the first vampire in Europe, and try to make it feel as real as possible? For me the answer was simple! Set the story in Venice, and set it during the 15th Century, when the city was at its corrupt and glittering best.
The thing about real life Venice - apart from the fact it really is the city of lovers, and probably the strangest place most of us will ever have a chance to go - it that it drips history. Every street and canal and little square has a story. There are a handful of concrete and glass buildings in the city; but they are very very few, and half the quays and streets with new in their names are already centuries old.
That made it a joy to write. Since all I had to do to create the medieval street scenes in The Fallen Blade was leave out the newer buildings, and use the rest as a backdrop for my spies and assassins! Every place mentioned in the book is real. So is every building (even if I've sometimes moved a house a street or so).
Venice also comes with a perfect Duke's palace, so perfect it could have been made by a baker from spun sugar. That gave me where Lady Giulietta lived. And the gilded, high-domed basilica next door gave me where she met the apprentice assassin Tycho, when she was kneeling in prayer and he was high on a balcony behind her.
The lagoon just beyond the palace's balcony window was where Tycho's ship had anchored. So I could see all the main places I needed to start the story simply by turning in a circle.
And famously Venice is a city without cars, where porters bend double under the weight of sacks as they carry them over bridges, and men drag handcarts through narrow streets, laden with goods they've unloaded from a barge in a canal three streets away. A slower, more immediate way of life than most of us live.
I tried hard to capture that sense of a living city for the book. Mixing real churches and palaces and events stolen from the city's 15th Century history with made-up characters and magic, so everything jelled together and felt real.
- Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Take your own trip through the author’s mysterious Venice in The Fallen Blade on shelves now!