Today we welcome Icy Sedgwick, one of the newest authors who’s part of the Darkness and Dismay line here at Dark Continents. Icy’s stopped by today to share the cover for upcoming novella, The Necromancer’s Apprentice, and to talk a little about her world building. Over to you, Icy!
When it comes to writing, I’m very much in the “What if…” camp. The Necromancer’s Apprentice began in such a way – I’d just watched the godawful Nicholas Cage version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and said to my companion, “Imagine if you replaced the sorcerer with a necromancer.” Well you can’t just leave an idea like that hanging, so the more I thought about it, the more the brooms became mummies (specifically royal mummies, intended to be resurrected for a Coronation parade) and the more Mickey became Jyximus Faire, an over-eager student of magick who ends up wielding forces he can’t control.
However, I like to think The Necromancer’s Apprentice isn’t just a retread of a familiar tale. After all, Fantasia doesn’t give us much back story or view of the world beyond Mickey’s immediate experience. For The Necromancer’s Apprentice, I wanted to come up with a world that I’d want to visit, and I devised a city of two halves, in which the Underground City forms the slum and home of the undesirables, and the City Above is a light, airy metropolis aspired to by those underground.
The Underground City first came into being when I took a trip to Edinburgh in March 2012, and I visited the labyrinthine Blair Street Vaults, and the famous Mary King Close, that was closed off and built over, leaving a network of alleys below street level.
The design of the Underground City owes a lot to the Old Town of Edinburgh, with its narrow streets and tall buildings. By comparison, the City Above is a mish-mash of my favourite European cities, favouring the canals of Venice and the ornate boulevards of Madrid or Bonn. I think it’s understandable that a writer would take from those places that they know, or have visited – it’s an easy way to form a mental picture of a place, which can then be populated with specifics.
Indeed, since first conceptualising the Underground City, it’s since been home to several Friday flash stories, each exploring the slightly weird and fantastical goings on of the place, and it’s my intention to keep writing these to continue uncovering more of its history and customs.
Yet as much as I love the two cities, the main location of The Necromancer’s Apprentice is that of the House of the Long Dead, situated on the edge of the City Above. Home to Eufame Delsenza, the Necromancer General, the House performs several functions within its society, a society which doesn’t view death in quite the same final way that Western society does. Not only does Eufame oversee the preservation of the dead, she also conducts research, particularly into alchemy, and entertains visiting dignitaries.
It’s this huge opportunity for learning that allows Jyx to overcome any distaste he might feel at working with the dead, and he essentially swaps his home in the Underground City for a new home in the underground labs of the House. The design of the House itself owes a lot to Egyptian aesthetics, with its black marble walls and striking portraits in profile, and there are a lot of other Egyptian influences in the novella, from Eufame’s cat Bastet, to statues of deities such as Thoth, as well as the Wolfkin, dog-headed men descended from Anubis who help Eufame in her work.
The Wolfkin are not to be confused with werewolves – they form part of the tradition of cynocephali that appear throughout mythology. I’m absolutely nuts about ancient Egypt, so I suppose it’s understandable that the book would be populated with figures associated with Egyptian myth or funerary practices. I’m really proud of the story I’ve ended up telling and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the characters do next! You can see some more of the images that inspired the book on my Pinterest board, and read the short stories set in the Underground City.
Cover illustration by Daniël Hugo, design by Carmen Begley.
Though Jyximus Faire lives in a crumbling tenement in the Underground City, he escapes the squalor daily to attend lessons in magic and sorcery at the prestigious Academy in the City Above.
But the pace isn’t fast enough for Jyx. He wants to learn everything—and he wants to learn it now. Then the dread necromancer general Eufame Delsenza sets her sights on Jyx; she needs a new apprentice, and Jyx fits the bill. When she tasks him with helping to prepare royal mummies for an all-important procession, he realises this might be a chance of a lifetime.
Will Jyx’s impatience lead to him taking his education into his own inexperienced hands, and can a necromancer’s apprentice really learn to raise the dead—and control them?