Steveley's new novel is Skullsworn, a standalone.
Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Silk, by Alessandro Baricco, is a stunning novella that’s one part fairy tale, one part historical fiction, and one part heartbreaking romance. It tells the tale of Hervé Joncour, a merchant who travels the world to find silkworm eggs to sell in the French town where he lives. As the European and African silkworms succumb to disease, he must travel further and further, leaving his wife, Hélène, for months at a time. At last, his travels bring him to Japan, where he falls in love with a woman to whom he never speaks.Visit Brian Staveley's website.
The story covers years and thousands of miles, but rather than try to render everything, Baricco chooses his moments. Joncour will cross all of Europe and Asia in a short paragraph, but then we get the chance to linger on exchanges like this:
For days Hervé Joncour continued to lead a retired life; he was hardly seen in the town, and spent his time working on the plan for the park that sooner or later he would build. He filled sheets and sheets with strange designs that looked like machines. One evening Hélène asked him,This exchange constitutes perhaps ten percent of the total dialogue between the two, and it is from such delicate miniatures that we are asked to reconstitute their entire inner lives. Reading this book is like glimpsing an elegant hand—the nail polish, the lines in the palm, the fine and faded scars, the rings—and imagining an entire life. That simple fact that, in the above passage, Joncour keeps his eyes on the page, tells us volumes about his mental and emotional state, as well as the condition of his marriage. Baricco relies on details like this throughout. As a result, when we arrive at the end, which has a heartrending twist, we are forced to see anew every aspect of the story, even the seemingly inconsequential details.
“What is it?”
“It’s an aviary.”
“And what is its purpose?”
Hervé Joncour kept his eyes fixed on those drawings.
“You fill it with birds, as many as you can, then one day, when something lovely happens to you, you open the doors and watch them fly away.”
This is a gorgeous story about love, sacrifice, and the temptations, opportunities, and dangers of the human imagination. I can’t recommend it enough.
The Page 69 Test: The Providence of Fire.