There are times when you look at your submission pile and just quail at a) the sheer amount there is to get through and b) how many of those nasty old rejection letters you’ll have to send out after reading them.
So you trawl through submission after submission, looking and hoping for something to make your pulse rate jump. And then suddenly there’s a glint, a sparkle - you tear eagerly through the letter, the pitch letter - hell - even the synopsis and then you start reading the three chapters. Eagerly you approach the author just praying that the rest of the book lives up to the promise of what you’ve seen already. And it does! Then you contact the author again, you speak, you get on, you both agree about what needs doing to the book and, finally you offer representation. All the while you’re hoping that you’ve beaten the competition to it, and you’re not going to be involved in a pitched battle for this author because you REALLY, REALLY love the writing and have such a clear vision for the book. That author then agreeing to work with you is unbelievably exciting.
Agents don’t take on huge numbers of clients. Any writer they sign up, they feel are extraordinary. And my newest client is no exception. C. T. Rwizi has written a wonderful epic fantasy set in a landscape inspired by the history of southern and eastern Africa and its myths and magic. Currently called Scarlet Odyssey, this fabulously original and diverse story pulls you into the world from the very first page.
In a culture where magic and education are considered womanly arts, bookish, magic-loving Salo is a pariah, an embarrassment to his father the chief, and the polar opposite of his warrior twin brother. When a witch attacks his kraal, Salo is forced to reveal just how far he has ventured into the world of magic. However, he must go further still if he is to save his people. All the way to the Jungle City in the hope of becoming an Oracle.
Isa watched as her entire family were murdered and barely escaped with her life. Now she has been thrust into the position of King of the Jungle City and ruler of the ten BaYonte clans - a responsibility she never wanted but is determined to succeed at. While usurpers plot to carry out a genocide against her people, Isa must find a way to unite the clans and find a way to bring peace to these troubled lands - even if it costs her soul.
Working in a shanty town as a bodyguard wasn’t exactly what Ilapara had intended when she left home. But there was no place for her in a tribe who refused to accept a female warrior. When she encounters the young Yerezi man seeking his way to the Jungle City she is intrigued. Salo holds powers he shouldn’t be able to wield - how can he possibly look to become an Oracle, a role traditionally only held by women? And what secrets from his past are driving him?
As the two travel towards the civil-war torn Jungle City accompanied by a mysterious wanderer from across the far northern desert, whose tales of the people outside their lands hints at a culture far more technologically and magically advanced than their own, they have no idea that all of them are but mere pawns in a much larger game, and whose mysterious players are quietly making their final moves.
Comparable to Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, with fabulously original characters and brilliant world building, reading this novel was just a pure pleasure. Incredibly filmac and visual, there are tronic animals - hybrids of organic and machine; a magic system built on hexglyphs and ciphers, and the cultural clashes of the different tribes and their individual animal totem attributes - it’s stunning and I cannot wait for you to see it.
C. T. Rwizi is a young debut author who grew up in Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Gaining a scholarship, he received a BA in Government from Dartmouth College in 2014 and has since returned to South Africa where he works in his family’s local business. Scarlet Odyssey is his first novel.
Collin has this to say about his inspiration for writing this book: ‘I’ve been an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy ever since I got lost in the pages of Dune, Mistborn and Pandora’s Star back in high school. Those stories set fire to my imagination and it hasn’t cooled since.
That said, one thing that has always dissatisfied me about this, otherwise fabulous, genre is its rather limited representation of Africa and its people, or just dark-skinned folk in general. I craved to read about the dark-skinned brooding knight with a troubled past, or the dark-skinned, alluringly beautiful assassin, or the dark-skinned ruthlessly ambitious prince or princess. I longed to lose myself in a sprawling political epic fantasy inspired by sub-Saharan Africa and its many cultures.
Sadly, though, there doesn’t seem to be much of this in existence. There are definitely some notable exceptions, and I’m glad to say there’s a recent move in that direction, but it could go a lot further.
Hence this book. I realized that instead of waiting for someone else to write the kind of book I wanted to read, perhaps I could attempt the daunting task of writing it myself. It was nothing but an experiment at first, just to see if I had it in me, but somewhere along the line it evolved into something more; to use a cliché, I found myself in the pages of my manuscript. I found my passion, and I realized that this was something I’d want to do for the rest of my life. And now I’m glad to say I’ve found someone who’ll help me achieve that goal.
I’m very excited to have signed with Julie. From our discussions I’m quite certain she’ll help me craft the manuscript into a better book and find a great home for it; I can’t wait to see how the wider public responds to my work. My hope is to encourage more African writers and writers of colour in general to enter the genre. I strongly believe that diversity will only make it richer.’
Watch this space!