One month ago yesterday, THE PRIVILEGE OF THE SWORD audiobook went on sale (on Audible.com and iTunes), courtesy of Neil Gaiman Presents!To celebrate that, we're running a little contest.*** It has to do with a very important element in TPOTS (yes, I pronounce it "teapots"): the mysterious book known as
"The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death."**
It is the Book that our heroine, Lady Katherine Talbert, finds in the Mad Duke Tremontaine's library, which at first inspires and then infuriates her, until she sees it again some time later:
It was my very own copy of The Swordsman Whose Name was not Death. I recognized the stain on the third page, where I had dripped apricot juice. I opened the book at random, expecting now to find it silly stuff. But it opened to Stella's escape from the city, right after she's lost the child and thinks Fabian's betrayed her, with Mangrove hot on her heels. No one could find that silly.
Stella wants to despair, but Tyrian won't let her. You have done tonight, he says, what ten thousand men could not. Now show your great enemies what one woman alone can do.
I am not alone, she says, and is about to make Tyrian very happy indeed when the hunting cats appear on the rooftops.
I did not read the book straight through. I read my favorite parts, and then the bits between them. Fabian still never practiced. Stella still nearly ruined everything by keeping secrets from those she should have trusted. But it didn’t seem to matter. If anything, I knew now that people were even stranger and more unpredictable than that, and that when we don’t know the truth about someone, we will make it up ourselves.
It is The Book Lady Artemisia Fitz-Levi's mother doesn't think much of:
“And don’t think I don’t know what kind of nonsense That Book’s put into your head. ‘Fabian,’ indeed. When we read it, my friends and I knew that he was a monster, a seducer and a cheat – we all agreed Tyrian was worth two of him – Helena Nevilleson was even planning to name her firstborn Tyrian, but her husband wouldn’t permit it. To put such a thing on the stage, and with the Black Rose, of all people….”
Because, Yes! Someone has adapted The Book for the stage!
“You mean – “ Artemisia caught her breath at the thought. “They are going to perform The Swordsman whose Name was Not Death – in a theatre?”
“It’s already been played! Lavinia Perry and Jane Hetley both have seen it, for Jane’s birthday.”
“Lavinia says that Henry Sterling as Fabian is a pale and feeble joke, though Jane says she’d marry him in an instant. But Lavinia has hardly a good word to say for the piece; she’s vexed that they’ve left out the entire bit about the hunting cats, though I can hardly see how they’d play that onstage. Jane says it doesn’t matter, because Mangrove’s repentance at the end is even more affecting than it is in the book. But Lavinia thinks it is not true to the spirit of the novel.”
But we'll let Artemisia's friend Lydia Godwin get the last word:
“Oh, dear,” sighed her mother, “it’s that awful piece of trash about the swordsman lover, isn’t it? My friends were mad for that book when we were young.”
“It’s not trash,” her daughter said. “It is full of great and noble truths of the heart. And swordfights.”
* * *
Literature, of course, is full of Imaginary Books, referred to in other works of fiction, but never actually published (on this planet, anyhow). What is your favorite Imaginary Book?*Just answer below in Comments. You've got til 5 p.m.EST September 7th to come up with something.
We will pick a winner based on ancient numerical systems, the position of the stars, and what I had for breakfast. The prize is a copy of the stunningly gorgeous, cloth-bound, gold-stamped, sewn binding'd Limited Edition Hardcover of TPOTS
from Small Beer Press.
*I do have my own favorite Imaginary Book. After Sept. 7th, I'll tell you what it is!
** Don't be confused by the fact that I have published a short story called "The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death." It also has The Book in it, but it is not The Book. You can, however, read it online here.
*** The Create Your Own TPOTS Cover contest
runs through Sept. 16th. Good luck!