• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor



Last year, I mentioned Sam Sykes’s first book, THE TOME OF THE UNDERGATES. BLACK HALO is the second book in the AEON’S GATE trilogy, and even better than the first.

These books are epic fantasy. Meaning—I’m told—that characters and storylines are writ large. This is certainly true of BLACK HALO, which includes the most striking assemblage of vivid misfits ever to try to save the world (or at least themselves) from demons—and a jaw-dropping array of creepy opponents, ranging from six-foot purple-faced female elite troops and jewel-wielding sexual sadists to the Akaneed, a giant cross between jelly-fish and sea-serpent, especially dangerous when mating. Add in the Omens, a chorus of harpy-like doom-sayers, giant cockroaches with rainbow-colored farts, and green Schicts (don’t ask), and you can be reasonably sure that Our Heroes are in for adventure on a grand scale.

Add in the heroes’ personal problems—Asper, a priestess with a lethal left (not as in a talent for boxing; as in, people she touches with her left hand suddenly aren’t there anymore), Dreadaleon, a young wizard whose illicit use of magic causes his body to begin to break down (one of the more striking symptoms being flammable urine), Kataria, a Schict in love with a human but who has been taught to regard humanity as a disease, Lenk, the human in question, who is in love with Kataria but can’t pursue his feelings because there’s an ancient warrior inside his head who won’t have it, Denaos, a self-professed coward and professional assassin, whose dreams are more dangerous than anything he meets while awake, and Gariath, a red dragon-man who can’t quite figure out what he’s doing in the company of these morons but can’t bring himself to abandon them, either—and you have a True Epic, believe me.

I won’t even try to describe the plot, cool as it is. What you have here is a world of Highly Original fantasy, populated by people so real you occasionally want to punch them in the nose—when you aren’t rolling on the floor laughing at the things they say to each other.

You can read an excerpt from BLACK HALO here,

And here is an entertaining interview with Mr. Sykes.*

(Excerpt from interview):

What is it about your work that you would recommend to someone who had never read you before?

Sam Sykes: Vigor. Imagination. Energy.

The nicest thing anyone ever said about my writing was Scott Lynch suggesting I swing for the fences every time I write a sentence. I take this to be high praise of my skills with a baseball bat (shortly after saying this, he asked me to go hit people with said instrument) and also interpret it like this:

I don’t see a big reason not to do whatever the hell I want in writing. This entire genre was born on that idea and I have absolutely no qualms throwing everything I have into what I’m writing about, from the weirdest things with the deepest emotions to the mundane things twisted by their own philosophy.

To summarize it: I wrote a section in which a dragonman, driven to suicidal impulse by the sudden extinction of his species, takes a man’s failure to kill him as a personal insult and promptly stomps the poor fool’s crotch in.

You know you want it.

If you do want it,  click here for the Amazon link;  autographed copies are available from the Poisoned Pen bookstore–email patrick@poisonedpen.com .

Amended here to note that Sam just called to tell me that his first book, TOME OF THE UNDERGATES, has been short-listed for the David Gemmel Award for Best Fantasy Debut!  Yay, Sam!!

*Given that interview, I’m not sure I should admit this, but in the interests of Full Disclosure—Mr. Sykes has fifty percent of my DNA, which may have something to do with his style, if not his subject matter.

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31 Responses »

  1. Oh, yes, he must be related to you.

  2. So totally off topic, but last night I was reading this great book by Betty Webb, called Desert Run, and I nearly fell over when you dropped in! I had to go back and read the page a couple of times. Funnily enough, I’d been wondering earlier in the book why Scottsdale seems to be such an attractive place, since I remembered that you lived there as well. lol! Highly entertaining…I’ve been reading my way through everything my public library has that’s been published by the Poisoned Pen, and really enjoying most of it.

  3. I bought Sam’s first novel, but before I could read it – My 29 yr old son spotted it on a table and after a quick perusal – said “thanks Mom – this should last me until I get to Afghanistan” (he is a Marine). So i am awaiting the books return (and my son’s) on April 15th oe thereabouts. I have #2 on order!

  4. Well Diana, even without reading the interview or your comment below, you just need to see the last picture to know for sure that he is your son!!

  5. He definitely has your smile, Diana! (Oh, and maybe he inherited that inclination to push boundaries from you?) His books sound like something my husband will love.

  6. I have B&N’s Nook. Are they any plans to make the Aeon’s Gate series available for Nook?

  7. Diana,

    This is sooooooo neat! I remember years ago when all your kids were just that – KIDS! And now they are grown adults. Time flies. And now Sam is a published author – following in his mom’s footsteps. This is so cool! You must be so proud of them all.


  8. I just read his excerpt and realize I now have two favorite authors, and they are related. I didn’t think I would be too interested in the genre, but after the first chapter I was as hooked as I was for Outlander. I never thought it possible. Different genre same genes. :-)

  9. Where did Sykes come from? It dones not match either of the DNA contributors.

  10. Well, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, did it?!

  11. Dear All–

    Just to note, for those who read the post before I amended it, that Sam’s first book, THE TOME OF THE UNDERGATES, has just been short-listed for the David Gemmel Award for Best Fantasy Debut! Very Cool. {g}



  12. I bought The Tome of the Undergates on Diana’s recommendation but have been too busy rereading Outlander novels to get around to it as yet. Thanks for the mention of a second book.

  13. Ok, I’m heading out to go buy these books right now. Only good can come of this for two reasons; he’s your child and after reading the “about” page of his website I was nearly in tears from laughter.

    We’ll see how this goes. I wouldn’t normally be interested in this genre, but I didn’t think I was interested in 18th century time travel either… You must be the proudest mama, ever!

  14. Omg he’s funnier than basketball wives. I will read his books.

    • Dear Meghan–

      I’m sure he’ll appreciate the comparison! {g} He’ll certainly appreciate the readership. Thanks!


      • Well I purchased your son’s tome of a book, what a clever spawn you’ve got there, the jokes have started and I’ve only read the title page. This segues into my comment that he seems to be able to publish somewhat faster than you. Tome of the Undergates is published in 2010 and he’s already got Black Halo out? Do you two experience any friendly rivalry? I can see that he doesn’t have the same pesky issues of research with his material, but still fairly impressive.

  15. Ha ha – loved the interview & Sam’s attitude in general. Congratulations, Sam, and Mamma….you must be so proud! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Congratulations to Sam! Thank goodness I just got a coupon from Barnes and Noble, I see a trip to the book store for me.

  17. A wonderful interview and a rising star in the lit world. Congratulations to Sam!

  18. I can see just how proud you are Diana, you are very blessed!
    Still your Number One fan

  19. Congratulations to Sam and to you, too, Diana for doing such a great job raising him. It’s wonderful to see that you passed on more than just your beautiful smile.

    I will definitely try to get my hands on those books as soon as I can. Things here in Bahrain are so screwy lately it’s hard to plan things like trips to a bookstore, but they sound like great reads. Thanks for sharing them with all of us.

    • I know you can’t use this as a theme song but since the moment this has been named Transmissions from the Bunker , I alywas get opening sequences from games like Fallout stuck in my head. You know what I mean, eerie silence broken by the sound of wind sweeping across a desolate landscape surrounding a bunker in the middle of nowhere when suddenly you come across a radio that is playing static but every now and then you hear fragmented transmissions of some old song being played on a record player along with all the associated hisses and pops that we have come to expect from listening to an old 45. Perhaps you and Pastor Recoil can work on something using Myna since it does allow for online collaboration ..

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