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Riding the Serpent's Back by Keith Brooke

Riding the Serpent
Riding the Serpent

With his health failing, the great mage Donn has chosen to pass on his Talents to a new generation: an old era is drawing to a close, a new era about to begin. But with change comes instability. War looms and a rogue church leader threatens to set loose the wild powers of the First City. Donn's children must oppose this man but, also, they must contend with Donn himself: the old mage has not finished with his children yet.

On the run from the religious repression of the mainland, Leeth Hamera joins a group of outcasts on the Serpent's Back, a continually changing island continent in the middle of a lava sea. Leeth has never lived up to the expectations of his wealthy merchant family and his only magical skill is the lowly Talent of bonding with animals. But, as he learns, the greatest Talents can sometimes be the slowest to emerge.

The leader of the outcasts is Chi, son of Donn and the greatest healer of his generation. Chi is in exile for breaking the Embodied Church's edict against intervening in the natural order: many years ago Chi used his skills to revive his son from the dead. That son, Lachlan Pas, is now a church leader tortured by the guilty knowledge of what his father had to do to return him to life. When he learns Chi is still alive, he orders his execution, determined that his secret should never be exposed.

Until now, Chi has been content to live in exile but now he knows that his son's insane and cruel rule must be stopped. Chi summons his half-siblings from throughout the inhabited lands of the Rift valley. The need for action is confirmed when one of them reveals that Lachlan and his mage, Oriole, are rebuilding the ancient city of Samhab - an act which will release the powers of the earth with unforeseeable consequences.

Welcome to the magical island city of Zigané, endlessly adrift in the southern lava sea; the searing soda plains home of the Morani warriors; the impenetrable Zochi jungle, full of illusion and hidden hazard; the charmed fortress-like City of the Divine Wall; and Samhab, the fantastic First City of the True, built at the geographical centre of the Rift, where the magical powers of the earth rise up to be set free by the earth-charmers and mages. The novel's cast of shape-changers, earth-charmers, healers and illusionists must battle to save civilization from the evil rule of Lachlan Pas and his followers.

For whoever controls the power of Samhab controls the future of the world.


"Keith Brooke's prose achieves a rare honesty and clarity, his characters always real people, his situations intriguing and often moving." World Fantasy Award-winner Jeff VanderMeer

"A progressive and skilful writer." Peter F Hamilton, author of the Night's Dawn trilogy

"In the recognized front ranks of SF writers." Locus

one of our bestsellers
Published: 23 Sep 2014

Keith Brooke

Keith Brooke's first novel, Keepers of the Peace, appeared in 1990, since when he has published seven more adult novels, six collections, and over 70 short stories.

Keith's novel Genetopia was published by Pyr in February 2006 and was their first title to receive a starred review in Publishers Weekly; The Accord, published by Solaris in 2009, received another starred PW review and was optioned for film.

His most recent novel, Harmony (published in the UK as alt.human), is a big exploration of aliens, alternate history and the Fermi paradox published in 2012 by Solaris and shortlisted for the Philip K Dick Award.

2012 also saw publication of Strange Divisions and Alien Territories: the Sub-genres of Science Fiction, an academic exploration of SF from the perspectives of a dozen top authors in the field (edited by Keith Brooke, published by Palgrave Macmillan).

Writing as Nick Gifford, his teen fiction is published by Puffin, with one novel also optioned for the movies by Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish's Caveman Films.

He writes reviews for the Guardian, teaches creative writing at the University of Essex, and lives with his wife Debbie in Wivenhoe, Essex.

more infinity plus books by Keith Brooke:

Expatria: the box set Parallax View infinity plus: quintet The Accord Genetopia Jurassic and the Great Tree Lord of Stone Head Shots infinities Liberty Spin: tales of scientifiction Faking It: accounts of the General Genetics Corporation Memesis: modifiction and other strange changes Segue: into the strange Embrace: tales from the dark side

the infinity plus shuffle:

The Girl with One Friend (The Factory Girl Trilogy #2) Jurassic and the Great Tree Spotted Lily One More Unfortunate The Accord One Step Closer infinity plus: quintet Segue: into the strange Ghostwriting Blue Shifting