Sunday, 25 February 2018

A Court of Myths and Legends

Good evening, voyants. 

Sorry I haven't updated this blog in such a long time. I've been hard at work on The Priory of the Orange Tree since I last updated, as well as doing a tonne of reading. I've been focusing on my Instagram and my newsletter, The Penny Post, as my main avenue of communication with my readers, but I've put so much of my heart into this blog for the last seven years (!) and I'm determined to keep updating it, even if those updates are sporadic.

Priory is so close to being done now. I'm getting my final edits back tomorrow, and after that I'll be on to copy-edits. For the last few weeks, I've been deep in conversation with Bloomsbury about the cover and maps for the book, and I think it's going to be beyond stunning. Emily Faccini, who designed the maps in the Bone Season books, is returning to illustrate it, and I couldn't be happier to be working with her again – she's a genius, and a lovely person to boot. Bloomsbury has also hired the most fantastic artist to design the jacket. I won't say who it is just yet, but his work is incredible. I feel so fortunate that my publisher believes in this book to the extent they do, and is doing so much to make it a thing of beauty. 

I'm sure many of you are wondering what's going on with the Bone Season series while I'm busy with a separate project. Don't worry – I'm working on it! My hope was that Priory would be out this year, but as usual, I underestimated how long everything takes in adult publishing. Priory is scheduled for early 2019, so I suspect, since Bloomsbury has never published me twice in the same year, that TBS4 will be out in early 2020. While I know this is much later than you might have expected, I've successfully pitched a Bone Season novella, in the vein of The Pale Dreamer, that I hope will be out in mid-2019 and will help to break up the wait. After that, I'm going to work myself to the bone so I can to get at least some of the remaining Bone Season books out on a yearly basis. (No promises, as I suspect the last three instalments will be longer than the others and will therefore take a touch longer to write, but I'll do my best.) I'm so excited to be returning to TBS4 in April – I suspect this is going to be my favourite book in the series so far – and I'm hoping to have a complete draft by July.

I have a Bone Season-related post for you tonight. For a long time, I've wanted to talk about how I came up with the names of the Unnatural Assembly. I did a Twitter thread on it recently and thought I'd post it here as well. 

Fantasy and folklore are banned in Scion, considered dangerous and likely to spark unnatural thinking. Many of the mime-lords and mime-queens of Scion London, in defiance of this, have named themselves after figures of legend. 


1) Haymarket Hector, according to the Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang, was 17th – 19th century slang for a ‘whore’s bully’ – a pimp. Hector on its own, according to the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, means ‘bully, a swaggering coward’, which suits our Underlord. Hector is seen as a pimp-like figure because he takes excessive cuts of money from his subjects while intimidating them and doing no work.

2) The Abbess. Late 18th – 19th century slang for the female keeper of a brothel; a procuress. The Abbess owns a ‘night parlour’ – a voyant brothel. The Monk, her mollisher, is an extension of this. In Scion, all religion is banned. To be an abbess or a monk is treason.

3) Mary Bourne. This one comes from the origin of the name Marylebone, the London district controlled by this mime-queen. The name of the area comes from St Marylebone Parish Church, which was once known as St Mary of the Bournebourne being a small river.

4) The White Binder. Binder, of course, comes from Jaxon's gift. But why white? It refers to the Biblical seven seals, which feature in the Book of Revelation and secure a scroll only the Lamb (i.e. Jesus) can open. Opening the first four seals releases the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The first horsemen, who represents Conquest, rides a white horse. Paige's syndicate name, the Pale Dreamer, is also a combination of a gift and a Biblical reference. The pale horse, ridden by the fourth horseman, represents Death.

5) Ognena Maria. Meaning Fiery Mary, the name refers to a Slavic fire goddess who was assistant to the thunder god, Perun. Maria is a pyromancer, connecting to the æther through fire.

6) Spring-heel'd Jack. A sinister figure of English urban legend, stories of this demon-like menace begin in London in 1837. Named for his ability to leap to incredible heights, Jack supposedly caused problems for a number of people in England over several decades. Some said he could breathe fire. Others said he had metal claws. His attacks, like those of the London Monster, were largely on women. Though an arrest was made, the bizarre matter of Spring-heel'd Jack was never resolved – so I thought I'd reincarnate him in Scion London. The mime-lord doesn't attack people unprovoked, but he does giggle demonically.  He's based on this 1904 imagining of Spring-heel'd Jack.

7) Jimmy O'Goblin. This one is Cockney rhyming slang for a sovereign, a kind of coin. Jimmy uses it to literally mean sovereign, as in king.

8) The Glass Duchess. From slang ‘a woman of an imposing presence’ (from around 1690). Glass for her gift – captromancy, or mirror-reading.

9) Ark Ruffian. 18th century slang. A rogue who robbed people on the water. (Like an aspiring pirate.) Ark is a hydromancer.

10) The Rag and Bone Man. First things first – no, he is not named after the rapper styling himself Rag'n'Bone Man. From the 19th century, rag-and-bone men would walk the streets with their carts, collecting unwanted scraps – including rags and bones. They would then sell these scraps on. Although the profession had its heyday in the Victorian era, people do still work as rag-and-bone men. If you've read The Mime Order, you might have figured out why the mime-lord calls himself this – but I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't.

11) Bloody Knuckles. From a game where players punch each other's fists for as long as they can bear it. This mime-lord likes a fist fight.

12) The Wicked Lady. The nickname of Katherine Ferrers, a 17th-century English heiress who was said to moonlight as a highway-woman.

13) The Bully-Rook. Used in the 16th century to refer to a boon companion or ‘jolly comrade’, but later came to mean ‘a boisterous, hectoring fellow’.

14) The Mudlark Prince. Mudlark is an 18 - 19th century term for those who scavenged in the river for items of value – a practice still enjoyed today.

15) Madam Speaker. Refers to the position of Speaker in the House of Commons, which has not existed for over a century in the world of Scion.

16) The Fifth Sister. This one refers to the district of Seven Sisters in London. The mime-queen is a fifth-order clairvoyant.

17) Tom the Rhymer. Named after Thomas de Ercildoun, also known as Thomas the Rhymer, a 13th-century Scottish laird who was said to have been unable to lie, a gift bestowed upon him by the Queen of Elfland.

8) The Glym Lord. From glym-jack, another name for a link-boy. Link-boys would be employed in olden times to light pedestrians' way through the dangerous streets with a torch. Glym means lantern. In Scion, glym-jacks are employed to protect denizens from unnaturals, and carry a distinctive green lantern. Glym took this name because he has a green aura, making him a kind of unnatural glym-jack.

19) Redcap. This mime-queen names herself after the bloodthirsty goblins that are said to dwell on the border between England and Scotland. Redcaps wear hats dyed with blood. Should the blood ever dry out, the recap will die. The mime-queen, too, wears a red hat. Is it dyed with blood? The syndicate suspects so.

20) The Buried King. Named after the London district of Kingsbury. His mollisher, the Buried Queen, is named after – you guessed it – Queensbury.

21) The Pearl Queen. This one is partly a reference to the Pearly Kings and Queens, or pearlies – a working-class tradition that supports charitable causes. Pearlies are famous for their ornate suits, decorated with mother-of-pearl buttons. The mime-queen names herself after her rare gift – margaritomancy, or voyance with pearls. Her mollisher is her spouse, the Pearl King.

22) Faceless. A reference to the mask this mime-queen wears, which has no features – modelled on the Japanese faceless ghost, the Noppera-bō. The mime-queen ‘sees’ with her sixth sense.

23) The Lord Costermonger. Costermonger is a dated term for a merchant, especially one who sells from a cart. Used since the 16th century. This mime-lord was previously a costermonger.

24) The Heathen Philosopher. Archaic slang for ‘a sorry poor tattered Fellow, whose Breech may be seen through his Pocket-holes.’ (No clever story behind this one. Just thought it was too absurd not to include.)

25) The Wretched Sylph. This one I pinched from The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope.

26) The Faithful Raven. Refers to the legend that the day the six resident ravens leave the Tower of London, both the monarchy and Britain itself will fall. The monarchy has already fallen in The Bone Season, and the ravens long since flown, but this mime-queen considers herself the last true royalist.

27) Charley Truthteller. This mime-queen's name used to work as a charlatan, giving false palm readings, before she figured out she was a soothsayer.

28) The Guy. Named after the effigy of Guy Fawkes traditionally burned on Bonfire Night. It used to be common to make a guy and collect money by saying "Penny for the guy?"

29) Captain Card-Sharp. A mix of the slang Captain Sharp, referring to a cheating, bullying sort of character, and card sharp – one who uses deception to win games. This mime-lord specifically enjoys cheating at tarocchi, a tarot card game.

30) The Ferryman. Named after Charon, who ferries the souls of the dead across the River Styx in Greek mythology.

31) Seer Green. Named for the gift of the mime-lord, who is a seer, and for the eponymous village from which he hails.

32) The Hare. A reference to the March Hare. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was one of the last fantasy books to be published before Scion cracked down on fantastical literature.

33) The Lady of the Manor. This mime-queen is named after Ruislip Manor, where I grew up.

34) Slyboots. From 18th-century English slang for a cunning or crafty person.

35) Jenny Greenteeth. A green-skinned river hag of English folklore who drags children and the elderly to their deaths in the water.

36) The Winter Queen. This mime-queen is a cryomancer – her numen is ice. Also a reference to Elizabeth Stuart, known by this sobriquet for her brief reign as queen.

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