Thursday 4 October 2018

Extract: The Black Prince by Adam Roberts

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I am thrilled to be on the blog tour today for The Black Prince by Adam Roberts - an intriguing story adapted from an original script written by Anthony Burgess. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to read the book - shall we have a sneak peek from chapter one?

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There are many kinds of flood and not all are water. Here’s France, green and grey beneath a sloping blue sky, and wholly submerged by war. The House Valois is a tall house, but only its rooftop tiles and the pennant flying from its flagpole remain visible, so high has the flood risen. Those who walk on the earth are drowned, the common folk, the men and women. Those who sail in ships float above the inundation. This castellated English ship, for instance, lively over the waves, and made of wood as a coffin is made of wood.

When he is on land this Black Prince rides a prancing horse; and when he is at sea this Black Prince rides a prancing ship. Clouds drag bridal trains of rain behind them as they sweep from sea to land. The Prince is on deck, unmindful of the drizzle on his face. He is looking forward. In between the folds of cloth-like rain he can glimpse fresh beaches, green fields.

The French coast.

The rainbow sign was a promise that there would be no more waterfloods, but this great wash is liker unto fire than water and there is no Noah (no, no) can save the French now.

King Edward, third of that name, rides a still grander boat, a wooden castle, a barracks, a stable, a storehouse. Below decks was coughing and demons, swearing and shitting and drinking, and tied-up horses skittering unhappily on the angling and tipping wooden floor. Hooves tattoo. Rat-tats that make the rats scatter. Too exhausted to whinny. Boys exhausted by trying to calm them. Wipe flanks with tattered cloths. The cabins at the rear of the boat are where the quality hunker, holding in the contents of their sloshy stomachs. Life on hard land has not prepared them for this. Now they are not on land, but over it: suspended many hundreds of feet over the mud and rocks of the channel bed, where strange sea life creeps and pulses, and immemorial weeds grow in sodden forests, and bodies lie thousands upon thousands, grasping at one another or at empty brine or phlebasing their way into oblivion as currents tug their bones apart and crustacea nibble at their flesh.

The king is helped through the slushy sand and foaming waves, up onto the beach. The drizzle is thinning and the sun is coming out. The horses are hauled, and pushed, and coaxed down planks to the dryness.

Mount! Mount!

Noah rides a high-stepping horse, draped and harnessed in finery. He is returning to the high ground where he first berthed his big boat. When I was last here, he says, and the wind sends his beard sideways, like a comet’s tail, when I was last here this was the only land.

He has attendants, bannermen, servants, lords and high-born warriors, all clustering about him.

—Your Highness?

—Your Highness! Your Highness!

Under the sunlight, the view has the brightness and perfection of an illustrated manuscript: greens soaked in blue-light, silver shining armour, red and golden standards, all the colours new washed and gorgeous. The party rides, keeping the sea on their left hand. Light leaps, a gorgeous ribbon of prisming colour from cloud to horizon.

Think thou of all the bloatingdrowned Tangling belowWho died before they ever saw This rainbow. 

It seems to me a cruelty of That fierce judge whoWould take their all from them, and life, And then this beauty too


If this short extract from the book has awakened your curiosity, The Black Prince is available to buy now.

Will you be getting a copy? Let me know in the comments below!