The Fire Rises

Astlin - The Ophian Rising - Brian Niemeier

A picture speaks a thousand words, so I gave Astlin the floor for today's introductory remarks. I think she makes a good point. How about you?

Today's headline image depicts perennial fan favorite character Astlin of Tharis (formerly of Keth) in an updated Zadokim design. My promo artist Ashion did yeoman's work rendering Astlin as she will appear in the upcoming fourth and final book of the Soul Cycle, The Ophian Rising.

Please note: the above image is NOT THE BOOK'S COVER. That particular job was always reserved for the illustrious Marcelo Orsi Blanco. Marcelo reports that initial cover sketches will be done soon, and you can rest assured I'll share them with you.

It occurs to me that, thanks to the efforts of talented artists over more than a decade, we now have depictions of Astlin in each of her most prominent forms from the books.

WARNING: The following images and captions may present a mild spoiler risk to those who haven't yet read Nethereal and Souldancer. If you are one of them, you are strongly advised to read both award-worthy books and return here suitably enlightened.

With the preliminaries out of the way, I present the evolution of Astlin.

Astlin - Souldancer - Brian Niemeier
Imperfect Souldancer of fire from Nethereal and Souldancer by Kukuruyo

Perfect Astlin - Souldancer - Brian Niemeier
Perfected Souldancer of fire from Souldancer by Jeff Stachnick

Zadokim from Souldancer, The Secret Kings, and The Ophian Rising by Ashion

Note to J.J. Abrams and Larry Kasdan: it's possible to write an action girl who can swing a burning hurt stick and read minds without making her an insufferable Mary Sue agitprop vector. It's not a violation of some SFF blasphemy law to show female characters having vulnerabilities, making mistakes, and even plagued with besetting vices that sometimes gravely imperil herself and others.

If you've read the Soul Cycle, you know that Astlin possesses all of the aforementioned gifts and flaws. But she also has in abundance what far too many female protagonists lack: the humility and self-awareness to acknowledge her sins, face the consequences, and do everything in her considerable power to atone. It's no coincidence that she resonates with readers more than any other SC character except for Teg.

That's why she's earned the role of main protagonist in OR, which you can read a free preview of here. It's also why I've saved by far the most powerful, malicious, and horrifying villains for last.

The Ophian Rising is scheduled for a December 2017 release. You've still got time to read the previous three books, which are all on sale till Halloween. The first book, Nethereal, is only $0.99, and the whole Soul Cycle is now less than $9.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

Full disclosure: my newsletter subscribers got an advance look at the new promo image yesterday. If you'd like early access to promotional and cover concept art, plus first dibs on special book deals, giveaways, and more, I highly recommend signing up for my newsletter. New subscribers also get The Hymn of the Pearl for free. Be assured, I don't spam people. Ask anybody.

If you like today's featured artwork, Ashion is currently taking submissions. [WARNING: Some NSFW images (We already knew #GamerGaters are wacky libertines. Plus, she's gotta pay the light bill).]


  1. Brian,
    The books are on sale at Amazon.com but the Canadian site had it at the regular price. No biggie but a bit of a bummer that the Canadian and American sites don't always coordinate their sales.

  2. Brian:

    I noticed a similar situation back when Declan had a similar offer with is Pius book. No biggie but I was bummed out that I couldn't benefit from the same sale as the American customers.
    At thos prices, I'd happily buy lots of books so you guys can collect your royalties and become real authours(tm) :)