Tony Daniel: The Dragon Hammer
Thursday, July 28, 7 p.m.
Thomas Olde Heuvelt: Hex
Monday, August 1, 7 p.m.
Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh

Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books just celebrated its grand reopening in North Hills. Two events there this week also basically reopen the Triangle’s speculative-fiction events calendar after a quiet start to the summer.

Tomorrow is the book launch for Wake Forest author Tony Daniel‘s first young-adult novel, The Dragon Hammer (Baen Books, July 5). Daniel is best known for science fiction, from the short stories he’s been publishing for almost twenty years to his Metaplanetary series and his recent Star Trek: The Original Series tie-in novels. (Seriously, he got to write a story about Spock and the Horta, people. His geek cred’s not in short supply.) Daniel is also a senior editor at Baen Books—though, no, he didn’t buy his own novel.

He’s also no stranger to tackling complex themes, particularly slavery, which he’s addressed in his Star Trek writing (Savage Trade) and in a series of books co-authored with Pittsboro’s David Drake (The Heretic). Daniel does so again with the high fantasy and alternate history of The Dragon Hammer, a book that’s almost impossible to describe briefly. A Viking-settled medieval America borders Roman colonial vampire lords on Southern plantations, star-singing elves, and telepathic trees. In the Shenandoah Valley, the third son of a duke is thrust into a world of politics and power that had been reserved for his older brothers, forging a connection with the massive dragon that rests beneath his father’s lands.

And on Monday, Quail Ridge welcomes bestselling and award-winning Dutch fantasist Thomas Olde Heuvelt, who is on the last leg of a North American tour for his acclaimed horror novel, Hex. As the title suggests, it’s a story of witches, but the story behind the book is interesting in its own right. The original Dutch edition, set in a Holland town, became a bestseller in The Netherlands. But for the English translation, the story was transposed to Hudson Valley, née New Netherland.

The Black Rock Witch was killed in the seventeenth century, her eyes and mouth sewn shut. Of course, this being a horror novel, she doesn’t let a little thing like death and stitches stop her from ruling the town for centuries. If you break the secret of the witch’s existence to an outsider, you (and many others) die. If you try to escape, a vengeful curse of suicidal ideation either brings you back within her power or, well, of course, you die.

In something like the present day, a group of teenagers has had enough of the witch and the authoritarian town government. Using smartphone apps to track the witch’s apparitions in an openly attributed The Blair Witch Project-style viral video, they hope to break free of the curse.

But not so fast. It’s at this point that the horror is turned up to eleven, earning Heuvelt some serious critical praise for being “totally, brilliantly original” (Stephen King) and “creepy and gripping ” (George R.R. Martin). Ten publishers in fourteen countries have obtained the rights to the book, and Warner Bros. is currently developing it into a TV series.

Not bad for the English-language debut of a thirty-three-year-old author.