Remember the Barrow?
So back in 2014, Mark Smylie released the Barrow, a peek into his RPG world of Artesia. A dark fantasy epic featuring a woman dressed as a man, an enlightened world regarding sex, and a dark haven of strange and brutal cults, treasures and adventure. It’s been a while since I actually read the Barrow, and as I’m a bit fuzzy on the details—I won’t try to review it here. If you haven’t read it, it featured a generally good if meandering story, set in a beautifully designed and detailed world of grey and red.
But that’s not what this is about.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about the best series you’ll probably never finish. This was a reference to those series that end too early—for whatever reason—and we’ll never see an actual conclusion to. If you’re interested, please check it out, and add your own in the comments. These are only series that I’ve read—and I can’t read everything. Anyway, I’ve been working on Part 2 of at least 3 or 4, which has involved researching series and authors and emailing publishers and reading up on books. Now, one of my potentials for this list was the ill-fated sequel to The Barrow, named Black Heart.
This one has been delayed for a while, to the point that I figured it’d be a pretty easy add to the list, but after a little research into it, I’m… well, less sure. Mostly as it seems that Smylie actually seems to have this one in hand, so much so that I think it’ll see the light of day, in one form or another.
A little background first. Back in March of 2014, the Barrow released to fairly positive reviews. It was a solid, entertaining read, from a guy who had already created a world and possessed many stories set in it. But writing is hard. And it didn’t surprise anyone overly much when the sequel—which was originally scheduled to be published later that same year—was delayed. And as Smylie got distracted by other projects and battled writers’ block, the book was further delayed. Last I checked (in 2018) the project was still ongoing, with the publisher Pyr eventually expecting to print a book. Then in late 2018, Pyr was sold.
The new parent company, Start Publishing, claims to have asked for an ETA on a manuscript and received no response. I haven’t heard back from Smylie on this, but I’d assume that my emails just ended up in his spam folder, because that’s happened quite a lot during this article. But whatever happened, Pyr’s new owners nixed any plans on publishing Black Heart, and that was that.
Except, that it wasn’t.
While Smylie hasn’t finished Black Heart, he is a good 250,000 words in. With Pyr out of the picture, he looked to self-publishing. He established a Patreon to help him work on the novel, posting roughly one chapter a week, though for the past month he’s only posted one. As of May 2020, it has amassed 29 of its anticipated 47ish chapters, but Smylie says that he’s written 37 of them. There’s also a Part I PDF for subscribers, but I can’t (yet) tell you how long it is. So it looks like this thing may actually get out. I don’t know (yet) whether this concludes the extent of his plans to get the story out there, but I’ll figure it out.
Well, maybe. Eventually. Since I’m a little bit off work until… further notice, I’m a bit cheap. If you can’t wait for Black Heart, maybe go check it out? Entry level access to the 29 chapters available so far is set at $5/month, which—I’m not in a position to afford. Yet. So… tell me about it if you decide to splurge, eh?
Expect another entry into the best unfinished series soon, which will clear up most of the multibook ones in my reservoir. After that we’ll primarily deal with sequels, standalones that never saw the light of day, series that were announced but will likely never be finished, and others whose authors died before finishing them.