Cover Reveal: Assassin (Darkblade, #1) by Andy Peloquin

Cover Reveal: Assassin (Darkblade, #1) by Andy Peloquin

Hi everyone! Petrik from Novel Notions here.

Today, we’re here to bring you a gorgeous cover reveal of Assassin by Andy Peloquin. I honestly haven’t read any books by Peloquin yet, but from being active on bookish social media, I know that he’s one of the most prolific authors out there! I’m honored that Andy Peloquin chose Novel Notions to be the one to do the cover reveal of Assassin. To make things even better, the author gave us his reason to republish his series with a new cover art, his inspiration behind the series, and also a detailed cover art process! This is something that interests me so much, but I know that it’s not for everyone; if you just want to see the cover art, feel free to scroll to the bottom of this blog post. Let me know what you think of the cover art and whether this series interests you or not! Without further ado, here’s my interview with Andy Peloquin, and the cover reveal to Assassin!

Cover art illustrated by: Luciano Fleitas

  1. So Andy, to start this interview off, why did you decide to rebrand/republish your series with a new cover art?

When I did the initial rebrand/relaunch in 2018, I intended to write 6 books and be done with the series. However, by the time I reached Book 5, I knew I needed more to finish telling the story, to tie up a lot of the plot threads opened in the initial 6-book story arc.

So I decided that I had to do a second arc, which would begin where the first left off and continue the story in the epic and grand new directions it needed to go. However, at the time, I had a number of other projects underway, so I wouldn’t be able to get back to writing the Hunter of Voramis’ story for another 2+ years.

By the time I finished these other projects (Heirs of Destiny, The Silent Champions, and the Cerberus sci-fi series) and was ready to get to work telling the enormous second story arc, a lot of things had changed:

  • I was a better writer (with 40+ books under my belt).
  • The covers I initially used (photo manipulation) have become obsolete.
  • Sales slacked off enough that launching “Book 8” would be unwise.

#2 and #3 were the primary factors that made me decide that it was time for a rebrand and relaunch. Initially, it was just going to be the “packaging” (cover, title, blurb, etc.), but the more I thought about it, the more #1 came into play. I knew I could tell the story better than I did—after all, it was the first book I ever wrote, so plagued with a lot of rookie mistakes.

Combining a rebrand and relaunch with a rewrite just made the most sense. Now, I get to give existing fans/readers a story both brand new and yet beautifully familiar. It’s the same Hunter they know and love, just more of what makes him amazing.

Right now, the existing “first story arc” is going to be about 50% rewritten. The overall arc will remain the same, but its execution will be carried out with the writing skills I’ve honed over writing so many books. Plus, I get to double down on all the really gut-wrenching moments that I loved in the original, making it so much more impactful.

Plus, using new covers means I get a fresh, brand new-looking product that is in line with what the market is looking for. The result is a book/series that will sell much better in the long run! And, when I get to releasing the second story arc, there will be lots of new readers to come along on the adventure with me!

2. Can you tell us what’s the main inspiration behind this series?

The story was inspired in large part by Durzo Blint from the Night Angel series. I’ve read other assassins before—Kalam Mekhar from Malazan, The Man in White from Stormlight Archives, FitzChivalry Farseer, Royce Melbourne, and others—but none of them really burned into my brain the way Durzo Blint did.

Imagine my absolute despair when I came to the end of Night Angel and learned there would be no more coming!

At that point, the author (Brent Weeks) had already moved onto his Lightbringer series, so there was no hope of getting more of the character I loved.

So I had to create my own.

Initially, you’ll see a lot of similarities between the two: functionally immortal, middle-aged (40s-ish), withdrawn and broody, and wielding badass magical weapons.

However, as I was crafting the book, I drew a lot of inspiration from the TV show Criminal Minds, specifically how certain mental illnesses could drive people to kill. The one character that really sparked the idea was a man who killed to silence the voice of his father. At this point, I was still in the initial planning stages, and I knew I wanted to make the Hunter somewhat of a “monster”. I’d toyed with the idea of including demons, and it was at that moment that lightning struck! The voice in his head belonged to a demon who could have been his father, so he killed to silence it.

The story just grew out from there. Instead of his father, the voice belonged to the dagger Soulhunger, but it was a demon-made blade (which, as you’ll see, still ties into the whole demonic souls idea). He kills to buy himself a reprieve from the voice, but he hates the isolation when it’s quiet.

The character took on a life of its own the more I dove into the psychological aspects. He has become one of the most complex, fascinating characters I’ve written to date.

Best of all, I get to walk that really fine line between hero and villain. I get to have him kill as many people as I want—I just have to figure out how to make the reader accept that it’s the “right” choice for the story. Writing a villain or anti-heroic main character is a challenge that keeps me absolutely loving this character!

3. Last question before we get to the cover art creation! How many books will be in the series?

That question is…complicated. Right now, I anticipate between 10 and 11 in total.

The original Books 1-7 (Darkblade Assassin through Justice) are being rewritten and combined to form the first 4 ½ books of the new series (Assassin, Protector, Slayer, Savior, with #5 currently untitled). All of the books will be between 200,000 and 280,000 words long.

I know I need AT LEAST 10 books to tell the rest of the second story arc right, but knowing the way my brain works, it’s very likely to expand out to needing an 11th book. The story is going to become ENORMOUS—world-wide, planet-shattering events that have to be built up piece by piece, layer by layer. And because it’s all from a single POV, it has to be done much more carefully and precisely than an epic fantasy series with 5-10 different POV characters.

4. Wow. I wish you the best of luck on this ambitious undertaking! Now, without further, let us go to the cover art process

To dive into the new cover art, I’d like to go back to the very beginning—way back in 2014!

Being a new, inexperienced writer with minimal access to all the information that’s now available, I ended up doing a lot through trial anderror. Including, of course, the creation of the book covers.

I always knew the story was dark, so of course I wanted a darker cover. My cover artist at the time was my incredibly talented older sister, and she came up with this idea:

I loved the flavor of the cover—it reminded me of a heavy metal album cover, and it plays up the mystique of the character. Perfect for what I was going for.

However, it turned out readers didn’t quite connect with that cover as effectively. Genre wasn’t immediately clear (it could be horror or any number of other genres besides fantasy). Book sales were anemic, and I believe it’s largely due to this cover.

As I planned to relaunch the series with all-new covers in 2018, I decided to opt for something more current, which clearly portrayed the genre and gave readers an immediate connection to the character. Thus was born the second cover:

The use of a scowling expression and dark hair made it clearly not the standard handsome epic fantasy hero, but the armor, weapon, and sword kept it on-genre with fantasy.

However, as I mentioned above, photo manipulation covers which were very common in 2017/2018 are now largely considered “outmoded” or obsolete. They were actually on their way out by early 2019.

For this reason, I commissioned a custom-painted digital illustration from the spectacular Felix Ortiz for the Hero of Darkness box sets:

Truly spectacular, as with all Felix Ortiz artwork!

When the time came (in 2020) to start planning this relaunch, Felix Ortiz was booked solid, so I had to find another artist to produce the artistic masterpiece for my new cover.

But first, I knew exactly which book covers I wanted to target. So I went to Amazon/Google Search and downloaded the cover images for the artists to replicate.

The three were:

These images are all instantly evocative of assassins and the flavor of dark fantasy I wanted my cover to depict.

Armed with these images and the cover brief instructions, I went in search of artists!

I started by asking my friend, ML Spencer, for the name of the artist who did her Dragon Mage cover.

The artist, Tum Dechakampu, produced a pretty amazing first sketch:

Honestly, I’d have almost used the image in this format. But because I knew I wanted more detailed features, I asked him to fill it in. The end product, while amazing, just wasn’t quite what I was going for:

I had him do a second cover to see if I could figure out how to make it work. Again, AMAZING artwork, but not exactly the finished product I wanted:

Another artist I found while searching the internet was Daniel Purnama, who has some beautiful pieces on his ArtStation page. He immediately understood my love of vivid colors and vibrant contrast, and produced this beauty:

While awesome, however, the style of the art was more Eastern (popular in China, Korea, and Southeast Asia). Softer, sharper features which is very stylish and perfect for an Asian-set fantasy, but less so for the more classic “Western style” I was shooting for:

One artist I’d worked with in the past (for my sci-fi novels) was Luciano Fleitas. I reached out to him to see what he could do, and it was pretty clear from the get-go that he knew exactly what I was going for and had the skill to deliver a high quality finished product.

I sent him the brief, and within a few days, he sent me these sketches:

Instantly, I knew I had a winner.

The poses weren’t exactly right—they’re more heroic than the assassin I was going for—but the color and composition were very much in line with the Kel Kade cover I loved above.

We tried again, and the result was exponentially better:

Not perfect, but very stylish and definitely with the flair I was looking for.

Thus began the tweaks, refining the posture and pose and features. The next sketch had a much better visual composition:

But the features weren’t quite right yet.

When he asked me who I pictured in my head for the Hunter, I knew exactly who I had in mind: Jason Momoa. (I mean, come on, that Khal Drogo scowl and glare is just PERFECT!)

So he tweaked the features to match the character:

After the final adjustments to add more stylish elements—the cursed demonic dagger, a badass sword, armor, the requisite flowing assassin cloak, etc.—and the artwork was complete.

With the help of Jamie Castle (of Aethon Books) to finalize the typography, this masterpiece was born:

The result is a piece of art that immediately screams “DEADLY ASSASSIN” with just a hint of magic and a dark flavor that sets it apart from other epic fantasy covers.

Official synopsis:

All in Voramis know the legend of the Hunter.

Relentless. Immortal. Death walking. The greatest assassin who ever lived.

Pay the master killer his due and the Hunter will execute any target, carry out any contract, no matter how impossible.

But when the Bloody Hand crime syndicate harms the innocents under his protection, they foolishly make an enemy of the one man they can’t afford to anger. The price of the Hunter’s vengeance is high—paid in blood and eternal damnation. Not even an army of crooks, cutthroats, and demonic creatures of nightmare can stand in his way.
He’s far more than just one man…he’s the Keeper-damned Hunter of Voramis.

So there you have it!

Once again, I want to give my special thanks to Andy Peloquin for allowing Novel Notions the honor to host the cover reveal for Assassin. It’s a shame that I still haven’t started this series yet, hopefully I’ll get the chance to fix that situation soon!

Thank you everyone for checking out this post! 🙂

Assassin official release date: 6th July 2021.

You can pre-order the book on: Amazon

Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!

My Patrons: Alfred, Alya, Annabeth, Ben, Blaise, Devin, Diana, Dylan, Edward, Ellen, Gary, Hamad, Helen, Jimmy Nutts, Joie, Luis, Lufi, Melinda, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas, Sarah, Sarah, Seth, Shaad, Summer, Wendy, Wick, Zoe.

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