A FADING SUN will be released on July 4, 2017, and is set in a faux first century Britain, and is the first book in a two-part "duology" that will be followed by A RISING MOON.

When Sheila (my editor) asked me to come up with some cover copy for the book, here's what I gave her:

“The problem with ghosts is that they don’t quite realize that they’re dead.”

Voada Paorach can see the dead. That was a family trait, but one that had to remain hidden since the Mundoan Empire had conquered her people’s land three generations ago. But this ghost wasn’t the same as the others she had glimpsed.  This ghost demanded that Voada follow a new path, one that meant leaving behind everything and everyone she had known and loved.
Voada would come to understand the power that her people possessed, but she would also learn the steep price that must be paid for such a gift.
 
Fast-moving and intense, A FADING SUN explores grief, sacrifice, ambition, and the forging of personality in the crucible of war. 

The incredible cover illusation is by the talented Cliff Nielsen.

And here's our first review, from Publisher's Weekly: "Leigh’s complex and substantial fantasy series opener adds elaborate spellcasting and powerful sorcerers to the legend of Celtic warrior queen Boudica repelling the Romans. The war machine Mundoa conquered Albann, home of the spiritual Cateni people. Generations later, Cateni Voada Paorach lives a comfortable life as the wife of the tax collector, but she’s secretly a draoi, or magic user. After Voada publicly guides the spirit of her husband to the afterlife, she is vilified by Mundoan governor Maki Kadir, beaten, and left for dead, and her children are sold into slavery. She vows to eradicate Mundoa from Albann and free her people. Voada sets off on an epic adventure to cultivate the power she draws from draoi ancestors, battling both the Mundoan forces and a spirit that’s trying to consume her. Leigh (The Atonement Tango) skillfully weaves together a comprehensive and rich mythology, intricate fight sequences, and a mother’s all-consuming revenge. The story holds few surprises, but the engaging characters will draw in readers."

And another review, by Kelly Anderson from B&N's blog: "Epic fantasy has also been a great vehicle for analyzing the follies of empire… Stephen Leigh’s A Fading Sun is another powerful entry in the category of stories about the change wrought by empires—for better or worse. And since, let’s be honest, it’s usually for worse, it’s a tale that deals with the damage left in the aftermath…. The parallels to the British Isles and the invasion of the Romans are strongly present throughout, as are significant influences drawn from Celtic myth and the tragic history of Irish subjugation and exploitation under English rule. It’s all been romanticized and streamlined, but Leigh picks out the most striking elements to build his world, one that will resonate with anyone interested in the history of these time periods and places—or even just stories deeply steeped in them…

Leigh focuses on the problems of social inequality, cultural imposition, and the devastation wrought by unthinking exercise of the kind of power no one should be able to wield in the first place. We do get an interesting exploration of the empire’s point of view via the general of the Mundoan army, among others, which prevents the book from falling into the trap of creating a one-dimensional villain, but this is no ode to colonization.

Of course, it helps that there are villains on both sides of the conflict. The damage suffered by those living under an oppressive power is a huge focus: we have a heroine (if she is one) who has been permanently changed by her brush with power, and not always in the most heroic of ways—her motivations may have become too suspect to trust, her focus perhaps not on the greater good. Is she in the wrong, when she believes what she does is right? Throughout history, leaders have risen to power who appeal to something strong and deep within, something people want to believe is true, despite evidence to the contrary—if only for a little while.

This means the book also does something else I appreciate: it allows a female anti-hero to have her day. She’s an imperfect woman, but one we can recognize. Leigh never falls into the trap of thinking readers revel in watching a woman behave badly. Instead, he makes the stronger choice—he makes sure we understand why Voada is the way she is, and she remains relatable, possibly even sympathetic, all the way through.

(continued on next column)