Apple-Obsessed Author Fella

Kevin Hearne: The Sirens Were Never Your Sex Fish

And now, a guest post from awesome pal and excellent author Kevin Hearne —

Those of you who are already familiar with my work know that I really enjoy digging into mythologies and extrapolating how the figures from a given tradition might behave today. And you also know that, wherever possible, I like to depict them as “first editions”—the oldest known imagery, which often changes throughout the centuries. For example, when I wrote “The Naughtiest Cherub” (which you can find in First Dangle and Other Stories), I giggled at depicting Lucifer as a Biblically accurate cherub: a sphere made of eyes and wings. None of that horns-and-hooves business—those depictions were largely dreamt up by fervid European fanatics in the medieval period. The original Lucifer probably smelled like burnt feathers instead of sulfur.

So that’s why I was so tickled to have a crack at giving the sirens back their wings in Candle & Crow, my forthcoming release that you can preorder now. They’re on the cover and I wanna talk about it! Let’s take a look at the cover and blurb copy and give you a preorder link, then I’ll gush about the sirens below:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Druid Chronicles comes the final book in the “action-packed, enchantingly fun” (Booklist) Ink & Sigil series, as an ink-slinging wizard pursues the answer to a very personal mystery: Who cast a pair of curses on his head?

Al MacBharrais has a most unusual job: He’s a practitioner of ink-and-sigil magic, tasked with keeping order among the gods and monsters that dwell hidden in the human world. But there’s one supernatural mystery he’s never been able to solve: Years ago, someone cast twin curses on him that killed off his apprentices and drove away loved ones who heard him speak, leaving him bereft and isolated. 

But he’s not quite alone: As Al works to solve this mystery, his friends draw him into their own eccentric dramas. Buck Foi the hobgoblin has been pondering his own legacy—and has a plan for a daring shenanigan that will make him the most celebrated hobgoblin of all. Nadia, goth queen and battle seer, is creating her own cult around a god who loves whisky and cheese. 

And the Morrigan, a former Irish death goddess, has decided she wants not only to live as an ordinary woman but also to face the most perilous challenge of the mortal world: online dating. 

Meanwhile, Al crosses paths with old friends and new—including some beloved Druids and their very good dogs—in his globe-trotting quest to solve the mystery of his curses. But he’s pulled in so many different directions by his colleagues, a suspicious detective, and the whims of destructive gods that Al begins to wonder: Will he ever find time to write his own happy ending?

Preorder Candle & Crow

So! The sirens. There are two major versions of them, and the latter-day depiction of them as something akin to mermaids has taken hold in popular imagination, much like the depiction of Lucifer as a humanoid with pointy parts won over his original form as a ball of feathers and eyes. There was a TV show called Siren from 2018-2020 that was all about mermaids with Rad Scream Powers. There are innumerable other modern references that treat the sirens like sexy fish women flipping their tails and other assets at passing sailors. But the original sirens were bird women, as attested by many vases and sculptures from ancient Greece, and as attested by none other than scholar Emily Wilson, translator of The Odyssey and The Iliad, who speaks of their origins in this nifty article here, which includes some nice images. One of those images in particular is how I first encountered the sirens as a wee lad: The painting by John William Waterhouse, Odysseus and the Sirens, illustrating his harrowing episode with the sirens while tied to the mast and his crew had their ears stuffed up.

Waterhouse did a fantastic job in every particular except the number of sirens. In the ancient stories about them, there are usually only two or three of them, and they’re not breeding lil’ bebe sirens. Homer—the earliest source around 750 BCE—listed two. There’s a nice breakdown of the numbers of sirens and their names in old stories on the Wikipedia page. The seven sirens Waterhouse has in his painting certainly do wonders in terms of composition and sheer tension, but that number is an outlier.

Homer’s story makes it pretty clear that they’re offering Odysseus knowledge of the past and perhaps the future—that’s the super tempting thing that makes him want to hear more. And based on that, the sirens in my series are infallible prophets. In the Iron Druid Chronicles, they correctly (if somewhat cryptically) predict the onset of Ragnarok. And since Candle & Crow is part of the Iron Druid universe, the sirens remain close to omniscient regarding certain events, but they’re absolutely disinclined to help anybody out with their knowledge. That bit about wishing men to die is all too real.

So we have this fantastic cover art by Sarah J. Coleman (@Inkymole on social media) who depicts two sirens with the torsos of women but the lower bodies of untidy turkeys—a phrase I used in my art wish list. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the sirens are absolutely pivotal to the plot of Candle & Crow, and they’re just one of the fantastic figures from mythology that appear. The candle in question is related to Sumerian myth, and the crow, of course, is one folks will recognize from pagan Irish tradition. (Some gnarly dudes from pagan Scottish myth appear too, and they’re uniquely Scottish and so far as I know have no parallels in the other mythologies of the world.)

Delighted also to see Al’s cane at the bottom of the cover (underneath the crow’s wings) and if you look at the runic figures sketched inside the letters that form CROW, those are taken directly from a sarcophagus found in the Glasgow necropolis. It’s a cover that rewards a nice close look and I hope you’ll have fun exploring it up close as I did.

This book not only wraps things up for Al, Buck, and Nadia, but also for Atticus, Granuaile, and  Owen from the Iron Druid Chronicles. I will continue shorter stories in the world—in fact, I’m writing a new Oberon short story every month this year for paid subscribers to my newsletter—but this will be the last novel in the universe. So please preorder if you’re already on board, and if not, the Iron Druid Chronicles begins with Hounded and Ink & Sigil begins with the eponymous Ink & Sigil. It’s all full of fantastic creatures from myth and ornery gods and very good dogs. Happy reading!