The world is changing. Poison desert eats good farmland. Once-sweet water turns foul. The wind blows sand and sadness across the Empire. To get caught in a storm is death. To live and do nothing is death. There is magic in the world, but good conjure is hard to find.

Djola, righthand man and spymaster of the lord of the Arkhysian Empire, is desperately trying to save his adopted homeland, even in exile.

Awa, a young woman training to be a powerful griot, tests the limits of her knowledge and comes into her own in a world of sorcery, floating cities, kindly beasts, and uncertain men.

Awash in the rhythms of folklore and storytelling and rich with Hairston’s characteristic lush prose, Master of Poisons is epic fantasy that will leave you aching for the world it burns into being.

Said Andrea Hairston:

Master of Poisons is about denial and the empire of lies we’re willing to believe. It’s about decolonizing the mind. I wanted to write myself out of the hopelessness we feel facing devastation. This is a book about the stories we tell and the communities we make to do the impossible.

I am an Afro-Futurist in league with Indigenous-Futurists. I want to bring the wisdom of recovered ancestors into conversation with the future.

Stories that have been lost, stolen, or hidden call to me. As a speculative writer, I try to conjure the stories that did not get written down. Characters, particularly women, who get left out of the action raid my mind. Bold characters in the midst of wild adventures—I can’t shut them up! They wake me up at night and won’t let me sleep until I take note of everything they have to say. I have researched West African, African American, and Indigenous theatre artists who struggle to realize their artistic and personal dreams in the United States from the 1800’s to the present. I have drawn on this research to write Master of Poisons and am thrilled to work with Publishing.

Said Ruoxi Chen:

Master of Poisons is one of those books that will sink its vines into your nerves and you will willingly, happily, feverishly go down in its embrace. Andrea has created a brilliant fantasy world here with griot-storytellers, wild dogs, pirate queens, floating cities, protective bees, warhorses, hungry elephants, and angry rivers. In Djola’s and Awa’s stories, she has also crafted an urgent, relatable narrative about people facing an existential threat and a controlling hierarchy in deep denial.

Andrea is a griot of griots, a storyteller capable of bewitching a reader so thoroughly you will return to the everyday world with the haze of a mythical one still in your eyes. I am so excited to help bring this singular story to readers.