In the Bleak Midwinter

Do they celebrate Christmas in the ramshackle world of Mortal Engines?  Well, they do and they don't: there are enclaves and households where the Christian festival is still celebrated, but most of the towns and cities which roam the Hunting Ground have new gods and new religions.  Winters can be long and grim, however, especially in the north, and almost everybody sets aside a day in the depths of December when lamps are lit, songs sung, gifts exchanged, and far too much food eaten.  Aboard London this festival is known as Quirkemas: others call it Yule or Winterval.  For most, it is simply Midwinter, and here is a short story about it.  Many thanks to Sarah McIntyre for producing beautiful illustrations at astonishing speed.  Actually, I probably wouldn't have written it at all if it hadn't been for Sarah's encouragement, and the closing image is entirely hers, so in a way the whole thing is a Reeve/McIntyre collaboration - the first of many, I hope.

Shrike was dead: to begin with.  Dead as a doornail.  The girl had known that since she first saw his stark, white, armoured face staring down at her.  But thanks to the machineries and miracles the old-time folk had stuffed his carcass with, he could still move faster than her. She had to trot to keep up with him as he strode up the steep western face of the bluff.  Snow lay deep there, scrunching and squeaking under her boot-heels as she stumbled along in the old Stalker’s tracks.  As long as she kept setting her feet down in the deep prints he’d left she could manage; each time she strayed off his path she found herself floundering thigh-deep in drifts.

They’d been on a long trip, Shrike and the girl.  They’d been hunting a fugitive named Lardy Ampersand who’d robbed a bank aboard the traction town of Twyne.  Ampersand had fled into the Out Country, and the mayor of Twyne hadn’t bothered sending good men after him.  He just called in Shrike, the best and most feared of all the bounty killers, and Shrike had tracked the robber half way to the Westersea, with the girl following.  Now they were heading back to Twyne with Lardy’s head in a bag slung from Shrike’s belt.  For the first few miles of their hike the bag had seeped and dripped, leaving red splotches like a trail of poppies on the snow.  The blood had long since dried or frozen, though.  Twyne had moved on, and Shrike and the girl had been following its wheel-marks for a week.

The day was fading now.  A lavender twilight lay over the snowfields, and the air was sharp.  Above the hill’s curve a big planet shone, or maybe it was one of those left-over space-castles from the olden times.  The girl had stopped feeling her feet a long way back, but deep in her pockets her clenched hands burned cold.  Her face hurt too, but then her face hurt always. It was barely a face at all, riven in two by some dreadful blow - she did not remember the circumstances - which had left her with one eye, no nose to speak of, and a twisted mouth which was having to learn new ways to eat, and drink, and make words.

The girl’s name was Hester.  Shrike had found her that summer, washed up with the weed and driftwood on some Westersea beach.  Nobody knew why he had taken her in, least of all Shrike himself, a stone-cold killer with weirdy old-tech whirring and glowing where his heart should be.  Something about that ruined, thrown-away child had touched him.  He’d untangled her from the sea-wrack and kept her with him ever since.

He reached the top of the bluff and stopped there.  Hester caught up with him.  She stood at his side and looked east, and there was Twyne, rumbling away from them across the frozen marshes with long black bundles of exhaust smoke blowing sideways from its stacks like lumpy pennants.  It was moving slow, but not so slow that Hester could catch it without running.  She sagged at the thought of running, the weariness of her long walk coming down on her like a weight.

Shrike sensed it.  He turned, and the green beams from his headlamp eyes lit up her face.  He was not used to thinking about anyone but himself.  He forgot sometimes the girl had muscles in her legs instead of pistons.  He reached out his metal hands and lifted her, setting her on his wide iron shoulders.  Hester grabbed hold of the ducts and flexes on his armoured skull as he set off again, striding along at an improbable pace which made the frozen head of Ampersand go bomp, bomp, bomp against his hip.  The chimneyed smudge of Twyne started to resolve itself into houses and factories; two decks, with the big, clawed, barrel wheels turning beneath.  Soon Hester made out individual windows, and in each window was a warm glow and pinprick points of light a-twinkling.  The glow and the lights put her in mind of something.  She could not say what it was because most of her memories had spilled when her face was broken, but she stared at those lights and felt the memories brushing past her like big fish circling in the sea’s depths, just out of sight.

Shrike caught up with the town and strode into the din and dark between its rumbling wheels.  No lights down here, unless you counted the slivers of furnace-glow showing through chinks in the deck-plates.  But the old Stalker could see in the dark, and knew his way around the underside of towns.  He found an access ladder, and Hester held on tight while he scrambled up it, punched open a locked hatch, and emerged into the streets of Twyne. 

It was quiet up there.  Just a few passers by to stare at the Stalker and his shadow as they went up and aft towards the Town Hall.  Singing came from taverns and the temple of Peripatetia.  In every window candles burned, and tinsel stars hung.  In the snowy square in front of the Town Hall a whole tall pine tree stood, fresh cut, held roughly upright by four creaking guy-ropes, swaying with the town’s movements.  Little electric lamps burned among its branches, and strands of glittering stuff were wrapped around it.

“Winter festival,” said Hester.

Shrike looked down at her.  She didn’t often say much, and he didn’t often listen, but something had stirred his memories too.  He’d been making his way among the towns and cities of the world since before towns and cities learned to move, and it hadn’t escaped his notice that some decked themselves in lights and greenery every twelvemonth.  It had just never occurred to him before to wonder why.
Hester wiped frost from a window and peered in.  She saw holly branches; paper chains; candles burning on a shrine to household gods.  She said, “I remember when I was little...  Every year...  Roast chestnuts and stories by the fire.  Presents too.  The old Winterdad in his red coat, carryin’ his sack of presents for good children...”
And somehow Shrike remembered those things too.  Snatches of memories from long ago; candles and stories, the excitement of children.  
Now he stood in the snow in front of Twyne Town Hall, his old dark coat flapping around him, the stained bag weighty in his steel hand. 

A door opened with a sudden crash, as if kicked.  Lamplight lapped at Shrike’s toes.  In the doorway stood Twyne’s mayor.  Two other men stood with him, goggled and body-armoured, clutching shiny guns.
Shrike upended his sack.  The robber’s head fell into the snow like a dropped cabbage.  The mayor of Twyne looked down at it, and nodded.
“Nice job,” he said.  
“He needs payin‘ now,” said Hester.  She’d noticed that Shrike didn’t always stay around to collect the bounty once a job was done.  To be fair, he hadn’t much to spend the blood-money on; he didn’t care about clothes or a place to live, and she’d never seen him eat.  She hungered though; she needed clothes on her back and a roof over her.  So she always made sure he got paid.  “Ten gold ones,” she said, tugging her scarf up to hide her face. “That’s what you promised, for Ampersand’s head.”
“Ah...” said the mayor.  Pilbeam was his name, and he at least had the decency to look ashamed.  “Stuff’s changed, since I set you after Ampersand.  These gents...” (He indicated the men who stood on either side of him, the tree-lights starry in their goggles.) “They work for the Shkin Corporation; a big slaving company from down south.  Seems they provide fighters for the Nuevo Mayan circuses and they’re after new attractions.  They’d dearly love a Stalker, so they asked if they could have a word with you when you got back here, Mr Shrike, and I said...”
“I AM NOT AN ATTRACTION,” said Shrike, in a voice like a city changing its rusty gears.  His hands stayed at his sides, but his fingers all grew sharp, bright blades, like icicles. He said, “SHKIN’S MEN HAVE ASKED ME TO APPEAR IN THESE CIRCUSES BEFORE.  I TOLD THEM NO.”
“Well this time we ain’t asking,” said one of the slavers, and both together raised their silvery guns and pulled the triggers.
Lightning arced across the square and crackled against Shrike’s armour.  He stumbled backwards, tinselled with sparks, eyes flickering.  “Now!” shouted Mayor Pilbeam.  Hester looked up and saw that there were other men on the front of the town hall, perching like trainee gargoyles on ledges and gutterings.  A weighted net spread as it fell, settling over the Stalker where he struggled, wrapped in electricity.

Hester had grown so used to the idea of Shrike as unstoppable that it had never occurred to her that she might one day be called upon to help him.  She ran through the jerking blue light, the stuttering shadows.  She drew her knife and hacked through one of the lines which held the pine tree up.  The men ignored her, advancing towards Shrike, playing the blue fire of their strange guns over him.  She hacked another.  That was enough.  The tree teetered.  She pressed her small body against its outer branches and its scratchy clouds of needles; shoved.  

The falling tree swept a couple of men off the front of the Town Hall.  It came down hard on Mayor Pilbeam and the men with the electric guns: curses, a crackle of splintering branches, the great trunk smashing them flat.  One of the guns exploded with a shear of blue light.
Shrike was recovering.  He shook himself, like a wet dog shaking off water.  He tore his way out of the net.  One of his eyes was on the fritz, flickering and buzzing like faulty neon till he smacked himself hard on the side of the head and it righted itself.  He listened for a moment to the faint groans that came from underneath the tree.  He dragged out the remaining gun and crushed it.  He did not thank Hester, just went into the Town Hall with her following.  
The building was full of running footsteps, cries.  No one was sure what happened in the square, but they all knew that the Stalker had triumphed despite those fancy electric weapons, and nobody wanted to stay and face him.  As Shrike and Hester went from room to room they sometimes glimpsed people scrambling for the exits or squeezing out of windows.  They found a big, dim room where a fire was burning and plates heaped with food waited on a long table.  Hester tried some pie, a cake.  Shrike spiked a chestnut on each of his finger-blades and stood by the fire.  “ONCE UPON A TIME,” he said, “THERE WAS THIS...  IT WAS...  THERE WAS A GIRL WITH A DOG, AND THE DOG WAS CALLED NOODLE POODLE.  AND THERE WAS...  THERE WAS...  ONCE...”

He was trying to tell a midwinter story, Hester realised, but he wasn’t very good at it.  She crammed more pie awkwardly into her awkward mouth and said, “How about, ‘Once upon a time there was these two people, and it was a cold, hard world they lived in, so they went about together, for company.  And one midwinter they found a good snug place to stay, and stuff to eat, and they were warm enough for a bit.  And it was good.’”

Shrike looked at her, and the lamps of his eyes flickered ever so slightly, and from his outstretched hands there came wafting a smell of roasted chestnuts.  

...and a Merry Midwinter to us, one and all!

Illustrations © Sarah McIntyre    

Christmas is Coming...

...and in between wrapping the pressies and decorating the tree I've been busy writing a very short, mid-winter themed Mortal Engines storyette, which I'll be posting here in the next day or two.  

In the meantime, if you're still looking for that last-minute Christmas present and you've already snapped up all my other recent recommendations, don't forget that Scrivener's Moon, the third Fever Crumb adventure, is available from all good bookshops.  It has mammoths and armoured warfare, which I think you'll agree make it the perfect stocking-filler.

A Cold Walk on Dartmoor


Ooiee! Me Books!

Francis Hardinge, Jonathan Green, China Mieville, Plarchie,
Deadly Knitshade and Me.

The trouble with doing lots of events is that I don't always get time to blog about all the events I've done.  By the time I arrived home from my London trip last week the internet was groaning under the weight of write-ups of Thursday night's Steampunk Christmas shindig at Blackwell's, so rather than go into detail I shall just link you to reports on Sarah McIntyre's blog (from where I pinched all these pictures, as usual) and Rhys Jones's 'Thirst For Fiction'.  My signing beforehand at Foyles went well too; it was nice to meet so many Twitter and Facebook friends in real life for the first time, including Tom and Ash who'd travelled all the way from Southampton bearing first editions...

Luckily Sarah McIntyre was there to entertain the queue by doing this beautiful & flattering portrait of me.

Also present was my long-lost cousin Gareth, who kindly took this photograph of me, Sarah (left) and Rhys (right) with Foyle's Neil Jackson and his colleague Jen: thanks very much to them for organising and publicising the signing.

Blackwell's was also full of lovely people, only one of whom was a giant, man-eating squid knitted out of old carrier bags.  Event organisers Anne Perry, Jared Shurin and Den Patrick had gathered a diverse crowd of guests, and lots of fans had come along to meet and mingle, many of them in elaborate costumes.  There was a hint early on of the sort of serious cultural studies debate which helped to turn me off Steampunk in the first place, but it soon fizzled out amid good conversation, merriment and rum, leaving me to chat to good eggs like Major Willougby Chase of the 1st Tea Company (below left) who explained why Steampunk is so important to him: because it's FUN!


When I posted this picture of the mossy beech trees at Natsworthy Gate on Twitter someone pointed out that 'Natsworthygate' sounds like a scandal, and I suppose it does - some dark secret in the Natsworthy family's past which I never got round to mentioning in Mortal Engines.

Walking on the moor today, in winter sunshine, a cold north west wind and showers of rain and sleet, we saw nobody else at all, and it seemed odd to think that in a day or two I'll be in London again, fighting my way through throngs of Christmas shoppers.  Hopefully some of them will make their way to Foyles Bookshop on the Charing Cross Road, where I'll be signing books between 5 and 6 pm.  There are more details here on the Foyles website.  (The event is ticketed, but it's free, and you can come along at any point during the hour.)  I might be doing some drawings, too.

Straight afterwards (at a slightly earlier time than previously advertised) is the Kitschies Steampunk Christmas event at Blackwells, only a stone's throw from Foyles (though I'm sure these two fine bookselling establishments are far too civilised to actually throw stones at each other).  There I'll be joining in what looks like being a great evening, featuring China Mieville, Kim Lakin Smith and many other writers and artists.

Also in attendance will be Deadly Knitshade, whose book Knit The City I've just been recommending over on The Solitary Bee.  It's the perfect size to fit in a large Christmas stocking, and if you don't have a large stocking she can probably tell you how to knit one.

See you there!

Books on the Bee

I don't really see myself as a book reviewer, but I like recommending books when I find a good one, and that's what I've been doing lately on this blog's sister-site, The Solitary Bee.  If you're seeking Christmas presents for the bookish you might want to check these out:

For fans of rollicking space opera:

For lovers of deviant Gothic sci-fi weirdness:

For grown-up comics fans:

For younger readers and them as like LARFING:

And don't forget to come and get your signed copies of my books, or just say hello, at Foyles and Blackwells next Thursday evening (8th December).  

Worldbuilding in Progress!

A carved angel on the tower at Exeter School

An excellent day today at Exeter School, talking to three different groups of pupils, answering questions and signing books.  This morning I did a creative writing session with some of the Upper Fifth.  Creative writing sessions aren't really my cup of tea and I've seldom done them in the past, but today I tried somethingI've never done before: a worldbuilding exercise.

I started by talking about different invented worlds - Narnia and Middle Earth, Lilliput, Oz, Burrough's and then Bradbury's Mars, the further-flung alien planets of Star Wars and Avatar, and (coughs significantly and gestures modestly to self) the future world of Mortal Engines.  Then I divided the class into six groups and asked them to devise a world of their own, with some sort of internal logic, history and geography.

To be honest, this was the point at which it could all have fallen horribly apart.  In the past when I've done writing exercises there have always been a few pupils who, when it's time to put pen to paper, just stare blankly and say 'I haven't got any ideas'.  That's fair enough: coming up with stories isn't everybody's cup of tea, and often when it's time to put pen to paper I stare blankly and say, 'I haven't got any ideas!'.  But they're made of better stuff than that at Exeter School, and all six groups instantly started coming up with very intriguing worlds.

After ten minutes or so we started trying to combine elements of each group's work into one world, which we mapped on the whiteboard.  Obviously this meant a certain amount of compromise, and a lot of nice details had to be left out.  But luckily many of the six worlds the students had developed had some similarities: there were a lot of underground societies, a lot of hierarchical social structures, and a lot of looming environmental catastrophes.  The map was drawn very quickly, so is rather sketchy, and it was difficult to photograph. (Hopefully the yellowish cast of these instagram pictures gives it the look of Ancient Parchment.  Or not...)

Anyway, here's what we ended up with.  It's a world in which most people live underground, in a vast maze of passages called Underland.  Only two societies live on the surface, or 'Uptop' as it's known: the people of Willow City, which is a giant tree, and the fearsome-seeming ant-folk of Moretonantstead...

Here's a closer look at Willow City, the Air Camels which hang around its outer branches, and Philbert the Wise, a wise old man who lives there.  The Vertical Railway descends into Underland.

Here's one of the Air Camels...

While in the swamps which surround the vast tree's roots there lurks a hungry Jellis:

The Ant People of Moretonantstead have dug down to create their own underground burrow-city, Penzants:

The Underlanders use giant centipedes as buses, and giant woodlice as cars:

Underland is powered by a mysterious Orb which is able to erase matter, and into which the Underlanders throw their refuse, dead bodies, etc.  But the Orb has begun to grow, leading to fears that the whole of Underland will soon be erased (which indeed it undoubtedly was, as soon as the next lesson started).  The story's hero, Stevebob of Hrrrr, is on a quest to warn his neighbours in the other underground cities of the danger: unfortunately most of them are giant-expanding-erasey-orb deniers who only want to silence him...

Meanwhile, a ravenous and badly-drawn (by me) giant worm approaches the peaceful underground kingdom of Hrrrr:

All in all, considering that Underland was created in about forty minutes by twenty five different people, I think it's a remarkably complex and interesting fantasy world, and I hope the groups will do a bit more work on it, refining it and adding new details.  They certainly have no shortage of ideas, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with them.

And the moral of all this?  Wordbuilding is fun!

Exeter School in better weather...
Underland is the copyright of its creators, the students of Exeter School...

Hurstpierpoint, the Kids' Lit Quiz and the paintings of Ramsay Gibb

The trouble with travelling around the country doing school visits and book events is that, while it gives me much more interesting material to blog about that just sitting at home would, it doesn't leave me much time to actually do so...

On the train again...

Last week I went to Hurstpierpoint in East Sussex to talk to some of the pupils of Hurstpierpoint College Prep School.  The year seven pupils there study Mortal Engines in English classes,  and while the present year 7s don't get to encounter my deathless prose until next term they had some interesting questions to ask about the book and how I cam to write it.  Their teacher, Mrs Gordon-Stewart, showed me some of the work that previous years have done, which included writing short diaries from the point of view of Mortal Engines characters.  Here's one by 'Hester Shaw', with some interesting notes-to-self on the front cover ('Kill Valentine') etc.

On my way to Hurstpierpoint I stopped off in London to buy a copy of the new comics anthology Nelson (highly recommended!) and to see the latest exhibition by the Scottish landscape painter Ramsay Gibb at the Francis Kyle gallery in Maddox Street.  I used to know Ramsay when I lived in Brighton.  He had been through art college there with some friends of mine, and was an excellent illustrator.  It's been a huge pleasure to watch his work evolve, and he goes from strength to strength.  The current show, A First Avowed Intent, focuses on the old pilgrimage sites and paths of the British Isles, and is on for another week.  Catch it if you can.

Moonlight, Iona beach, by Ramsay Gibb

My second adventure last week was in Wadebridge, Cornwall for the South West regional heat of the excellent Kids' Lit Quiz.  Teams from schools all over the region were competing for a chance to go forward to the national finals, and then, hopefully, to the world finals in New Zealand.  It was great to meet founder and quizmaster Wayne Mills, and to see so many keen readers.  The final result was extremely close, but team one from Penrice School were victorious, and will be heading to the UK final in Warwick on 2nd December.  Go, Penrice!

Wayne Mills in Quizzing Hat, lower right.

Me signing books and autographs after the Quiz.

An Echo from Gloucestershire

I've just been sent this nice piece from the Gloucestershire Echo about the students from Winchcome School who attended my event at the Cheltenham Festival back in October.  Unfortunately they had to dash off to their waiting bus straight afterwards, so there was no chance to talk to them individually.  It's nice to know that they enjoyed it!  Thanks to Bethany Allison and Jamie Worman for this write-up.

Sci-Fi Societies, London in Cake Form and the Phoenix Rising

I snapped this blurred, wintry sunset from a train window as I whizzed around the country this week, visiting the Nottingham University Science Fiction & Fantasy Society and the Oxford University Speculative Fiction Group to talk about my Life and Works.  That basically ended up being about how I came to write Mortal Engines, and how the world of the book has developed and expanded through its various sequels and prequels.

Both societies gave me a warm welcome, and were great audiences.  It reminded me that a) SF and fantasy fans are my kind of people and b) I'm getting very, very old - when I talked about the writers who'd inspired me as a student I found that barely any of my listeners had even heard of them, let alone read them.  (Which is hardly surprising, since these were books and stories which were probably thirty years old when I discovered them, and that was thirty years ago.  I really must start reading some more contemporary SF. )

Anyway, it was good to meet so many people who'd read Mortal Engines.  The Oxford group even recreated Traction London in cake form last year, when it made it into the top ten in their list of Books They'd Want To Take With Them If They Were Cast Away On A Desert Planet.  The tracks look particularly tasty...

Lyndsey Pickup was Chief Architect of the cake, and also took some photos of my Oxford event, which reminded me of something else: I really wave my hands about a lot when I talk.

The image behind me there is one of David Wyatt's covers for the old UK editions of the Mortal Engines quartet.  They're still my favourite covers, and looking at them again on these Powerpoint slides I realised that there are chunks of them which have never been used: some seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time marketing decision led to them being printed on the inside of die-cut outer covers with holes in, which meant that much of the left hand side of each image was lost, like the very Germanic little city rolling ahead of Manchester in this picture for A Darkling Plain.

Then, in a seemed-like-a-terrible-idea-at-the-time-AND-STILL-DOES decision, pictorial covers were abandoned completely in favour of a more 'graphic' or 'boring' approach.  My website will be getting an overhaul in the New Year and I'll try to include David's full images as downloadable wallpapers, but if you don't want to wait till then you can find them here.

One of the nice things about talking to OUSFG is that they put you up overnight in one of the university's colleges.  Here's the view from my guest room in Merton.

My host Matthew Lloyd and his brother John gave me a tour of the college, which is almost ridiculously beautiful.  There's a stone table in the grounds which allegedly inspired the one on which Aslan is sacrificed in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and a view through trees and rooftops to two college spires which is supposed to have inspired The Two Towers.  (Both stories need to be taken with a sizeable pinch of salt, I think, but it was a nice reminder that I was on the territory of CS Lewis and Tolkien.  And nowadays, of course, it's the stamping ground of Philip Pullman and the location of Harry Potter movies.  Oxford was the Royalist capital during the Civil war, and in a way it's still the capital of English fantasy.)

On Thursday I went with lovely Sarah McIntyre to lunch at the offices of The Phoenix, a new comic which is being launched by the team behind the late lamented DFC.  We got to see the hot-off-the-press Issue Zero, which isn't for sale, but is being away free at Waitrose supermarkets.

The Phoenix begins publication on January 7th, and if you haven't subscribed already, you can do so here.  It's going to be great, and will feature all sorts of fine comics artists.  (Sarah and I are also working on something for it, but more on that anon.)

Phoenix editor Ben Sharpe persuades Sarah McIntyre to subscribe in
exchange for CAKE.
And then we popped next door to David Fickling Books, one of Sarah's publishers.  David Fickling was in charge at Scholastic when I first started working for them as an illustrator.  He's a true champion of children's publishing, and it's always a pleasure to catch up with him, and hear about his exciting plans.  Here he is with Sarah, who's holding a copy of a beautiful new chapter book by Dave Shelton, A Boy and a Bear in a Boat.  It isn't published till next year, and I'll be shouting loudly about it then.  The UK edition has one of the simplest and most striking covers I've ever seen.

Thanks very much to everybody at Nottingham SF&F Society and OUSFG, the Phoenix and DFB for making it such an enjoyable week!

A week of Sci Fi

(Or Science Fiction, if you prefer.  When I was a teenager, Science Fiction fans were as curmudgeonly as jazz buffs and used to think the term 'Sci Fi' a terrible insult, but I've always rather liked it; it captures the slightly hand-made, fun aspect of the genre which is what I always liked best about it. )

Anyway, this week I'm off to talk about my Life and Works to both Nottingham University Science Fiction and Fantasy Society (on Tuesday night) and the Oxford University Speculative Fiction Group (on Wednesday).  And to get myself in the mood I've been reading and reviewing Gareth L Powell's novel The Recollection over on The Solitary Bee.

I've also been putting together a Powerpoint with some images of the things that inspired me, in the course of which I came across this nice still from Terry Gilliam's masterpiece, Brazil.

I saw this film for the first time when it came out in 1985 and I suspect the seeds for Mortal Engines were sown there and then.  In fact it had such a profound influence on me that I'm still wearing the suit and hat, and if I could drive I'd be whizzing up to Nottingham in one of those Messerschmidt bubble cars on Tuesday.  As it is, I'll have to take the train.

Eek! Goblins!

What with it being Hallowe'en and all, I thought this might be a good day to unveil the cover artwork for my next book, GOBLINS.  It won't be published until next April, but is already available for pre-order on where it's described thus: 

A wild world of magical creatures and heroic adventure from the extraordinary imagination of Philip Reeve. The squabbling goblins who live in the great towers of Clovenstone spend their time fighting and looting. Only clever young Skarper understands that dark magic created by a vanquished sorcerer is rising again. From the lands of men come fortune-seekers - and trolls, giants, cloud-maidens, boglins, swamp monsters, tree-warriors and bloodthirsty goblins are swept into a fabulous magical conflict to thrill all fantasy fans...

It's also, hopefully, quite funny - closer in spirit to Larklight than to my Mortal Engines or Fever Crumb books.  I think David Semple's goblins capture the tone beautifully.

(For some reason the Amazon listing describes GOBLINS as a hardback, but actually I think it's going to be a fancy, large-format paperback.)

Happy Hallowe'en!