The knights of the round table are alive in Vancouver, but when one winds up dead, it’s clear the familiar stories have taken a left turn. Hildie, a Valkyrie and the investigator assigned to the case, wants to find the killer — and maybe figure her life out while she’s at it. On her short list of suspects is Wayne, an autistic college student and the reincarnation of Sir Gawain, who these days is just trying to survive in a world that wasn’t made for him. After finding himself at the scene of the crime, Wayne is pulled deeper into his medieval family history while trying to navigate a new relationship with the dean’s charming assistant, Bert — who also happens to be a prime murder suspect. To figure out the truth, Wayne and Hildie have to connect with dangerous forces: fallen knights, tricky runesmiths, the Wyrd Sisters of Gastown. And a hungry beast that stalks Wayne’s dreams.
“Authentic portrayals of queer, trans, and disabled characters along with a delightful mash-up of modern Vancouver, college life, and Arthurian legends become an immersive story of trying to be in control of your own path, no matter your past. VERDICT Battis (Bleeding Out) gives Arthurian retellings a new twist with this queer urban fantasy.” — Library Journal Starred Review
“Battis handles the psychology of the reincarnated characters well, balancing their awareness of past lives with their present-day agendas. Weaving endearing queer coming-of-age threads throughout the mythically grounded mystery, this satisfying reimagining delivers.” — Publishers Weekly
“Arthurian knights vie for power at a university in a contemporary Vancouver where queer and genderqueer students must contend with magic and murder among the faculty. Richly imagined and lushly written, The Winter Knight gives us intriguing characters, a compelling story, and a vivid sense of a beautiful and complex city colonized by invasive myths and ancient dread.” — A.M. Dellamonica, author of Child of a Hidden Sea
Jes Battis recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing their latest thriller, THE WHITE KNIGHT.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
I was teaching Arthurian literature and talking to my students about how these stories were still relevant, and I wondered how someone like Sir Gawain would fare in a modern city. I wanted to explore how myths reinvent themselves.
A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?
I’d never seen an mystery novel with an autistic protagonist, or an urban fantasy novel, and I wanted to craft the kind of characters who would have helped me understand myself when I was younger.
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
I listened to a lot of Robyn, Taylor Swift, and Julieta Venegas–anything with a good, percussive beat and storytelling.
When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?
Autistic characters are usually just plot devices in mystery novels, or they’re treated as a mystery to be solved. I wanted to challenge the idea of Sherlock Holmes as a sociopathic super genius, and create an amateur autistic detective who was actually realistic.
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
I hope it will inspire them to read some of the older medieval stories about King Arthur and see that disabled and trans people actually exist in these stories.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
I’m working on a queer cozy mystery that centres around a supernatural department store whose employees are trying to unionize.
Jes Battis (they/them) is a queer autistic writer and teacher and the author of the Occult Special Investigator series and Parallel Parks series (as Bailey Cunningham) with Ace. Their first novel, Night Child, was shortlisted for the Sunburst Award. Jes teaches queer and trans studies, medieval literature, and representations of disability/neurodiversity in pop culture at the University of Regina. They split time between the prairies and the west coast.
To learn more about the author and their work, please visit their website.