If the Roman Empire had continued its reign, what would the world be like? Sophie Burnham aims to explore that question in their debut novel, Sargassa. Set in an alternate North America called Roma Sargassa, where the Roman Empire never fell, this novel tells a tale full of political intrigue, queer romance, and revolution. The first in the Ex Romana trilogy of speculative fiction, Saragassa weaves together a rich and compelling story about an unlikely group of protagonists who are ready to burn down an empire. In celebration of the thrilling novel, which had us at the edge of our seats after only one chapter, Nerdist is delighted to exclusively reveal Sargassa‘s cover and an excerpt from the novel.

Take a look at Sargassa‘s stunning cover below.

Sargassa‘s Cover Reveal and Synopsis

Sargassa cover, a woman standing in roman garb and colored in gold and black and white
DAW Books/Rebecca Yanovskaya/Adam Auerbach.

Sargassa‘s cover aret s by  Rebecca Yanovskaya and its cover design is by  Adam Auerbach. The Sargassa cover art reveals its main character Selah Kleios, gorgeously drenched in gold. But just who is Selah Kelios? She looks like she’s firmly standing her gilded ground. Well, the Sargassa‘s synopsis sheds light on its intriguing cover image and its central protagonist.

Selah Kleios is twenty-two years old and suddenly one of the most important women in the empires. The role of Imperial Historian is her birthright, something she’s been preparing for since birth–but she was supposed to have more time to learn the role from her father, the previous Historian. In the wake of her father’s sudden and shocking assassination, Selah finds herself custodian of more than just the Imperial Archives, the towering central library that safeguards all collective knowledge of the Roman Imperium and its client empires. There’s also the question of the two puzzling classified items her father left in her care—an ancient atlas filled with landscapes that don’t exist, and a carved piece of stone that seems to do nothing at all.

“A carved piece of stone that seems to do nothing at all.” We bet that’s the most powerful piece of stone in the entire empire. And the rest of Sargassa‘s synopsis lets us know we’re onto something. It notes:

Soon, though, it becomes clear that the Iveroa Stone is more than just a slab of rock. With the reappearance of an old lost love who’s been blackmailed into stealing it for an unknown entity, Selah finds herself in a race to uncover the mysteries the Stone holds. But she isn’t the only one with an interest in it—she’ll have to contend with the deputy chief of police, an undercover spy, and her own beloved half brother along the way. What begins as an act of atonement and devotion ultimately pulls her into the crosshairs of deep state conspiracy, the stirrings of an underground independence movement, and questions that threaten to shake the foundational legitimacy of Roma Sargassa’s past, present, and future.

A release further notes that “This novel is told from multiple POVs: a young heiress, an undercover spy, a bastard brother and a fugitive with history with all three, Sargassa is equal parts political intrigue, queer romance, and revolution.” What we think we hear sounds a lot like queer found family, one of our favorite things. We also can’t wait to see how all these characters, motivations, and secrets come together into one mesmerizing tale.

An Exclusive Excerpt from Sargassa

To get you even more excited about Sargassa, Nerdist also feels thrilled to share an exclusive excerpt from the novel. This excerpt, which comes from chapter two of the book, gives a taste of Burnham’s lush writing. This tease of Saragassa‘s narrative is filled with evocative descriptions, captivating world-building, and characters that leap off the page, even in only a few short pages. In this snippet, we enter the universe through the perspective of Theo, one of the novel’s many queer protagonists. And let me tell you, I feel like I know (and love) Theo already.

This Saragassa excerpt also gives a taste of just how chilling it can feel to exist in the world of this story. But we must warn you, this quick journey into Sargassa ends on something of a cliffhanger. And you’ll be asking for the rest, stat.

DAW Books/ Rebecca Yanovskaya/Adam Auerbach.

Sargassa will release on October 8, 2024, but you can pre-order the book today. ( Amazon link) In the meantime, keep up with author Sophie Burnham on Twitter @sophielburnham. Burnham is a queer nonbinary novelist and screenwriter. As mentioned, Sargassa is their debut novel.