Cipher Press has acquired Nat Reeve's "extraordinary, ambitious" historical debut Nettleblack and its sequel in a two-book deal.
The book was signed as as part of the indie's Arts Council-funded #NewQueerVoices campaign, which aims to publish the best new writing from the UK by trans authors, queer writers of colour and queer working-class writers.
World rights were acquired directly from the author and Nettleblack will be published in June 2022, followed by a sequel in 2023.
Set in a rural town called Dallyangle in 1893, the debut is described as a "picaresque, neo-Victorian ride through the perils and joys of finding your place in the world, challenging myths about queerness – particularly transness – as a modern phenomenon, while exploring the practicalities of articulating queer perspectives when you’re struggling for words".
Its synopsis explains: "The most famous inhabitants in Dallyangle are the Nettleblacks, three Welsh orphans who have inherited immense wealth from their family. Eldest sister Edwina wants to marry her sisters Rosamond and Harriet (or Henry, as she prefers) to noblemen. When Henry runs away to escape this fate, she is ambushed by a criminal duo who steal her hair. Rescued by a woman in a strange uniform, Henry is taken back to the headquarters of a mysterious crime-fighting organisation: the Dallyangle Division. Desperate not to go home, Henry conceals her identity and joins the division. After a severed head is found at the local theatre, she and her new colleague — the tomboyish, moody Septimus — are assigned the case. But sinister forces are plotting against the division’s survival and threatening to expose Henry as the missing Nettleblack sister."
Publishers Jenn Thompson and Ellis K said: “We were utterly blown away by Nettleblack, and by Nat’s ability to subvert history and build new old worlds. It’s the kind of book that makes you love books — literary, heady, delicious — only it’s also brilliantly queer. We’re overjoyed to be bringing Nettleblack and its sequel to readers, and we’re sure they’ll fall in love with the inhabitants of Dallyangle as we did."