The Cold Edge is the official website of author and explorer Leo Carew. His UNDER THE NORTHERN SKY trilogy (The Wolf, The Spider and The Cuckoo) are available to buy now.
The third of four children, Leo grew up in the centre of London, in the shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Inspired by audiobooks, he developed a late interest in reading and began trying his hand at writing soon afterwards. It was at this time that he also developed a sneaking suspicion that the city was not for him and spent as much time as possible exploring remote areas. After school, this led to two formative months spent on expedition in the High Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.
Three years followed reading Biological Anthropology at Cambridge University, most of which was spent staring out of the window, dreaming about colder climates. Obligatory time with serious studying done, Leo returned to Svalbard – Old Norse for “The Cold Edge” – where he lived in a tent for a year training and working as an Arctic guide. During this time, he revisited a novel he had begun at the age of 12 and began reassembling it in the considerable space offered by 24hr darkness. A reluctant return to London to train as a doctor and pursue a career as an army medic followed, during which time he completed his first novel, The Wolf.
Leo took a year out of his medical studies in 2018 to complete a second book, The Spider, written chiefly while overwintering on an abandoned Hebridean island. He further undertook an expedition to Greenland, when he and his teammate Matthew Hay succeeded in climbing two unclimbed peaks, and undertook climate change research.
Leo graduated as a doctor in March 2020 at the height of the first wave of COVID, and was immediately called up to work in a radically expanded intensive care unit at the Royal London Hospital. He has worked as an army doctor ever since, completing his third book, The Cuckoo, in his free time. He is currently working on a historical fiction novel alongside his work for the army, who receive regular entreaties to deploy him somewhere cold and wild.
Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram: @leocarew1
Critical Praise for The Wolf:
“It’s an absorbing study of one man’s rise to power… imagine Game of Thrones rewritten by John le Carré – with some magnificent world-building (the northern Black Kingdom is graphically rendered in all its wintry bleakness). Featuring excellent anthropological observations of the opposing cultures of the Anakim and the Suthernors, and building inexorably towards its climactic battle, The Wolf is a marvellously accomplished debut.” THE GUARDIAN
“Gripping and ambitious . . . twisty in its political maneuverings, gritty in its battle descriptions, and rich with a sense of heroism and glory” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“The Wolf is a work of extraordinary imagination and perhaps the most captivating first novel I’ve ever read” MICHAEL DOBBS, author of House of Cards
“Full of dark conspiracies, larger-than-life characters, and tense battles, Leo Carew has created a rousing cross between The Magnificent Seven and Game of Thrones” PAUL HOFFMAN, author of The Left Hand of God
“An action-packed and blood-splattered tour de force . . . Carew is the real deal – an exciting new voice in fantasy” KIRKUS REVIEWS
“This is a glorious debut… It’s been a while since I’ve read a fantasy story of politics and war written with such subtlety, vigour, depth of characterisation and world-building.” MORNING STAR
Hey can you tell me how difficult it is to get admission in ANG course.
Hi Jack – it’s reasonably competitive. In my year I think there were about one hundred applicants for around twenty places. Of course, as offers are made quite late in the year and going off to Svalbard is a big commitment, there’s inevitably a lot of people who can’t accept their offers. They therefore have quite a long reserve list that they can turn to if the original twenty offered places can’t accept. So they maybe make forty offers overall.
Selection is based on a combination of outdoor experience, your motivations and your school/university achievements. Hope this is helpful – good luck!
I am having issues checking out your site. I cannot find any information pertaining to your book. I hope you can offer me some help. Sorry to bother you.
I’m afraid there actually isn’t too much available on the book just yet! I wrote a background piece about it here, which is all I’ve really managed so far: https://leocarew.com/2018/04/08/on-the-origin-of-a-species/
There’s been a lot going on and sadly the site has become slightly neglected, though I’m planning another background piece very soon for the release of THE SPIDER, and hopefully will be able to update here more frequently thereafter.
As a fellow writer and explorer, currently undertaking the international wilderness guide course in finland, i’m wondering about the overall costs of the ANG. Seems to be an impossible answer to find… i know the fees are free but what about everything else (food, accomodation, etc…) ?
Recognize a lot myself in you, writing my third book and taking that same path of outdoor life as well, so i wish you all the best mate.
Thank you for your answer 🙂
Lucky you, IWG looks like a great course in country I’ve always wanted to spend some time!
It’s a tricky question with regards to living costs, and may have changed a little since I was there. Food and accommodation are expensive in Svalbard, and there’s significant additional costs like a rifle/snowmobile if you really want to live the life of an Arctic cowboy (and I recommend you do!) plus any other outdoor equipment you don’t have. I would guess I used about 90,000NOK supporting myself that year. That included quite a lot of outdoor gear, rifle and 4000NOK on a snow mobile. You could do it for less (particularly if you have most of the gear already) but I did also live in a tent for almost the whole thing, which saved a lot of money. I have heard that they’re not so keen on people doing that anymore, as it was becoming a bit of a permanent fixture, so plus accommodation I would guess you’d need c.100,000NOK.
If that seems daunting, a few students made money through freelance guiding while doing the course, and you can rent rifle/snow-mobile/lots of other expensive equipment rather than having to pay for them outright.
Best of luck – it is still one of the best things I’ve ever done and I hope it works out for you. And fruitful writing too!
sorry for duplicate comment thanks for reply
Great reading about your experience with ANG.
Can you tell me how old were the people participating in the ANG program in your course?
Hi Fred! I seem to remember the average age was about 26. The youngest person there was 20 at the start of the course, and the oldest 37 I think. Hope this helps!
Any sign of a second novel, first one was excellent.
So glad you enjoyed! Just editing the second (The Spider) now. I have a complete manuscript but it’s going to need plenty of work – shooting for an April publication at the moment.
Just read ‘The Wolf’. Great read, thanks. I know it’s fictional but I wondered if you sourced the Anakim as a people from any of your anthropological research (travels)?
Great to hear you enjoyed The Wolf! The starting points that I used when creating the Anakim were very much inspired by anthropological theory on a few different species, but mostly a combination of the Neanderthals, and ancient, pre-agriculture Homo sapiens. I wrote a post which describes some of it here: https://leocarew.com/2018/04/08/on-the-origin-of-a-species/
Lots of ideas came from modern human societies too. I borrowed quite a bit from the Spartans for social structure and mindset, and from the Inuit as well, who have a good claim to be the human society which has managed to colonise the most extreme part of our planet. I found some of their social and technological solutions to this fascinating, and wanted them very much for the Anakim.
Hope that helps!
I’m laughing to myself (with delight) – the author of a book replied! I feel special 🙂
Thanks for the info, Leo. When I read these sort of ‘fantasy’ type stories I often wonder where the inspiration comes from.
Loved it. Looking forward to the next one!
I very much enjoyed The Wolf. The Anakim were very interesting and i thought to myself while reading they reminded me of Spartans. The relashionship between Grey and Price i liked very much. It was also very fun to hate Uvorin. As a villain i really wanted him to get what was coming. Looking forward to the next.
Thank you for such a wonderful read.
What fine news to brighten a grey winter’s morn, I’m delighted you enjoyed! You’re right about the similarities between the Anakim and the Spartans – their culture was definitely one of the biggest inspirations.
I must admit I miss Uvoren a bit, he was a very satisfying character to write!
Hi Leo, Thoroughly enjoyed The Wolf so eagerly awaiting The Spider. Can I ask are your signing books anywhere? Kind regards, Ian
My great apologies for the delay! So pleased to hear you enjoyed The Wolf, really makes my day. In the midst of slightly frantic preparations for medical finals at this end, so the only appearance I’ve got planned is at the Cymera festival in Edinburgh, on the 9th June. As I imagine that would be a stretch, I’m hoping to get some book-plates sorted soon so that I can send them out to anyone who wants to add to their copy. Will be posting details here when I get round to it!
Just finished the second book, brilliant!
Really enjoyed reading it, thanks.
Already looking forward for the next one!
Greetings from a Belgian living in Switzerland!
I’m so glad Nicky, thanks very much for getting in touch! Book 3 under construction, I’ll try hard not to disappoint.
I’m reading your book for an assignment in my English class 🙂 I absolutely love it!
I’m in Grade 12 which means I’ll be applying for university soon, and I want to publish the book I’m writing now and put it on my application. Any advice or tips?
Hi Sydney – I’m so pleased!
Great that you’re looking at trying to get published, lots of people never put their work out there. Even if you’re exceptionally lucky, it tends to be a long process, likely a couple of years between having a manuscript accepted by an agent and actually seeing the published work on the shelves. I based almost my entire application on what I read in the Writers and Artists Yearbook. Buy the latest edition – it’s packed with advice on how to put together a covering letter, what agents and publishers will expect from you, what you can expect from them and the main agencies/houses to apply to. It’s really invaluable.
The only thing I’d add to it is that you will very likely go through a lot of rejection – everyone does! To work through that, you must enjoy the process. Do your writing for yourself and because you enjoy it, and view getting published as a bonus. If you do, you’ll stick at it through the disappointment and that gives you the best chance of success.
Wishing you the very best of luck,
Just before lockdown in April 2020, I went to a bookstore and bought lots of sequels I was chasing. I picked up one new title: The Wolf. I decided to pick it up based on Patrick Insole’s covert art (so simple, so awesome). I really enjoyed the book!
My favourite character is Pryce – love his personality and fighting style.
I just finished The Spider. I was gutted by a certain event (you know what I’m talking about). Again, really enjoyed it!
I think if your story ever gets adapted, it would be awesome as an Anime. Looking forward to Book #3.
All the best!
That cover art has made me so many sales! I’m so pleased you enjoyed, and interesting thought re anime. It’s not a form I’ve got very much experience of so I’ll have to brush up!
Many thanks for your kind words.
You are a beast Leo. Thanks for your work. I enjoyed the first two books thoroughly!
You are very inspiring. May God continue to bless you and your loved ones.
You’re too kind sir, thanks so much and I’m delighted you enjoyed! All the best to you in these strange times.
Dear Leo, any words on Cockoo? Can not wait to continue the fantastic journey I started with the Wolf and the Spider… just a little hint on release maybe?
All the best from Munich
The first draft is done though it’ll need a lot of the rough edges sanding off still I’m afraid. Hoping to have a final version in the next 6 months or so (assuming there’s no further covid surges to derail things!) Thank you so much for your patience, warm regards to you from just outside London.
I’ve always been super picky with the books I read, especially in the fantasy genre. However, I immediately loved The Wolf when I read it the first time and I enjoyed the Spider even more! I really enjoy your work and the world you’ve created. I cannot wait for the third book to come out!
That’s wonderful to hear, thank you Joshua! Working hard to make sure The Cuckoo doesn’t disappoint
Get this a tv series asap!!! Amazing books, i just finished the spider and am very excited for the cuckoo. Call HBO i want to see the black kingdom!
I have literally only started reading again in the past year or so after doing an English literature degree ten years ago that broke any will I had to read.
Your two books are the first since I started reading again that I found unputdownable, I haven’t felt like that since I was a kid with Harry Potter books. So thank you!
I was wondering if you had an recommendations for books that you enjoyed yourself or inspired you?
Ross your comment warmed the cockles of my heart.
There are lots of books which inspired me. For historical fiction, Bernard Cornwell’s Last Kingdom series, and the Sharpe books, were a real go-to. See also Robert Harris’ Cicero trilogy. For fantasy, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrelll by Susanna Clarke, and His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. Most anything by Philip Pullman in fact.
Thank you so much for your kind words.
I have just finished The Cuckoo and it was another one I couldn’t put down. Thank you.
Spoilers upcoming for anyone who hasn’t read yet.
This was the first time as an adult reader I can remember feeling emotional while reading. I was so sure that Roper’s triumphant return was going to lead to a victory for the Anakim – when I started to realise it wasn’t (in part due to my approach towards the end of the book rather than my waining optimism lol) I felt what Roper’s army was feeling along with them – the certainty turning to hope, turning to fear, turning to acceptance. It was very well done and a fitting climax to the story. The prelude to the final battle actually put me in mind of the decisions made by the heroes at the end of His Dark Materials trilogy (which I read at your recommendation and thoroughly enjoyed).
I have a couple of questions, but if you can’t be arsed answering them I won’t be offended, don’t worry haha
1. You have an interview to a podcast and mentioned that you wrote the general outline of the trilogy’s story as a youngster. You’d said when you were reading this back with adult eyes your writing made you cringe, but there was one story beat that you would still include in the final book almost unchanged. What was this part? If I had to guess I’d say the exchange of armour and weapons amongst the Anakim ahead of the last stand, but I have no real reason to think that lol
2. Do you like Bellamus? He was undeniably charismatic and I think up until the third book I probably did like him. But King Bellamus had done enough to eradicate my goodwill towards him by the end. I think it’s a combination of firstly losing some of his humanity (as evidenced in his exchanges with Stepan – unable to understand that anything could be more important than progressing ambitious goals), but strangely I think his sympathy is massively eroded when he wins. I always knew he was capable of extreme acts but when they actually pay off fully for him, I wanted him dead. His internal toil at committing horrible deeds stops gaining credit when it becomes clear he always lands on the same side of the coin. I can take some solace in the fact that he is quite clearly not going to be wholly satisfied with his outcome though.
3. Is there more to come from this world? It feels like the story is finished for the existing characters as Kenturah’s island community will take generations and generations to regrow – but do you think you’ll write more on the future Anakim? Or the other Anakim allies?
4. Are we getting a TV series?
Ross! Thank you very much for your kind words, makes all the difference to hear, and my apologies for the delay. Any comparison to His Dark Materials is OK by me! One of my all time favourite series.
In answer to your questions:
1) Good guess! In fact the final beat which is included almost unchanged is Roper’s speech just before their last battle, which still said everything I wanted it to nearly twenty years later. Clearly I haven’t developed much…
2) I too used to really like Bellamus! Of all the characters, his motivations at the ones I relate to the most, so I can’t really dislike him. But he undoubtedly gets less flexible and more isolated, which leads him to take some selfish decisions.
3) For now I’d like to focus on some historical fiction. I’ll doubtless return to Erebos one day though
4) Not yet! Petition HBO for me and we’ll see if we can get something off the ground
Whens the tv show coming out lol!
Best fantasy i’ve ever read, can’t wait for the cuckoo
I’m so pleased to hear you’ve enjoyed Shawn. I keep petitioning HBO for a series, they’re mysteriously reluctant! Might need to start a petition…
Fantastic series that reached the only conclusion it really could. I loved the unique, but grounded world you built, and there were a lot of sympathetically crafted interpersonal relationships for a series with so much stabbing.
Thank you Michael! I’ve always thought the risk of being stabbed does wonders for your interpersonal relationships.
Absolutely loved the series and the world you have created, honestly could not put them down to the point they have travelled around both Germany and England with me this summer as I simply could not wait to see what happened.
I was wondering if you plan to explore this world more in future works? Though the ending was fantastic, I still desire to learn more about this culture I grew to be fascinated by.
Hi Dan, excellent to hear the books have been travelling around with you. I may well return to the world of the Anakim one day, though my plan for the moment is to do some historical fiction. I’ll probably continue writing companion articles to the series though (there’s a couple on here already) which may give you more information before I get round to writing another book!
First of all I just wanted to say thank you for this emotional rollercoaster of a journey! I’ve never been much of a reader but every time I started reading I had to know what happened next. I felt joy, sadness and laughter sometimes even anger with each passing page. I loved the characters and how they felt like a living organism and their relationships with each felt alive. Even the most simple of guardsman’s felt real. They’re were points I read that seemed so insignificant ( mainly due to my optimism) but I realized every detail was foreshadowing the next and it had me enthralled. I’m sad to see it come to an end and look forward to any future books about this fantastic world you’ve built.
Thank you James! It’s always splendid to hear when all the hard work is appreciated. I’m also sad to bid farewell to that cast of characters, may well end up writing more in that world. Discovering that others have invested fully in the series helps bring it to life, so your kind words are much appreciated.