Category Archives: Jon Sprunk

Jon Sprunk’s Blood and Iron Hits Shelves

Blood and IronBlood and Iron
Jon Sprunk
Pyr Books
Trade paper, 424 pg., $18.00
ebook $11.99  Kindle Nook

I really enjoyed Jon Sprunk’s Shadow Saga (reviewed here, here, and here), so I was thrilled recently to learn he had a new book coming out. That book is Blood and Iron, and while it’s set in the same universe as the Shadow Saga, it’s on a different continent and doesn’t have anything to do with the previous books.

It’s also quite good. Blood and Iron is the first volume of The Book of the Black Earth. As well done as the Shadow Saga was, The Book of the Black Earth promises to be even better. Continue reading

Odds and Ends

I thought I’d pass along a few items of interest that have come across my computer screen in the last couple of days.

First, you may recall that I said Pyr books was the number one publisher you should be reading in 2012, and I stand by that statement.  The latest electronic newsletter, Pyr-a-zine, has an interview with Jon Sprunk, whose Shadow trilogy concludes this month with Shadow’s Master (reviewed here). I would include a link, but the interview is an exclusive to the newsletter.  Another advantage to the newsletter is it contains an exclusive discount on one of the Pyr titles.  You can subscribe at the Pyr main page on their website.

Bradley P. Beaulieu is holding a giveaway to promote the forthcoming publication of The Straits of GalaheshNight Shade Books was second on my list of publishers you should be reading, and Beaulieu’s debut novel, The Winds of Khalakovo was one of the main reasons why.  There are some cool prizes in the giveaway, including tablets and ereaders.  Details are here

Beaulieu is also giving away copies of his short science fiction novel, Strata, that he co-wrote with Stephen Gaskell.  The giveaway is next Tuesday and Wednesday, March 20 and 21.  I recently reviewed Strata and found it to be exciting, fast-paced, and a lot of fun.

And speaking of The Straits of Galahesh, it’s in my list of titles to review.   It’s number 3 on the list, after Echo City by Tim Lebbon and Trang by Mary Sission.  Echo City is for the David Gemmell Awards, but I’ll post a link to the review here when it goes live.  Trang is science fiction, so that review will be posted over at Futures Past and Present.  After that, I’ll review The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle, which hits shelves here in the US at the end of the month.

With all the novels I’ve been reviewing, I’ve had very little time to read any short fiction or work on my own writing.  As a result I’m going to cut back on the number of novels I review once I fulfill my current commitments (approximately 3 others not listed).  I’m also going to punctuate the novel reviews and other posts with some short fiction centric posts, like the one the other day on the current issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  I’ll still accept review copies, but I’m going to be a lot pickier for the next few months.  There’s a lot of great short fiction I want to read (and hopefully write).  Working in academia means I don’t have much time during the academic year as I would like, which is why the frequency of posts here and at Futures Past and Present have slowed down since the middle of January..  Things should pick back up during the summer.

Mastering the Shadows

Shadow’s Master
Jon Sprunk
Pyr Books
trade paper, 313 pp., $17.95

Jon Sprunk is a relative newcomer to the fantasy field, this being only his third novel, the conclusion to a trilogy.  And a right satisfying conclusion it is, at that.  The story that was begun in Shadow’s Son (reviewed here) and continued in Shadow’s Lure (reviewed here) wraps up in Shadow’s Master.  This one is darker, bloodier, and better than its predecessors.

While I won’t give any spoilers to the present book, I might let a few slip from the previous volumes.  Just giving you notice.

The story picks up where the previous novel left off.  Caim, accompanied by three companions, is heading north into the Northern Marches.  There’s something in his head that’s pulling him in that direction.  As she died, his aunt Sybelle told him to look for a dark fortress if he wants to find out what happened to his mother.  Caim thinks he’ll find her when he finds whatever seems to be calling him.

Meanwhile, in Nimea, Josie has survived several assassination attempts and much political intrigue.  She, too, is heading north, ostensibly to tour the northern portions of her kingdom, but in reality she’s searching for Caim.  If she can’t find him, she at least hopes to find some word of him.  She carries his child, something that would give Lady Philomena apoplexy if she knew.  What Josie finds is squabbling nobles, starving peasants, and an invading army.

Most of the book focuses on Caim.  The land he travels is blighted, with the Sun never shining, even on the longest day of summer.  The people barely manage to survive, and those that do, do so by the sword.  If Caim is to reach his destination, he’s going to have to do it over spilled blood.

Sprunk’s handling of the characters shows greater depth than in his previous works, not that those works didn’t show depth of character.  They did.  It’s just that Sprunk is maturing as a writer, growing and expanding.  Much of the territory over which Caim travels is bleak, and the story reflects that.  While Caim struggles to understand his feelings for Josie and his conflicting feelings for Kit, Josie is wrestling with her feelings for Caim as well as the attractive young nobleman who joins her guard.  All of this is in addition to the deaths that Caim and Josie have on their consciences, and knowing that they both have to make decisions that will cost people their lives.

To my mind, though, it was the minor character of Balaam who was one of the most fascinating.  Favored servant of Caim’s grandfather, Sprunk shows us enough of the choices the man has made to paint a picture of regrets and internal conflicts.  This is more than just a bad guy from central casting.  This is one area in which Sprunk’s skills can be seen to have matured.  None of his villains are truly evil except for one, and even with that one the evil is understandable.  Instead, Sprunk gives his villains motives, and noble motives at that, at least from their point of view.  Balaam at one points says that if he’s a killer, at least he’s a killer for a cause while Caim is a killer for profit.  While Sprunk doesn’t beat the reader over the head with them, he does raise some philosophical issues for which there aren’t always easy answers.  Honor, duty, and sacrifice all play a role in the story.  Without them, this would be a far lesser book and a far more generic plot.

There’s plenty of action and combat, and Sprunk handles it with finesse.  Fans of action oriented sword and sorcery will find plenty to cheer about here.

I don’t know if Sprunk plans on returning to this world.  He leaves enough loose ends that further volumes could follow naturally.  I would especially like to see more of Josie.  By the end of the book, she has grown into the role of Empress and is a woman not to be trifled with.  There is still enough unresolved intrigue for at least one novel centered on her.

Shadow’s Master is scheduled for a March release.  I haven’t been in a bookstore in a few weeks, so I don’t know if it’s on the shelves or not.  Barnes and Noble and Amazon both list it, but Amazon shows a release date of March 27.  I’ve seen Pyr books in B&N before their release date, so you may be able to snag a copy sooner than the end of the month.  This one is an example of why Pyr is one of the best publishers of fantasy and science fiction around.

The Next Week or So

I’m getting over a sinus infection at the moment, something that isn’t helped by the dust and the wind here on the South Plains.  Unless something major happens tomorrow, I probably won’t be posting anything new until Sunday night or more probably Monday evening.  I’ll be attending ConDFW this weekend and will give a full report when I get back.  I’m also reading Mark Finn‘s updated biography of Robert E. Howard, Blood and Thunder, and Matt Forbeck‘s Carpathia.  They’re both great reads, and I’ll review them next week.  I had hoped to finish one of them in time to write a review before the con, but being sick has slowed me down some.

In the meantime, this Saturday will see the first guest post here.  Author Ty Johnston is doing a blog tour to promote his new book, Demon Chains, the latest in his Kron Darkbow series.  I’d like to thank Ty in advance for his column.  I’ve read it, and it’s good.  Check it out.  And if you haven’t read any of his books, start with City of Rogues, which I reviewed a few months ago.

Coming up after the report on ConDFW, I’ve got commitments to review (not necessarily in this order) Shadow’s Master by Jon SprunkThief’s Covenant by Ari Marmell, The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle, Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, Trang by Mary Sisson, and Rise and Fall by Joshua P. Simon.  I’ll probably look at some short fiction in the midst of all that, plus the occasional essay.

The Shadows Darken

Shadow’s Lure
Jon Sprunk
Pyr, $16.00, 391 p.

I want a glowing green girlfriend that nobody else can see or hear who can walk through walls.

Don’t tell my wife I said that.  She would probably entertain objections to the idea.

But it would be convenient to have one.  For instance, she could tell me when danger was around the corner.  Like Kit does in the Shadow series.

Jon Sprunk’s Shadow’s Son was one of the first books I reviewed after starting this blog, and it was good to revisit the world and characters. The publisher’s web site says this title was published last June, but I didn’t see a copy on the shelves of a bookstore until October, which until I started writing this post is when I assumed it was published.  If I’d known it came out last summer, this review would have been written months ago.  Just so you know, there are some mild spoilers for Shadow’s Son in the following paragraphs.   Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Continue reading

Shadow’s Son

Shadow’s Son
Jon Sprunk
Pyr Books
Trade paperback, $16

I liked this book a lot, and for a number of reasons, not the least of which it was short.  I realize that sounds like a slam, but it’s not.  In an age of Book Bloat; four, five, or more volume “trilogies”; and series where readers are literally kept waiting years for the next installment (Are you listening George R. R. Martin?), it is refreshing to find a fantasy that can be told in one volume.  That this fantasy not only ties up all the loose ends, which is not the same as answering all the questions, and does so with style, characcterization, multiple viewpoints, and plenty of action, is very much a breath of fresh air. Continue reading