Sometimes finding a good book is as easy as walking into the nearest Borders and seeing the highlighted display of the month. But sometimes it can also be a lucky find. A find that is like a treasure one happens to stumble upon. These instances of luck and circumstance can feel all the more rewarding for having discovered something before the crowd. These are my thoughts and feelings about finding Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk.
I met Mr. Sprunk at the Pittsburgh Comicon a couple of months back. He patiently waited for me to wade my way through BEA in order to finally be able to sit down and give his book the time it deserved. Jon was also nice enough to answer a few quick questions for me to pair with this review. Considering we shall begin to feature more and more frequent author interviews to pair along side book reviews, I’m happy to kick off this process with Shadow’s Son. The charm of this book is in the delectably detailed descriptions:
She stalked across the taproom and alighted gracefully into a chair. She started to sit up like a proper lady until she saw his expression and slouched, hips thrust forward and legs dangling askew, the perfect picture of a bored streetwalker taking her ease. Mother avoided looking in her direction, but every other eye in the place was plastered to her every move. That was exactly what he wanted. (pg. 147)
The character described above is Josey. It is rare that I find the role of the pampered socialite so endearing. Josey was happy being the spoiled only daughter of a rich and noble man. Within the first few fast-paced chapters of the book, this lifestyle was ripped away from her and she suddenly became a desirable prize for despicable men, though she had no idea why.
Caim had a bit of a different upbringing. Having witnessed his father killed and his mother brutally taken from him at a young age, Caim spent most of his life on the streets where he learned to be a ruthless hit-man, very good at his job. But one day the job went sour on him and suddenly he was caught in the middle of a political web of lies, scandal, murder, and power struggle. Truly, he wanted nothing to do with it – yet somehow he couldn’t seem to walk away from the tangled mess and the spunky ward (Josey) who unwittingly held the secret to bringing the streets of Othir back from chaotic pit of sin and social inequity where it had fallen.
Then there’s Kit. Kit is a ghost. Sorta. She is everything a ghost should be –ethereal, youthful, and laughably witty. I fell in love with Kit from the first moment I met her (er … read about her). She is, as Sprunk describes her in the book “bubbling with effervescence.” And with these light and airy traits, she keeps Caim grounded. The fact that only Caim can see her is unendingly amusing (who doesn’t chuckle to see someone talking to themselves).
The characters drew me into the book more than anything, but really this book is about a thick political plot and adventure at every turn. Sprunk, like his character Caim, doesn’t hesitate to spill some blood when the need arises:
Levictus crossed the intervening distance as a bald pate leaned around the side of the chair, followed by rheumy eyes and a wide nose. He made no attempt to hide, but strode purposefully toward his prey. The old man’s rubbery lips formed a hollow O as the knife rose. The blade’s dark surface drank in the light of the fire.
“Mercy!” the prelate cried. “Mercy in the name of Almighty God.”
But Levictus had none. (pg. 162)
You’ve heard it from me, but sometimes it’s best to get the story straight from the author’s mouth. Check out the quick interview below with author Jon Sprunk as he answers some of the questions at the top of my mind:
1) Kit was absolutely my favorite character. Was she just someone who appeared in your head very clearly, or is Kit based on someone or some other character(s) that have inspired her personality?
Kit is a joyful accident. Caim was deliberate, as were most of the other characters, but Kit just arrived on the scene and started talking. I loved her at once, and let her go where she wanted.
2) I specifically chose the UK version of the book cover because I just thought it artistic and intriguing to me as a reader. Could you tell me about your experience publishing and marketing this book in the UK?
I give complete credit to my agents (Eddie Schneider and Joshua Bilmes of the Jabberwocky Literary Agency) for the UK and other foreign sales. I didn’t much to do with it.
The UK publisher is Gollancz. They’re very supportive, but I haven’t been involved in much foreign marketing. I can tell you that it’s exciting and humbling to receive fan mail and shout-outs from all across the world. That’s something I never imagined would happen to me.
3) I mentioned that Kit is my favorite character. I also really like Josey. She’s dainty and proper yet absolutely holds her own in spirit and wit and she quickly grows into herself once her life drastically derails from its pampered path. As a male author, what was your thought process for nailing these female voices so well?
I wish I knew! Seriously, I just focused on making them sound and act as “real” as possible. I’ve been fortunate enough to know many wonderful women in my lifetime, including my wife Jenny who is my rock and my muse. To honor them, I try to portray female characters with strength and verve.
4) As a woman I instantly identified with the female characters, so perhaps I’ve left the main man out of the picture here a bit in this interview. Caim walks a line between light and dark. Good and evil. He knows this about himself and it causes inner turmoil. Could you describe his struggle?
Caim is a broken person. What he witnessed as a child—the murder of his father and the abduction of his mother—shaped him into something both pitiful and chilling. But some of his early upbringing remains. He has a code of honor, of sorts, but very little empathy for his fellow human beings. That is, until a certain pampered socialite falls into his life . . .
5) Allow me to be a bit cliché for a few moment with the following questions: where did you get the idea for Shadow’s Son and what was the process to publication like?
I was seeking for ideas for a new book when the basic structure for the series entered my head. It was very rough, but I had the core – a down-and-out scoundrel is forced to confront a growing evil. But I needed a strong main character. Then I remembered a few chapters I’d written for a book about a knife-wielding assassin, and it all clicked.
I’d submitted other novels to publishers and felt the bitter tang of rejection, many times, so I was still considering who to approach when I finished reading the First Law series by Joe Abercrombie. Joe was kind enough to mention his U.S. editor in the acknowledgements, so I took a chance and sent Lou Anders at Pyr Books an email. After a mountain of rejections, I finally got lucky. He requested the manuscript and followed up a little later with a contract offer.
And there you have it, Lytherians. Shadow’s Son can easily be accessed both on Borders.com and Amazon.com. I recommend this book for those who prefer stories that are action filled with a sprinkle of intrigue and romance. While you are at it, keep your eyes open for the next installment of this series, Shadow’s Lure, which comes out June 21. In fact, if you head over to Jon’s website at jonsprunk.com, and hit him up with an email before midnight on June 3, you could win an ARC of this sequel.