BLOOD AND IRON
Hello. I’m Jon Sprunk, a fantasy writer living in central Pennsylvania. Thank you all for this opportunity to tell you about my new series, BOOK OF THE BLACK EARTH. The first book, BLOOD AND IRON, just came out [yesterday].
The BOOK OF THE BLACK EARTH is set in the same secondary world as my Shadow Saga, but in a different region far to the east of Caim’s adventures. It follows three people as they struggle for freedom in an ancient land called Akeshia, where magic is worshipped and powerful God-Kings (and –Queens) hold the power of life and death over a vast race of people.
Horace is a rather normal guy at the start of the series. Following in his father’s footsteps, he used to build ships for the royal navy of his homeland. But then he lost his wife and son in a plague. Distraught, he joined the Great Crusade against the heathens of the East as a carpenter on a transport ship, more out of a desire to do something positive with his life than any real drive to serve the war effort. However, his ship encounters a magical storm and sinks, and Horace washes up on the shores of his nation’s enemy. He is taken captive and made a slave. That is, until he discovers a latent talent for sorcery that he never knew he possessed.
Alyra is a slavein the household of the queen of Erugash. She is beautiful, intelligent, and obedient. At least, on the surface. She is secretly a spy from another government, sent to keep the queen’s attention turned away from this small satellite nation. Alyra is specifically suited to this mission because she has a strong grudge against the Akeshian Empire, because its soldiers killed her father when she was a child. The mission is everything to Alyra, until she meets Horace and things get . . . confusing.
Jirom is a former mercenary. When his company was defeated by the Akeshian Empire, and he was given a choice between execution and slavery. He chose the collar. At the start of the book, he’s a gladiator fighting to make his owner rich. Because of his success in the ring, he is sold to a local warlord. He meets Horace as they are both slaves, in a caravan heading to the city of Erugash. They become friends, mainly because they are both too stubborn to knuckle under their overlord’s thumb. When Horace’s power is revealed, they are separated. Horace is taken to see the queen, Jirom is sent to serve as a slave-soldier in the royal legions. While he fights to survive in the legions’ brutal training camp, Jirom joins a group of subversive slaves who crave freedom. Yet he’s seen firsthand how the empire treats its enemies, so he must ask himself what’s worse, slavery or death.
Yep. When I started writing as a young man, I messed around with some short stories and then embarked on my first attempt at a full-length novel. It was about some good people who were lured into Hell to serve opposing demon overlords in a game of politics and war. I got about thirty thousand words into the story before it fizzled, mainly due to my own inexperience. I put the unfinished manuscript aside and moved on to other things. Then, after finishing my Shadow trilogy, I was brainstorming for my next project when I remembered that old book. The idea at the heart of that ill-fated first attempt had never left me. I didn’t go back and read the original (which probably would have soured me on the idea), but I did start plotting a story arc with the basic gist in mind.
I began from scratch. I changed the setting to a secondary world that combined elements from several of my favorite ancient cultures, namely the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Egyptians. I found enough parallels that mingling these cultures felt as natural as breathing.
One of the things I really wanted to tackle in this series was an original magic system. I played around with a few concepts until I hit on one that fit my world and my story. It plays on the basic “elemental” magic (earth, air, fire, and water) with a few twists of my own. Magic plays a big part in these books, so I made it a priority in my world building.
Lastly, there’s an idea at the heart of this series. A question really. What does it mean to be free? This series will explore the lives of slaves and royals, masters and servants, soldiers and spies. Throw in the presence of magic—the potential of one person to possess the power of an army—and it makes for a volatile combination. Old walls will be broken down, but new ones will surely arise to take their place.
Well, that’s a brief look at my new series. Thank you for reading.
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