Sword of Shadows
by Karin Rita Gastreich GENRE: Dark Fantasy
Sisters in magic, Eolyn and Adiana seek to revive a millennial tradition once forbidden to women. When war strikes, their fledgling community of magas is destroyed; its members killed, captured or scattered.
Determined to defend her people, Eolyn seeks to escape the occupied province and deliver to King Akmael a weapon that might secure their victory. Trapped by the invading army, Adiana is taken prisoner and placed at the mercy of the ruthless Prince Mechnes.
Even as their world is torn asunder, Eolyn and Adiana cling to a common dream. Courage and perseverance guide them toward a future where the Daughters of Aithne will flourish in a world set free from the violence of men.
"War propels the story forward, and the characters are at their best when circumstances are at their worst." -Publishers Weekly
This is the second book in THE SILVER WEB trilogy. It can be read as a stand-alone novel, or as the sequel to the first book, EOLYN.
A hush of wings on the windowsill interrupted Eolyn’s thoughts. She looked up to see a Great River Owl, its proud silhouette outlined by moonlight.
Eolyn rose to her feet in surprise, keenly aware of its penetrating gaze, though she could not see its round eyes in the dark. A breeze ruffled its feathers. Its aura was impossibly familiar: intense shades of gold, burgundy, and forest green, shot through with streaks of deepest indigo.
She held her breath and let it go in a whisper. “Akmael?”
More than a question, it was a hope, a fear, an invocation.
A shimmer passed through the owl, followed by a flash of white light. Suddenly Akmael was with her, the heat of his hand upon her throat, the strength of his fingers intertwining in her hair, the demand of his lips upon hers, warm and full of passion. The magic of the South Woods blew through the window in a humid gust, swirling about them, begging Eolyn to remember who she was and what she once meant to him.
Akmael kissed Eolyn until she had no more breath to give. Then he paused and held her close, their foreheads touching as her fingers traced the familiar prominence of his cheekbone, the line of his jaw, the curve of his full lips.
All she could hear was his desire, carried on the rhythm of his heart. She dared not speak, for if she did, she might stumble upon words of caution or prudence or common sense, and none of that had any place here. Not when he was so near, nearer than he had been in such a painfully long time, closer than he might ever be again.
This is a gift from the Gods, Akmael had once said. To deny it would be an insult to them.
She hushed him with a kiss.
Karin Rita Gastreich writes stories of ordinary women and the extraordinary paths they choose. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she is part of the biology faculty at Avila University. An ecologist by vocation, Karin has wandered forests and wildlands for over twenty years. Her past times include camping, hiking, music, and flamenco dance. In addition to THE SILVER WEB trilogy, Karin has published short stories in World Jumping, Zahir, Adventures for the Average Woman, and 69 Flavors of Paranoia. She is a recipient of the Spring 2011 Andrews Forest Writer’s Residency.
What inspired you to write this book?
Sword of Shadows is the second book in a trilogy called The Silver Web. So, to answer the question of why I wrote Sword of Shadows, I need to talk a little bit about why I wrote The Silver Web trilogy.
Many people, places and situations inspired The Silver Web. Orson Scott Card, in his handbook How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, claims that every novel takes about twenty years to write. This has certainly been true for my novels; some of my earliest ideas about Eolyn’s story came to me while I was in college, more than twenty years ago. Just imagine how many threads of inspiration can be incorporated into a novel idea that brews over two decades!
Back in that time, more than anything, I wanted to write a fantasy where women played central and complex roles. Like many young women of my generation, I had read The Lord of the Rings trilogy and other fantasy and science fiction classics. As much as I enjoyed these stories, part of me felt left out. There were so few women in these novels, and with very few exceptions, the women that did appear had marginalized roles. These authors, as admirable as they were, had left huge gaping holes in their worlds. How could they simply ignore half the population when writing their stories?
I decided that fantasy can and should be written differently. Of course, back then I was on my way to a career in the sciences, so I never imagined I would be the person to write the story I most wanted to read. But the idea kept brewing inside until one day, many years later, I took pen to paper and wrote the first scene of Eolyn, Book One of The Silver Web.
While the trilogy focuses on the journey of one woman, Eolyn, she is not the only woman of importance in her world. A large cast of female characters runs through all three novels. Each of these women has her own history, personality, motivations, and gifts to bring to the saga.
Eolyn does not live in a world ready to accept her as a woman of power and influence. On the contrary, the magic she uses is forbidden to all women. As the trilogy progresses, we see Eolyn advance from the marginalized status of refugee to a powerful maga capable of challenging the patriarchs of her world.
Eolyn’s journey is not without great cost. Sometimes she makes compromises that her cohorts and even some of her readers don’t like. But she does walk this road alone. Many women and men accompany her. Even though they aren’t always in agreement with each other, together they are destined to overturn a system that has suppressed women’s magic – and women’s autonomy – for generations.
As the second book in this series, Sword of Shadows is in many ways the darkest part of Eolyn’s journey. This tale of war focuses not on heroic battles, but on the plight of women and children subject to the worst cruelties of military conflict.
Many of the situations in Sword of Shadows were inspired by stories I heard about my grandmother, who struggled to protect her young daughters while caught in the crossfire of World War II. Interestingly, I didn’t realize how much her life had inspired me until after I finished Sword of Shadows. Whether by intention or accident, Sword of Shadows is a tribute to the untold stories of women in times of war. Through this novel, I tried to capture the unique heroism and awe-inspiring struggle of mothers, sisters, and daughters who fight to survive by any means when confronted by circumstances beyond their control.