Shadow Tracker by Jonathan E. Barnett Genre: Fantasy
Alcasia has been a hunter since a very young age. She hunts the most dangerous animal in the Great Forest of Rhent. The huge beasts skin hardens into a substance called brontum which is necessary in this world where iron is very rare. When taxes are raised, she ventures further than any other hunter to try and keep her family secure. This is when she accidently runs across an invading foreign army clad in steel. After escaping from this force she returns home to find these strange invaders have destroyed her village and kidnapped her brother and sister. As the village discusses rebuilding, Alcasia teams up with several friends to attempt a rescue.
Alcasia, Robyr and Trepuk lead a small band of villagers on this long mission to save their loved ones. The villagers head east toward the cities of the Plain. Alcasia will face the bigotry that people have to shadow trackers like herself as well the might of this great army of steel.
Alcasia and her band travel from the village on the edge of civilization and into the midst of a war. Alcasia moves among the armies to try and protect her loved ones. While she is known for hunting monsters, she finds herself facing a far greater monster.
They finally reached a point within sight of the middle of the camp. This camp was laid out a little differently than the large camp in the Great Forest. The center of the camp had a large pen for horses. This was clearly a troop of horse soldiers. Hopefully the one that had rolled through Green Point. The middle of the camp was open, There were four large paths spanning out from the middle of the camp in all four cardinal directions. At regular periods small groups of four to six cavalry soldiers would ride in or out going to unknown locations. There was a lot of activity. In front of a lone tent there was a large spear lodged in the ground with the red flag with the black X that she saw in the forest. The bold red and black sent a chill through her body. Her body told her to run. There was a clink of armor in the air. The fires raged around her. She was clinging to the shadows as one clings to a ship in a storm. The single tent by the flag was in the center of the camp. There was a great area in front of the tent that gave the appearance of a large city square. There were some make-shift buildings set up. Alcasia could not guess the purposes of these buildings. Directly across the open area there was a wooden wagon with bars blocking small windows.
Alcasia felt a tug at her shoulder. She avoided quick movements, but turned to see Trepuk stepping to the edge of the shadow. He was dangerously close to stepping into clear view. She felt a sudden panic, but then she realized he was staring intently. She followed his gaze and saw he was looking toward the wagon. As she looked at the wagon she now saw a small, slender arm reaching out of the window. The hand was pale in the light of the fires and appeared to be young and smooth. Odara! Alcasia immediately knew. She looked in all directions, there was only light and fire between here and the wagon. There was no clear path.
It was after this quick search that Alcasia realized that Trepuk was gone. She felt the power of the adrenaline pouring through her veins. Where did he go? What is he doing? Her eyes darted around the immediate area. No! No! No! Finally, her eyes came to rest on a group of horses loitering between the rows of tents. There were some soldiers taking items off the horses and getting them ready to place in the corral. Alcasia spotted the extra set of legs darting among the horses. She tensed as Trepuk’s feet always seemed within inches of soldiers’ lines of sight, but they never noticed him. She lost sight of the feet as Trepuk vanished back into the shadows near the tents.
She kept looking. Dammit Puck! Where are you?! You’re going to get us all killed. The group of horses was handed over to a few young soldiers. Looked like horse handlers to follow the advance. That is when she noticed something. The last young man in line grabbed the final two horses, but his walk was more smooth than the others and he seemed less sure with the horses. There he is! Alcasia’s mind was racing. She needed to get closer to him
Alcasia scanned the environment. No disguises would work for her. Her build would never be confused with a grown man, or even a young one for the matter. She thought back to what she would do with a brontar. I need a distraction. She drew an arrow, notched the arrow, then took a slow aim. This was about to be the craziest thing she had ever done. She saw Lysander’s face. She saw Alishana’s face. She saw her mother’s face. There was so much at stake. In the forest a shot like this could mean starting the hunt over again. Here, a miss could mean she would be caught and die. Worse, it could mean Alishan and Lysander’s death. She took another deep breath and loosed the arrow.
Jonathan E. Barnett grew up in Stevens Point, WI. After spending a year in a seminary in St. Paul, MN, he transferred to UW-La Crosse. He graduated with a Bachelor's in History and a minor in Economics. Upon graduating, Jonathan was commissioned as an Officer in the Wisconsin Army National Guard and deployed twice to Southwest Asia. After his second deployment, he graduated from University of Wisconsin Law School. Jonathan is now a practicing attorney and author in Central Wisconsin.
What inspired you to write this book?
This book is the culmination of a promise I made to my teenage daughter. My daughter has some linguistic speech disorder issues, but she is a brilliant writer. I was trying to encourage her to focus in and write something substantive. I promised her that I would write book if she would. We bounced our ideas off each other and I would print off copies of my drafts for her to review. She is still working on hers.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I want this series to be a four part series. I want to keep getting Alcasia’s story told. Additionally, I am working on an alternative history involving a world where the South successfully seceded. It will be based on a man and his small family seeking to find a better place in the world while dealing with the ills of their society. I think giving too much away would really ruin the tone though.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Not really side stories. Everything comes into the narrative I think. They each have their own roles and the things they are doing when no one is looking, but there is not something else I am leaving out really.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Shadow Tracker?
Alcasia is a young woman who is the main provider for her mother, sister and brother. She is a hunter like her father was, but her father went on a hunt and never came back. She is brave when she is in the Great Forest, but she rarely travels east to the great cities of the plains. He best friend is Robyr. He is an artisan and an orphan. His father was a soldier who then had to travel to find work among the farms of the Great Plain. They end up traveling across the continent with another hunter named Trepuk. Trepuk is brave, but he is reckless. Also, he is the smartass of the group. Always one to make a comment or rub someone the wrong way. He can be entertaining with his quick wit or just annoying. Either way, he is going to say something.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
I wanted a strong female lead for my daughters. My sons have enough heroes for their stories. I had to sit and find a primary way that this world was going to be so different from ours. I thought through books like Dune or Game of Thrones and thought that I needed to have a defining difference and I decided to have steel nearly removed from my world. Then I needed something to replace it. Iron is so common and necessary that some hard substance would be needed for building and use in tools. I decided that having a great big animal be the savior made sense. Then I made Alcasia someone who brought that to the world. I wanted her to be a fighter and then transform her into a soldier.
Several of the other characters are parts of my personality. Trepuk is the snarky part of me that just wants to make people laugh and Robyr is the soldier part of me, looking to do the right thing and take things on head on. Other characters were glue characters to keep certain aspects of the story moving or make them more believable. I could not have a village of these three people without other interesting and dynamic people. Topor is the quiet part of me that sometimes just wants to be alone and silent.
Each of the characters also brings out an aspect of leadership. I was an officer and I watched many officers do things terribly and well. Also, I coached young men in football. I have always stressed to young men I am training or coaching that leadership comes out in many ways. There are those who lead by example, those who lead through knowledge, those who lead by motivation. I wanted to make each character an example of types of leadership. Each has a benefit and each has limitations.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
I took some from leaders in history and sometimes I looked up specific Polish words and then either spelled them more English-like or just changed them a little. Some names I then just filled in to sound like they were similar linguistically to the names I already had. I did want the language to sound more like an Eastern European language.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I enjoyed the world building. Creating names, then a map, then a religion, then a history for this place. All of that was necessary and really fun. I loved having a place where I knew it all and then thinking of the implications of what I had done. Since I had a new religion, the symbolic need for a seven day week disappeared. I then made a ten day span and a whole new calendar centered around the mythology of their world.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
The main characters in the book function around family or duty. Alcasia is definitely family first. Robyr has a sense of duty to his country that none of the others particularly share. Trepuk mostly does not want to be left behind if there is a good story, but he is also motivated by family, especially his love for Odara. Many of the other characters function out of pride, necessity, vengeance or self-preservation. I cannot say much more than that without spoiling the book or the coming books.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
It took a while. I needed the hunters of the Great Forest to have some nickname and slur that followed them. I wanted them to be respected in their villages and looked down on by the greater cities of the plains. Giving them the name Shadow Trackers was at once something that said how skilled they were tracking in the darkness of the Great Forest while giving the sinister sounding slur of calling them “Shadows.”
Who designed your book covers?
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I think I would add more dialogue or conversations. I also would have trusted editors less.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
How much editing and re-writing I needed to do to make something I could live with. I added large things part way through and had to re-write large swaths of the book a few times.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Not really sure. I have been working to not imagine her being anyone in particular. I want her to be someone that any female reader could identify with and visualize herself to be Alcasia or vice versa.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
This is just the start of the journey.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I would hang out with Trepuk. He is fun and I know he and I could bounce back and forth telling some great stories. I would take him into town and buy him a drink and we would just sit and tell stories.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
If they are based on anyone, it is me. I made them parts of my personalities and roles I have played in different parts of my life. None of them are me though. The leader of the Army of Steel was supposed to look like me though. Only way to stay humble writing a book is make yourself one of the villains.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
This book has many compelling characters. This is a story of family and war. It has hints of magic without the story being dependent on it. The characters are not the leaders of armies, but those just caught in the movement of the great lords of the lands. My heroes are just trying to get day to day in the greatest sweep of history in their lifetimes and maybe the whole history of their continent.
Is there a writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Neil Gaiman. I love how he can weave mythology and drama together so well. Many compelling characters in realms they do not always like or understand. Also, he has some affinity for Wisconsin and that always endears people to me.
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