Set in a richly-imagined world, this action-heavy fantasy epic and series opener is like a sword-and-sorcery Spartacus.
It starts with a shipwreck following a magical storm at sea. Horace, a soldier from the west, had joined the Great Crusade against the heathens of Akeshia after the deaths of his wife and son from plague. When he washes ashore, he finds himself at the mercy of the very people he was sent to kill, who speak a language and have a culture and customs he doesn’t even begin to understand.
Not long after, Horace is pressed into service as a house slave. But this doesn’t last. The Akeshians discover that Horace was a latent sorcerer, and he is catapulted from the chains of a slave to the halls of power in the queen’s court. Together with Jirom, an ex-mercenary and gladiator, and Alyra, a spy in the court, he will seek a path to free himself and the empire’s caste of slaves from a system where every man and woman must pay the price of blood or iron. Before the end, Horace will have paid dearly in both.
BLOOD and IRON: Review.
Rating 4/5 Stars.
Horace Delrosa is a broken man. Running from his pain and past he takes work with the Etonian military on a supply vessel, he alone survives the storm that wrecks his ship. Rescued and then enslaved by the Akeshian Empire his life as a foreigner lost in a strange and harsh land looks bleak.
But then he meets the warrior Jirom and a friendship is formed based on respect and a mutual drive to gain their freedom from this cruel race. But strange events drag them both into the danger and intrigues of the Keshians, off in opposite directions they are soon struggling to survive. Jon has imagined a wonderfully unique world full of magic, warfare, twists and turns, cruelty and love. His characters are well formed and relatable. The Queen is delicious, Alyra clever and resourceful, Lord Mulcibar the mentor, and all the other dark and light personalities who populate this world.
What I really enjoyed was the magic. Jon has dealt well with what is often a mistreated fantasy tool. His descriptions of the processes required and the different forms taken by the magic of this world is fresh and believable.
There is great humour, piercing sadness and some horror aspects. I enjoyed Blood and Iron a lot and look forward to Storm and Steel in 2015.
JON SPRUNK: Profile.
I grew up in central Pennsylvania. The eldest of four children, I attended Lock Haven University and graduated with a B.A. in English in 1992. Athough I had always been an avid reader of speculative fiction, it was during my college years that I developed a broader passion for literature and began my first awkward forays into fiction writing. Encouraged by my professors and peers, I set out after graduation to become a “Serious Writer.” Unfortunately, I had failed to notice the specter of Reality stalking at my back. When my disastrous first fantasy novel failed to find a publisher, I bent my knee to the Real World and sought gainful employment. Crushed, I thought my dreams were over.
Over the next decade I married (twice), changed jobs (numerous times), and after much soul-searching, returned to writing. Like most writers, I suspect, I tried to go it alone, seeking to pound my head through the glass ceiling of my innate talent through sheer willpower and effort. Finally, after many more rejections, I joined Pennwriters and attended their annual conference in 2004. I am both proud and ashamed to admit that I learned more in those two days about the business of writing than I had in the previous ten years. I was also getting the first inklings of why my fiction had not yet made me a household name. Up till then, I hadn’t known how to fashion a true story.
So, I did what any Serious Writer would do. I joined a writers’ group (Pennwriters, to be exact). And I read about the art of writing, a lot. I started to admit to myself that perhaps I could use a little help, that the next Great American Novel wasn’t going to spring from my head, full-grown and ready for world acclaim like some literary Athena.
Since then I have seen some success. I’ve had several short stories published and in June 2009 I signed a multi-book contract with Pyr Books. Best of all, I have the love and support of my wife, and that makes all the difference in the world.
BCN: When did you first feel the need to write? Is it something you have always done, or did you come to it later?
JS: I started playing around with writing in middle school. Mostly poems with a fantasy flavour and isolated scenes. That developed into a desire to actually write novels sometime during high school. I started my first full-length fantasy novel in my junior year, and finished it shortly after graduating college (5-6 years total).
BCN: Are there any books or authors in particular that you find inspirational?
JS: Oh, yes. Tons! As far as author, there’s Robert E. Howard, Tolkien, Leiber, C. Ashton Smith, Cook, Lovecraft, and so many others. Some of my favourite novels are LoTR, Anna Karenina, Stranger in a Strange Land. One of my gifts, if you will, is that I find inspiration in so many different things and people.
BCN: Where do you find your characters? Do you use people, personalities you like/loath you see or know? Or see something on TV or other places? Or do they appear as the story unfolds?
JS: For the most part, they come from within. That is to say, I write the characters that feel right for each particular story. In that sense, I’m not really a “trained” writer. I work from instinct.
BCN: Do you have a writing routine? Or is it something that when inspiration strikes you write non stop till you have it all out? How does being a family man fit into your creative world?
JS: I used to write willy-nilly, but having a job and a family means there are time constraints. Currently, I write while my son is in school.
BCN: I liked the magic and battles in Blood and Iron, do you think there is a move away from traditional fantasy/ sword and sorcery books by authors and readers?
JS: I think everything comes and goes in waves. I’m currently reading the Malazan series by Steven Erikson, which features plenty of magic and battles. And from the feedback I get, fantasy readers still love those classic elements. But in the end, I have to write what appeals to me. That may not always be the most consumer-friendly thing to do, but it remains true to me.
BCN: I was impressed with the way you handled Jirom’s sexuality. Do you feel there is an honesty starting to filter through fantasy/ sci-fi writing about characters whose tastes may not be the so called normal?
JS: I see it happening more and more, whereas in the past it might have been hidden. Mainstream culture is starting to embrace diversity in all its flavors. I hope it’s clear that I didn’t “make” Jirom that way to serve an agenda. That’s simply the way the character revealed himself to me as I wrote the book.
BCN: What is next for your readers? I know I am looking forward to the next book in The Black Earth series.
JS: The second book in the Black Earth series is with the publisher, and I think we’re aiming for an early summer 2015 release. I’ve been working on the storyline for book three and hope to actually begin writing it soon. The series will wrap up with book four. After that . . . who knows? I have a few ideas for different books/series.
BCN: And finally, what is your favourite cake?
JS: Yellow cake with chocolate frosting, with those little crunchy candy letters.
Thank you Jon for your time.
If you want to contact Jon or find out more about his books his website is http://www.jonsprunk.com/
He is also on twitter http://www.twitter.com/JonSprunk
and facebook https://www.facebook.com/JonSprunkAuthor/
By Leanne Ellis Aka BR