SHADOWBLADE by Anna Kashina
I had the pleasure of meeting Anna in Columbus, OH when she attended a convention in the city. I’d been living on Ohio temporarily, we knew each other from a writing group, and she was lovely enough to meet me for coffee. I’d been a fan of her writing for years, but her kindness endeared her to me and I have a collection of her books on my shelf, several of them with autographs. I hope to have them all signed the next time we meet.
SHADOWBLADE is published by Angry Robot, an imprint of Watkins Media Ltd, who also published her MAJAT CODE series. That series received two Prism Awards in 2015 and I highly recommend reading it, as well. SHADOWBLADE, was released last year, and can be found in several formats, including paperback, Kindle, and Audible audiobook.
Outside my familiarity with the author, the only other thing I’d like to mention is that she held book signing events when SHADOWBLADE debuted, including sword and staff fighting demonstrations. I don’t know how that was orchestrated, but I found it fascinating and wish I’d been able to attend one of these spectacular events.
The author credits Books-A-Million and Modern Gladiatorial Arts for the events, and there are videos and pictures on her Twitter account from the September event. A similar event was held the previous May. The book release party was held at Balticon 2019 where the author also appeared on several panels.
In her newest epic fantasy novel, Anna Kashina mixes sword fighting, political intrigue, and romance with practiced finesse. Her action scenes are beautifully written with a skill few authors can replicate. The blade fighting is never tedious, never too complicated to follow. It’s also integral to the story.
The main character, Naia, is a seventeen-year-old orphan given over to the Jaihar Order because of her affinity for swords. She hopes to attain an elite Jai rank, but circumstances and prejudiced trainers keep her dreams out of reach.
Her luck changes when she meets two men, one who has kept an eye on her since she was orphaned as an infant, the other a handsome elite Shadowblade – the highest rank among the Jaihar Order. One guides her toward her destiny while the other sets her on the path to becoming a fellow Shadowblade. Both encounters change her life forever.
The romance in SHADOWBLADE is a slow burn, teasing the characters and the reader throughout the novel. It’s enough to pull a reader through the book if sword fighting isn’t their cup of tea. The politics are integral, though like the romance, it takes time to heat up. What doesn’t take time is the connection with the main character.
This is definitely a character-driven fantasy, with a main character that pulls the reader in and holds them close. And while Naia isn’t the only point-of-view in this book, all the characters are fully-developed and interesting. Their motivations are engaging, and Ms. Kashina weaves them into a strong storyline with an intriguing plot.
I’d be interested in a sequel, but this is an excellent stand-alone novel. I’d read anything by this author and recommend her work to anyone who loves the sword and sorcery sub-genre of fantasy. She excels at writing books involving sword-fighting heroines and romance.
You can learn more about Anna Kashina, the novel SHADOWBLADE, her writing and her passion for blade fighting by checking out all of the interviews she did when the book debuted. She kindly listed the majority of them in this blog post.