Guest Post — Jon Sprunk


Jon Sprunk is a friend and agen­cy­mate who’s enjoyed great suc­cess as a fan­tasy nov­elist. I had Jon on the blog back in 2012 to pro­mote his third novel, SHADOW’S MASTER. Today is the book birthday of his fourth novel, BLOOD AND IRON, out from Pyr. So, once again, I’m going to step aside and give Jon the floor:

The Ori­gins of 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, comes out this month (depending when this goes live, it may already be in stores.)

The Book of the Black Earth series 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 ship­builder and sailor who embarks on a Great Cru­sade for his country, but winds up ship­wrecked on the shores of his enemy. Taken cap­tive and made a slave, he dis­covers a hidden talent for sor­cery, and thereby comes of the atten­tion of the local ruling queen.

Alyra is a slave. As one of the queen’s hand­maidens, she is lovely, intel­li­gent, and obe­dient. She is also a spy in the ser­vice of a for­eign gov­ern­ment, sent to turn the greedy Blood and Iron covereyes of the Akeshians away from her homeland.

Jirom is a former mer­ce­nary turned glad­i­ator. Dra­gooned into the queen’s army, he 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.

Fun fact: The idea behind this series orig­i­nated in my head more than twenty years ago.

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 worldbuilding.

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.




Jon Sprunk is the author of the Shadow Saga (Shadow’s Son, Shadow’s Lure, and Shadow’s Master) and a mentor at the Seton Hill Uni­ver­sity fic­tion writing pro­gram. His next epic fan­tasy series begins in March 2014 with Blood and Iron. For more on his life and work, you can check out his author site at www​.jon​sprunk​.com.


  • Paul Weimer

    I find it fas­ci­nating that an idea you had years ago was so well inte­grated into the same world as the Shadow’s Son Saga. I never would have guessed the idea came first.