Hello everyone, this is going to be a megapost for J.J Sherwood’s Kings or Pawns Book Tour so grab a cuppa/bottle of beer/shot of vodka and enjoy!
“When I was a boy in Darival, a priest of Sel’ari came through. A group of youths beat him dead for the single coin in his pocket. I don’t think Sel’ari cares about any of us, Navon, more than she’d care about one of her priests. And if she did not see fit to save him, then we’re all going to the grave, god or no god.”
I liked Jikun the most… blasphemous and true to his opinion. But also fair and with a strong common sense.
“Jikun, may I give you some advice?” He paused, meeting his eyes steadily. “Pull out the stick the Sel’vi have shoved up your ass, and relax.”
OK, so he was uptight at times, but these are the characteristics you would expect from a king’s army general after all.
Kings or Pawns is book #1 in Steps of Power epic fantasy series- a political intrigue that spirals into an action and adventure series as the final events unfold.
8,994 P.E.—The elven city of Elvorium has become corrupted to the core by politics. With his father dead and the Royal Schism at his back, Prince Hairem ascends the throne as king of the elven world on Sevrigel. Young and bold, Hairem is determined to undo the council’s power, but the brutal murders by an assassin loosed within the city threaten to undermine the king’s ambitions.
As corruption and death threaten to tear Elvorium apart from within, the warlord Saebellus threatens the city from without, laying siege to Sevrigel’s eastern capital. With the elven world crumbling around him, Hairem finds himself in a dangerous political balance between peace and all out war.
If this book was music, it would be power metal. Good pace, makes your heart thump, strong characters and a strong story delivered with beautiful wordmanship. So, as you can gather, the writing in this book is incredibly good.
The cast of characters is … wow, it’s wide! As I read this book, I was took from the King’s court where the Council’s corruption rules to the battle fields where Jikun and his army fight Saebellus, from the swamp where centaurs reside to Jikun’s homeplace Darival where everything is icy and wolves are pets. Even though the cast is numerous, it is very easy to get to know each and every character as the book progresses.
The writing is just quality stuff! Every scene, every emotion, every elf is delivered to the reader on a silver platter… For example, when Jikun returns home to Darival after being in battle with Saebellus for 3 years… wow, the description of what he feels… I could relate, because I go through something like this every time I visit Estonia.
Before this review gets overly sappy- Jikun is also a manwhore. Prostitution among other things is punishable by death. Jikun, however, oh he pays for his ladies.
Because the whole book isn’t only about Jikun, let’s move on to King Hairem and his court. As you’ve gathered, the King’s Council is full of corrupt assholes. Hairem starts to feel he is not a King at all, but the Council’s pawn… will he manage to overturn this game of power? In all fairness, his heart is in the right place and I was rather surprised to have a good King in a book which made it even more interesting, the power games. But will the good heart be his downfall? Politics is such a great topic to write a story around- you have so many villains to move about on the chessboard.
King has servants, as one would. Alvena is a mute servant girl who sees and hears everything. Because she sneaks around. She is also somewhat smitten by the King and their friendship is really rather nice. Because Alvena can’t speak and she is nosey, she ends up being like an info bank which she really can’t just easily communicate to others but that again made the whole book so much more interesting to read.
For the love of books! The author possesses a wonderful imagination which she put to good use. This book is a perfect addition to any bookworm’s shelves. Also- what’s good about you starting to read the first book now? The fact that the second book Heroes or Thieves is also published. Hurrah to an epic readathon!
As an added bonus this post has 2 mini interviews!!! Interview One is with Captain Navon and Interview Two is with J.J. Sherwood.
And to make you extra happy- you have a chance to win Kings or Pawns if you enter the giveaway, kindly hosted by J.J. Sherwood!
Check out the GIVEAWAY HERE
We’re thrilled to have here today Navon from J.J. Sherwood’s high fantasy, Kings or Pawns to answer some prodding questions!
Let’s get right to it, Navon. You’re not only General Jikun’s Captain, you’re also BFFs. This makes you the man to ask: what is Jikun like?
Navon: Oh gods. What is Jikun like? I’d best summarize him as an unruly, angst-ridden teenager. I know, I know, you think I’m being unfair, but let me justify myself: you tell a male NOT to do something for pain of death and he goes and does it anyway with, I swear by Sel’ari, half the reason very well being because you told him not to.
(sighs*) Alright, yes, Jikun is… difficult, to put it mildly. But I only mention it because I feel that the world sees him how he wishes to be seen—honest, straight-forward, just, admirable, brave… but if this question is directed to me, as Jikun’s closest companion, than you want what Jikun’s truly like. And, let me preface first, that he is, indeed, very heroic. But he is also insecure, self-doubting, and frankly, self-destructive. I think, and I only say this from such a long relationship with him, that he inflicts pain or danger on himself because there is some recess that wants to get away from everything… the wars, the judgment, the pressure… and that death is not excluded from this road.
Liis: I want to go back to what you said “you tell a male NOT to do something for pain of death and he goes and does it anyways.” Don’t you think that sounds like you and necromancy? You’re a devoted man to faith. So… necromancy? Isn’t it a bit contradicting?
Navon: I’m glad you asked that Liis, because when Jikun does harass me about this topic, it’s never for real answers. My religion and practice are not contradictory, despite popular belief, though I know this does not remove the dangers of my practice. Sel’ari asks us to see to justice—that is indeed what I do. The souls I command from the Realms of the Dead I safely return—it is only for a moment that I request their service in the act of doing this good. Like anything in life, necromancy can be used for evil. I believe necromancy receives a particularly poor reputation because of the tendency of mages to use it for such. The reason that this occurs is that necromancy, unlike other forms of magic, can be cast by just about anyone. And the irresponsibility of casting beyond one’s means not only harms oneself, but also the souls that are called into service. I, however, am not an irresponsible necromancer. It is not like I have ever tried to overstep my abilities and bring someone back from the dead.
Liis: This is a very different cultural opinion than the Sel’vi you now live with. Tell me about where you came from.
Navon: Yes, it is very different… but the Sel’vi have not been the same since Eraydon’s death… since they left Ryekarayn. Ryekarayn is indeed where I am from—the northwestern region known as the Æntara. It is a treacherous, vast range of mountains. To our north, the land is frozen. To our south, the land is infested with orc and beast. To our west lies the ocean. And to our east lie the ruins of the old Sel’varian world—that were ruled last by King Ephraim before his disappearance with his people from Ryekarayn— which are besieged by outlaws and goblins. As we have lived in such an inhospitable land for centuries, we have had little outside contact—thus our understanding of necromancy and its practice has remained pure and whole since the elves first walked this earth.
Liis: If this place is so accepting of your practices, why would you want to leave for a world of persecution? Why and how did you end up joining an elven army a continent away?
Navon: …That is not a topic I’m eager to talk about. As I mentioned before… there are good necromancers…. And there are bad. My father was the latter. His obsession with becoming a greater necromancer than Tiras was probably at the heart of his ambitions. He spent countless hours speaking of a forbidden necromantic form of magic known as Helmaster—a magic that not only commands the souls of the deceased, but those of the still-living as well. There have long been rumors in the necromantic community that Tiras had the ability to use such magic—even if he did not practice it. My mother wanted nothing to do with such ambitions. She left with my sister and left me, the eldest, with my father. But he did not remain for long. I pursued him, when I was old enough, to Sevrigel… But by then… Well, the Sel’vi take the practice of necromancy very seriously. As I had nothing but the skills the Hel’varian community had taught me, joining the peaceful Sel’varian military seemed wise.
Liis: And now you find yourself bound back for Ryekarayn. It does not seem a place you are very affectionate toward. If you had nothing before, you certainly are in no better shape returning to that continent. Are you afraid of what is yet to come?
Navon: Fear never really factored into my decision… but now that the adrenaline has passed, I admit fear is wholly present. The Windari Channel alone is a treacherous path that few experienced sailors dare cross… let alone two battered elves in what hardly passes as more than a canoe… But if I could do it before, I can do it again. The real question is: how difficult is Jikun going to make this?
What was the main inspiration for writing Steps of Power epic fantasy series?
This is always such a tough question. The first characters for the series were created when I was seven… it’s all just grown and evolved since then. I would say I was probably 8 or 9 when I finally gave it a SERIES name, but so many ideas have come in bits and pieces. I would say, at an early age, it was tales of King Arthur and Robin Hood that spurred on my desire to write something medieval like. Throw in splashes from movies or anime or books or personal life… Then the next big influence was probably Baldur’s Gate (a video game for the PC), where I really said “Steps of Power is going to be an EPIC FANTASY style series.”
Who is your favorite character from Kings or Pawns? Who is your least favorite character?
I’m not going to lie—this answer sometimes changes based on my mood, but I’d say at the heart of it—when I really think— my favorite character is actually a minor character in Kings or Pawns— Vale. I know, you’re probably sitting there going “What? Who is that?” or maybe “THAT dickbag?!” but as I don’t want to spoil anything for the series as a whole, I can say nothing more on the matter. Typically I just answer Jikun: it’s clean and easy and in terms of main characters, he was absolutely my favorite. That snarky, cynical anti-hero always wins me over! Least favorite of main characters is Navon. Now, I don’t dislike Navon as a WHOLE—not at all. But who he is in Kings or Pawns makes him my (temporarily) least favorite main character. But if we peel back to who I really hated of ALL the characters, it was Ilsevel. Oh. My. Gosh. I want to snap her delicate ivory neck with my bare hands. She’s so… ugh. My skin crawls just thinking about her. I mean, do I even need reasons?
What was the most frustrating thing about writing Kings or Pawns? If there was any frustrations…
Oh were there… Originally, Kings or Pawns had a character readers will meet in book 2, Heroes or Thieves— Jerah. But due to too many PoVs and not enough Jikun, Jerah got kicked out and moved. This created a massive overhaul of the novel and a shit ton of work. That stands out as the most frustrating of the frustrating.
Heroes or Thieves is now also available- does the intrigue and corruption continue on the same level as it did in Kings or Pawns?
Where Kings or Pawns focused on that intrigue and corruption, Heroes or Thieves zones in on the characters themselves—the choices they have to make, the moral ambiguity of the lot, and the result of what they’ve chosen and done. (This is tough for people who like a clean cut hero in every book—I can’t promise that in Heroes or Thieves—and so far it’s been amusing to watch people who loved certain characters jump ship to favor other characters who don’t look like they’re going to drown…) But I digress. No, Heroes or Thieves is definitely more about “the hero’s journey” aspect—although, don’t get me wrong, there is still intrigue—now it’s just laced with action and personal conflict. Where Kings or Pawns was first and foremost a “political thriller”, Heroes or Thieves is more of the “heroic tragedy”. Gods or Men is probably more of the “adventure” and Princes or Paupers is hands down an “epic action” where all the shit hits the fan. But through it all, I’m focusing on the character development and world-building—so there should be a nice blend of sub-genres, too!
A message to your readers? 🙂
Welp, I revealed this mini spoiler to a beta reader back for Kings or Pawns and now I’m going to share it with all of you!
SOMEONE gets a baby thakish in Princes or Paupers! ;D
Thank you to the beautiful J.J for taking the time to answer my questions.
- Book Title: Kings or Pawns
- Series: Steps of Power: The Kings (Book I)
- Genre: (Adult) High Fantasy
- Release Date: October 1, 2015
- Available [Free for Reviewers]: Ebook, Audiobook, Print (to USA/CAN)