Shadow Born is the first novel from Martin Frowd and is the opening book of a new fantasy series The Karnos Chronicles.
The boy stood beneath the blazing sun. Not yet midday, it was already hot, as every day of this summer had been on the plains. The sun moved inexorably toward its midday peak overhead. When it reached that peak, the boy knew, he would die.
Sweat dripped down his forehead and ran into his eyes, mingling with the silent tears of fear, anguish and pain. The iron manacles bit cruelly into his wrists, attached to chains that pulled his arms taut above his head, securing him to the iron stake driven deep into the ground behind him. More chains of strong, precious iron were wrapped around his ankles, binding them to the stake, rendering moot any hope of escape. Naked, he burned in the hot sun, his leggings and tunic of soft hide still crumpled on the bare dusty rock of the execution ground where they had been tossed after being torn from his young body. His sandals lay beside them, and the heat of the sun warmed the bare rock underfoot to painful levels, tormenting his bare feet.
Off to his left, the men gathered, perhaps two score in number, clad in leather and hides. Each man took a stone from the pile that had been brought here at dawn, as custom demanded. Rough black ebonstone, quarried from the Hills of Dusk, each boulder was the size of a man’s head. The People of the Bear had little use for the midnight-hued, almost unbreakable ebonstone in their daily lives, and so boasted no stonemasons of great talent, preferring instead the more readily workable flint, occasionally bronze, or the rare and thus precious iron. Among the boy’s kindred, ebonstone was used only for executions.
Off to his right stood the women of the clan, in their garments of hides and grasses, silent as the Law demanded. Their place in this matter was to bear witness.
Behind the men stood the Druid, a towering figure of doom in his long brown robes, belted at the waist by a sash of the same hue, his face hidden beneath his hood, his hands concealed by long sleeves. Only his bare feet were visible beneath the hem of the dark brown silk – a luxury owned by none among the boy’s kindred. Hatred struggled with pain in the boy’s mind as he gazed at the tall robed Druid, servant of the dark and cruel religion practiced by most of the People of the Bear – the religion that had killed his parents, and that would soon bring about his own death. Tears ran freely down the boy’s face as he remembered how that Druid had discovered his parents at their rites, at the peaceful worship of the Protector. How the men of the clan, roused to frenzy by the Druid, had dragged his parents from their yurt into the night and butchered them like animals, ignoring his mother’s screams for mercy and his father’s desperate prayers to the Protector.
How the Power had flared in him, unchecked, and obliterated the bloodied, mutilated corpses of his murdered parents and their blood-maddened killers alike, before the men had overpowered him and dragged him from the grassland to this barren place to face his own doom.
The tears flowed uncontrolled now, as the boy remembered his parents. He remembered his father, the finest hunter in their clan, a master of the spear; so quiet and stealthy on the grassy plains, yet so full of laughter among the yurts of the People. He remembered his mother, with her long black hair and her laughing smile. Both were always so full of life and joy, though they shared a deep secret – that they gave their faith to Heldor the Protector, God of the innocent, rather than the dread Kelnaaros, Lord of Tyranny and King of Demons, the God of the Druids – the God of the People of the Bear. But now that secret was exposed, and the wind had taken the ashes of his beloved parents where his own uncontrolled Power had burned their corpses and their living killers. Now it was his turn to die.
A Bite Of... Martin Frowd
Q1: Every book has influences behind it, what was the most significant influence behind Shadow Born and how do you think that comes out in the story?
As with any author, several different sources – in my case a mix of written, TV/film, and music – have had an impact on Shadow Born specifically and on the wider series, the Karnos Chronicles, of which Shadow Born is the first book. Two of the key influences for Shadow Born particularly, which will also have an impact on subsequent books and the overall story arc for the series, are a) the late Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf series – both the single-player adventure gamebooks and the subsequent novelisations – and b) the Star Wars films, particularly the prequel trilogy. Together, these provide the key themes of a young boy with an important destiny set out by prophecy – which, as in the example of Star Wars, may not turn out to be exactly what people in-universe have translated, understood or hoped it to be – and a desperate flight from pursuers and past obstacles in order to survive.
Although most of Shadow Born focuses on Zarynn and his rescuer Glaraz, out in the dangerous wilderness, a couple of chapters do lay the groundwork for future books by introducing more of the supporting cast. This ensemble, with the quirks and relationships established so far, were influenced by several more sources, including Lord of the Rings, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, and Harry Potter (the last being so ubiquitous now in the Anglophone world that it would probably be assumed to have had an impact on any subsequent work featuring children and magic even if it hadn’t).
Q2: Shadow Born is your first book, what were the key moments of that journey?
I don’t honestly think there’s been a worst moment as such.
Most frustrating was probably the pre-publication reformatting processes – plural – one for Kindle and one for paperback format – but the lessons learned from these will help provide a quicker and smoother process for future books.I’ve been lucky to have the support of multiple online writers’ groups along the way, principally the Knights of the SciFi Round Table and the Sparkly Badgers of Facebook and Twitter, which have been consistently motivating, but if I had to pick a single motivating moment I think it would be the realisation that the initial story of what was intended to be book 1 had grown in the telling and needed to be split over multiple volumes. Shadow Born, as now published, was originally to have been the first third of a much larger book 1, but it became clear that it would have been a very large and unwieldy book 1.
Funniest is generally any dialogue involving Kitithraza, and she (and Anjali) will play a significantly larger part in future books.And the best was finally publishing, after multiple rounds of edits and feedback from beta readers.
Q3: Which fast food is your absolute favourite and who do you most enjoy sharing it with?
#1 choice would be a proper German bratwurst but trying to share a bratwurst would get very messy, so I’ll have to opt for #2, pizza, and my favourite sharing partner is my amazing and supportive wife Ann Frowd! And the advantage of pizza is that many pizza restaurants or delivery chains let you put different toppings on two halves. Which is very important in order to avoid pineapple on my half and mushrooms on my wife’s half.
Martin Frowd has been writing stories all his life and refining his original science-fantasy world setting for many years, while working a day job as a National Health Service manager. With the support of an encouraging wife and a vibrant online community of fellow writers, he is finally in a position to realise his dreams. Shadow Born, book 1 in The Karnos Chronicles, is his first published novel.
You can follow Martin Frowd and his writing on Twitter, Facebook, or find more of his writing on his blog.