Sunday, June 1, 2014

Book Review and Author Interview: Sally K. Ito's The Prison Blade

 The Mazes have been quiet of late, but there's no better way to get the quill flowing again than for me to introduce the first book in a fantastic swords and swords series that is well underway by an author I feel very privileged to know!

Sally K. Ito is a librarian in Central Oklahoma who self-published her debut book The Prison Blade in October of last year. The Prison Blade is the first tale in a series she is writing entitled Shadows and Light.

I was very pleased to receive a print copy of her novel and I truly enjoyed reading it. I am happy to recommend it to readers of this blog as well as travelers in the various gaming forums I frequent, because while just about anyone who loves swords and sorcery will probably enjoy the Prison Blade, it will resonate especially with the old school gaming community since Ms. Ito is a life long D&D player who has played the game in it's earliest editions and traces of the aura of the gaming table are quite discernible in the Prison Blade.

The Prison Blade opens with a young princess and her brother excusing themselves from wedding festivities in the Palace of Verindii to enter a forbidden reliquary in the vaults where powerful and dangerous magic relics are stored in safekeeping. Orielle and her younger brother Kye, a boy with innate talent as a mage, are captivated by the legendary artifacts they find, but by none so much as the Prison Blade, a mysterious sword sealed by spell craft in an ornate but ominous scabbard. The two know the legend of the Prison Blade; how one of their ancestors saved the realms from devastation by imprisoning within the sword the spirit of a being half mortal, half divine, named Everie. Oreille is compelled irresistibly to draw the sword; having some magical talents herself she overcomes the locking rune on the scabbard and looses the Prison Blade, just to have a look. Curiosity proves perilous indeed as the demi-god attains a measure of freedom and also power over the young princess.

The book moves from this scene into the events of the life of Orielle many years after her fateful choice, laying the foundation for the series of catalysts that will unfold to determine both her destiny and the destiny of her kingdom, and whether the Light can outshine the Shadows or the old, dark gods instead prevail. One of the most fascinating and original elements of the Prison Blade is the unique symbiotic relationship between Everie and Orielle through the magic of the blade, and how Kye's enchantments have created an uneasy balance between the young woman Orielle's will and the greedy and destructive will of Everie. Since this drama and the unfolding nature of those enchantments form a large part of the plot I will not spoil enjoyment of it for the reader and will simply state that it is one of the most intriguing and original concepts for a magic swords that I have ever seen, making matters like the soul and the strength of the human spirit in resisting evil real themes in the Prison Blade.

Ms. Ito has joined us to talk about her book and answer some questions about this great series. Her answers and comments are italicized.

Image of K. Ito
Sally K. Ito

Tell us about your novel. What sort of stories and characters can a reader expect in the
Shadows and Light series?

It's sword and sorcery, full of epic battles and struggles of good and evil, and also some
fun and silliness. It's very character driven while being largely plot-based. I like to
throw challenges in my characters' paths and see what they'll do, so a lot of the story
highlights their personalities, and draws a clearer picture of each character while the
story keeps moving and the plot unfolds.

Tell us about Orielle, the Mad Lady of Verindii, your conflicted protagonist.

I think some people who like strong female leads my be disappointed with her at first.
She does begin the book considering herself powerless. She thinks of herself as Everie's
pawn and expects her brothers to take care of her, not much for girl power beyond
But that's really what the story's about. Orielle is in a nearly impossible position. She
is outmatched by nearly everyone around her, and it's only when she has to make a choice
that she realizes she can, and she finally finds the strength that is hers.

The book's title comes from the magical sword which is the catalyst of the epic events
that unfold in Orielle's life and provides to the reader an extremely compelling character
in the personality of the soul within the blade. Tell us about the Prison Blade and
Everie, its inhabitant.

Everie is shown to be evil from the beginning of the story. His plan was to steal Orielle's
body and live again, and it wasn't because of any kindness on his part that she was
Yet it's easy to forget he is a villain. He's Orielle's constant companion, and, in a way,
her only friend. He is elegant, attractive, and even helpful from time to time, and
Orielle struggles to remind herself that he cannot be trusted and that the power he
sometimes uses to protect her could just as easily destroy her.
His goals are unclear and his indifference to the suffering of others obvious, but the
past he hides so carefully may hold more than just the history of a monster.

The Prison Blade imprisons Orielle in a different way than it does Everie, doesn't it?

They are both trapped by the enchantment that binds Everie's soul to Orielle's body.
It is a new life for Everie, a step along the road of immortality.  It was not supposed to
be a trap. But he never intended to have the company of the original soul of any body he
posessed.  Everie is caught with Orielle in her body and forced to look at the world
through her eyes, an experience he doesn't at all appreciate.

For Orielle the prison is far more extensive. Her thoughts and feelings are all exposed to
him. She knows no peace or privacy. After so much time with him she doesn't even know who
she is alone. She has never had a real life or friendships. Everie is the stronger, and he
makes all the choices for the body they share.

You wrote the Prison Blade over many years--tell us about your writing process.

I actually started it ten years ago. At first I wrote simply for fun. I sent the story
chapter by chapter to a friend just because she enjoyed it, but when I finished I realized
I really had a fun story here and gave it to others to read.

I have changed things extensively due to the commentary of others. I'm not naturally a
writer, just a storyteller, and it took a lot of criticism to get it into a proper

I am very lucky to have a family that was interested in assisting in the process. I have
had help with all sorts of editing--I think my sister is one of the best editors ever if
you can manage not to be sensitive.

I think I'm pretty good about not taking things personally. I just want to make the story
better.  I doubt more than a third of it is actually the original writing.

Your writing style is more narritive and storytelling based than descriptive, isn't it?

It is. And I really feel more like a storyteller than a writer. For me it's not about the
words and the art of writing. I can appreciate beautiful writing and clever word use, but
I write to let my characters live and to get my story told. I have a habit of skipping
through books I've read before, looking for the good parts, the exciting bits and the
entertaining conversations, and that's basically what I've written, a good parts
version--or at least I hope so.

How much of your D&D gaming comes out in your writing?

I've been tempted to call my book gamer fantasy. I really feel like my world could just be
a big RPG. I use the flashy magic everybody loves, and the enchanted weapons, and even the
same sort of epic monsters you might run across gaming

I love the setting. The city of Torindii and the manner and customs of Orielle's time and space very much evoke the Renaissance cities. And yet the book has such a definite flavor of Japanese mythology in it as well. I was impressed at how neatly you blended these.

Torindii does feel Italian; I'm glad you noticed that. Italy is really the core of the
high renasance for me, and I wanted to have the feeling of that sort of sophistication for
the capital, but I do see what you mean about the Japanese elements as well. The Japanese
wasn't really intentional, except that I lived in Japan and was watching lots of anime
when I wrote the rough draft.

I like the speed of anime and manga and picked that up intentionally, but looking back I
can see that my characters, especially my villains, have a Japanese edge. There're a lot
of pride and loyalty issues that I might have dealt with a little differently if I had
never had that exposure.

I think it makes my book a little more unique, with just a slightly different flavor from
most sword and sorcery fantasy.

You don't spare readers when it comes to showing the dark. Is that why you call your
series Shadows and Light?

Sort of. I was really thinking of Orielle living constantly surrounded by both shadows and
light and also of Everie's sort of fluctuating loyalties.

I think the horror has to be there though because I want the conflict to be real. I want
readers to understand that this is a fight that has to be won because the alternative is
unthinkable. I also want the danger to be clear. There is a very real chance for
failure--and honestly, one of my biggest struggles is giving my heroes a fighting chance.

How much of a part do the gods and goddesses play in the tale?

Well, Everie is the son of a dark god, as is the Nameless One, but their father does not
activly appear in the story.
But there are prophecies and destinies and once I even have Lyaru appeal to and recieve
help from a goddess.
I plan to involve them more, but at the same time, I really think more Greek gods than
all-powerful gods, and in the end the story is a human struggle.

When will your second book be ready for readers and what is the title?

I plan to release the next book this summer. I'm still working on the title--for some
reason, for me, that's one of the hardest parts.

Tell us how to buy your book.

It is available on Amazon as both a paperback and an e-book. It is also available from the
Apple store and Barnes and Noble. I have a website at where you can
find some extra content and a few other works I have in progress.

Ms. Ito, thanks so much for taking the time to talk about your novel!

I would like to add as a final note that the printed copies of Ms. Ito's book are very sturdy with a beautiful glossy finish on a cover decorated by a very simple but beautiful original illustration of the Prison Blade. It's book store quality and at very affordable price.  I wholeheartedly recommend this great tale!


No comments:

Post a Comment