Title: The Shadow of Black Wings
Series: The Year of the Dragon #1
Author: James Calbraith
Publisher: Flying Squid
Format: Ebook and Paperback
Length: 70000 words
Purchase: Amazon |
“Fast paced and full of energy”
—Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of the Shadows of the Apt
“This manuscript is full of highly crafted detail that will make readers shiver at times with fear and delight … a familiar yet highly original fantasy that is a worthwhile read.”
“The real-world cultures are incredibly well-researched and truthful, and yet well-balanced with the fantasy elements. An intriguing and impressive series.”
— Ben Galley, author of the Emaneska Series
It is the Sixteenth Year of Queen Victoria. In the powerful empire of Dracaland, Bran, a young dragon rider, joins his father on a military expedition to the mysterious lands of the Orient. In the reclusive Yamato, Sato, a tomboy samurai girl, strives to prove her right to inherit her father’s school of western magic. Nagomi, a timid shrine apprentice, is haunted by the visions of dark future she must keep secret even from her best friend.
They don’t know it yet, but their paths will cross… And when they do, nothing will ever be the same again.
Welcome to The Shadow of Black Wings, a steam-powered romp across the land of dragons, wizards and samurai. It’s big, it’s fast, it’s been compared to Tolkien in terms of world-building, it has strong female characters and lots of carefully researched detail. You will meet the Royal Marines sailing mighty ironclads and Chinese walking machines; mysterious warlords and crazy inventors; you will discover dark prophecies, family secrets and blood-thirsty demons. And all that in just the first volume!
He tugged both sets of reins sharply and leaned back. The dragon pulled up and rolled on its back in a tight half-loop. Ground whizzed past the top of Bran’s head. He jerked the top leeward rein. A leather strap fastened to the base of one of the dragon’s horns tightened, and the mount turned upright. With one beat of its leathery wings it caught a strong waft of the Ninth Wind and its flight stabilised. Bran breathed out.
The series of manoeuvres finished, Bran brushed an unruly fringe of black hair out of his bright green eyes and bade his mount swoop down towards the target range. The dragon needed no guidance here. They had been practising on the range for two years and both knew exactly what to do. The beast turned confidently towards the first objective, a large bale of straw. The dragon’s neck stretched in a straight line, its jaws opened.
It coughed to no effect as the target dashed past. Shaking its head, the beast turned around to try again. Again it merely coughed and spluttered with great effort. A thin plume of smoke puffed from the dragon’s nostrils.
‘What’s wrong, Emrys?’ Bran asked, distraught.
The dragon whimpered. It could not breathe fire. The boy quickly recognised the symptoms and the acrid smell of the dragon’s breath. Somebody had fed it Iceberry water.
Only one person was capable of such a cruel prank on the day of the exam; but there was no time to think of vengeance. Seconds were running out, the teachers below were no doubt already frowning at his lack of performance. Not one of the targets had, as yet, been set on fire.
Fire… He didn’t need Emrys’ breath. He could channel the power of flame himself. It would have far shorter range and energy, but it could still work…
Bran focused on the Farlink. The mental connection enabled him to steer the dragon with much greater precision than reins and spurs. The beast, following his unspoken orders, dived once more towards the bale of straw. He only had a split second as the mount sped past the target, whooshing a few feet above the grass at a dazzling speed. He reached out with his fingers.
‘Rhew!’ he cried in Old Prydain, his chosen spell-tongue.
A blazing bluish spark of dragon fire shot from his fingers. Its tip reached the straw and the bale burst into flames. Elated, he repeated the exercise with the next target, a wooden horse, then with yet another and another, five more times in total. With each objective destroyed his exhaustion grew. Repeatedly channelling the dragon flame drained his energy immensely. At last he managed to land before the teachers’ observation tower, panting, sweating, too tired to even dismount. Struggling to keep his eyes open, he listened to the Master of Aerobatics assessing his trial.
‘That was certainly… unorthodox,’ the teacher said, coughing nervously, ‘but you did hit all your targets in time, so I have no choice but to pass you.’
Bran sighed deeply and closed his eyes. All thought of revenge on Wulf disappeared from his mind. It didn’t matter anymore, he had passed his final exam – he was out of the wretched place at last.
All songs can be found on Spotify (except when restricted regionally). Where available, I linked to YouTube.
1. Overture: The Empire and the Mechanician (And I Will Kiss, Underworld) 17:15
2. Bran’s Aerobatics Exam (Test Drive, John Powell) 2:36
3. Men of Llambed, The Academy’s Anthem (Men of Harlech)2:54
4. The Bard in the Tavern (Three Welsh Airs, Susan Scott) 4:59
5. They’re playing Farmer’s Fancy! (Ffansi Ffarmwr, Dy Werin) 3:30
6. Dylan ab Ifor’s Theme: The Royal Marine (Soldier’an Sailor Too, Massed Bands of HM Royal Marines) 3:04
7. A Gwynedd Summer (Helfa’r Marchogion, Crasdant) 4:20
8. The Memory of Temasek: Ifor’s Diary (Singapore, Hans Zimmer) 3:41
9. The Ocean’s Call (Theme de David, Vladimir Cosma) 2:25
10. The Ironclads and Factory Smoke (Industrial Revolution, Jean Michel-Jarre) 4:39
11. Soldiers and Sailors Too: Brigstow Harbour (Smith of Bristol, The Dubliners) 2:30
12. Farewell to Langyfelach: Song of the departing dragoons (Ffarwel i Langyfelach Lon, Meredydd Evans) 2:02
13. The Greatest Ship Ever Built (A Life on the Ocean Wave, The Band of HM Royal Marines) 1:05
14. Tinubu’s Tricks; Egungun Dancer (Nigeria Tribal Rhythms and Percussion, Djembe and Dungu Folk) 3:42
15. Bran’s Birthday Jig (Two Hornpipes – Tortuga, Hans Zimmer) 1:14
16. Fragrant Harbour (Fragrant Harbour, The Band of Royal Hong Kong Police) 2:20
17. Fan Yu, the Great Harbour! (Fishermen on the East China Sea, Zhu Xiaomeng) 5:08
18. The Songs of the Boat People (Fishing Junks at Sunset, Jean-Michel Jarre) 6:02
19. Battle in the Sky: What Are Your Orders, Arian? (Wheel of Fortune, Hans Zimmer) 6:46
20. Act II: Another Land (Entrance Music for Traditional Rakugo Entertainer) 0:53
21. Nansei Summer; Accursed Weather (Asadoya Yunta of Okinawa, Group from Okinawa) 2:07
22. Overwizard-dono! “The Advantages of Floating in the Middle of the Sea” (from Pacific Overtures) 5:51
23. Sato’s Theme: the Samurai’s Daughter (Shinsengumi Main Theme, Kyoto Piano Ensemble) 3:42
24. Suwa Shrine; Lady Kazuko (Heron’s Dance, Male Shinto Choir) 1:57
25. Nagomi’s Trance (Shrine Maiden’s Dance, Shinto Instrument Ensemble) 3:15
26. Ei!Ei!Ie – Toh! (Kendo Drumming) 0:21
27. The Bathhouse (The song of Bathing in the Hot Spring, Group from Iwai) 3:29
28. Snow in Kiyo (Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, Ryuichi Sakamoto) 4:45
29. It fell from Heavens! (Blade Runner End Titles, Vangelis) 4:39
30. Night Escapade; Streets of Kiyo (Yojimbo Title, Masaru Satoh) 3:01
31. The Dark Clouds Gather: The boy is a castaway (Seven Samurai Theme, Fumio Hayasaka) 1:24
32. Shuhan’s Lullaby (Edo Komoriuta, Takashi Yujiro) 1:13
33. Master Tanaka’s Machines (Gohatto, Ryuichi Sakamoto) 2:02
34. The Best Castella in the City (Bastiana, Coral Dinamene) 1:37
35. The Crimson Robe Theme: Demon (Demon God II, Joe Hisaishi) 0:57
36. Dark Energies; Take me to Suwa! (Battles, Clannad) 1:01
37. Epilogue – the Scent of Wisteria (Kagemusha, Shinichiro Ikebe) 4:04
BOOK 2: THE WARRIOR’S SOUL (Suo Gan, John Williams)
BOOK 3: THE ISLANDS IN THE MIST (Ar Lan Y Mor)
BOOK 4: THE RISING TIDE (Furusato)
About the Author:
James Calbraith is a 34 year old Poland-born writer, foodie and traveller, currently residing in South London.
Growing up in communist Poland on a diet of powdered milk, Lord of the Rings and soviet science-fiction, he had his first story published at the ripe age of eight. After years of bouncing around university faculties, he moved to London in 2007, found a decent IT job and started writing in English. His debut historical fantasy novel, “”The Shadow of Black Wings””, has reached ABNA semi-finals. It was published in July 2012 and hit the Historical Fantasy and Alternate History bestseller lists on Amazon US & UK.