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Pub Date May 21 2019 | Archive Date Apr 24 2019

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A young sword prodigy must impersonate a lost princess and throw her life into a deadly political game, in this kinetic epic fantasy novel by the author of the award-winning Majat Code series

Naia dreams of becoming a Jaihar Blademaster, but after assaulting a teacher, her future seems ruined. The timely intervention of a powerful stranger suddenly elevates her into elite Upper Grounds training. She has no idea that the stranger is Dal Gassan, head of the Daljeer Circle. Seventeen years ago he witnessed the massacre of Challimar’s court and rescued its sole survivor, a baby girl. Gassan plans to thrust a blade into the machinations of imperial succession: Naia. Disguised as the legendary Princess Xarimet of Challimar, Naia must challenge the imperial family, and win. Naia is no princess, but with her desert-kissed eyes and sword skills she might be close enough…

File Under: Fantasy [ Warrior Foretold | Royal Massacre | Wrongful Heir | Forbidden Kingdom ]
A young sword prodigy must impersonate a lost princess and throw her life into a deadly political game, in this kinetic epic fantasy novel by the author of the award-winning Majat Code series


Advance Praise

"Anna Kashina has a gift of blending political intrigue, fancy sword fights, assassins, and romance into enthralling fantasy epics. Fans of strong female characters, intricately built fantasy worlds, fast action, and exciting love stories would really enjoy her work!"

-- Jeffe Kennedy, RITA award winning author of Pages of the Mind

"Shadowblade expertly blends complex political intrigue, thrilling action sequences, and a spine-tingling romance--an absolute delight to read!"

- Cassandra Rose Clarke, The Magic of Blood and Sea”

“Anna Kashina’s novels always provide fast action, treachery, and a rich world in which to immerse.”

—Gregory Frost, author of Shadowbridge

"Elite assassins! Ancient Magic! Everlasting love! Shadowblade is an enthralling fantasy romance that will have you turning pages far into the night"

--- J.M. Sidorova, the author of THE AGE OF ICE.

"Anna Kashina has a gift of blending political intrigue, fancy sword fights, assassins, and romance into enthralling fantasy epics. Fans of strong female characters, intricately built fantasy worlds...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9780857668158
PRICE $12.99 (USD)

Average rating from 37 members

Featured Reviews

This is an excellent read. It is fast-paced and very smooth. In fact, I was surprised to come to the end, as I did not feel that I have been reading nearly long enough. The story takes some interesting twists and turns, some more unexpected than others, and made sense every step on the way. The characters were fun to get to know and showed appropriate growth. All in all, I absolutely recommend this title. Oh, and the best part is that it is a stand-alone book. There could be other books set in this world, but the story here is complete.

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The massacre of the entire royal line. Or so it's believed. An orphaned child raised in a warrior training ground when she shows an affinity for weapons. When her first assignment brings her to impersonate the long lost child that can contest the succession of the emperors line that killed the only ones that could claim the throne, the twisty's are big. And bold. And made for a great ending. Great book for YA on up. I enjoyed it. I voluntarily reviewed an ARC form Netgalley.

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This is an amazing read, Anastasia retelling and I love it so much. Fast paced, full of action. Keeps you guessing all the time with lots f twists and turns. Great characters and chemistry. A highly recommended read

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion

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This was a pretty good read. Good, strong characters that were well written so that it felt like I got to know them with a very good plot. The writing almost felt a little YA, but that wasn't a particularly bad thing. One of the things I always like with fantasy is world-building and this was very well done in this book. The ending seemed a bit of a surprise, it would make sense if this was the beginning of a series, if not, it seems unfinished.

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An action packed lost heir story with a refreshing focus on autonomy and consent.

Another Tuesday in 2019 means another book with a lady with a sword on the cover. In the case of Anna Kashina's new novel, two swords! Winning a place in my heart over the "just a knife on its own (or maybe a snake)" cover trend, the promise of a lady with a sword, especially one striding so impactfully towards the reader, is one that's hard to resist even for an action-agnostic reader like me. Who is this lady in comfortable footwear and a practical haircut (and subtle but unmistakeable decorative boobplate, but let's gloss over that for a minute)? She's holding at least one of her swords like I would hold the one supermarket bag I'd accidentally put all the heavy tins into, but despite that she seems to know what she's doing, and I want to know what that is too.

This, we soon learn, is Naia. Naia has been training to be a member of the Jaihet, a stratified order of elite warriors who are drawn from orphans and other children pledged to them at a young age, and trained from birth in various martial and mystical arts. Naia is great with a blade, but has apparently made a lot of enemies in the lower camp where she's been trained, and is on the verge of being kicked out for a mysterious insubordination incident: she's attacked an instructor and has curiously little defence for herself. Luckily, fate intervenes, as the head of the Daljeer, scholarly order shows up looking for a young woman at just the right age to impersonate a mythical princess from the murdered Challimar dynasty. After a few tests demonstrate that Naia's natural abilities significantly surpass the training she's been given so far, she's given a second chance in the upper camp with the Jai, and put on a path to engage in political machinations which, we note in an aside, she might actually be born to do...

Naia's training and her mission to impersonate Princess Xarimet divide Shadowblade neatly into two halves. The first half, in which Naia goes from near-outcast to prodigy of the upper camp, sets out an interesting and refreshing take on the concepts it is dealing with. Although Naia is set up as the only person who can set out on the particular mission she is being trained for, and that she could be more than the impersonator which the Jaihar officially want her to be, Shadowblade returns again and again to Naia's agency and her own desire to learn and train with the Jai. The Har section of the camp where she has come from is defined, at least in the limited views we get of it, by brutality and bad eggs, with the incident that almost led to Naia's expulsion soon revealed to involve her stepping in to protect a servant almost being beaten to death. The Jai, the elite warriors, instead come across as being defined by respect for each other and for their students. It's fascinating to watch Naia go from being beaten down and undervalued to training with people (mostly men - unfortunately this is a pretty dude-heavy story, with only two living women of particular note) who respect her, encourage her to reflect on her performance and identify her own weaknesses. There's a constant prioritisation of consent in Naia's narrative which could so easily be absent from a story like this, especially once the romantic tension with Jai master Karrim starts.

Naia's training goes by in a series of montage-like chapters which take us through multiple years of weapons training, understanding her own weaknesses, and learning more about her Chall heritage from Mehtab, a mysterious woman from the Daljeer order who quickly becomes one of Naia's most trusted tutors. She also introduces her to the magical in-universe reasons for decorative boobplate, which involve iron-calling properties that throw off everyone wielding conventional weapons, and... that bit is fine, I guess. The building up of trust and agency in the first half of the book plays right through into the political action of the second, where a fully trained Naia is sent off on her mission to challenge for the Empire's throne in the wake of the old Emperor's death, removing the unpredictable son who has seized it in favour of a more pliable - though uninspiring - candidate favoured by the Daljeer. The deeper threat to Naia comes from a slightly different angle and builds up into a climax which really pays off the themes of consent, autonomy and learning to trust one's own judgement and surround oneself with people who respect it. There's not much that's surprising about how this plays out - the twists are well signposted in the narrative and the general thrust of what's going to happen was fairly easy to see unfolding - but this is a narrative that's more about the "how" than the "what", and the unfolding of Naia's victory not just within the terms of her mission but against those in the background who are setting her up to be a pawn.

Shadowblade is a book which seems to know exactly what it's doing and what it wants to prioritise, and how to make the other elements of the story work towards that goal. The focus is on delivering an action-packed story true to its blade-twirling hero, and that means the political plot, the empire's history with the Chall and the betrayal of a generation before which led to Naia's coming into the Jaihar are all just fleshed out enough to carry her story. There are vaguely Asian, desert-culture trappings to Chall and Zeg which aren't really fleshed out, but there's honestly not much recognisable "culture" in Naia's sheltered corner of the world - we could be anywhere, and I'm fine with that. The lack of women in Naia's world outside Mehtab is odd and frustrating despite the narrative attempts to wave it away, but there's a core of central characters who, with the exception of a few interchangeable seniors, are all distinct and interesting with believable quirks and motivations. Shadowblade leaves itself open, though not in need of, a sequel and it will be interesting to see whether some of these worldbuilding aspect get explored further in future instalments.

Action-driven novels are hit and miss for me but this one was satisfying on a level that I wasn't expecting it to be. While Naia's world is not the deepest or most fleshed out you're likely to visit this year, this entertaining, driven story does what it sets out to do while centring consent in a way which most narratives of this trope have no time or space to do. If the confident, blade wielding woman on the cover of Shadowblade is calling to you, I recommend you pick up her story and give it a try - it does what it says on the tin, in ways that I'd like to see a lot more of in future. Just, maybe we can go with plot relevant full body armour next time, please?

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Shadowblade is a wonderful story about loyalty, honor, and doing the right thing in an environment ripe with treachery and scheming. While having some similarities to high fantasy, this world has a distinct Arabian Nights feel in both the scenery and the approach to certain problems.

The various cultures are elaborate, and grounded in history and circumstance, making them solid even in their mythology. The blend of science and what appears to be magic is steeped in cultural roots both those forgotten by all and those kept alive through the efforts of a class of historian healers.

Yes, I’m biased toward Middle Eastern cultures, but the world setup is intriguing and complex enough to draw any reader.

There are many layers running beneath the main tale, and each informs or twists the known events beautifully. On the surface, it’s a heroic story of overthrowing a brutal, corrupt regime. But the more you learn, the more a mystery unfolds from within the plot.

To make this come about, the historians construct a plausible background using law and tradition to create firm grounding beneath their actions. The mystery comes into play as this background seems to follow close to what little remains known and raises questions about who the main players really are. There are several plausible links with significant consequences even though circumstance and history deny both reader and characters the facts necessary to prove construct or truth.

The balance of myth, deliberate influence of the characters’ understanding, and truths known only to a limited group makes every moment rife with fascinating possibility. The neat thing about this is how I had my suspicions, many of which proved true, but with so much shifting and deliberate manipulation, I couldn’t fix on an answer. I remained open to various possibilities until the big reveal. Even better, when I got the answer, I knew enough about the main characters to choose a side no matter how my sympathies had been triggered by the various positions.

There is a large cast with Naia and then Karrim at the center of it all while the healer Gassan and historian Mehtab run a close second. I don’t remember who had a POV scene and whose positions became evident through observation (beyond these four), but the cast members play distinct enough roles in the unfolding story that I never got confused.

Naia is a complicated person unwilling to keep her head down at the cost of others while Karrim is her perfect match in more than just blade skills. The machinations surrounding them are not their own, but don’t think they are in any way passive participants. While staying true to the intent behind their orders, they both choose the path of honor even when it goes against their wishes. They’re good people with rare skills and set into play at a tumultuous time when flexibility and intent are key to defending the empire they swore to protect from both external and internal attacks.

This is not a sweet novel. There is violence, sensual scenes, and moral struggles. Each forms a critical piece of the story where politics, personality, history, and emotions ranging from revenge to passion impact the complex plotting. The characters are dynamic. You come to love, hate, respect, and/or revile them. Whether you burn with their struggles or cheer their defeats, I doubt you can stand separate from these events. I certainly couldn’t.

I fell head first into this story and resented any distractions that pulled me from it. The plot raises questions without laying out a clear path so there’s much opportunity to speculate, and the end proved satisfying even where it didn’t follow my expectations. It’s a worthy visit to a vibrant, fascinating world.

P.S. I received this ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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I was dubious about Shadowblade as the average rating on Goodreads is around 3*. While I often feel disappointed by books that have a lot of hype surrounding them, I was pleasantly surprised to find the opposite was true this time.

Naia is an orphan with no clue to who she is. Taken in by elite warriors, she works to prove herself as a powerful fighter to join their ranks. Her temper makes her enemies, while her good heart gets her into trouble.

Naia is a likeable character. At times, her temper does seem extreme and I doubted whether someone would lash out with such violence given the circumstances. But you understand why she does. She is always anxious to prove herself, whether to her superiors or to herself. She feels things deeply; determined to protect those less able than herself and unwillingly to sacrifice the love she felt for someone even when things turn against her. She doesn’t see things in black and white, which meant her reactions weren’t predictable.

Karrim, part love-interest, part-strongest-warrior-in-the-land was my favourite character. No one can match him with weapons, but he, too, has a good heart and he lightened a number of scenes with his humour.

Other characters – Gassan, the man who set the whole thing in motion, Mehtab, Naia’s teacher and Arsat, head of the Jaihar warriors – help shape Naia into the woman she becomes and you like/dislike them just the way you’re supposed to, following Naia’s emotions.

When a betrayal was revealed (I’m not mentioning names here), I was unsure of its positioning in the book, despite starting to have suspicions. However, the change in narration and switch in view point to other characters worked to keep the plot moving forward, even when Naia isn’t fully aware of a situation.

The pacing felt slow: the majority of the book is setting up Naia’s skills and chance to take on the assignment. But it meant you connected with the characters and while the tension wasn’t high, it didn’t drag. You got invested in the characters as well as the plot.

The latter part of the book had a much stronger pace and the tension was higher, helped by the changes in narration. It could have been a very strong book if this stretched for the entire thing, but I still found it enjoyable.

There are a few explicit sex scenes in the book: two in particular. The first one didn’t work for me; it completely stalled the rhythm just to explore the emotions from both parties involved, which made it feel it dragged. Again, that worried me about the rest of the book, but it thankfully picked up momentum after that. The second scene felt more natural. The scenes work if they advance the plot, but the initial one felt it was in there for the sake of it.

I enjoyed this book. It was well-developed and had a satisfying end, which makes a change from leaving it open for a sequel.

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The Shadowblade by Anna Kashina was a really good story and I recommend it. It was action packed with a well-defined world and characters. My only complaint is that it's a standalone and it definitely could have been stretched out into a duology or trilogy.

***I received an Angry Robot and NetGalley for the eARC of Shadowblade by Anna Kashina In exchange for an honest review.

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I liked this book! I loved the action, the intrigue and the plot is amazing. I would have loved the author to have spent more time on the training Naia went through to become a blademaster as this training would have been brilliant to read and would really help us as readers to understand the hardships and reality of beconing so skilled.
Other than that I enjoyed this title and will look out for this authors other works.

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I’ve always found swordfights terribly romantic.

And not even in like, the Romantic sense of the word. (Which I studied and therefore hated a lot in school, but rediscovered a weird love for it once I was out and about in a literary world dominated by a bunch of grimdark BS.)

But maybe it’s my weird love of the battle-couple trope, or recognizing that a good swordfight is like a good tango, but there it is. Just bared a bit of my soul there. Once of these days I’ll publish something and you’ll remember this and think, “Oh yeah. Huh. Should’ve known to expect that.”

You know who else likes mixing swordfights and dancing? Anna Kashina!

You know who I talked to about her new book? Anna Kashina!

SHADOWBLADE is a brand new universe that differs from her previous trilogy. Our protagonist Naia has only one dream: to be a Jaihar blademaster. We follow her journey through her victories and setbacks as we see the inner mechinations of the the Jaihar order.

There’s drama, there’s romance, there’s a good tension that keeps you on the edge of your seat in a “will they/won’t they?” sort of a way. Questions in desperate need to be answered, stories in desperate need to be told – y’all know how it goes.

Look y’all, I’ll be honest. This isn’t a book I’m dying to analyze. I don’t want to pick it to pieces and discover the secret to storymaking in its innards. You know what this book makes me want to do? It makes me want to set up my hammock and deck umbrella, slather on some sunscreen and bugspray (because I’m the whitest kid you know and burn quicker than a cheese beneath a broiler), and camp out to read this book in one sitting.

I’m not joking. I absolutely adore this book for the sheer feeling of summertime reading it gives me. It harkens back to my high school days of finally being free for the summer and eating my weight in sunflower seeds while at camp, or being cramped in the backset of the family car for a day trip to Kansas City for Worlds of Fun. Maybe my feelings are colored by the sheer fact that it’s starting to finally warm up in Omaha, maybe not. But this book has such a delightfully summer vibe to it that I can’t help but enjoy it.

(Please note that my other absolute “summer vibe” is The Stand, so your mileage may vary and all that jazz.)

So TL;DR: this is a fantastic book, and Anna is a fantastic person for sitting down and chatting with me about it, and this is 10/10 a book to pack in your bag for camp, a roadtrip, or a suntanning session on your porch. Check out Anna’s interview with me on iTunes, Spotify, or Awesound!

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I received this via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I loved it guys. This book was just what I wanted It to be. The world building was fun. The characters were very well flushed out. I loved the plot of this. I can not wait to read more by this author. I highly recommend this book.

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Protagonist Naia is a feisty, interesting character but there was very little background on her, which was disappointing. This book is fun, fast-paced, with a lot of great twists! However, it does have insta-love for Naia, and the ending was a bit rushed.

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