Shadows of Valor
Debut Novel by Elsie Park
Adult Historical Romance
Published Sept 7, 2013 by Jolly Fish Press
*Ebook obtained directly from the Publisher
in exchange for an honest review*
Synopsis via Goodreads:
On the surface, Graywall is content and booming. Lord Shaufton, who presides over the city, is a fine ruler. The poor are well-cared for, the area is popular, and morale is high—but within Graywall’s roots, something dark is stirring. This darkness threatens to overpower the once-peaceful town, until a mysterious figure appears: The Shadow.
As much a figure of fear to the unruly as legend to the innocent, The Shadow is an enforcer of justice and aid to the King. Due to an outrageous export tax set by King Edward, smuggling has tainted the kingdom, so The Shadow is sent to hunt the smugglers down. Contrary to legend, The Shadow is simply a man known as Sir Calan who, although talented and just, struggles to keep his dark thoughts of revenge from becoming ruthless action.
Due to sheer coincidence, The Shadow learns of a deadly plot against Lord Shaufton on a journey to Graywall. Now, he must enter a pseudo courtship with Lord Shaufton’s daughter under his original guise of Sir Calan, all while old emotions are stirred by the lovely Elsbeth, Lord Shaufton’s niece. Elsbeth, it seems, is the only woman who can heal his troubled soul, but she has a story of her own. What transpires is a glorious tale full of deceit, greed, inner struggles, betrayal, and most of all—love.
I grew up in a small town outside Yosemite National Park, California, U.S.A. I enjoy soccer, piano, reading, writing, art and my family. Years ago I spent 18 months in Italy teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Seeing the castles and old Roman cities enhanced my fascination for ancient and medieval culture. In college I studied zoology, botany and criminal justice. I've worked as a wildland firefighter, security guard and a police officer, but I am currently a stay-at-home mom, spending time with my children and husband. I love thinking up new ideas for interesting stories and musical compositions to go with them.
So, first off, let me say that historical fiction isn't a genre that I pick up often. I ADORE Knights, dragons, castles, and the like but it's rare to find a novel that isn't...well... just like the others. Reading the synopsis for this one, I was immediately drawn in because it reminded me of Robin Hood in a sense. The hooded character doing good deeds and such, with fair maidens here and there. Except he works for the King in this novel and not "robbing the rich to feed the poor." And Elsbeth thinks she's far from a "fair maiden."
Now, I was hooked from page one with this novel. I honestly didn't want to put it down because I was transported so effortlessly back in time. The setting was done in a manner where I felt as though I could've walked outside and been wandering down the path towards a castle or getting ready to head to the May Day celebrations. The setting of the novel seemed more detailed than any other historical piece I've read - the wording threw me for a loop because, hello, I have no idea what a kirtle or surcoat is...(plus a million other words regarding clothing). LoL Of course, obviously, I'm no expert on the time period; However, you can see the effort that the author put into capturing the small details and specifics regarding the time period.
The characters are absolutely brilliant. Stunning. Elsbeth and Calan are completely and utterly well-rounded characters in my opinion. I felt their every emotion nearly coming off of the page. I was immediately drawn to Calan with his current charm and Elsbeth's fond memories of driving him bonkers when she was child. Then, you begin to get to know him more. I fell hard for him as lead male character. He ultimately housed the magical characteristics of the Knight who all women would love to come sweep them off their feet. He was valiantly trying to rid the kingdom of smugglers and evil-doers but was slowly losing his grasp on a positive life. He was being overcome with cynicism because he was forever-facing and dealing with the scum of society. It was hard for him to see any good left in the human race. Elsbeth was the complete opposite. She was constantly trying to do good for others, nearly forsaking the wealth that she had at her disposal while living with her uncle. My heart was desperately broken for her loss with regards to her mother and father. My heart received a horrible ping every time she traveled down memory lane, especially when she visited the remains of her family's castle. Her lack of self-worth simply because of her scars broke me. I felt horrible for her and angry and the men who she recalled coming to court her - only to disappear once seeing her scars.
Elsbeth brought light back into Calan's view of the world... while Calan brought self-worth back into the life of Elsbeth.
Not to mention, FINALLY, a masculine character who doesn't smell like sandalwood, musk, or something of that regards. Cinnamon... ahh....I have a new respect for the fragrance of that wonderful spice. :)
The plot was spectacular! There wasn't a single, solitary, dull moment. Something was going on constantly and the mystery revolving around identifying the traitors within their midst keeps you glued to the pages. The only thing I have to admit is that I had already determined who that mystery traitor was well before Calan and Elsbeth. That became a tad frustrating at times but overall, it was sort of like I knew the answer and wanted to scream it through the pages for all of them to hear. Everyone except Calan saw the best or hoped for the best in everyone. There's a great point to take home honestly. It's good to hope for the best in everyone but not good to put your blind trust in them even since you never know their true intentions. I loved when The Shadow and Elsbeth bantered back and forth over their viewpoints on the subject matter.
Overall, I was completely enamored with Shadows of Valor and didn't want it to end. I could've read more about the characters lives for several hundred more pages and been completely happy.
Overall Rating: 5 Stars
Cover Rating: 5 Stars - it's truly beautiful and the image with both Elsbeth and Calan is stunning. Completely fits my mental image of the couple.
Characters: 5 Stars
Plot: 5 Stars
Climax: 5 Stars! ack! I just knewwwww something bad was going to happen! I totally destroyed my poor fingernails!
Ending: 5 Stars! Loved every second of it. An epilogue would be a FABULOUS edition to Shadows of Valor. I would love a glimpse of "a few years later" back at Elsbeth's home lands.
I'm excited to have Elsie joining me today! Reading Shadows of Valor has been an amazing journey & I'm excited to learn more about her!
Thanks for having me as a guest, Kayla! I’m honored to be here!
Tell me a little bit about yourself. What do you like readers to know about the author behind the pages?
Well, I’m number two of four children and grew up in the beautiful mountains of Oakhurst, California (USA) outside of Yosemite National Park where my main hobbies were reading, writing, playing piano, playing soccer, and drawing. After graduating high school, I moved to Utah (USA) to study zoology, botany and criminal justice at college. I paid my way through school first by working as a security guard, and then fighting fires as a wildland firefighter with the Forest Service. I took a year and a half hiatus from school to serve a religious mission for my church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) in beautiful northern Italy and then returned to school. I entered the police force after graduation, but soon missed the appeal of firefighting, so I returned to that after a short while later. A few years after I married my sweetheart, I dropped my adventurous careers for motherhood (something I’ll never regret doing). I have three wonderful girls less than eight years of age. They are the light of my life.
This is your debut novel? Congrats! How exciting! Would you like to share any encouraging words to others out there striving to break ground with their debut novels?
If I tell writers anything, it’s to NEVER GIVE UP and DON’T GET DISCOURAGED! I worked on Shadows of Valor off and on for about 6 years, rewriting, sending in the newest versions, getting rejections up the wazoo, feeling depressed, indulging in pounds of chocolate, and then attending writers’ conferences and getting bursts of inspiration and the courage to continue on. The right publisher will eventually pick up your manuscript, but until that happens, DON’T QUIT!
Great words of advice! I, for one, am so glad that you didn't give up & kept writing! Wow! 6 Years! To see your novel come to fruition must be so exciting!
What made you decide to write medieval fiction? What’s your favorite aspect of this genre?
I have always loved fantastical and historical stories about princesses, knights, pirates, Vikings, wizards, dragons, and anything adventurous in another time. I don’t dislike contemporary stories, but since I’m already living a contemporary life, I often want to read about times and places far from my own. I like to get lost in unknown worlds . . . places I don’t experience everyday. I chose 1300 A.D. England because I like the clothing, and King Edward’s wool tax causing people to smuggle their goods created a great backdrop for an exciting story. My favorite aspect of the medieval time period is the courtly respect a knight pays a lady. On the whole, this is something lost to the modern world and I wish it would come back.
If you had to choose another genre to jump into, what would it be?
Ooo, excellent question! I’m going to give you two genres, though. I’d choose either FANTASY or HISTORICAL AMERICAN WESTERN. I love a good magical fantasy as well as an exciting western full of manly men, feisty ladies and good old fashioned gunfights.
What do you do to get into your “zone” when you’re trying to fill pages & create a new world?
It’s hard to get into the writing zone with three young children running around and demanding my attention, so I try to pick a time when the youngest is napping and the other two are playing quietly on their own. I turn off the TV, sometimes turn on an instrumental soundtrack to a favorite movie, and then reread the last bit of manuscript I typed out. I picture in my head what a movie version of the continued scene would look like, and then type it out as I see it. Oh, and my zone often includes some sort of “munchy” on my computer desk *smile*.
Oooh I can only imagine! I have one 4 year old and trying to focus while blogging can be a big challenge. Ha. :)
Let's dig into your debut novel! Do you anticipate Shadows of Valor being a part of a series? If so, how many books do you anticipate will complete the series?
Shadows of Valor is a stand-alone book, but the next one I’m working on takes a minor character from Shadows of Valor and weaves a separate story around him. You won’t have read Shadows of Valor to enjoy my next book, for though they share a character, they’re separate stories.
Ooh, I can't wait to see what you do next!
What are the first five words that come to your mind when you think about Shadows of Valor?
Concealment, self-worth, choice and accountability, love
Where did you get the idea to create such an amazing world & set of characters? A dream? A passing thought? A light bulb moment? A fantasy?
A few passing thoughts, I suppose. I know, that doesn’t sound very exciting – LOL – but there you go. I’ve always loved books, reading and watching good movies (especially historicals), so when some adventurous medieval scenes invaded my head over a period of days, I thought, “Hey, those would make a good movie or excellent story if coupled with a good plot.” So on a whim I jotted my ideas down and my first step to writing Shadows of Valor was taken.
Introduce us to a few of your characters – who are they from their own perspective?
Sir Calan Beaumont (aka The Shadow) – Hired by King Edward to hunt down criminals, I’ve become a cynical and hard-nosed enforcer of the law. I trust no one and feel lonely in my fight against evil. Though I show good restraint much of the time, my emotions sometimes cause me to make regrettable choices. My questionable actions have enveloped my mind with each passing year as I yearn to find the light that will lead me from this dark abyss.Lady Elsbeth Rawley – Orphaned years ago in a fiery incident, I live off the charity of my good uncle. My physical scars impede suitors as the emotional scars from self-blame over my parent’s death eat away at my soul. In an attempt to dull the pain, I try to be content with the fate handed me, but my self-worth wanes as my battered heart takes blow after blow in the cruel game of life. Who will help rescue me from this gloomy prison?Below is the Facebook Banner from the JFP design team showing the two characters I just described above (frontal shots). The cover has The Shadow on it as well, but he’s kind of concealed in the bottom right corner.
Is there a character in Shadows of Valor that you connect with most out of everyone? Someone’s whose POV flows effortlessly while you’re writing or someone who you just can’t get enough of?
Sir Giles Beaumont is a minor character, but with his easy-going attitude and humor, he adds a lighter side to my more serious issues in the story. Giles, fit and trim, always has some sort of snack in hand. He’s ever eating, a tribute to my husband who (unlike myself) can eat and eat and never gain an ounce of wright *smile*.
Ha. It's so not fair, right? I always love the characters who add in that bit of humor each time they come across the page. They become nearly addictive even though they're only minor characters. I adored Giles as well even though he was only there for a short time period. I would love to learn more about him (He could have his own spin off *hint hint* hahaha - a girl can dream big right?)
Are any of your characters or events in Shadows of Valor based upon real life situations/events?
Yes. The wool tax set by King Edward I, which at one point reached as much as 40 shillings per sack, really happened, as did the subsequent smuggling of wool to turn a better profit. This is the backdrop for my story.
Do you have a favorite scene that you’d like to share a tiny bit about? Just a teensy little excerpt or quote?
Calan heard soft footfalls below him at the base of his tree. Perhaps a fourth member of this band? No, he deduced, watching the newcomer peek around the arbor to spy on the trio. He inhaled and caught a light flowery scent. Squinting, he peered closer. Barely making out braided hair and a long surcoat beneath a cloak, he concluded it was a woman.S’wounds, what was a woman doing spying on hostile criminals in the dark of night? And alone! She was either exceptionally brave or utterly foolish. Not to mention her interference might scare off the smugglers before he could learn who they were.As if he’d just cursed himself, the female took another step and broke a stick underfoot.She froze, and he swore under his breath as the crooks hushed and turned toward his tree. One of the men drew a dagger from his hip and Calan realized they were prepared to kill even an innocent passerby. The newcomer’s blood would be spilled by their hands if he didn’t act. He crept down behind the novice-spy and encircled her waist with one arm while clamping a hand over her mouth before she could scream. “Don’t move or make a sound,” he whispered in her ear, using the lower tone he always employed as The Shadow, “or we’ll both be discovered.” The woman nodded her compliance, but he didn’t remove his hand.He prepared to hoist them both into the tree, but the crooks decided to disband. Probably the fear of being caught, aided by the snapping branch, was enough to scatter their conference. Dash it! He’d not obtain their identities tonight thanks to this foolish female.After his ears confirmed the bandits had gone, he whispered in the woman’s ear, “Do not scream when I remove my hand. I am not your enemy.” She nodded again, and he took his hand from her mouth. Though confident she wasn’t a part of this smuggling ring, her reasons for being here piqued his interest. “Now,” he began, still holding her, “what’s a lass doing out this late, and unaccompanied? One might think you’re up to no good.”
Oooh Just that small snippet had my heart pounding! Thank you so much for that scene! It was definitely a fitting way for Elsbeth to meet The Shadow! Loved it!
The cover is stunning & very eye-catching. Would you like to tell everyone who created it?
The Jolly Fish Press (JFP) design team created the cover, and Chris Loke, JFPs executive editor, took the pictures of the cover models himself (he studied photography and takes beautiful, professional shots). I’m told that the male and female models who appear on my cover are the same individuals in my book trailer (of which the background music was composed and arranged by me *smile* - I was honored JFP asked me to take part in creating the trailer score). The trailer can be viewed on Youtube when it’s completed.
They did such a great job! How exciting! Knowing that you worked hard for this outcome for so long makes it all the more exciting. Plus, being able to take part in creating the score! How amazing! I can't wait to see the trailer!
Is there anything you’d like to share? You have the floor :)
In addition to taking part in the trailer score, I wrote three ballads into my story and composed the music for them. As a student of piano, I was elated when JFP announced they’d include the sheet music in the book. I hope readers enjoy the music as much as the story.Thank you SO MUCH for having me and highlighting my life as an author. It’s been a pleasure answering these fun question, Kayla!
Thank YOU Elsie for allowing me the opportunity to ask you a few questions! I have enjoyed learning more about you & I can't wait for others to begin picking up Shadows of Valor! It's truly a great novel & beautiful world of characters!
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