This is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts about concepts, themes, and lore regarding the ongoing Shadowbane series, begun in DOWNSHADOW and carrying through my most recent novel, SHADOWBANE, and its forthcoming sequel, EYE OF JUSTICE. I thought I’d talk a little about my philosophy for writing the novel–why this story? What’s it going after? Where’s it headed?
The Shadowbane series is all about my ephemeral, troubled hero: Kalen “Shadowbane” Dren.
When he first appeared as Shadowbane in Downshadow (book 1), Kalen was an uncompromising thief-turned-paladin who routinely bent the law in his one-man war against evil. He is chosen by the dead god of guardians, Helm, and gifted with a powerful magic sword (Vindicator) to cleanse the world of darkness.
Now in Shadowbane (book 2), Kalen returns to the thieves’ city of his birth, where his paradigm must evolve if he is to survive and save the woman he loves. His sense of right and wrong grows stronger and more complex, and he must accept the darkness within him to be worthy of Vindicator.
The sequel, Eye of Justice (book 3, Fall 2012), will see him come face to face with the consequences of his actions and the legacy of his past mistakes. And he will learn that he is not the only worthy wielder of Helm’s sword or divine power.
As with all antiheroes, Kalen’s greatest enemy in his quest is himself. He comes from a violent past, growing up a thief and occasional murderer on the mean streets of Luskan, city of thieves. He naturally distrusts all those around him, from a long series of betrayals at the hands of would-be friends. His body rots from within due to a magical curse, making him feel no pain and strengthening him, but also killing him slowly.
When I created him, I wanted Kalen to be strong and brave, but also weak and self-doubting. Any man without flaws can rise up to become a hero, but it makes it so much more valuable when he must face his demons and overcome his shortcomings to do what must be done. Kalen is also living on borrowed time: there is no doubt in his mind that he will die soon, either in battle or from his curse. The only question is what he will do with the time he has, making his quest all the more poignant.
The series also nods in homage to my love of comic book superheroes. While Batman is the most obvious parallel to Kalen, with his double life and grim manner as the vigilante “Shadowbane,” but I’ve tried to instill echoes of heroes like Daredevil (Kalen’s religious connection and focus on justice) and the Punisher (Kalen’s uncompromising, ruthless attitude). I drew on my love of the X-Men through the use of spellscars—hereditary magical blessings/curses that grant power even as they mark a wielder as different and (in many cases) feared.
And finally, the Shadowbane series grows out of my enduring love for the panoramic Forgotten Realms fantasy setting. It was my goal to create a story that would stand alongside the exploits of Elminster, Erevis Cale, Arilyn Moonblade, and the legendary Drizzt Do’Urden. The series gives me a chance to tell a story I love in a setting I love, weaving in lore and themes that have captivated me since my youth.
Next up, some lore!
Erik Scott de Bie