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Literature / Sword of Shadows

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The Sword of Shadows is a High Fantasy series by JV Jones set in a dark, subarctic world inhabited by a loose alliance of city-states, the Clanholds, and the enigmatic Sull, which is under threat from the Endlords, a group of godlike Omnicidal Maniacs.

The story follows two main characters: Raif Sevrance is a young clansman with the ability to hit any animal through the heart with his arrows, and Asarhia (or Ash, as she prefers) is the adopted daughter of Penthero Iss, creepy ruler of the city-state of Spire Vanis and a dabbler in sorcery. Against a backdrop of internecine war among the clans, Iss's ambitions for conquest, and the looming threat of the Endlords and their minions, Raif and Ash's parallel stories will eventually intersect, and both of them will find destinies beyond what they'd dreamed of... or wanted.


The series was put on hold for several years, but Jones has as of autumn 2017 resumed work on book five; Sword of Shadows is projected to be six volumes in total when completed.

The books so far:

  1. A Cavern of Black Ice (1999)
  2. A Fortress of Gray Ice (2002)
  3. A Sword from Red Ice (2007)
  4. Watcher of the Dead (2011)
  5. Endlords (TBR)note 
  6. Title TBA

Provides Examples Of:

  • Action Girl: Ash isn't one when we meet her, but is growing into the role. Most Sull females, and more than a few Clanswomen, would also qualify.
  • A Father to His Men: Marafice Eye is a rather despicable person, on the whole, but he is a very good leader of men.
  • And I Must Scream: Baralis's imprisonment under Iss involved a great deal of sensory deprivation, torture, crippling, and being bled constantly. Yikes.
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  • The Anti-God: Make that the anti-pantheon. The Endlords are explicitly described as the opposite of the gods.
  • Anti-Villain: Vaylo Bludd, the Dog Lord, is a menacing enemy, but he's also at times one of the most sympathetic POV characters.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: In addition to the Endlords, Death exists as a definite entity in this Verse. She's female, tied to Raif's powers, and has spoken to him directly.
  • Arc Words: "Days darker than night".
  • Badass Boast: All the Clans have one.
  • Badass Grandpa: The Dog Lord is a literal grandfather, and one of the most feared warriors in the Clans.
  • Berserk Button: Don't hurt the Dog Lord's grandkids. You'll regret it...
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Of sorts. There are nine distinct Endlords, but so far they've pretty much been treated as a monolithic force of destruction.
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  • Black and Grey Morality: The Endlords are pretty undeniably evil, but most of the major mortal factions aren't exactly what you'd call "good" either, to varying degrees, and as of the end of Watcher, Raif is dangerously close to going off the deep end completely.
  • Blood Magic: Iss may not be much of a sorcerer on his own, but by draining blood from his bound sorcerer Baralis, he's still capable of impressive feats of magic.
  • The Chosen One: Raif (as Watcher of the Dead) and Ash (as the Reach) would both qualify. Unfortunately, as Raif's destiny apparently puts him at odds with the Sull, and Ash's destiny is with the Sull, this may well pit them against one another.
  • Court Mage: Sarga Veys to Penthero Iss; Iss is a sorcerer himself, but Veys is much more giften in his own right.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover to A Fortress of Grey Ice depicts Raif and Ash fighting the Shatan Maer together. Not only does Raif face it alone, he and Ash spend almost the whole book seperated! Averted with the other covers, which each depict a scene that actually happens in the book fairly accurately.
  • Dark Action Girl: Magdalena Crouch, AKA "The Crouching Maiden".
  • Dark Magical Girl: Ash. Being potentially able to unleash the Endlords is about as dark as it gets. Luckily, she's got the power to fight them too.
  • Dark Messiah: How the Sull see Raif, who as the Watcher of the Dead is supposed to help defeat the Endlords, but also to preside over the end of the Sull. Needless to say, they're not that fond of him.
  • Deuteragonist: Ash; Raif gets enough more page time than her (particularly in later books) that he's pretty undeniably the protagonist.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Penthero Iss
  • The Dragon: Marafice Eye to Penthero Iss
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Crope kills Iss almost incidentally while rescuing Baralis.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Endlords, again.
    • Humanoid Abomination: They're humanoid looking, but it's made plain that they're cosmic forces compressed into this shape.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Subverted with Ash. She's a princess by adoption, but her life's hardly been fun; she knows full well that she was abandoned as an infant by her birth parents, she's been raised her whole life by a man who doesn't love her and allows her limited contact with anyone but his soldiers and servants, guarded by his menacing second-in-command, and it turns out that the only reason he adopted her in the first place was because he knew she was the Reach and wanted to have her power on his side.
  • Evil Cripple: The Maimed Men (the raiders who live just north of the Clans) are certainly considered evil by the Clansmen, and they get their name because they disfigure anyone who joins them as a brutal initiation ritual — except for one, Stillborn, who was so ugly they decided he was disfigured enough. When Raif joins them, he's lucky to end up losing nothing worse than part of a finger.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Sarga Veys, Penthero Iss, and Baralis
  • The Fair Folk: How most humans see the Sull — alien, inscrutable, sometimes helpful, sometimes enemies, and above all, dangerous.
  • Functional Magic: Inherent Gift is in the spotlight the most, Raif and Ash's inborn abilities most notably. Rule Magic practiced by sorcerers also exists — the fact that Sarga Veys has an Inherent Gift for sorcery is what makes him such a formidable magic-user (not to mention so arrogant).
  • The Grim Reaper: Death has appeared as a character briefly in some of the books. She's female, extremely beautiful, and tied to Raif's magic in some unspecified way (she requests at one point that he "kill an army" for her). She may or may not be an Endlord.
  • Grim Up North: The books take place in the north part of their world, and the setting is rather grim, but go even further than that and you get to the Great Want, a thoroughly unpleasant arctic Eldritch Location where time, distance, and direction become confused.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The Racklanders live on the border between the Clanholds and Sull territory, and at least some of them have actual Sull blood in them. Ash might be considered one too — she starts out human, but undergoes a mystical ritual to "become" Sull and afterwards begins to gradually take on more Sull traits.
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Neither Raif nor Ash have it easy, to put it mildly; Raif's powers give him a connection to death, and Ash's to the Endlords, and there are plenty of people who want to exploit them or kill them. Early on, Ash definitely has it worse, being doomed to either release the Endlords or go insane and die horribly unless she releases her power in the Cavern of Black Ice, but as of Watcher of the Dead Raif has definitely eclipsed her in the suffering and angst department.
  • Knight Templar: Yiselle No-Knife, who wants to turn Raif into a weapon against the Endlords and will do anything she sees as necessary to accomplish that.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Not as many as some High Fantasy series, but in addition to Raif and Ash, there's Raina Blackhail, Bram Cormac, the Dog Lord, Effie Sevrance, Angus Lok, Penthero Iss, Marafice Eye... and those are just the major POV characters!
  • Luke Nounverber: The Sull all have names like this, though they're chosen epithets rather than family names.
  • Magic Knight: Raif becomes one as he further develops his abilities.
  • Meaningful Name: A Sull's epithet will generally tell you something significant about that Sull's personality, goals, or methods.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: The Unmade, undead beings who've been corrupted by the Endlords and form the bulk of their army.
  • The Nondescript: The Crouching Maiden; she's so bland looking that people's imaginations strongly influence their perceptions of her to the extent that it's rare for two descriptions of her to even sound like the same person. Even her age is nigh-impossible to pin down. Needless to say, this is a large part of what makes her such an effective assassin, and it's hinted there's something supernatural about the effect.
  • Not So Different: Mace Blackhail and Robbie Dun Dhoone; they're both young, charismatic, and extremely ambitious and ruthless leaders among the Clans, both lead ancient clans they intend to return to glory, and both came from humble origins before getting adopted into (Mace) or openly declaring themselves members of (Robbie) their clans' lead families.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The Endlords. They're literally destruction incarnate.
  • Our Elves Are Different: The Sull aren't quite elves, but fill essentially the same niche within the setting.
  • Out of Focus: The two most recent books have done this to Ash, giving her only a few chapters each while focusing heavily on Raif.
  • The Power of Blood: Blood is sacred to the Sull, who ritually bleed themselves. Penthero Iss does Blood Magic.
  • Precursors: The Old Ones, ancestors and predecessors of mankind and the Sull. The Sull themselves are a borderline case, as they're still around, but are no longer the dominant power in the world they once were and are considered near-legendary in many places.
  • Princess in Rags: Ash, after running away from Iss's fortress. Considering how she has no experience taking care of herself, to say nothing of the hostile subarctic climate, she almost certainly would have died if Raif and Angus hadn't found her.
  • Professional Killer: The Crouching Maiden is an assassin, and a very good one.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Clansmen and the Sull are both definite examples.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Angus Lok goes on one against the Crouching Maiden after he finds out that she killed his family.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Endlords and the Unmade are sealed in Another Dimension behind the Blindwall. Every thousand years, though, a Reach — someone who has the power to release them — is born. This millennium, it's Ash. After she makes a hole in the Blindwall, with some help from Baralis, it's started crumbling — the Endlords aren't out yet, but more than a few Unmade are roaming around the mortal world now.
    • Baralis is an example where the evil was sealed by another evil to leach off his power.
  • Smug Snake: Iss, Sarga Veys.
  • Spikes of Villainy: The Endlord on the cover of Sword has them.
  • Survival Mantra: Ash has one — "I am Ash March, foundling, left outside Vaingate to die". It's her way of reminding herself that no matter what life throws at her — and it's thrown some nasty things at her already — she'll knuckle down and make it through.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Raif, Ash, and Raina Blackhail all take several levels throughout the course of the books.
  • Undying Loyalty: Crope to Baralis. Played with in terms of Marafice Eye and Penthero Iss; Eye is absolutely loyal to Iss, but it's because he needs Iss's political patronage rather than any sense of personal liking. This is most strongly emphasized in the second book when Eye convinces Iss to name him as his heir in order to keep said loyalty undying.
  • The Vamp: Explicitly averted; the Crouching Maiden takes pride in the fact that she's one of the best assassins in the North and doesn't use sex appeal as a crutch. In the course of her work, she'll occasionally mentally deride female assassins who do.
  • Villainous Valor: Marafice Eye is a very bad man, but he's also very badass.
  • Villain Protagonist: Marafice Eye probably counts in his own POV sections in the later books. Arguably also the Dog Lord, for a given value of "villain".
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Mace Blackhail, initially, at least among his own clan. Thanks to Raina, not anymore...
  • Weak, but Skilled: Iss, as a magic user, is not very impressive, as Sarga Veys is quick to note, but he is clever, and he's got some nasty tricks up his sleeve. See Blood Magic.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Sarga Veys hasn't been seen since he ran off near the end of Cavern.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: The way the succession works in Spire Vanis; the accepted way to become the new Surlord is to off the old one. This is how Iss got the job, but the fact that he actually names his own successor, Marafice Eye, does not go over well with the local aristocracy. The fact that Eye is a commoner — Iss himself came of noble, albeit not very significant, blood — just rubs further salt in it.


Example of: