The Light of Burning Shadows (Iron Elves Series #2)

The Light of Burning Shadows (Iron Elves Series #2)

by Chris Evans

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Overview

As the human-dominated Calahrian Empire struggles to maintain its hold on power in the face of armed rebellion from within, the Iron Elves’ perilous quest to defeat the power-hungry elf witch, the Shadow Monarch, takes on greater urgency. The Iron Elves, shunned by their own people for bearing the mark of the Shadow Monarch, and desperately wanting to forever erase this shame, became legendary for their prowess on the battlefield as the Calahrian Imperial Army’s elite shock troops. But when their commanding officer, Konowa Swift Dragon, murdered the Viceroy of Elf kyna, he was exiled, and these brave elves were banished to a remote desert outpost, doomed and leaderless, their honor in tatters. Recalled to duty to reform his regiment from the dregs of the Imperial Army, Konowa thwarted the plans of the Shadow Monarch at the Battle of Luuguth Jor—ensuring that the fabled Red Star, a source of great natural energy, did not fall into Her hands.

Now Konowa must cross storm-tossed seas to seek out the lost elves and the prophesied return of another Star somewhere in a desert wasteland roiling with mysterious power, infernos of swirling magic, and legends brought back to life in new and terrible ways. And the fate of every living creature will come to depend on a small band of ragged and desperate soldiers, whose very loyalty to the Empire they have sworn to serve is no longer certain. When death is but a temporary condition, a terrifying question arises: who is the true ally—and fearsome enemy—in a growing conflict that threatens all?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416570530
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 07/28/2009
Series: Iron Elves Series , #2
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Chris Evans is also the author of the Iron Elves saga: A Darkness Forged in Fire, The Light of Burning Shadows, and Ashes of a Black Frost, as well as Of Bond and Thunder, and the nonfiction book Bloody Jungle: The War in Vietnam. He is a military historian and former editor for Random House and Stackpole Books. Born in Canada, he lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

The Light of Burning Shadows

  • There were two of him now, and neither one knew which was sane.

    He stood atop the ridgeline running the length of the island and waited for the sun to drown. The ocean darkened. Shadows bled up the windward slope toward him. Bodies pierced by the trunks of obsidian trees became shrouded in the gloom. The smell of putrefying flesh fled as the heat of the day leached from the air. It was as if nothing had happened here. No horrors to relive, no nightmares to endure.

    He might have believed that if not for the screams in his head. They echoed in the space between what he was, and what he was becoming.

    Here, now, he stood in a world where the sun was setting and a cool ocean breeze was worrying the saw grass behind the dunes of the beach. Only the unhurried slide of waves over sand and the distant shouts and forced laughter of men from the shore party filled the air.

    But he also stood here, now, where the screams of the dead still rasped from blood-red throats. Only yesterday the trees of the Shadow Monarch had flourished in this place, feeding on all they found as Her forest continued to expand across the known world.

    Frost fire burned to life in his hands. He did nothing as it arced to the steel and wood of his musket, setting it afire in cold, black flame. He brought a hand close to his face, mesmerized. This was power and curse. The union of the Iron Elves’ blood oath with Her magic.

    The flames climbed higher and he staggered. There was a price for this. The gulf between his polar selves widened each time he called upon this newfound power. In his mind the outstretched limbs of the Shadow Monarch’s forest inched a little closer. He knew it had to stop.

    The last rays of the sun vanished into the sea. Dark forms rose from the lengthening shadows, surrounding him.

    Dead hands reached out. He recognized the fallen and they did not frighten him:

    One-eyed Meri, killed by dog spiders.

    Alik and Buuko, struck down by rakkes and the Shadow Monarch’s dark elves.

    Regimental Sergeant Major Lorian, sitting tall on the horse Zwindarra, both felled in the battle at Luuguth Jor.

    And so many others…

    “Join us.”

    He eased the hammer back on his musket. A charge and ball already rested inside. He turned the musket so that the muzzle rested firmly over his heart.

    Frost fire danced along the metal in anticipation.

    It would take but one squeeze of the trigger, but what would he end, and what would begin?

    “Join us.”

    He wanted to believe that all the pain, the fear, the terrifying rage, the nightmares that stalked his sleep…all would sink into a cold abyss. The shades of those that had gone before beckoned him, but their voices trembled with a pain he could only guess at. Could it be worse than what he lived with now?

    One final act on his part and he would find out.

    His finger tightened on the trigger.

    “There you are!” Sergeant Yimt Arkhorn said, trudging up the slope. The dwarf’s voice boomed like a cannon in the cooling night air. “I wouldn’t a thought it possible to lose someone on this wee pebble of an island, but you just about managed it. You don’t want to be hanging around this sad lot,” he said, casting a hand toward the blackened husks of trees and the dead. If the dwarf saw the shadows, he said nothing.

    Private Alwyn Renwar lowered his musket as the frost surged briefly before guttering out. He slowly turned to face the dwarf.

    “Five islands in a row,” Yimt said, huffing to a stop beside him on top of the ridge. He hoisted his shatterbow up to his shoulder, hooking one of the curved arms over it so that the double-barreled weapon hung down across his broad back. He reached to his side and grabbed his wooden canteen, first offering it to Alwyn, who shook his head.

    “Suit yourself, but it helps your eyeballs,” he said, referring to Alwyn’s need for spectacles. Yimt upended the canteen and gulped several mouthfuls of a liquid most certainly not water as the pungent vapors drifted into the night air. Wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve, Yimt deftly stuffed a wad of crute, the rock spice the dwarf was forever chewing, between his cheek and metal-colored teeth.

    “Five islands of nothing but black misery. I understand the need to weed these foul trees before they really take root, but why’s it always us? I’ll tell you this, Ally, if his arseness the Prince orders us to one more dust speck in the middle of the ocean, I might just risk the noose and kick the bugger right where his top and bottom halves meet. And with a running start.”

    A smile, Alwyn thought. I know I should smile.

    Alwyn took a deep breath and let it out, forcing his shoulders to relax and doing his best to reassure. “I can see you’re wasting no time in trying to lose those sergeant’s stripes,” he said.

    Yimt patted his arm and traced a finger around the recently sewn-on stripes on his uniform. “These aren’t what make a dwarf, Ally, though I got to admit I’m feeling a bit more protective of them this time round. Someone’s got to keep their head.”

    “You’re saying Major Swift Dragon isn’t?”

    Yimt rolled his eyes. “The major’s spittin’ musket balls. The Prince is a hairsbreadth from his last breath if he keeps sending us to these cursed islands instead of straight on to the desert wastes of the Hasshugeb Expanse. Now just between you and me, I’m starting to wonder a bit about the major. He’s gettin’ a bit frantic to find the first Iron Elves. ’Course, I can see his point. Be nice to have some reinforcements with all this going on,” he said, again waving a hand around them. “I swear by the dew of a freshly laundered nun the major’s going to do the Prince harm.”

    “Would that be so terrible?” Alwyn said, but the wind picked up just then and Yimt kept talking as if he hadn’t heard.

    “Our major is a kettle on full fire with half an ounce of water inside. We visit another island and the line of succession to the throne will be shorter by one.” Yimt pointed a hand out to sea. “Not that it’ll matter a cauldron of newts if this Shadow Monarch and Stars business keeps up. Like there ain’t enough pain and suffering in the world already without someone wanting to take the whole bloody thing over and make it worse. Where’s the sense in that?”

    Alwyn answered before he could stop himself. “Maybe She doesn’t see it that way. Maybe She’s in pain none of us can understand, and this is Her way of trying to deal with it. People don’t think straight when they are hurting. For Her, the Red Star offered a chance to change things.” He didn’t add that the Red Star also offered a chance for the blood oath the Iron Elves had taken to be broken, a chance that was lost at Luuguth Jor.

    Yimt spat out a stream of crute, which sizzled in the sand. “Odd way of looking at it, Ally, but even if that’s true—and I don’t buy it—then all the more reason to find the first Iron Elves, get a mess of axes, and go pay a visit to Her little mountain. More Stars are bound to come tumbling down and She’s gonna keep trying to get her hands on every one until She’s stopped. She’s already brought back rakkes, heaven knows what else She’ll find.”

    Alwyn feared and hated the rakkes. They were massive, hideous creatures with fangs and claws and milky white eyes, but what truly made them horrific was that they were brought back from extinction with only killing as their purpose. That the Shadow Monarch might bring back creatures worse than that added a whole new layer to his nightmares.

    “But what of the oath we took?” Alwyn asked. “Her magic wove its way into it. We have power unlike anything else. I can do things, Yimt, that I don’t want to be able to do. We weren’t meant to have this kind of power. And She’s behind it. Can’t you feel things…changing?” The Shadow Monarch was ever present in Alwyn’s dreams, forever calling to him. He couldn’t hold out forever, none of them could.

    “Changing?” Yimt lifted up the hem of his caerna and scratched at his thigh while he pondered the question. “I tried warming a cup of arr the other day between my hands, you know, calling up a bit of the frost fire. All I managed to do was light my beard on fire, and the arr was colder than when I started.”

    “You’re making fun of me,” Alwyn said. Yimt should understand. He took the oath as well.

    “Don’t get your caerna in a twist,” Yimt said, smiling at him. “I just don’t think it’s as bad as you make out. Sure, we might be doomed to eternal service in the afterlife, but if we’re still serving then we can’t exactly be after life, see? I’ll tell you this, Ally, having already put in a few decades in Her Majesty’s employ…traipsing hither and yon about the Empire…visiting smelly little villages with nasty little people chucking all kinds of sticks and stones and spells at you…I have to say, it ain’t that bad. Personally,” Yimt said, changing his scratching to his beard, “I can see some up sides.”

    Alwyn looked out to sea and tried to find the view Yimt saw there.

    “C’mon, Ally, we can chaw this over back at camp. Doesn’t do a fellow any good to be out alone in a place like this. What were you doing up here anyway?”

    Alwyn shook his head. “Nothing. I just came up here for a walk and to get some fresh air. Miss Tekoy says I need to keep in motion to get the stump used to the new leg.” Just a month ago a black arrow crafted by a dark art and wielded by an even darker creature had pierced his thigh. In the effort to save his life, Alwyn lost more than his leg that night. “And Miss Red Owl says I need to keep active so that I don’t dwell on…things. She’s teaching me meditation.”

    Yimt cast an appraising eye at Alwyn’s wooden leg. Both Visyna Tekoy and Chayii Red Owl had crafted it from a living tree, magically entwining several slender branches into an intricate and flexible design. Yimt stepped closer and looked up, locking eyes with him. “Aye, couple of witchy women there, they oughta know. Wise to heed them, Ally. They only want what’s best for you.”

    “Yes, I suppose you’re right,” Alwyn said, trying to believe it. Around him, the shades still waited. The shadow of Meri moved closer, his one eye like a dark portal offering Alwyn a path far away from here, though Alwyn knew Yimt couldn’t understand.

    “I’m always right,” Yimt said, thumping his chest. “In fact, if I was a betting man, I’d say the two of them joined us on our little sailing adventure as much for you as for the major. I figured they’d stay back in Elfkyna with the rest of those Long Watch elves to look over the tree-star thing in Luuguth Jor, but I think you’ve become a bit of a project.”

    “A project?”

    Yimt nodded. “Aye. See, women, no matter their age or race or even how witchy they are, like to work on projects, and by projects I mean men. The more screwed up or in need of repair the man is, the happier womenfolk are. And, Ally, between you and the major, I’d say those ladies have got their hands full for a long time to come.”

    “You always know just what to say,” Alwyn said, not sure if he should be touched or offended by the idea. Where Yimt was concerned it was always a close-run thing.

    Shrugging, Alwyn began to turn around to head back down the slope. Yimt reached out and grabbed him by the elbow, stopping him. He gently took the musket from his hands and eased the hammer back into place then handed it back to Alwyn.

    “A fellow wants to be careful with a loaded weapon, especially out here.”

    For a moment, there was only Yimt, his friend, on the ridgeline with Alwyn. He looked into the dwarf’s eyes and saw the concern.

    “I’ll try to remember that,” Alwyn said.

    Yimt beamed, flashing his metal-colored teeth. “Not to worry, Ally, not to worry. As long as Sergeant Arkhorn’s around, you’ll have me to remember it for you. We’ve got some serious glory and gallantry ahead of us and I sure as hell ain’t about to face it alone. A fellow can only wear so many medals afore folks start to think he’s a bit full of himself, y’know? Now get a move on. I got a turtle roasting on the fire…at least I think it’s a turtle, and you want to eat it while it’s still warm.”

    Alwyn smiled this time, a real smile. “Then get down there and save me a piece. I never miss a chance to try some of your cooking. I try, but unfortunately I never miss.”

    Yimt raised one bushy eyebrow and wagged a thick finger at him. “Cheeky bugger,” he said, turning and heading down the slope. “I’ll save you some of the brains; you can never have too many.”

    Alwyn watched him for a while until the shadows closed in again. Meri came to stand beside him.

    “Join us, Alwyn.” The others joined in, each urging him on. “Join us.”

    Alwyn gripped his musket, but this time no frost fire danced along it. He started to limp down toward the campfire, the pain in his stump reminding him with each step of what he had already lost, but also of what still remained. The shadows on the ridgeline did not follow, but kept their hands outstretched.

    “Not yet,” Alwyn said back to them, “not yet.”

  • What People are Saying About This

    From the Publisher

    "A gutsy fantasy set in a world of imperial greed and magical plotting, with an eye for the ordinary soldier's plight that would have done Kipling proud." —-Karen Traviss, New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Legacy of the Force

    Customer Reviews

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    Light of Burning Shadows (Iron Elves Series #2) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
    Karlstar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    I was not nearly as impressed with this one as I was with the first book. There are still some takes on standard fantasy themes in this book, but this book seems to suffer from a lack of plot. The author knew going in that the landing of the next Star was the main event, then spent the whole book wasting time to save that event for the very end. Unfortunately he did not do a great job of building up suspense. I still enjoyed it, but it was a bit flat compared to the first one.
    morbidromantic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    The Red Star will stay with the Elfkynan people, but more stars will certainly fall. Konowa Swift Dragon and his Iron Elves now realize the full weight of the curse they are bound under and fear their immortality of service. Konowa and his men want the curse to end, but they don¿t know how to end it. To strengthen and reinforce their numbers, Konowa sends the Iron Elves south to look for the former elven members of the group. With the Shadow Monarch still alive, the new Viceroy of Elfkyna under her spell, and his men upset that Konowa chose to let the Elfkynan keep the star instead of use it to free them of the curse, Konowa is ever more determined to use the power in the acorn given him to defeat the evil forces and free his men.He just doesn¿t know how.Still suffering the Prince who wants to use the stars as collections of knowledge while expanding the oppressive Calahran Empire, Konowa is at the breaking point. Private Renwar is also battling his own ghosts. Almost killed during the last big battle, he lost a leg and neared death. Getting so close to the other realm has put him in a state of living limbo. Along with the constant pain of his wooden leg being rejected by the magic of the frost fire curse, he is connected to the shades of the dead Iron Elves. The Viceroy of Elfkyna, now a dark servant to the Shadow Monarch, is set out on a mission to spread her dark forest, which he does dutifully as Her Emissary. The frost fire curse gives the Iron Elves the ability to destroy the dark forests, but the more they use the powers, the deeper they fall into the curse. Now there is also a new flame, a white flame that consumes the shadow until the body is dead. Most interesting is that those who die of the white flame are cured of the curse and do not return as shades. Unfortunately, though, they still die. Can the Iron Elves harness this power to free them of the curse? Will they find the former Iron Elves and defeat the Shadow Monarch, keeping the stars out of the hands of darkness? If you think this book is going to resolve anything, you are wrong. But isn¿t that great? It means there are more books to come. At the end of the book, you are literally left at the edge of your seat because you cannot believe that what has happened indeed really happened. Evans very effectively wraps up his story with a proper cliffhanger to leave you wanting more. I absolutely loved the foreboding way The Light of Burning Shadows ended and am going to watch the web for information about book three, which I have to read.Even more masterfully, Chris Evans weaves in elements of our world into the one he has created. I like connecting the parallels such as the Dwarf slave trade, the one omnipotent creator one soldier raves about, and the imperialist spirit of the Calahrian Empire that seems very familiar when one understands the history of our world. If not for the magic and mystical creatures involved, one could easily see this series as an historical and Napoleonic epic. Fans of military fiction, battles, and fantasy are going to love this book. I also think there¿s something about the dark nature of the book that will appeal to people who enjoy supernatural and paranormal fiction. The Shadow Monarch and the Viceroy are certainly evil enough to sate anyone¿s need for dark forces! For those of you who love romance, there is some of that included, too. Konowa and Visyna like each other, but they can¿t seem to see eye to eye and Visyna is worried for Konowa as he wields the dark power. She feels that he won¿t be able to properly control or resist it. He, of course, sees differently.I cannot wait for book three because I need to know how the book will end. I hope for the best for Private Renwar and I hope that the darkness is defeated, that the men are severed from the power of the curse, and that Konowa becomes the elf he has never been. Oh, and that he and Visyna stop fighting long enough to love each other prop
    cinnleigh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    THE LIGHT OF BURNING SHADOWS is Book Two of The Iron Elves series by Chris Evans. I recently reviewed the first book, A Darkness Forged In Fire, and was thrilled to have THE LIGHT OF BURNING SHADOWS sitting here waiting or me. I was excited about continuing the story ofKonowa and his men, yet at the same time I was nervous. I didn ¿t know if the second book could hold up to the first but I was pleasantly surprised. THE LIGHT OF BURNING SHADOWS held up wonderfully to the expectations set forth in the first book making for a great, action packed read.THE LIGHT OF BURNING SHADOWS continues the story of Konowa Swift Dragon, a banished elf come back to civilization. In A Darkness Forged In Fire, Konowa was called back into service as the former regiment, the Iron Elves, was reformed. With most of the troops barely surviving the ensuing battles between light and dark and the rest suffering a fate worse than death, the bedraggled bunch create a great story. Now, in THE LIGHT OF BURNING SHADOWS,Konowa and his men embark on a mission to find the original Iron Elves while rumor of another fallen Star of great power begins to spread.Full of action, packed with suspense and kissed with the perfect amount of romance, THE LIGHT OF BURNING SHADOWS is a wonderfully epic read. Evans does an amazing job of creating a world where a land of fantasy mixes with modern characteristics, creating a world that is distant and yet very near all at the same time. Evans style of writing and his ability to create realism in his stories forms an atmosphere where the characters come to life and leap, or rather battle, off the page.I¿m usually a fan of romance, but I find myself drawn back to The Iron Elves series. Although I love the softer and tenderer moments that can be found, the action sequences were fantastic and even a little addicting. Pages after a battle I would find myself still going over the action sequences and would end up turning back to relive the adrenaline rush.I mentioned in A Darkness Forged In Fire that Evans did a great job of keeping the tension flowing throughout the book. This is maintained if not made even better in THE LIGHT OF BURNING SHADOWS. Evans creates an ebb and flow of emotion as he leads us through the story. Not even page on the book is full of action and suspense, yet every page is tense. Each word in the story leads us somewhere, the feeling of something pulling at us quite palpable. If you plan on reading this story slowly, perhaps making it last a few weeks, I¿m going to recommend that you don¿t even bother. It is quite difficult to put down Evans¿ work, even more so with this new installment ofKonowa.My favorite aspect of THE LIGHT OF BURNING SHADOWS was the fact that the story seemed just a bit darker. We get to follow some minor characters from the last book a bit more closely and emotions run much more intense. While the first book was a lovely introduction to the world of the Iron Elves, THE LIGHT OF BURNING SHADOWS really introduces us to the darkness of the hearts of the fighters and those they are fighting against.Fair warning time: As in A Darkness Forged In Fire, there are a few graphic and violent scenes. Not enough to turn me off from the book, but I wanted to put the warning out there nonetheless.THE LIGHT OF BURNING SHADOWS was a wonderful book that is sure to please any Fantasy lover. Even if Fantasy isn't quite your thing, I'm fairly certain that the action, mystery, and intrigue gracing the pages would be enough to keep any reader enticed. Although I still came across a few instances where the pace seemed a little off or characters knew things when I had no clue how they could know them, I still found THE LIGHT OF BURNING SHADOWS to be a total winner.I would suggest that anyone who likes their stories with a bit of magic take a look at THE LIGHT OF THE BURNING SHADOWS. This is an epic tale of magic and adventure that keeps the heart racing from the front cover all the way through to the back.
    sensitivemuse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    As with various fantasy epic series I've read, there are different story arcs in this plot. You have the main plot; to stop the Shadow Monarch. Then you have Konowa's quest, which is to free him and his Iron Elves from this dreaded Blood Oath and to also recruit back his original Iron Elves army. Then you also have the interesting plot of Renwar, a soldier in the Iron Elves who has trouble with visions, and hears voices. He realizes he is different from the rest of them and wants desperately to end his Oath and free himself from his agony. True, this may seem like a lot to read, but it's not confusing or muddled. Everything is clear and easy to understand so you won't get lost while reading because eventually it all ties together in the end. I loved this book. Although I sort of had to go back and jog my memory a bit I loved the action and the doses of comedy mixed into this story. There is plenty of action so you will not be bored with this book. I find it interesting this nice mix of cannons and muskets with magic and swords. It add a uniqueness to this type of fantasy story and in some ways it reminds me a lot of the Sharpe series (which I enjoyed reading as well). There were parts in the story where the dreaded realization hits you and you're blindsided with a giant revelation or a surprise. I've been blindsided at least two or three times reading this book. Plus the ending was a total cliffhanger and I couldn't believe it ended that way and I had to reread the last few pages to make sure I got it right (but I still couldn't believe it ended like that)I find myself very attached to some of these characters (I usually get attached to several while reading fantasy). You actually follow Renwar more in this story as he's central to what's been happening, and you see how he develops as a character. I like Yimt. He provided the comic relief but you knew he loved his squad and cared for each of them in his own way. It was too bad you don't really read much of Konowa (not like the first one) as I like him a lot (he reminds me a lot of Richard Sharpe of the Sharpe series) but he's changed and not necessarily for the better. Overall a really good book. The plot moves quick and to the point. Unlike some series where when you reach the "middle point" of the series everything stands still then the series start to drag. Not with this one. You're taken to the next stage with more surprises in store. I can't wait for the third one.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    May i join
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Smiles. Pads in.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Giggled and tgged cherrykit
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    "Foxpower? Are you okay?"
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    (Also, you can talk to her directly at ' emris' res one. She still writes stories on here, and that's her questions spot.) Dipped his head and padddd back to camp.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Thaks.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    He froze in shock, and just sat there as she ran out. He closed his eyes, and let out a nervous breath he had been holding. He smiled, and followed her out
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Where are you located
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Yawned and fell aleep, lightpaw by his side.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Walks in
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    She smiled. "The clans gone down I see." He sighed. "Do you know where Srrowflight went?"
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    "We'll show them never to hunt in our territory again! We will not be viewed as weaklings!" He yowled.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I'll let him know. The same rhing happened to me at result two here actually...
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Name: Sinister// Age: Not saying //Kin: All gone//Personality: Despite my name im actually very sweet and caring. But also rebelious, and hotheaded. //Description: a fluffy white she cat with my ear and tail tips black. I have big green eyes (not the creepy yellow green but a pretty emerald green)// Crush: Not sure if he even notices me..// Mate: Nope //Kits: i like Jade and Sothernkit...//Other: Has nightmares..a lot..//
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Hi! I just became an apprentice!
    sgmaxx More than 1 year ago
    can't wait for the next one to come out
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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