The Shadow of Black Wings

The Shadow of Black Wings

by James Calbraith


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"Fast paced and full of energy"

-Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of the Shadows of the Apt

"This manuscript is full of highly crafted detail that will make readers shiver at times with fear and delight ... a familiar yet highly original fantasy that is a worthwhile read."

- Publishers Weekly

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012 semi-finalist.

An ancient empire stands on the brink of a civil war.

His arrival may push it over the edge.

It is the sixteenth year of Queen Victoria's enlightened rule and the world trembles before the might of her ironclad navy and the dreaded Dragon Corps. The largest ship ever built sails from the Brigstow Harbour on a journey to the mysterious lands of Orient. Its load - a regiment of the Royal Marines and one Bran ap Dylan - freshly graduate in Dracology at the Llambed Academy of Mystic Arts.

In the empire of Yamato, sealed from the rest of the world for the last two centuries, a wizard's daughter Sato witnesses her father joining an anti-government conspiracy. Her friend Nagomi, training to be a priestess, is haunted by dark visions that she must keep secret. Neither of them is aware that a change is coming to Yamato... on the wings of a dragon.

A detailed and fast-paced historical fantasy based around the turbulent opening of Japan to the West in the middle of the 19th century, "The Shadow of the Black Wings" is the first volume in "The Year of the Dragon" saga. The second volume, "The Warrior's Soul", is expected in August.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9788393552917
Publisher: Flying Squid
Publication date: 07/13/2012
Pages: 334
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

James Calbraith is a 34 year old Poland-born writer, foodie and traveller, currently residing in South London.

Growing up in communist Poland on a diet of powdered milk, Lord of the Rings and soviet science-fiction, he had his first story published at the ripe age of eight. After years of bouncing around university faculties, he moved to London in 2007, found a decent IT job and started writing in English. His debut historical fantasy novel, "The Shadow of Black Wings", has reached ABNA semi-finals and was published in July 2012.

His volume of short stories, "Transmission", published on Amazon Kindle in June 2012, has reached the tops of Kindle bestseller lists in USA, UK, France, Germany and Italy.

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The Shadow of Black Wings 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
gaele More than 1 year ago
I will admit – the steampunk potential of this story combined with some paranormal/fantasy had me intrigued.  I was not disappointed in the least.  The lush recreation of the Victorian Empire is presented with some familiar elements, yet imaginative details and additions, magic and dragons and a taste of elements similar to The Art of War by Sun Tzu, enrich and provide elements that demand notice.  With a map provided to help readers follow and organize the story in their own mind, the multiple characters and complex political maneuvering is easier to follow but this is not a simple fly through read. Calbraith has researched and incorporated actual historical detail, integrating it so neatly into the narration and story that it is a near seamless transition between familiar, actual and fantastical. This daunting yet necessary task could detract from the well-crafted world we are immersed in, yet the details only serve to further the story and character development.  Multi-layered characters, with Bran particularly well balanced: cockiness and brashness of youth counterbalanced with his realization that he doesn’t have all the answers, and perhaps is not invincible. When he moves forward, despite his doubts, readers are left with the understanding that his decisions are well thought through, mostly.  The book is a terrific start for a series, giving us plenty of untouched upon elements early in the first that are not addressed again, and a bit of an open end for Bran.  It has the flavor of other high-fantasy books that I have read, engaging and unique with characters that you can find likable and interesting, and just enough of a mysterious twist to keep you wondering what next.  I’m curious (and excited) to see the next in the series.  I received an eBook copy from the author for purpose of honest review for Full Moon Bites tours. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
CherieReads More than 1 year ago
Combine fantasy with alternate history, throw in a dash of steampunk and you have The Shadow of Black Wings. This was a really fun read. Elements of fantasy like magic and dragons combine with steampowered ships and clockwork gadgets all set in an alternate version of our world where the Roman Empire still exists. Completely original and unexpected. The world-building here is phenomenal. The magic systems are interesting but not so complex that you don't understand what's happening. There are languages here that sound just familiar enough that you know where they are "supposed"to be from. The settings are familiar but distinct. There are versions of England, Rome, China, Japan and others. They are familiar enough to make the reader comfortable in the geography but original enough to keep you interested in learning more about them. There were a couple of things that I did not like so much. First, the point of view never technically changes but the character focus changes throughout the book without warning. I'd be reading pages of Bran and then all of the sudden Dylan was the main focus. I found it jarring and even confusing in a couple of parts. I had to go back an re-read paragraphs on more than one occasion. I don't mind changing focus but I prefer it if there is a clear delineation - either a chapter change or a "split" in the chapter (a **** between sections) I also found the plot a little bit weak. I enjoyed reading about each of the characters and about Bran's journey but I never really knew where the book was going. I didn't know if the book was about Bran's journey, about the political climate, about the magic and dragons, or about something else entirely. I didn't feel like it was building to any real climax. Don't get me wrong, there were exciting parts! I just don't think there was one big storyline linking everything together.I suspect that this book is really the backdrop for bigger things to happen in Book 2 and beyond. I definitely plan on reading the next book in the series, The Warrior's Soul. There was no huge cliffhanger in this book but there are a lot of unanswered questions. I am eager to learn what happens to Bran, Sato and Nagomi. Do they find Bran's dragon? Who is this man in the crimson robe? What's the story with Bran's grandfather? What happened to Dylan? I'm guessing that the second book will be action packed now that the scene is set and the cast of characters has been introduced. I can't wait to read more. Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for my review. All opinions are 100% honest and my own.
BrookeJohnson More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book, so much in fact, that I ordered the next book before I finished the first. I love the fantasy elements and the exploratory nature of the first half of the story. The world is based on our own, but it has enough differences that it feels brand new, but with the depth of our own history, making it a rich, complex story world. The varying magics are interesting and apparently well thought out, and each of the characters has some degree of control over one of the magicks, so you get to see a lot of it in action. The characters are engaging and sympathetic. I'm invested in their stories, and I want to see where the story takes them in the rest of the stories. This story has dragons--both Western and Eastern style--and though they aren't a huge factor in the story (since they're mostly domesticated), I liked their presence. I hope there will be more of them in the future. The political nature of the book is fascinating to me, and I can't wait to see what happens as a result of Bran's trek across the world into unknown and forbidden territories. I will admit, reading the book as a whole, the first chapters seem a little tacked on, because the story doesn't really get going until the third chapter or so. There are some elements of the first chapters that never show up again in the first book, mostly magical elements that I thought were really interesting, but I wonder if maybe they'll come up again in the rest of the series. Also, the first chapters are somewhat awkwardly written. I can't really place my finger on it, but that stood out to me. Anyway once Bran finally leaves home, the story really picks up, and I was totally engrossed in everything that was going on. The writing goes from somewhat awkward to absolutely phenomenal. There are a few formatting issues in the first chapters and last few chapters. Mostly typographical errors--quotes in the wrong place, inconsistent punctuation, and a few non-standard or incorrect uses of dialogue punctuation. That said, it only tripped me up a few times, and the story was so interesting, that I didn't really care about the errors. I highly recommend this book for fans of fantasy and Far Eastern history and culture. The only reason it gets four stars instead of five is because of the awkwardness of the first chapters and the seemingly forgotten threads that are presented there. I think had those first chapters been stronger and the story had really kicked off right away, I would have given this five stars.
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Eduardo Aduna for Readers Favorite James Calbraith’s "The Shadow of Black Wings" is an immersive fantasy yarn. The young dragonrider Bran lives in an alternate version of 19th century Western Europe, where magic is a staple and dragons are steeds of war. His loyalty to his lower-class dragon Emrys has made his life in the Academy difficult, so much so that he would do anything to leave it once and for all. Once free from his academic responsibilities, Bran struggles to find his own way in life. Amidst the geopolitical tumult of the times, Bran takes Emrys and joins his father on a trip to the faraway land of Qin, on the Eastern part of the world. A misfortune of battle finds him separated from his father and his dragon. Deposited on the shores of Yamato by mysterious means, Bran must learn to adapt to the culture, language and people of this strange country. When Bran senses that Emrys is in trouble, he must find a way to come to the aid of his dragon, all while surviving a land whose people would most likely kill him on sight. What a book! It had everything, and the author has blended all the aspects so well that it was difficult for me to place this book into one specific genre. Adventure? Oh it is there: strange lands, interesting characters, a determined protagonist and a dangerous world. Fantasy? With wizards and dragons and different facets of magic, I think fantastic elements permeate this novel. Alternative history? James Calbraith takes a slice of actual history and uses it to conjure up a world so familiar, so brilliantly plausible that I found myself lovingly immersed in it. His penchant for lore, languages and different cultures is dazzlingly displayed in all the details in the alternate history he has created. Steampunk? Countries in Cailbraith’s world are scrambling for majestic ships and engines of war. Clockwork and automatons just lurk in the far flung corners of his world, waiting for the chance to pop out. Steampunk is a yes. James Calbrath asserts his author’s prerogative and calls it historical fantasy. I don’t fully agree. I would call it a budding historical fantasy novel, the kind where the writing just flows and sweeps you away, transporting you into a parallel piece of history in a time where the different countries are just a hair’s breadth away from unleashing their forces and engaging in total war. It is hard to contain such a large-scale world into one book, and Calbrath barely manages, with the ending leaving the reader wondering why it had to end so soon. Still, if that ending was meant to make me crave the next book, it definitely succeeded.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the book but the flow is really horrible. A symbol, a large indentation, anything to let you know the story has changed from person/place/timeline. It causes a lot of rereading and confusion. Anyway worth reading on the 2nd now and it's just getting juicy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really liked the story. Will be buying the next book. Cant wait to read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago