by Gail Z. Martin
Some stories are a long time in coming.
The Summoner launched my Chronicles of the Necromancer series back in 2007. Right now, there are six novels in that series (including the two Fallen Kings Cycle books that are really part of the same saga). The Chronicles/Fallen Kings books are Tris Drayke’s story, and he’s the main protagonist as he rises from exiled prince and fledgling mage to embattled king and powerful necromancer.
But in those books, an important secondary protagonist, Jonmarc Vahanian, captured the hearts of a lot of readers, and has always been one of my favorites. We meet Jonmarc when he’s twenty-nine, with a lot of hard years behind him, and plenty of scars, both physical and emotional. We get glimpses of his backstory, but not the whole tale. Readers wanted more, and the details were all clear in my mind.
So a few years ago, I started releasing ebook short stories in the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, which will eventually add up to three serialized novels about how Jonmarc becomes the man you meet in The Summoner. Solaris Books, the publisher of the Chronicles series, asked to publish the first ten of those stories–and an eleventh story exclusive to the collection–in ebook and paperback as The Shadowed Path. Of course, I said yes.
If you’ve read the individual stories, The Shadowed Path offers that extra eleventh story you can’t find anywhere else. If you were putting off reading the stories because they were only in ebook, the paperback version eliminates that obstacle. If you’ve read the Chronicles series, think of The Shadowed Path and the other short stories as a prequel. (There are also eight additional individual stories beyond those in the collection available online with more to come.) And if you haven’t read the series, The Shadowed Path is a great place to start, knowing you can dive in deep with the books when you’re done.
It’s been interesting coming back to write in a series after taking a few years off. Maybe it’s true that you never forget your first love, because as soon as I sat down to work on the stories, it all came back to me in a rush. I’m still as passionate about the characters as ever, and the world is still as vivid. (That’s good, because I still have six more books in the series in my head that will get written at some point, picking up after a 17 year break in-world time.)
Since The Shadowed Path begins 14 years before The Summoner, readers not only get a unique glimpse into Jonmarc’s past, but also into the past of Margolan and the Winter Kingdoms in the heyday of King Bricen’s reign. So when Jonmarc runs into other characters who appear briefly in the novels, he’s encountering them at a very different time in their personal history and in the history of the kingdom. In these stories, readers get to see Maynard Linton, the mage Alyzza and even the bounty hunters Chessis and Vakkis from a whole new perspective, gaining a different, deeper understanding of why they act as they do in the book series.
Not only that, but by beginning Jonmarc’s journey at its start, my goal is to make many of Jonmarc’s actions, comments and reactions in the book take on a much deeper resonance. My goal was to show readers the circumstances and situations that forged Jonmarc’s fears and opinions, and the loss and pain that built his walls, as well as the memories and connections that helped him find a path to redemption.
So walk a few miles in Jonmarc’s boots, see the events that forged his nightmares, the battles that gave him his scars.
Soldier. Fight slave. Smuggler. Warrior. Brigand lord. If you’ve met Jonmarc Vahanian in the Chronicles of the Necromancer and Fallen Kings Cycle books, you don’t really know him until you take his journey.