Better late than never. That’s old adage, right? Well, it’s certainly the case when it comes to me reading A Ruin of Shadows, the 2018 debut novella by FIYA’s founding art director, L.D. Lewis. I know, 2018. It’s about time, I can hear the jeers in the back of my head already. After all, as former FIYA art director and founding director of FIYACON, publisher of Fireside, researcher for LeVar Burton Reads, and so much more, Lewis is a giant in the science fiction & fantasy realm.
Regardless of how late to the game I am, I couldn’t be more happy that I finally read this book. At about sixty pages, it’s a quick and action packed read following an important transition in the life of General Daynja Édo, which touches on issues of empire and colonization, and complicity within systems of violent domination. It also hits more personal themes such as the difficult and complex nature of familial relationships.
General Édo is the Empire of Boorhia’s primary weapon in the quest for ever-expanding imperial domination. Not only is Édo the Empire’s military leader and top-notch assassin, but she has also trained a seven person Shadow Army that help her carry out the violent work of colonial control through fear. Within the heart of the Empire, she is well-known and loved for the important and powerful role she plays.
But all that changes when Emperor Negus orders Édo to kill the newly crowned Queen-Saint of Eros. A tiny island, Eros is in no way threat to the mighty Boorhian Empire. Édo, already seriously shaken by the fact that she doesn’t remember how many people she’s killed over the decades, points this out to Emperor Negus and suggests the order is more about Negus’s personal grudge than it is about the good of the Empire. As a result, she is deemed a threat to the Empire and her life is turned upside down as she rebels and her Shadow Army, the closest thing Édo has to a family, is turned against her. On the run, it’s a game of kill or be killed that will rock the Empire.
To save herself, Édo must betray everything she holds dear, and she will in turn be betrayed by those whom she loved as family, even those she doesn’t expect. She has to come to terms with the reality of the Empire’s violent and domineering nature, her role and complicity in the creation and expansion of that domination, that she is seen as replaceable despite her status and power, and the fact that in the course of carrying out her duty over the years she has become something she doesn’t like or want to be.
If you haven’t yet taken the time to read A Ruin of Shadows, I can’t recommend it highly enough. You can get a copy directly from the publisher, Dancing Star Press.
Justine Norton-Kertson (they/he/she) is an author of stories, games, poems, and music. They’re also a community organizer and the editor-in-chief for Solarpunk Magazine and Android Press. Their work has been featured in over a dozen magazines including Utopian Science Fiction Magazine, Rulerless, Jupiter Review, Struksurriss, and Serious Flash Fiction. Justine is also editing a forthcoming solarpunk anthology for AK Press and their lunarpunk anthology, Bioluminescent, is forthcoming in January 2023. Her nonfiction book, Solarpunk Witchcraft: A Radical Spiritual Praxis, is forthcoming from Microcosm Publishing in 2024. She can be found on Twitter @jankwrites.