The Jack of Souls by Stephen Merlino
Publisher: Tortoise Rampant Books
Publication Date: December 12, 2014
Harric is an outcast rogue who must break a curse put on his fate, or die on his nineteenth birthday. To survive, he’ll need more than his usual tricks. He’ll need help. But on the kingdom’s lawless frontier, his only allies are other outcasts.
One of these is Caris, a mysterious, horse-whispering runaway, intent upon becoming the Queen’s first female knight. The other is Sir Willard—ex-immortal, ex-champion, now addicted to pain-killing herbs and banished from court.
With their help, Harric might keep his curse at bay. But for how long?
And his companions bring troubles of their own: Caris bears the scars of a dark past that still hunts her; Willard is at war with the Old Ones, an order of insane immortal knights who once enslaved the kingdom.
Together, they must overcome fanatical armies, murderous sorcerers, and powerful supernatural foes.
Author Bio: Stephen Merlino lives in Seattle, WA, where he writes, plays, and teaches high school English. He lives with the world's most talented and desirable woman, two fabulous children, and three attack chickens.
Growing up in Seattle drove Stephen indoors for eight months of the year. Before the age of video games, that meant he read a lot. At the age of eleven he discovered the stories of J.R.R. Tolkein and fell in love with fantasy.
Summers and rare sunny days he spent with friends in wooded ravines or on the beaches of Puget Sound, building worlds in the sand, and fighting orcs and wizards with driftwood swords.
About the time a fifth reading of The Lord of the Rings failed to deliver the old magic, Stephen attended the University of Washington and fell in love with Chaucer and Shakespeare and all things English.
Sadly, the closest he got to England back then was The Unicorn Pub on University Way, which wasn't even run by an Englishman: it was run by a Scot named Angus. Still, he studied there, and as he sampled Angus's weird ales, and devoured the Unicorn's steak & kidney pie (with real offal!), he developed a passion for Scotland, too.
In college, he fell in love with writing, and when a kindly professor said of a story he'd written, "You should get that published!" Stephen took the encouragement literally, and spent the next years trying. The story remains unpublished, but the quest to develop it introduced Stephen to the world of agents (the story ultimately had two), and taught him much of craft and the value of what Jay Lake would call, "psychotic persistence."
Add to that his abiding love of nerds--those who, as Sarah Vowel defines it, "go too far and care too much about a subject"--and you have Stephen Merlino in a nutshell.
Stephen is the 2014 PNWA winner for Fantasy.
He is also the 2014 SWW winner for Fantasy.His novel, The Jack of Souls is in its fourth month in the top ten on Amazon’s Children’s Fantasy Sword & Sorcery Best Seller list, and among the top three in Coming-of-Age.
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