The Undead Hordes of Kan-Gul (2013) is the first Fantasy novel in The Shadow Warrior series. It is set in an Asiatic world with primitive technology, but powerful magic. High in the mountains of Gakur, the Nine Daggers clan trains Shinobujin, the shadow warriors.
In this novel, Ran is a Shinobujin of the Nine Daggers Clan. He is on shugyo -- wandering quest -- after his graduation to learn about the outside world.
Vargul is a northern trader. He is shipping goods on the Aqaria across the Dark Sea.
Malkyr is the captain of the Aqaria, a merchant ship. It is crossing the Dark Sea.
Kancho is pretending to be a drunkard. Yet he really is a Murai warrior.
Neviah is a protector. She is guarding a young lady on her way to a temple for training.
Jysal is the lady being protected by Neviah. She knows little about the outside world.
In this story, Ran is looking for a way across the Dark Sea. He is drinking is a dockside bar and trying to stay inconspicuous. He notices a northerner come into the bar and pull out a heavy purse full of gold coins.
The man sitting next to the northerner puts a knife to his throat and tells him to hand over his purse. Ran jars the cutthroat and Vargul gets free. Then Ran says that he is looking for passage, but doesn't have any money. Vargul pays for his berth on the Aqaria.
A storm gathers even as the Aqaria leaves the harbor. Malkyr says that storms are common on this ocean. The passengers are mostly seasick, but Malkyr and his crew are unaffected by wild motions of the ship.
Ran soon realizes that Kancho is a Murai. The way he keeps his sword nearby is suggestive. He also has a trace of an upper class accent.
Neviah tells them that she is a bodyguard for Jysal. The young lady is very beautiful and polite, but seems a bit shy. Ran likes both women.
The storm worsens and drives them south. They cannot reach Chulai, so Malkyr decides to try for Narran. When they pass out of the storm, the ship is off the Cliffs of Doom.
This tale drives the Aqaria onto the reefs. Only the five passengers and Malkyr get to the small beach. Malkyr is bit by a shark and Neviah bandages his wound. Then they set a watch schedule and get some sleep.
The next morning, Vulgar has disappeared. Ran and Kancho follow his trail, but it ends in the middle of a meadow. The next morning, only Ran and Jysal awake on the beach.
The shadow warriors in this story are a combination of the ronin and ninjas. They wield swords -- and many other weapons -- while striking out of the darkness. While the Murai fight in teams, the Shinobujin mostly work alone.
Malkyr warns the passengers of Kan-Gun and his undead. The next installment in this sequence -- Slavers of the Silk Road -- has not yet been announced on Amazon.
Highly recommended for Merz fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of shadow warriors, magical spells, and lots of combat. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin