Book Title: The Last Shadow Warrior
Author: Sam Subity
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: May 4, 2021
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Content Warnings: Main characters’s mother has died four years earlier and her father is critically injured and hospitalized for most of the book.
Twelve-year-old Abby Beckett is proud to come from a long line of elite Viking warriors known as the Aesir. She’s spent her entire life training to hunt the horrific creatures known as Grendels – the ancient foe of the Aesir – just like her mother did before she died. But there’s just one, small problem: No one has seen a Grendel in centuries, and the Viking Council wants to disband the Aesir . . . forever.
When her father is injured in an attack that leaves him in a coma, Abby is forced to take refuge at Vale Hall, a mysterious school in Minnesota where nothing is quite as it seems. She soon discovers the tables have turned and a Grendel is hunting her, but when she tries to alert the Viking Council, they accuse her of making up stories for attention . . . just like her mother did.
Desperate to protect her father and clear her mother’s name, Abby goes on a dangerous quest to discover the truth–a journey that brings her face-to-face with some unlikely foes, including a Ping-Pong-playing sea monster with a wicked backhand, and a dark Valkyrie with a fondness for bingo. Abby quickly realizes that someone at the school is trying to stop her progress and destroy the Aesir for good. And only she can unravel the sinister plot before it’s too late.
Sam Subity loves writing stories that explore the magic and wonder of being a kid and is thrilled to share his writing with readers everywhere—both the young in age and the young at heart.
When he’s not writing, you might find him running the trails of northern California where the endless, winding miles past fog and ocean inspire stories of adventure and mystery.
Or he might be mowing his lawn. Because that’s what adults sometimes have to do.
But in either case, Sam Subity is very likely imagining himself fighting mythical creatures or at the prow of a dragon ship feeling the wind and sea spray on his face alongside his own Viking queen and their two Vikelets. His greatest hope is that in reading his books, you too may be transported to another place where, for a little while, you can exchange the ordinary for the extraordinary.
I am so excited to host Sam Subity on A Court of Coffee and Books today! Thank you so much, Sam, for stopping by and don’t forget to purchase a copy of The Last Shadow Warrior!
Congratulations on your debut! What was your inspiration for The Last Shadow Warrior?
Thank you! The Last Shadow Warrior is loosely based on the Beowulf epic which I read in school years ago. In that story set in medieval Denmark, the Danes are terrorized by a bloodthirsty creature called a Grendel that lurks in the shadows. That’s actually where the “Shadow Warrior” part of my title comes from because my main character, a modern-day 12-year-old named Abby Beckett who is secretly a Viking warrior, picks up this struggle between good and evil that has continued since ancient times. But it wasn’t until I read Rick Riordan’s work where he put a new spin on old stories that the connection clicked for me and I thought “Percy Jackson meets Beowulf.” And that’s when my story all started coming together.
What has been your favorite part of being a debut author so far?
Definitely the best part has been connecting with young readers and seeing them get excited about reading, but also encouraging them to write too. When I participated in World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) earlier this spring, which is a day when authors spend about 15 minutes reading to a class from their book and then answering questions, one of the students asked me, “Do you actually like writing?” My answer? Yes, but…not all the time. Sometimes as a writer the words fly from your brain to your fingers. But sometimes you just stare at a blank page for an hour. And that’s okay. It’s an amazing feeling when you’ve finally finished and realize you’ve created something exciting and new. After WRAD I got letters from several kids telling me they were inspired by my visit to write their own stories. And that sort of thing makes it all worth it.
What are you hoping readers take away from your story?
One of the things my main character Abby struggles with is wondering whether she’s got what it takes to fill her mom’s shoes. She’s from this long line of great Viking warriors, but she also struggles with the things most kids do like frizzy hair and complex fractions. Through her adventure, she learns that heroes come in different shapes and sizes, and I’m hoping that kids reading The Last Shadow Warrior will come away from the book seeing something heroic in themselves too.
What was your favorite part of writing The Last Shadow Warrior?
As much fun as I had going on a journey with Abby and her friends, probably the most satisfying part was writing “The End” on the manuscript. Of course, most books don’t actually have the words “The End” in them anymore and it’s kind of obvious when there aren’t any more pages that you’ve reached the end. But it’s a sort of rite of passage for writers to mark the moment when writing is complete and you’re ready to share your creation with the world.
Did you have to do any research for The Last Shadow Warrior? If so, what was your favorite piece of research you came across?
It’s kind of funny because I used to hate doing research for papers when I was in school, but now research is one of my main sources of inspiration and I really enjoy it. I even brushed up on my Old English which I’m happy to demonstrate in public, to the utter embarrassment of my kids. But I found digging through the Norse myths particularly enjoyable because they’re great stories that are both magical and often laugh-out-loud funny too. For anyone who hasn’t had the chance to peruse these tales, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is an incredible introduction. There’s also an illustrated Norse Mythology for Kids that is a great overview for the younger audience. Be sure to look up the story of how Thor got his magical hammer Mjolnir after Loki shaves Thor’s wife bald as a practical joke. The two events seem sort of unrelated, but that’s a perfect example of the interplay of opposites in this mythology.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
One of my favorite pieces of writing advice is Stephen King’s first rule for writers which is essentially to first write for yourself. That means creating the first draft that you want to write without input or feedback from anyone else. That story is yours first, and then the world’s second. When I start a first draft, I typically use a plain text editor because I don’t even want the feedback from Word or any other word processing program that I misspelled a word or put a comma in the wrong place. In other words, total feedback vacuum. I feel like that gives me the freedom to tap into my creativity without distraction. There is plenty of time for feedback and revisions later. So save it for later.
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One winner will received a signed finished copy of The Last Shadow Warrior. This giveaway ends on May 31st.
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