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Blade Skill, Iron Sensing and Hypnosis: Behind the Scenes Look at Shadowblade – Guest Blog by Anna Kashina

Anna Kashina (2019)Despite being a scientist in my day job, in my writing I tend to gravitate to fantasy. This means, magic rather than technology, supernatural and mystical as opposed to rationally explained. People often ask me why I am not using my science background in my writing, and up until now I have always come up with explanations, such as my scientific knowledge being a constraint to my imagination, science setting too strict of a boundary for a magical world, etc.

This was before I wrote Shadowblade.

Some of the main characters in Shadowblade are super-warriors, trained in the elite Jaihar Order to become the defenders of the Empire. While all Jaihar blademasters are very skilled, only their very best warriors can ever achieve the top Jaihar rank—Shadowblade. These top-ranked swordsmen are truly unmatched. Not only are they better than others, they also seem to have an innate ability to bond with weapons through iron-sensing, that enables them not only to command their own blades, but also to anticipate the enemy’s.

Shadowblade (cover)When I was working on figuring out how this ability works, I couldn’t help but tap into my biomedical background. Could a regular person actually be gifted with iron-sensing? In principle, yes—if their blood is infused with magnetized iron. Since iron is a natural component of our blood, this isn’t much of a stretch. If you imagine someone whose blood iron levels are elevated, this quality could in principle lead to better weapon-sensing, and feed into the warrior ability. While there are many other qualities one needs to become one of the Jaihar’s best, iron-sensing seemed like an important one.

This was how the concept of the Ironbloods was born and made its way into the book.

It became extra fun for me to play with the ideas of iron and magnets as I developed the rest of the story. The idea that magnets affect the human body is out there—and it does make sense, even though the science behind it is still fairly patchy. Incidentally, magnetotherapy is out there too, and many people strongly believe in its effects. Coming back to my Ironblood warriors, it seemed only natural to suggest that the higher iron content in their blood should lead to their stronger reaction to magnets.

It was almost irresistible to explore this even further. What would happen if a person with high blood iron wears a lot of magnets? Would it distort their ability to fight? Would it impair their judgment? Would it make them more susceptible to, say, hypnosis? I won’t say any more, for fear of spoilers, but I am very happy with the way this worked out in the book.

Magnetic Fields by Windell Oskay

I played with other aspects of the magnets too. For example, wearing magnetic armor (and non-magnetic blades) would distort the enemy’s weapons, making it extremely hard to hit the wearer. On the other hand, using magnetic weapons against someone wearing regular armor could in principle give one an advantage in landing a blow. Overall, I was surprised at how magnets fit so well into my world of medieval warriors and elite blademasters.

Very few of these details ever made their way into the finished novel. However, working out this thread made a lot of things I tended to leave unexplained in my previous books feel more grounded. Even though Shadowblade is still definitely fantasy, it feels special to be able to apply at least a tiny fraction of my background as a scientist to it. It made the world, and the characters, seem so real.

Shadowblade is out now! To learn more about it and Anna’s other works you can visit her websiteand follow her on Bookbub, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!



  1. […] of human physiology that underlies superior abilities of a warrior. Interested? Check out my blog post for Fantasy Faction: […]

  2. Avatar Casey says:

    I found this an enjoyable article. I have some experience with real swords. I was surprised in my first sparring match ( heavily protected of course) that real swords sometimes will stick together. Sometimes from nicks on the blade, but not always. So all those scenes in movies where the hero and villain lock up swords and try to over power each other. Could actually happen.

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