The Last Guard by K.J. Taylor - Guest Post

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Last Guard by K.J. Taylor
Series: The Southern Star #1
Released: 8th December 2018
Published by: Black Phoenix Publishing Collective
Genre: YA Fantasy
Southerner Sergeant Kearney "Red" Redguard is the last of a disgraced family, and a loyal guardsman.

And with a murderer stalking the streets, the city guard is his city's best defense.

But in the North, King Caedmon Taranisäii is gathering his army, and the cruel Night God prepares for the downfall of the South.

A new dark griffin roams the land, warning of the war to come. Betrayed and sent on the run, Red must fight to save his homeland. But it may already be too late...
I read K.J. Taylor's first release The Price of Magic last year which was an uplifting fantasy read. Any YA fantasy fan should definitely keep an eye out for this next book in a new series!

K.J. Taylor on Writing the Last Guard

Though its predecessor came out in 2014, I actually wrote The Last Guard in or about the year 2009 (I’ve often joked that if I could publish as fast as I write, I’d have overtaken Stephen King by now! Alas, publishing is a slow business). Still I remember writing it quite clearly. I did most of my work while sitting in a certain café with my laptop, which was an arrangement I liked because it was comfortable, there was no distracting WiFi, and I didn’t have to bring a packed lunch.

I enjoyed writing the book, which – well, I admit that’s not unusual; I’ve enjoyed writing every book I’ve ever done. Some authors grumble about how hard and stressful writing is, but I’ve always found it easy and fun. But I enjoyed TLG’s story and protagonist in particular among the other books I’ve written over the years. I enjoyed the story because it’s more or less nonstop action, with relatively few slow spots, which made it easier to write than, say, The Shadowed Throne, which had a lot of talky scenes and political stuff. Don’t get me wrong; I actually prefer writing dialogue scenes over action scenes, but it was still a refreshing change of pace.

Red as the protagonist was also a nice change of pace. Having written one trilogy starring a murderous bastard (I still love you, Arenadd) and a second one starring a woman who starts out bad-tempered and rude and eventually becomes a heartless tyrant, it was a change to be writing about someone who was a genuinely decent person for once.

Red isn’t perfect, of course. He’s uneducated and rather slow on the uptake at times, he’s unimaginative, he can be very scary when he loses his temper, he’s violent, and in some ways he’s a bit of a thug – at bottom he doesn’t really know how to solve his problems without using aggression and brute force. He’s what you’d call a “man’s man”, embarrassed by the idea of showing too much emotion, and equally embarrassed by the fact that he knows how to read (as a boy he was actually rather proud of his literacy, but a good dose of merciless teasing from his peers quickly put paid to that). Even so he’s an honest man (he claims that never in his life has he ever told a lie), and fiercely loyal to his friends, his Eyrie, and the law he serves. Unlike Arenadd he is disgusted by the idea of hurting those weaker than himself, and under normal circumstances would never raise a hand to a woman, a child, or someone trying to surrender.

Unlike Arenadd or Laela, Red isn’t out to find his place in the world: he already knows who he is and what he wants out of life. Unlike Arenadd he has no great ambitions; he just wants to be the best guardsman he can be, and restore the honour of the Redguard family name since his uncle Bran “the Betrayer” besmirched it. Other than that he hopes to find a wife and become a father, so the family line won’t die out. If circumstances hadn’t intervened he would most likely have lived a pretty quiet, uneventful life – and he’d have been perfectly happy that way. But when disaster strikes, he’s ready to step up and do whatever he can to protect his home.

The other aspect I enjoyed about writing the book was the divide between the two sides in the war. On the one hand you can sympathise with Red, since the Northerner invasion destroys his home and robs him of everything he holds dear when he’s done nothing wrong. But on the other, you can understand why King Caedmon led the assault on the South in the first place, and especially so if you’ve read the previous books and are aware that Caedmon too lost everything thanks to the treachery of Southerners, and has chosen to make war on their country purely to protect his people and his homeland from an enemy who conquered and enslaved them once before and might well choose to do so again. This is not a story of an evil overlord who wants to take over the world and the plucky hero who must nobly resist him. It is rather the story of two peoples who are blinded by ignorance and hate, which dooms them to repeat the mistakes of the past rather than learning from them. In the end, neither side is in the right. Rather, they both do what they think is right. Just as we all do. The question this trilogy asks is “can the cycle be broken?” and if so, what will it take to break it?


Black Phoenix Publishing are running a giveaway to win a free copy of this book! To enter, just visit their facebook page and like or comment on any of their posts before 15th December.

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