I’m thrilled to have a guest post by debut author Sophie Kim to share with you! Last of the Talons, her YA fantasy novel featuring an assassin and a Dokkaebi emperor, is out today. See below for more information on the book and author, and to read her essay “On the Duality of the Protagonist.”


Cover of Last of the Talons by Sophie Kim
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About LAST OF THE TALONS (Talons #1):

After the destruction of her entire Talon gang, eighteen-year-old Shin Lina—the Reaper of Sunpo—is forced to become a living, breathing weapon for the kingdom’s most-feared crime lord. All that keeps her from turning on her ruthless master is the life of her beloved little sister hanging in the balance. But the order to steal a priceless tapestry from a Dokkaebi temple incites not only the wrath of a legendary immortal, but the beginning of an unwinnable game…

Suddenly Lina finds herself in the dreamlike realm of the Dokkaebi, her fate in the hands of its cruel and captivating emperor. But she can win her life—if she kills him first.

Now a terrible game of life and death has begun, and even Lina’s swift, precise blade is no match for the magnetic Haneul Rui. Lina will have to use every weapon in her arsenal if she wants to outplay this cunning king and save her sister…all before the final grain of sand leaks out of the hourglass.

Because one way or another, she’ll take Rui’s heart.

Even if it means giving up her own.

On the Duality of the Protagonist
by Sophie Kim, debut author of Last of the Talons

Humans are composed of hundreds of thousands of little puzzle pieces, each one unique. Anxiety. Assurance. Joy. Distaste. Dreams. Nightmares. Millions of facets blending together to form an individual.

Some of these facets are contradictory. The kind may be cruel. The greedy may give. But one set of characteristics need not eliminate the other. In fact, they can complement one another — much in the way that blue and yellow, although far different in color, are both greatly enhanced when placed together.

It’s within this reasoning that we find contradictions in attributes greatly intensify characterizations within literature, adding a layer of depth that can both mystify and delight in a truly realistic fashion.

The protagonist of Last of the Talons, eighteen-year-old Shin Lina, is a highly trained assassin/gangster. She is strong and determined, with a hearty dose of bravery to match. Lina is wicked, named the “Reaper” for the efficiency with which she kills her targets.

But she is also an older sister — the sort of older sister who steals dumplings from the academy’s kitchen for her younger sibling, who laughs as they secretly devour them while hidden in a closet. She is the sort of sister to give piggyback rides and murmur bedtime stories under the stars.

She murders under those same constellations, yes — but that night sky watches her closely, and knows of her terrible phobia of snakes. Of how the seemingly fearless assassin will leap back, shrieking, at the sight of one — no matter how small it is.

Lina knows that a detail as small as her ophidiophobia is not enough to redeem her, knows she has been a weapon wielded in the wrong hands. That remorse haunts her. It sharpens her sense of inner inadequacy until it alters the way she views herself physically. Lina is harsh on herself both inside and out, externally focusing on details such as her “too-sharp” nose and gaunt face, while internally hating herself. And next to the eternal beauty and wisdom of the Dokkaebi, Lina feels her insecurities tenfold. Some may argue that this insecurity takes away from her bravery as the protagonist.

But what takes more courage?

Seducing an emperor when you know you’re beautiful, or when you’re worried that you’re not?

Facing down a monstrous serpent when your heart is steady, or when you have ophidiophobia?

Setting out as an assassin when you have nothing to lose, or when you have a little sister’s life hanging in the balance?

Lina is a character with many complexities that supply her with a depth that is reflected in the denizens of our own world. She is neither good nor bad, instead toeing the line somewhere in-between. In many ways, she is a foil to herself. Evil, but kind. Sensual, but insecure. Brutally dangerous, but afraid. These qualities represent the very core of her, of who she is. To characters, contradictions are complementary colors. Lina wears her dualities with pride, and they look good on her.

Sophie Kim spends her days both studying at her university and writing her novels, which are strongly influenced by her firm belief that diversity and non-stereotypical representation in literature are vastly important. Blessed (or cursed) with a voracious appetite for all things bookish, Sophie can often be found wandering the aisles of a library or curled up with a precariously balancing stack of stories. Last of the Talons is her first novel.