Although set in a secondary fantasy world, many aspects of LAST OF THE TALONS are heavily inspired by Korea. While worldbuilding, I looked to Korean culture to create a world in which a teenage assassin begins a violent game of cat and mouse with a Dokkaebi emperor. Unsurprisingly, one of the most important elements of this research was looking into traditional Korean weaponry.
The protagonist, Shin Lina, is a well-trained gangster schooled in a variety of weapons (pistols, poison, and anything/everything with a blade composing a large percentage of her familiar tools). Yet I wanted her to have a constant companion – an armament that she wields most frequently, is most attached to.
There were a variety of contenders. I toyed with the idea of giving Lina access to a dang pa – a trident-like weapon with three blades – or even a spear known as the jang chang.
The problem with the jang chang, however, was that the yew-wood spear would have been nearly as tall as Lina herself. Lina measures around 5 ft. 3, with the jang chang only 3 inches shorter. Using the jang chang would have meant creating extra space around the character for her to wield it, and also accounting for its long length.
Similarly, the dang pa’s length was much too long (sometimes measuring at 7 ft). A pity, since these weapons would have looked, for lack of better words, incredibly cool.
I then turned my attention to another batch of possible weapons. The ssanggeom, I thought, had potential. Twin swords, one for each hand. But upon further deliberation, it was clear that Lina would need to be able to have one hand free during battle – for punching, grabbing, making the occasional rude gesture. It also didn’t help that both swords rested within the same scabbard. I didn’t want Lina to have a heavy, clunky weight strapped to her waist. I needed her to be nimble, unweighted by excess weaponry.
Frustrated with my lack of a decision, I started to look through weapons that – although simpler in design – were just as effective (or perhaps even more so). That was when I found the jikdo.
The jikdo. Its name literally means “straight sword”. Although it looks similar to the Japanese katana, the jikdo is its own weapon. It requires low maintenance and is adept at wounding – and wounding deeply. The handle is wrapped in leather for a firm grip, meant to be held in one hand. Lightweight, versatile, deadly.
It was perfect.
I could at once envision Lina slashing the blade as she faced down her many adversaries. It would be a loyal sword throughout her journey within this book, its blade becoming almost lovingly familiar with the emperor’s throat.
It’s the jikdo that Lina holds on the cover of LAST OF THE TALONS as she’s encircled by an Imugi (a giant serpent/dragon from Korean mythology). When I saw her gripping its hilt, eyes wary and alert as she tracked the serpent, I knew for certain that I had chosen the correct weapon for my character.
“Last of the Talons is a stunning blend of dark romance and Korean mythology. Sophie Kim writes enemies to lovers with heart-pounding intensity, blurring the line between love and hate. Bloodthirsty, addictive, and searingly romantic.” —Axie Oh, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea
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.