Unfettered: “The Unfettered Knight” by Shawn Speakman

A special five story preview of Shawn Speakman’s epic fantasy anthology Unfettered will be released at Phoenix Comicon this Memorial Day weekend. This week, we’re taking a look at all five stories, many featuring new glimpses of our favorite fantasy worlds.

When Tor.com asked me to write an appreciation of Shawn Speakman’s “The Unfettered Knight”—Shawn’s own story in the anthology he’s editing and publishing—I said yes. Not for any of the obvious reasons. Not because this is one of the stories in the awesome, forthcoming fantasy anthology Unfettered. Not even because the book is Shawn’s effort to pay medical bills resulting from his recent bout with cancer. No, none of that. I said yes because I liked the story.

As you might have read, I’m writing a song to go along with the anthology. I’m doing that because I’m a musician, and because I wanted to do something more to say thanks to everyone involved. (By the way, the release date on that song is going to be pushed back from the original May 23rd date. I’ll explain why when I post about it down the road.) And since I had this notion of having the song lyrics reference tales in the anthology, I had the honor of reading the book before pretty much everybody, save Shawn and his copy editor. That means I read Shawn’s own entry, which I think you’re going to like.

It’s a story set in the universe of Shawn’s urban fantasy series, which is entitled The Annwn Cycle. You have an immortal knight, Charles Ardall, who shows up at the Vatican Archives because there’s bad stuff going down. Charles wields a staff known as the Dark Thorn, which holds powerful magic. Charles and his staff are called on to try and thwart what amounts to a very real threat to the universe Shawn’s created.

As the tale progresses, you have cardinals, Vatican Swiss Guards, and others embroiled in the affair. And for his part, our hero Charles is responsible for ensuring that the real world and the world of Annwn remain separate. You see, Charles is one of a few portal knights charged with keeping the world safe. In this case, a bad guy (I won’t give too much away here) is holding some historians hostage. What does the bad guy want, you may ask? Well he needs information that will lead him to a specific item. That item will help him achieve his own understandable goals, but could hurt quite a lot of people in the process.

I don’t want to go too much deeper into the story, since I’d then be acting the spoiler. And I always prefer to experience a story for myself—I hate spoilers. But I do want to tell you this: Shawn’s woven a number of mythologies and real-world references together into an interesting mash-up. If you like urban fantasy where mythology and elements of our world collide, Shawn has written this story for you.

This tale will cap the Unfettered anthology. I’ll have more thoughts on the whole shebang later on, when I post about how all the stories contributed to the lyrics of the song I mentioned. But I can tell you that I believe Shawn has put together an amazing anthology. One you won’t want to miss.


Check back with Tor.com tomorrow for a look at Terry Brooks’ story “Imaginary Friends,” a rumination on how we believe in magic as a way of believing in ourselves.

Peter Orullian is the author of the epic fantasy novel The Unremembered, the first in the Vault of Heaven series, and numerous stories set in that world.


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