Book Bites: Anna Kashina and Shadowblade

Book Bites is Cooking the Books‘ more easygoing cousin. Authors talk about their book and share a recipe, all in one tasty bite.

Welcome back to Book Bites!  Today, Anna Kashina and her new book Shadowblade (out now from Angry Robot!) join us!

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SHADOWBLADE, an action adventure fantasy that features a young girl, Naia, training to become the best blademaster, and then throwing her entire skill into a deadly mission that will upset the balance of powers in the empire. The book is packed with action, politics, fancy swordplay, and romance, but it took me at least equal amount of time, or more, to create the world behind the story, and to develop all the details that made the story come alive for me.

My worldbuilding tends to start before I even write the first scene for a novel, and it continues until the book is finished. The first step is a global view, including the maps and the overall layout of the entire land, but this part takes much less time than the rest. It’s the details of the daily life, those that we normally take for granted, that become the essential tool in showing the culture and creating an immersive experience for the reader. Among those details, I devote a lot of attention to food.

I am an adventurous eater, so I often draw on my own food experiences (yes, I did try fried scorpions, and liked them!). But for my books, I also create a set of recipes for each of the ethnic regions important to the story. Some of these foods are never even mentioned in the book, but when I work on my characters and their environment, it is important for me to know what people eat, what they dislike, and whish dishes are their favorite. In the end, it’s these kinds of details that end up making the world realistic enough for me to spend time in, and lend my entire skill to writing the story.

I want to share one of these recipes, which I created exclusively for SHADOWBLADE, and which since then became a favorite in my family. It’s simple – as well as vegan and nut, gluten, and dairy free.

Garlic Eggplant

Origin: Haggad

  • One large eggplant (about 1 lb, can be replaced with 1 lb of smaller eggplants)
  • ½ clove of garlic
  • One large bunch of cilantro
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt
    1. Wash and steam the whole eggplant, until soft (5-10 min, depending on the size). Modern cooks tend to perform this step by putting the eggplant into a microwave and cooking on high for 5-10 minutes.
    2. Allow to cool a bit, remove the stem part, and cut the rest into cubes.
    3. Peel ½ clove of garlic, cut into small cubes or thick slices.
    4. Wash one large bunch of cilantro and chop into small pieces (about the length of the garlic cubes or less).
    5. Heat up oil in a large pan. Stir fry the eggplant cubes with garlic for about 3 minutes. Add salt to taste.
    6. Turn off the heat and immediately add chopped cilantro and mix it into the dish while still on the stove.
  • Immediately transfer the dish into a bowl, to make sure cilantro is not overcooked. Serve hot or cold.

About the author:

Anna Kashina writes historical adventure fantasy, featuring exotic settings, martial arts, assassins, and elements of romance. Her “Majat Code” series, published by Angry Robot Books, UK, received two Prism Awards in 2015. She is a Russian by origin, and a scientist in her day job, and she freely draws on these backgrounds in her writing. Her newest novel, SHADOWBLADE, is upcoming from Angry Robot Books on May 7, 2019. You can learn more about Anna at her blog:

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