Jo was born the son of a low born archer, who was forced to retire from military service at Halfwind after suffering an injury. His mother was killed during the afterterrors, and the loss deeply affected his father. Jo was orphaned some years after the death of King Jupiter, with his father dying in disgrace and having incurred heavy debts. Working hard to make something of himself, Jo joined the army and paid back what his father owed. He then began donating the same amount he had previously set aside for debts to the votaries to help widows and orphans.
Shortly before the Citadel Congress at Cloud Mountain, Jo trained hard in hopes of winning the Archer's Cup. His friend Lund supported him, though he lacked Jo's confidence that he could hope to defeat Nate Flynn, leader of the elite Bracers unit. Despite this, Jo was determined to succeed, looking to prove his worth to himself and to a number of others. These included superior officers Captain Frye and Lieutenant Drand, who were annoyed by some of Jo's more slovenly tendencies and his obsession with the Archer's Cup.
After witnessing Nate training with the other Bracers and learning that the buck he looked upon as a rival was actually annoyed by the cup, Jo came to question the worth of the competition. However, Lund convinced him to take part, reminding him that it might be his only chance at becoming an officer. Jo performed well in the event, eventually ending up in the top three along with Nate. However, in the final round's battlefield simulation, Jo was beaten by Nate and placed second in the tournament. Captain Frye took this as evidence that Jo was unfit as a soldier, and told him so.
Despondent, Jo returned to his quarters, but received a surprise visit from Nate, who invited him to temporarily join the Bracers to fill in for an injured member. The group then traveled with Halfwind's forces to Cloud Mountain, where Jo and half the force sat down to eat while the rest went to set up camp. Jo met and befriend Gort, whose cooking he greatly enjoyed. Unfortunately, his presence displeased Captain Frye, and some soup he accidentally spilled on his superior ended up causing an accident involving Gort and Eefaw Potter.
On the way up to camp, Jo and Nate observed Helmer and Picket Longtreader training with swords, and also observed Heather Longtreader. Jo found her beautiful, but upon learning her family connection was quick to condemn her as a traitor. Later, Nate informed him that Frye had expressed displeasure at Nate's decision to bring him along, and encouraged Jo to validate Nate's choice by doing his best. After a brief conversation atop on of the Seven Standing Stones with Smalls, whom Jo confessed much of his history to without really knowing why, he and his comrades began exercises. The action was interrupted by the appearance of Wilfred Longtreader, and a confrontation between him and Frye was only prevented by Smalls' intervention.
Jo and the Bracers were later assigned sentry duty in a fort near Cloud Mountain, and spotted Kyle making his way through the woods. Upon investigating, they were attacked by a group of wolves, and Jo was knocked out while hesitating to fire a shot intended to save his teammate Junder. He awoke in Cloud Mountain's hospital, where he was attended by Emma; the two hit it off almost immediately. However, he was ashamed by his failure to take action during the fight, and frustrated when both Emma and Jo ordered him to remain in bed. Emma also intended to have him visit Maggie Weaver; before this could happen, the attack on Cloud Mountain occurred.
Though Emma briefly pleaded with Jo to help her defend the hospital, she relented and allowed him to join the countercharge against the wolves. Along with soldiers from the various citadels, Jo followed the wolves out of the mountain, only to be ambushed by them. Jo's comrades were all either killed or knocked out, and a badly injured Jo dragged himself away from the battlefield. He was found by Heather, who did her best to treat his injuries. When he accused her of being behind the attack, she denied it and encouraged him, leading him to doubt his previous judgment of the Longtreader family.
After Heather left him, Jo made his way back to the field, where he passed Heather's kindness along by tending to another wounded archer. He then spotted Heather rushing across the opposite side of the clearing, with wolves in close pursuit. Though it aggravated his own injuries, Jo shot several of the wolves and even shot a wolf archer's arrow out of the air, saving Heather's life. He then passed out as a result of blood loss, unaware that Heather would subsequently worry about his fate.
Fortunately, Jo and his comrades were found and received medical attention, and Jo soon found himself back in Cloud Mountain's hospital with Emma. He then learned from her that Smalls was King Jupiter's heir, and that Picket and Heather had helped save him. Despite the fact that he had played a major part in Heather's being able to do so, Jo did not disclose this to Captain Frye and Nate. While recovering, he read Heather's story of how Picket had saved Smalls.
While lined up with the rest of the Fowlers, Jo is struck with an arrow in his arm in the midst of a battle. After the others had gotten out of the heat of the battle, Helmer sent Jo to see a medic about his arm. When wolves came into the clinic and started for Emma, Jo rose, despite his injury, and desperately fought off the wolves.
Jo stayed in the hospital for a time, due to his injury. He was getting his arm wrapped a second time by Emma, when he comments that she "wrapped it yesterday for some reason." Emma gives him an indignant answer, informing him of how his arm would get infected and rot off if she didn't replace the wrap regularly. Afterwards, Heather finishes Jo's wrap and he apologizes for making light of their efforts. Heather responds by explaining her friend's reaction as aggravated by the stress and strain of her duties at the hospital.
Jo is described as having long, skinny legs.
Personality and traits
Jo is a devout follower of the path of Flint and Fay, and at one point had even considered becoming a Votary. However, his father's oft-repeated counsel moved him to enter the military instead, training as an archer as his father had before him. While he became a highly skilled archer-enough that Helmer later compared him to the elite archers of Harbone Citadel-he was less attentive to his sword maintenance. Thanks to his training at Halfwind, he is proficient in hand-to-hand combat and sword fighting, though the other Bracers shared the opinion that he was the least skilled among them with the sword.
Jo also had a tendency to arrive just barely in time to muster and other important events, eliciting much disapproval from his superior officers whom he in turn disliked. He also harbored a one-sided sense of rivalry with Nate Flynn, believing him to be something of a snob. Like many soldiers of various secret citadels, he also unjustly accounted all members of the Longtreader family to be traitors due to the actions of Garten Longtreader, and considered Lord Rake of Cloud Mountain "a Longtreader dupe" for his continued friendship with Wilfred. Upon realizing the truth, he repented of these incorrect attitudes.
For much of his life, Jo was set to prove himself and to gain distinction, particularly as a means of paying back various slights. However, after he got to know Nate and was rescued by Heather, he became truly dedicated to the Cause. This led him to join the Fowlers, with whom he developed strong bonds despite the tendencies of some of his teammates to tease him. He also holds great respect for Heather and Emma, proving apologetic after he annoyed the two with a flippant remark.
- The name "Jo" is of English origin and means "God shall add another son."
- Additionally, the surname "Shanks" is of English origin and is a diminutive of "Crookshanks", which would be given to a tall or gangly person.