My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Review: The Sword Defiant

The Sword Defiant The Sword Defiant by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I grew up reading stories of Elric of Melnibon√© and his black bladed magic sword Stormbringer … the Stealer of Souls.  So when you give me a tale about another sentient/magic sword (called Spellbreaker in this take on the story), I am immediately interested.  Despite the obvious similarities, Sir Aelfric is more of a broken/fallen hero than an antihero, where he must overcome the corruption of experience instead of the very nature from which he springs … and because of that, I found him to be a much more sympathetic, if still tragic and world weary, figure.  

Alf was one of 9 [companions] that had defeated the great evil of Lord Bone and has spent the last few years trying to pick up the pieces (both his own as well as the people at large) … which is probably one of the most compelling aspects of the world building.  “The peace had been harder than the war in some ways;”  Most stories end after the final conflict is won and happily ever after is presumed.  A few may try to show the lie to that presumption and continue on, which is where this story begins … because nature abhors a vacuum and there is always a new evil waiting in the wings to step up and take advantage of the misplaced hope for some respite from the toils of Sisyphus.  “”No wonderful the stories of heroes ended in hasty happily-ever-afters, and never spoke of that might happen after.  The heroes put the world to rights, and then it stayed right for ever.”  Not here … “They rested in silence, and it struck Alf that all the fates of the fallen Nine were ignominious.”

While there is some action on The Road, the bulk of the story take place in Necrad, the fallen city of the vanquished Lord Bone and his Witch Elf allies (corrupted Wood Elves who become vampires when they fade).  The city has yet to recover, with large sections closed off and forbidden while the remainder is partitioned into “Liberties” nominally under the negligent control of one of the conquering heroes.  And then there is The Pit out of which fresh horrors still climb even after the demise of their master.  Stir in Vat grown clones/monsters, Wilder/Weres and Dwarves ... and the potential for conflict … politically and physically … is almost organic to the environment and context of the story.  Magic seems to be divided into two sources; star/elf and earth/bio … that latter being very powerful and, ultimately, corruptible over time. Taken all together, this was a refreshingly new take on the genre that I enjoyed very much.

Alf’s sister Olva provides the second PoV, chasing after her wayward son on her own hapless adventure to give us an alternate view of the world that just didn’t seem to develop into anything interesting until her story merges with her brother Alf and the next battle begins.  After that, there are secrets, betrayals and surprises to beat the band … for Death incarnate has come to the city of Necrad and nothing is what it seems.
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheSwordDefiant #NetGalley

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.