Book Review: Sword of Fire

After finishing a long beta read and dealing with more hours at work, I’m ready to get back to blogging. In the meanwhile, I finished another fantasy book. The Sword of Fire by Katherine Kerr was an interesting read.

Premise

The story of Deverry is a generic fantasy with dwarves, elves, dragons, and humans. Here’s where it gets interesting. Politics plays heavily into the plot, and even the overall feel of Deverry. Several scenes take place in royal courts, towns, and conferences where lengthily dialog ensues. The dialog was excellent, and the character cues spot-on.

Length

At around 350 pages, the story wasn’t a boor to read. Chapters and scenes were well organized. The author also included a bonus short story at the end, explaining more of Deverry and its characters.

Characters

Many of the characters are politically motivated. Corrupt laws and loopholes riddle the land of Deverry, and aristocrats are often at war. One of the protagonists, a young law student (if those could exist in medieval fantasies; they’re known as bards here) goes on an adventure with sellswords to save the kingdom from the corruption. Other characters serve as nobility PoV perspectives.

Overall, the characters began shallow and dull, but they grew on me later on. Katherine Kerr has a unique way in how she bonds characters to the reader; subtle at first, but heavily towards the end.

Magic System

Dwimmer (sorry if I butchered that) is the soft magic system in Deverry. It isn’t seen much, but when it is, intriguing results ensue. Mind reading, telepathy, telekinesis, and elemental manipulation are some of the abilities used. Nonetheless, it didn’t contribute much to the story. Moreso, it felt like it was there for the sake of the genre: a fantasy.

Conflict

The tension and pacing were slow and gradual. There weren’t many jarring scenes; even the more brutal ones were mediocre; though there was one scene that struck me. The ramp in tension towards the end of the book was, at best, underwhelming.

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The Good

The Sword of Fire has charming characters, a unique premise in Deverry—mixing fantasy with political intrigue—and good throwbacks to history. The Silver Dagger faction, a clan of dishonored mercenaries, was fun to read about and played well into several character arcs.

The Bad

The magic system, while interesting, did little to enhance the story or characters. In fact, the plot could have done without it. Tension was underwhelming and poorly executed into prose.

The Ugly

Some of the old English terms seemed amusing and sometimes awkward. I wasn’t particularly a fan of their usage, but they still established a nice “historical fiction worldbuilding” feel.

The story of Deverry was decent. With its premise, characters, and political issues, The Sword of Fire offered much potential for its worldbuilding and story arcs. Despite this, poor tension, pacing, and an awkwardly executed magic system made the read tedious at times. I enjoyed it, but won’t be reading the sequel.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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