13 March 2013

Review: The King's Sword by CJ Brightley

Kemen Sendoa, a retired soldier, finds a teenage boy lost in the snow near the capital of Stonehaven in the kingdom of Erdem. He soon recognises the boy as the prince, Hakan Ithel, who has escaped from the palace after the assassination of his father, the King. Although Kemen has no great respect for the King, as a soldier he vowed to protect the kingdom, so takes it on himself to protect the prince.

What begins as Kemen helping a lost teenager becomes a time of training a prince to win and rule his kingdom, by giving him practical lessons that can only be learned by seeing the country and speaking with the people. But this is all undertaken incognito, as there are bands of soldiers with orders to find the prince and return him to the palace in Stonehaven - alive or dead.

Although it is a foreign place, most of the language and problems are familiar, if in a somewhat feudal way. There is racism, fighting, factions, riches and poverty. Many terms are familiar and those that are unfamiliar are similar enough to English words to not need explaining, which makes the story a lot easier to read than those that go to special effort to come up with unpronounceable terminology.

The nature of the story requires a lot of world building, and for the most part the author manages to get the required information across to the reader at the appropriate time without it sounding like an information dump. For the most part, the author accomplishes this. I say ‘for the most part’ because there were a couple of times when I noticed that the purpose of the dialogue or narrative was to explain the culture or backstory… if I noticed it, then it was a bit too obvious.

There was a lot of detail around some things, like different kinds of knives, which some readers might find unnecessary but I personally found fascinating. I also really liked the way Kemen thought about names and their meanings, because that’s something I’m interested in. I especially liked the fact that the story was character-driven, as this meant the author managed to tell the story without descending into violence and abuse (I haven’t read Game of Thrones, but found the TV series far too dark and violent for my tastes). I don’t need a thrust-by-thrust description of the sword fight – I want to know what happened and how it affects the characters, and The King's Sword managed this well.

The story is not overtly Christian (in fact there is no mention of religion at all), but the underlying theme has definite Christian undertones, with its emphasis on honour, loyalty and service, and the fight against treachery and evil in all its forms. The one thing that some readers might not like is that it is written entirely in the first person (from the viewpoint of Kemen Sedona). Personally, I found that he had an engaging and self-depreciating style that was highly engaging, but I know some readers don’t like first person at all.

The sequel to The King's Sword, A Cold Wind, has just been released (and added to my wish list). Well worth reading for fans of historical fantasy.

Thanks to CJ Brightley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about CJ Brightley at her website.

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