It isn’t harsh. It isn’t even criticism. It is a credit to the writing craft, truly. We all have those characters in our head. You know the characters I’m talking about. And stop right there. I’m not talking about Kaz. That boy can take care of himself. So, quit it.
Characters that we fall in love with. Characters we want to take care of, bring home and make chicken soup for because the author does nothing but TORTURE THEM THROUGHOUT MOST OF, IF NOT AN ENTIRE BOOK. AND IT RIPS US APART! But then again, that is the sign of great writing, is it not? If we feel that strongly about the fate of a character that shows an investment in the character, the plot and the fate of what is to come.
Thank you to, SJ Hartland, IBPA and NetGalley For A Free Copy of 19th Bladesman in Exchange for an honest review.
With Kaell, one of the main characters in 19th Bladesman by S.J. Hartland, she has done just that, and the thing is? He isn’t the only character she bonds to readers, in this way. There is his sworn and embattled protector, Val Arques.
Kaell is the bonded bladesman to his lord Khir with one purpose in life. He will kill ghouls. While gifted enough a swordsman to kill anyone or thing to cross his path he must live an oath to cause death to nothing but ghouls in protection of the world, until his prophesied death by the age of twenty like all bonded bladesman before him.
Because he is the 19th Bladesman he is also of significant importance to Kings, Gods, Queens and Mystics alike and none with good intentions. Even the ghouls seem intent on keeping him alive for their own… let’s say… treacherous and controlling purposes. Throughout all this you cry out for it to stop and scream at Hartland to leave the boy be because isn’t his fate enough? Isn’t the fact that his has accepted his fate enough?
Kaell grasped Pen-John’s hair. Sweat glistened off his bare chest.
“The cloak, the boots. All of it. It’s small compensation for dying young and bloody. Dying for the likes of you.” He hurled Pen-John down, cheek to dirt, gathered his cloak and tunic and stalked off.
<Val Arques> tasted bitterness on his tongue. “Is that really how he sees his life?”
Arn shrugged. “There’s truth in what he says.”
And then there is Val Arques. With an ancient, and I do mean ancient secret all his own, thrown into the clandestine charge of protecting and training Kaell, to save the world and fulfill a deadly prophecy. A charge doomed from the beginning as more and more people learn of Kaell’s mere existence. It is also this ancient secret, Val Arques’ identity, that keeps him from truly loving Kaell. It is that love and admiration that Kaell looks for more than anything and that Val Arques is never able to provide.
It is through their point of view and Kaell’s coming of age that we meet most, but not all, the cast of characters in 19th Bladesman. All of them an array of shades of gray. Very few evil or good. You may think you have some pegged that way, but you will come to find overtime that most have the capacity to do both good and evil, given the situation.
Hartland sets up the series, multiple worlds and an array of characters stunningly in the first book of the Shadow Sword Series. Despite the length of the book, she doesn’t fall into the twenty pages to describe a tree trap.
However, I will caution anyone that there are a lot of characters introduced very quickly in the front end of the book. It takes time to both keep track of them all and to find out how they are all connected. There were times I wasn’t sure if it was me or if the book just couldn’t find its way.
However, give it time and have patience. I assure you it comes together. If you like having morally questionable characters, some that you want to take home and protect from a cruel author? Snappy dialogue and adventure within complex but disconnected plotlines for a bit, that converge and blend together to an end that will leave you ready for the sequel, the Last Seer King (details for the the Last Seer King are in my Summer Fling Guide)? You will absolutely love 19th Bladesman, available now.