Today I am reviewing ‘The Living Sword’ by Pemry Janes, a novella and the first in the Living Sword series. The second book in the series ‘The Living Sword 2 – The Road Ahead’ is already out (UK | US), while the third book in the series ‘The Living Sword 3 – The Burden of Legacy’ is due for release on the 6th August this year and is now available for preorder (UK | US)
*Disclaimer: ‘I was given a copy this book in exchange for an honest review, all views are my own.’*
Eurik was found adrift by the san and raised by them. Though he had read much about the outside world, he’d never considered leaving home. Not until his teacher revealed what he had inherited from his parents: a living sword, a sentient blade of rare power . . . and with it, the names of his father and mother.
Reluctant to go, yet curious, Eurik sets out to discover who they were, and what happened to them. But is he ready for all the attention his heritage will earn him? Can he survive in a world he has only read about?
The Living Sword intrigued me, because I absolutely love the idea of sentient weapons (partly because of the D&D player in me) and it’s something you don’t see that often, and can be difficult to get right. I actually really enjoyed how Janes depicted the sword here, and Misthell had so much personality – and a couple of its lines had me snorting. My only complaint – and it is a fairly minor one – is that there are so many questions about the Living Sword and we don’t get the answers in this book, which is understandable considering the length and the fact that this is the first book, but I feel like it might have helped to have at least a hint of something more about Misthell than we got.
Beyond the Living Sword itself, this book is a blend of coming of age, self-discovery and the more classic quest and sword & sorcery fantasy. I did like how it follows a main character who was content in their life and had no intention or interest in leaving to go on adventures and having to choose whether it’s worth setting that aside, and potentially sacrificing the effort he’d put into getting where he was, to find answers.
The worldbuilding was well-done especially given the length of the book, and I liked the juxtaposition between the world of the San on their island and that of the humans. One aspect that I really liked was the ‘magic system’, which again differentiated between the San and the humans, with the former treating it almost as a philosophy, and I enjoyed how that attitude was shown, and also how Eurik and the San used their ‘magic’ – and there was a fantastic fight scene, where this elemental magic was really put to the test,
I do have to say that I found myself a lot more invested in the character of Broken Fang, than our main protagonist Eurik, although I do think that has the potential to change in future books. He was harder to warm to because even as he reacted to what was happening to him, and learnt more about the world beyond the island of the San his reactions and emotions felt very muted. Some of this can be attributed to his upbringing amongst the San whose emotions are a lot harder to read because of their non-human nature, and it will be interesting to see if he loses that masking of emotions as he continues to experience more of the world beyond the san. Broken Fang, on the other hand, felt far more dynamic and emotional, although there are still many questions I have about her. The secondary characters were interesting, although I do wish there had been more time and space to invest in the villains, particularly as the way the conflict ending felt a little flat, and I think if we’d known a bit more about the other side we could have understood the reasoning behind the almost ‘reconciliation’ and it would have had more impact.
This was a fun read that I devoured in an afternoon, and it’s left me intrigued enough to pick up the rest of the series. There weren’t a lot of answers within this book itself, so if you want everything wrapped up neatly in a single volume, this might not be the one for you, but between the intriguing lore and the fact that it really was an entertaining read, I would say it’s worth jumping into this series.