RogerBW's Blog

Swordheart, T Kingfisher 03 June 2024

2018 fantasy. Halla was taken in by her husband's family after he died, and has been working as a housekeeper for her great-uncle. Now he's died, and left everything to her, which of course the rest of the family won't let stand.

Her options are to die or to marry her vile cousin (and then probably die anyway), but in attempting to carry out the first part of this plan, she finds that one of great-uncle's swords has a guardian bound into it: Sarkis, a great warrior, from long enough ago that she's never heard of the place he came from. He's bound to assist the wielder of the sword, so off they go…

Parts of the story strained credibility, but she put so much passion into the bit about sleeping in hedges that it would have taken a harder man than Bartholomew to call her out on the other bits.

This is set in the same world as the Clocktaur Wars books, a few years later, but there's no continuity of characters. Like those books its principals are a middle-aged suicidal woman without adventuring skills, and a man who's lived by his sword. But this isn't a quest to save the city; Halla travels to find the Temple of the White Rat, whose priests have a holy duty to solve problems, and they tend to be lawyers and public speakers more than sword-wielding types.

As he watched, she picked up his sword and slung it over her shoulder, then carefully lifted Zale's crossbow and held it at arm's length, like it was a snake that might bite. "This thing isn't loaded, is it?"

"No," said Zale. "You can tell by the lack of bolts and the fact that the string isn't pulled back. Sarkis, forget my ropes, go take my crossbow away from her before she hurts it."

This time we also get the priests of the Hanged Mother, which is a bit Church of No Redeeming Virtues for my taste—any cult can attract bullies, but there seems to be a hole where the explanation of how they have political power should be—but makes a convenient enemy at least.

But really the balance has shifted away from adventure, though it's still there, and towards the relationship between the principals. I see this as a sequel to Kingfisher's fairy tale phase: sure, you can put two people in peril and they may cling to each other, but falling in love in a way that'll last takes rather more work than that, and that's what gets developed here.

Sarkis emerged from the scullery, looking soggy. "I have defeated the dishes."

"Were there any survivors?"

"The only casualty was some kind of monstrous serving plate with pears on it."

"Oh, that," said Halla with relief. "Dare I hope it's broken past any possible mending?"

Sarkis considered this for a moment, then went back into the scullery. Sounds of breaking crockery drifted through the open door.

"Yes," he said, returning.

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Previous in series: The Wonder Engine | Series: World of the White Rat

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