THE MARTYR’S BLADE is a cohesive and exciting debut novel in the classic sword and sorcery style that starts this promising series.
In the realm of Albyn, rumors of bizarre deaths and forbidden rituals in the rural lands to the north have attracted the attention of the Temple. Templars Bradon and Killock, along with Lady Danielle, an esteemed patron of the Temple who wields magical Devices, are sent to investigate the threat. The situation is more dire than anyone had known–a magus has been released, and his minions are summoning the dead through ritual sacrifices.
THE MARTYR’S BLADE initially plays out much like a gaming session, which may not appeal to all readers. However, the action sequences were solid and easy to follow, with heroic feats that never felt too impossible. The plot is linear and continues to focus on the quest to defeat the evil behind the rituals, but with enough variations in setting and detail that it never felt tiresome.
The characters each had personalities that made them easy to distinguish. As the plot unfolded, it became clear that one of the most important characters was Wyn, an orphan from the streets trained by Killock as a spy and thief. Her irreverent attitude adds levity to grim situations, while her deeper personality and emotions emerge to become central to the later story. As the book ends, many questions are left unanswered, and the novel is clearly the first in a series.
While many names have been taken from Irish and Welsh terms, the world of Albyn is definitely not ours, and the mythologies do not quite mesh. The Temple follows a monotheistic religion in which God lives in a nearby mountain and converses with Bradon, Killock, and Danielle to start their quest. This was a unique element, but did not play as large a role as the initial chapter suggested.
With plenty of swordplay and magic, THE MARTYR’S BLADE is an enjoyable read that follows many of the genre’s conventions, but still keeps the characters at the center of the story.