Kaell is a bonded warrior, trained to fight and destroy ghouls that drink human blood, and sworn to kill no human – but his destiny, as with all bonded warriors, is to die young himself. But when he is betrayed and captured by his ultimate enemy, a ghoul God-King who has escaped his ancient prison, he must face a destiny darker than he ever expected it to be. As the world around him erupts in war, he must dodge the various parties hunting him and find his way back home to Vraymorg, the trainer and guardian whose love and approval he has always sought, but never found. But is he doomed to be sacrifice or traitor, hero or horror?
THE 19TH BLADESMAN is the first in the author’s Shadow Sword series, and is a brilliant beginning for that promised series. The worldbuilding is vivid and complex, with thoroughly-imagined peoples, beliefs, religions and practices. However, it is also subtly and deftly presented, unfurled before the reader through the speech, actions, and interactions of the characters rather than through tedious explication. The characters are also well-drawn, and since the perspective shifts frequently, we get an inside glance at many of their internal motivations and thoughts.
It’s hard, in particular, not to care about Kaell and Vraymorg as they navigate the painful truths of their pseudo-father-and-son relationship, a relationship that both know is seeded with ultimate heartbreak and loss. But even those characters we don’t see from the inside have well-crafted agendas, personalities, and backgrounds, and leap from the page as compelling, three-dimensional individuals. Secrets and hidden agendas reveal themselves as the story goes on, adding complexity and depth to the political maneuvering, in very human and believable ways. The plot, too, is well-crafted, intricate enough to keep the reader fascinated and engaged until the end, without being overwhelming or confusing. It’s a powerful story with both head and heart to it, a tale that engages the emotions and the intellect alike, and leaves the reader wanting more – hopefully, its sequels will live up to this very promising beginning.
THE 19TH BLADESMAN is a gripping and thoroughly enjoyable first book in what will hopefully be a grand epic high fantasy series in the best tradition.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader