Book Review: Sword of Fire by Katharine Kerr
Updated: May 27, 2021
Genre: Fantasy, I'd call it sub-genre Adventure Fantasy
The book has a great opening, a bard has starved himself to death at the gate of the gwerbret's castle in an attempt to force social change. This touches off a riot in the city of Aberwyn and is the initiating event for the two main characters in the book to devise a plan where Alyssa goes on a quest to retrieve an ancient law text to provide precedent for social change.
Confession: I have read all of the Deverry novels. I know the world very well and love it, so this is not an unbiased review.
The Deverry world has a great Celtic flavor that helps it stand out from the typical Frankish base of so many fantasy worlds. It does not shy away from high fantasy elements and has sorcery, fantasy races and genus loci (magical places).
The element that really stood out for me is that the world of Deverry changes. The ancient text speak of a time before. The kingdom is currently in a state where the people are trying to force change. Rather than staying statically locked into a feudal world, there is ongoing social change.
The world building is woven into the story itself with chapter captions, well written descriptions and the occasional explanatory dialogue.
Alyssa felt a little cliché. Her relationship with Cavan, the silver dagger (a mercenary) she hires to protect her, develops a bit fast for me, but once the relationship settles in, the rest of the characterization is great.
Some of the gwerbrets (that's a nobleman equivalent to duke), were a bit over the top in terms of their actions as the villains of the piece.
The story and the plot really spoke to me in terms of these woman seeking to obtain a better system of justice. The actions of the establishment being the priests of the Bel and the ruling the nobles, the gwerbrets, to prevent that change was completely in keeping with what I would expect.
The additional plotline of the gwerbrets themselves not being happy with the rule of the Marked Prince in place of his father, the King, who is not in good health, not only felt real but also called to the fore the hypocrisy of said nobles.
My one complaint is that the plot doesn't really crescendo to a full height. There are dangerous moments, but there wasn't a true climax. As the first book in a series, it did set up a great platform for the conflict to come
The book was a very welcome return to the world of Deverry. I loved it and as with all the Deverry books would recommend it to everyone who is a fan of the fantasy genre.