Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Broken Sword - Joseph Robert Lewis

     2011; 262 pages. New Author? : Yes. Genre : Action-Adventure. Book #2 of the Halcyon series. Overall Rating : 7½*/10.

    Don Lorenzo Quesada de Gadir has sworn he’ll never kill again. That’s somewhat of a handicap since he is by profession a master swordsman and by reputation a hero. But all is well; he has retired from active derring-do and is now content to run a martial training academy, teaching his new, sword-of-mercy technique.

    Alas, others just won’t let him alone. His rivals send opponents to try to defeat him in duels. His friends keep showing up, on the run from the authorities. And the storytellers want their heroes to continue to perform deeds that can be twisted and sensationalized into newspaper-selling legends.

What’s To Like...
     There is a deft blending of genres, including Steampunk, Alt-History, and Fantasy. But the overlying genre is Action Adventure. Indeed, I don’t think there was a single page that didn’t have fighting, chasing, or intrigue; or at least someone plotting to do one of those.

     The world-building is both unique and satisfying. Joseph Robert Lewis gives you the 19th-century western Mediterranean, but in a world where the Ice Age is still in full swing. So places like England and Germany are under the glaciers, and Spain, Italy and Morocco are in a temperate region where snow is not uncommon.

    An anti-killing hero is a nice change-of-pace. So are the domesticated saber-tooth tiger (Atoq) and some sort of giant walking bird (Wayra) that you can ride on at a goodly clip. The ending is decent, if not spectacular. And even though it is part of a series, The Broken Sword can be read as a standalone book. There are some back-references to Book 1 (which I haven’t read), which apparently involves a conquistador expedition to the New World. But none of the references are vital to this story.

Kewlest New Word...
    Diestro : (Spanish, noun) Literally, a matador. But here it is used to indicate someone masterful in wielding a sword. Which does apply to a matador.

    Lorenzo backed away and sheathed his own sword. “Master de Medici, you can take your hilt and go in peace. But leave the blade. That’s forfeit. That’s the price of your lesson.”
Silvio stumbled upright and swallowed. “That’s it? That’s your style? That’s your vaunted philosophy of combat?”
“Yes.” Lorenzo pointed at the blade on the floor. “One less sword in the world. And maybe one wiser man in it as well.” (loc. 156)

“We’re looking for a Mazigh airship crew. The good admiral wants to have a word with their corpses.” (loc. 760)

Kindle Details...
    The Broken Sword sells for $3.99 at Amazon. At the moment, Book 1, The Burning Sky, is free. The third book in this series, The Bound Soul, is also $3.99.

“(A) man who has no loyalty to anyone is a danger to everyone.” (loc. 2636)
     There are some weaknesses. Two characters get killed for no discernible reason, having accomplished nothing critical. Why write them into the tale? The non-stop action hinders character development, although I don’t think that’s all that important in this type of story.

    More worrying are the deus ex machinas that keep cropping up. Somehow, while on the road searching for a fiery Ultimate Artifact that he’s never seen, Don Lorenzo cleverly devises a harness to capture and transport it, and it works like a charm. Atoq-the-Sabertooth shows up at some most convenient times to save Don Lorenzo’s non-violent butt. The bad guy is way too easily persuaded to give up critical items. And a single good guy swims to a floating enemy warship, boards it from a handy, unguarded, sea-level platform, sneaks through the unguarded, unlocked door, and wreaks havoc on the ship's steering system.

    But these are quibbles. The Broken Sword was a fun read from start to finish. Nothing deep or highbrow. Just an exciting tale. 7½ Stars.

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