Saturday, November 28, 2020

L.S. King's Sword's Edge


 I love Sciencie Fiction. I love Fantasy. I've seen Star Wars, with its setting that is primarily SF (Lightsabers, FTL Travel, Aliens, Giant Space Stations, etc) but partially Fantasy (The Force) but L.S. King has done the opposite in Sword's Edge (Sword's Edge Chronicles, Book One).  She's created a setting that is primarily Fantasy (Rangers, Psychic Powers, Nobility, etc.) and partially SF. (Nope, not saying why. Read the book.)  So I guess, in a way, it's reverse Star Wars, except that it takes place on one planet. Then again, that makes it even more reverse Star Wars, right?

So yes, the setting does a lot for the story. Sword's Edge is a book that works based on the world where it's at as much as it does on its characters. (More on that in a minute.) The politics of the world move the story, as does the science fiction aspect of it, which we really don't get all that good a glimpse of at first. We're kept guessing for quite awhile as to certain aspects and I like that about it. We get hints here and hints there, but nothing concrete for quite awhile. And, getting back to the politics, they're complicate, convoluted and corrupt. There are only two political figures in the entire work that read as not evil and treacherous but that's necessary to the plot and makes a lot of sense given the internal logic of the book. 

Our main character is a girl named Tamissa, Tam for short. Tam is a young girl who has been raised in seclusion by her father. She is a member of the Ranger clan, which is responsible for both police and military duties in the Lairdom, but was brought up believing that she had no family. She belongs to the Clan but knows nothing of it. In short, King seems to have used a technique very similar to one used by a certain Mrs. Rowling: Her character is accepted as a member of the society she is in, so we can see her functioning within it, but she views it the way an outsider would. Another apt comparison would probably be Data. Everyone seems to know how to fit in, but her.

This leads Tam to be a bit naive about some things, even for a girl in her early teens. This can cause a bit of consternation among those of us who were born into a more egalitarian age. Tam knows nothing of romantic love and less of sex. She has no real concept of marriage. She can't even recognize her society's version of a wedding ring for what it is. She has no idea why women fear men, since she had no fear of her father and no interactions with any other man. But the thing is, she is actually an extremely intelligent young lady. She learns quickly, but has had no context. 

That's not to say that Valdor didn't teach his daughter anything: She can read. She can write. She can grow a garden, hunt and cook the proceeds from both endeavors. She knows uses of spices and herbs both medicinal and nutritional. She can make a poultice to cure a wound and identify plants that are harmful.  There's got to be something else, too. I feel like I'm missing something...

Oh yeah. Tam can fight. Tam will kick your scrawny (or fat, well proportioned, heavily muscled, etc) ass barehanded and won't feel bad about it. In the Rangers, they call it matching and it's basically like Mixed Martial Arts (watch the backfist bro, trust me) except less formalized. She also seems to know quite a bit about swordplay and archery to go with a working knowledge of tracking. In short, she's every bit as tough as any man in the book, but it gets more complicated from there.

King has done her research well. Sword's Edge features a type of reality that everyone else misses: Tam suffers the mental consequences of succeeding in battle. Here in the real world, Planet Earth, circa the last probably hundred and ten years at least, the leading cause of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder among combat veterans is that they were forced to kill. Having studied history (and I got one of them fancy pieces of paper what has my name and the words "Bachelor of Arts in History" written on it) I can attest that everything I've read agrees to that fact, but most authors and play/screenwriters ignore that fact. It makes me a little batty sometimes watching a hero make his first kill and walk away like nothing happened. The act of killing effects people. Kudos to king for looking the real world in the eye and not backing down. Other authors would do well to follow her example.

That's not to call Sword's Edge overly maudlin. The plot moves quickly. Points of view bounce around at times and we see things when we need to. The fight scenes actually gave me a burst of adrenaline at points. There is no navel gazing. There's no time for it. Tam is hard-core and even when she is relaxing it seems that there's always a prankster around to keep it interesting. Somehow, she makes it through the novel without developing a love interest even though I had two separate dudes picked out at her at different points in the novel.

The only weird part of Sword's Edge was that it didn't end when I thought it would. I was reading it on an app called FB Reader. Page numbers appear in the lower right corner of the screen and often don't match up with Kindle or print page numbers. When I got to what I thought was the end is still had fiftiesh (I think) pages left. What followed was both fun and interesting and ended up with me being very frustrated with my dispatcher at work (Seriously, if the whole day sucks and I'm not making anything don't interrupt me just when the weird stuff starts. It makes me cranky.) but in some ways it felt like it was more set up for the rest of the series than it was part of the story I was reading. Then again, it must have been a good ending because I've already snagged a copy of the omnibus edition containing not only Sword's Edge but also the sequels Children of the Enaisi and Laws and Prophecies. Maybe if you're lucky, I'll let you know what I think about those too.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Bells and Stars

Sword's Edge 
2014, Self Published

Sword's Edge and the Sword's Edge Chronicles Omnibus are available for purchase at the following link. If you click the link and then buy literally anything from Amazon I get a small percentage at no additional cost to you.

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