S.E.Lindberg rating: 4 of 5 stars
An Outcast, Beautiful Necromancer Duels A Champion Swordsman
“Instruments of death are often beautiful,” Kayla (the last necromancer and priestess of Naith)
The Bladewitch is entertaining Sword & Sorcery, a stand alone extension of Jason E. Thummel's library of fine adventure (labeled Vol#1 we can expect more). Here, a greater conflict (the Danaen culture versus the Zyrian) is shown through the lenses of two lonely, underappreciated champions. On the one hand, representing the "Sword," we have Captain Jumar of Danae, who expertly conquers the Zyrian city of Tekla so efficiently that he must sustain and manage the occupation at length; and on the opposing "Sorcery" side, we have Kayla, last priestess of Naith and sworn Protector of Zyrians, herself an abject heroine; she is "a lone acolyte in a country that had all but forgotten, but though she was a servant to Death, she did not revel in it—least of all for her people. They had forgotten her, but her duty to protect them still remained....She alone was charged with the duty to protect Naith’s children." Now she is the last Blade of Naith (the titular Bladewitch), willing to sacrifice herself to save the placid Zyrians, who have long worshipped a different God (one that fails to protect them).
There are many memorable scenes in this fast read, which manages to squeeze in more depth than most would expect from the genre. Thummel keeps the action fun with creative duels (beyond just sword play , you'll get several trippy sequences), unique magical artifacts (The Blade of Sealing, the Seven-strand Ropes of Seeing and the Inner Temple cube), and omnipresent/alien sorcery (reminiscent of that from K. E. Wagner's Kane series). Highly recommend for anyone seeking fantasy adventure.
Excerpts: In this book, Death is beautiful. Here is a dose of what to expect:
Forgotten Landscapes: "Fallen and shattered shells of buildings twisted along the ground like colossal skeletons of extinct creatures, slowly being devoured by grass and time. A city of gigantic proportions—perhaps dating back to when the gods still walked the earth—had once filled this dale, but now like all things made by human hands it was lost to time and forgotten."
Epic Battles: "The expectant‑laden peace of the surroundings shattered with sudden cries of conflict: steel clashing; the heavy, dull sound of colliding bodies, of flesh violently hammering against flesh; the screams and prayers of warriors conjuring strength against fear and death. And cutting through it all was a sharp, grunting exhale of breath as the soldier on the ridge brought his arm snapping forward and released the spear toward her."
Vivid Necromancy:"The smell of fetid breath and death wafted to him. Jumar’s stomach clenched. He fought an urge to void his bladder as his bowels became warm, rolled and threatened to loosen. Here was a terror that no amount of experience or preparation could overcome.
Their heads were bowed, chins on chests, shoulders stretched and in some cases dislocated against the hanging weight. But it was not these familiar trappings of death that filled Jumar with dread. It was the sound. The corpses’ jaws moved in unison, each voice adding a note to the grisly chorus. And although the whisper could seemingly be heard throughout the square, only now that he was within arm’s length could Jumar hear the words the dead spoke."
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