The Living Sword is a curious book.
On the one hand, it has a well-realised world with a good supporting cast. Plus it’s intriguing enough to pique one’s interest in future entries in the series.
On the other hand, the quality of writing is inconsistent.
The Living Sword in brief
The Living Sword introduces Eurik, the series’s protagonist, living on the island of the San (a non-human race) following an incident that saw him separated from his parents.
On the island of San, he trains in the art of combat called The Way; a form of martial arts that can be split down into several branches of elemental disciplines.
Eurik is a specialist in Rise of the Mountain, meaning he can manipulate the earth around him. Others can harness the power of flame, wind, and presumably other elements too.
Drawn away from the island, Eurik begins his quest to seek out his parents, or at least ascertain what happened to them.
What follows are a string of hijinks involving a couple of assassins, an undead king, and an adventure accompanied by a quippy talking sword called Misthell.
The Living Sword is mostly an enjoyable tale, with a solid supporting cast of characters.
Patheos is a mysterious presence, full of charisma, but sadly underutilised.
Leraine, or Broken Fang as she’s more commonly known, is a kickass female assassin who accompanies Eurik for much of his quest.
And Misthell – the titular living sword – is the book’s comic relief, providing much-needed moments of levity to offset Eurik’s comparative seriousness. The humour is hit and miss, but it’s amusing enough.
The supporting cast make up for Eurik who, whilst not unlikeable, is quite bland.
Yes, the story can be a bit tropey (chosen one / absent parents / Eurik doing lots of things ‘grimly’), but The Living Sword is the book equivalent of a popcorn ‘flick. It’s fun, a little wacky at times, and well worth the price of admission.
A memorable segment includes Eurik bartering with an innkeeper; reminiscent of a D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) player negotiating with their Game Master! It’s great fun.
On the other hand, The Living Sword needs much better editing – the writing is clumsy throughout.
For example, it’s a fantasy world but it also contains contemporary references including ‘tall apartment buildings’ in one of the major cities. If this was a novel like Stephen King’s Dark Tower series where the contemporary and the fantastical clash, this would make sense. But it isn’t, so it was somewhat jarring.
In another scene, a character ‘charges his attack’, as if it’s a videogame. In video games, charge meters are designed to create an artificial challenge for the player.
In anime, characters charge their attacks to pad out episodes, or to create dramatic visual displays of power. It really doesn’t make much sense in prose.
I’m also not sure that the lore on the San was as clear as it could have been. Who are they? Why are there no San women? And therefore, how do they procreate? Questions are raised but not always answered.
In fantasy fiction, immersion is so important, and little things like this can fracture a reader’s belief in the fictional world.
And that’s a shame, because there is some semi-decent world-building here.
The Living Sword is a fun enough read. At just over 100 pages, it’s brief but functions as a simple point of entry into author Janes’s fantasy world.
The magic system is exciting, as are the supporting cast, and I’d definitely consider reading more in the series.
Yes it’s flawed, and those more sensitive to clunky writing may wish to avoid, but it’s an earnest effort for a debut fiction novella.
It’s comfort reading. And I’m okay with that.
The Living Sword is available to purchase on Amazon.co.uk
in both eBook and paperback.