Review: Fire and Sword by Dylan Doose.

So in mid October, long before I had made the decision to start this blog I downloaded a book box set. I found it on my daily bookbub email. I told you in the first post a lot of the books I would be telling you about I found through that glorious little website. Anyway, I digress. Onto the books or rather book. I’m only going to cover the first one in this box set in this post because I fear if I did all three I may overload you all on any information.

Fire and Sword by Dylan Doose, its listed as a dark fantasy on amazon which was the choice I clicked upon when I found it through bookbubs. This way it went straight to my Kindle and I didn’t have to worry about fidgeting around with downloading and sideloading. Now it took me a while to get started reading this one because it was around about the time I started preparing for Nanowrimo so I was flitting between plotting and character development and obsessively swiping my finger across my Kindle to turn the page. This should have no reflection on the book, this is purely me wanting to do too much at once and all at once. I will say this before we get into the grit of it, there are interludes before every chapter. I wondered about these, I even found them to make the story drag. But as things progressed I saw them for what they are valuable pieces of information in what happened before all that happens has happened. Things done and said by characters who never truly appear for one reason or another.

There are so many things I loved about this book and so many things I disliked. I loved the character arcs for our unlikely quartet of heroes. Fire and Sword sees Doose bring together some very unlikely people whom by the end of the novel I think fit, compliment and understand one another very well. No one really falls flat on their face as a one dimensional character they all overcome something that makes them a little better than when they started out. What I love about this Fantasy novel is that there is no blushing damsel in distress who is in need of saving. One of our main female characters that consistently appears is just as strong and capable as any of her male counterparts. This I feel is a brilliant step in the world of fantasy novels where I feel all the women eventually need saving by a big strong man. Chayse gave me a strong female character that made me smile, I am unashamed to say I grew very attached to her.

Now while the next three characters are the main focus of everything in this story. We switch a lot between their POV’S once we get going, I found it hard to distinguish one from another at first. Though I don’t think this is for any lack of distinguishability between the voices. I think it is more due to at times the abrupt shift from one to the other. It made it hard for me to sift seamlessly between then and thus sometimes I felt like I had been jolted from one scene and into another without ceremony.

Theron and Kendrick are both of a similar vein, strong capable men who know what needs to be done and how to do it. But their back stories as they shaped them show us how different paths can somehow still lead you to the same place. While Kendrick led a gruesome and may I say violent life. That is not to be said for Theron who seems to have grown up in a relatively happy home and well cared for before pursuing a life of hunting beasts and killing monsters. All this when he could be living a life of luxury and want for nothing. I like Doose’s spin on the rich lord actually willingly getting his hands dirty and working for his means.

Finally there is Aldous, I wanted to dislike him and for the first few pages I did. Then his back story hit. Its tragic and he’s not at all who he seems and this only seems to grow as the book progresses. He’s very much the underdog character. I’ve always rooted for the underdog and I’m not at all surprised I found myself rooting for Aldous. While I wondered many a time where Doose was going with Aldous I found I was never disappointed, The character grew and developed with the challenges put in his path. The fact that he didn’t prove to a typical crass male hero like Theron and Kendrick seemed to be only added to my liking of him. He never once assumes Chayse isn’t capable of all she does just because of her gender. Unlike many of the male characters in the story.

Now moving away from our dear main characters we have the world in which they reside. Its rich and well thought out, the magic has consequences to the users and I find that to be a good addition. I have read so many fantasies where over use of magic has not affected the wielder one iota. This annoys me to no end as I’m a firm believe of the each and every action has an equal and opposite reaction type of person. So I find myself loving that Wizards, and witches or sorcerers or mages. As they are referred to by all these words at some point in the book often feel the effects when the wield magic for extended periods. Or when they wield large amounts in a short amount of time.

I find the time taken to travel by the characters, versus the methods of travel to be believable given the setting of the book. This is something I also find is often overlooked in books that aren’t set in a modern type setting where travel is quick and can sometimes be pretty instantaneous.

There are beats and monsters in their world and I love this there are things that are dangerous that they fight and there’s real stakes for what is to happen. Our heroes never seem to come away unscathed from a fight with a foe. Sometimes these injuries are more serious than others but there wins seem to come at a price as I think all things should. No one likes a fight so easily won. I will say some of the outcomes from their fighting I find a bit hard to believe. A few times a character has come away with an obliterated or broken knee from a mere single blow and not always has that blow been delivered with some kind of heavy weaponry.

Now while we have covered the reality of the stakes of great battles and fighting beasts and monsters there is something to be said for this book. As it wears on it becomes gruesome in its descriptions.  Now I’m not one fore gore I never have been there’s a reason I literally could not bring myself to watch the walking dead. It gave me nightmares. So do most gory things. Now while this had gore in spades, to the point I actually gaged multiple times and at one point wanted to throw up in my own mouth. It was manageable I suffered nor intrusions to my peaceful sleep because of it. Though I really do feel if there had been no gore, or it had been toned down the story would not have been the same. I remember gasping at one moment and going ‘oh god that was f#@king awful.’ K looked at me with raised eyebrows and asked what I was whining about. Now he liked the walking dead he likes blood and guts and gore. But even he winced when I read the part aloud that caused the reaction in me.

Now there’s the main plot and our main antagonist and this character is amazing. Operating from the shadows and using other minor antagonists and antagonistic points from various members of our quartets past to further their own means. All these subplots and minor antagonists along with the beasts fought and still to be fought combine to make the overall plot of the story compelling. I find it hard to stay engaged if a story simply plods on at the pace of a stubborn mule. I have two books not even halfway read that do this. Now Fire and Sword has its moments where pace is slow where Doose builds up our characters a little more. These slower points I feel lead us to our faster paced moments and truly set the scene.

Now I’ve mentioned the blood, guts and gore of the book. I’ve mentioned in passing battles and the fighting of beasts and monsters. With things like this there comes a lot of death. Nothing ever comes out all rosy. This book keeps true to situations like that and people die. Lots of people die. A few of these deaths had my eyes pricking suspiciously and my nose stinging as if maybe Chayse herself had thumped me in it. Yes I am one of those bookworms who gets emotionally invested and properly bawls when a character I care about dies. Think just about every single Potterhead when J.K Rowling killed off Sirius, Hedwig and Lupin. Of course there are more examples but that suspicious prickling in my eyes is back. 

We end with Theron going off on his own and ending the whole thing with a resounding defeat at yet more costs to himself. On the whole in Fire and Sword our characters come away from their battles throughout the book very much changed. I’d like to think they come away changed for the better but only time will tell over the following books if that is actually the case.

Next Review will be the Catacombs of Time. A Sword and Sorcery novella by Dylan Doose and the second book in the Sword and Sorcery box set!

See you real soon bookworms

Stephie X.

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