THIS ARC WAS PROVIDED by Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW
Applicable /r/Fantasy Bingo Squares: Published 2019, Four Word Title
“Convince her,” Hibern said with deliberate emphasis, “that war isn’t a game.”
He eyed her, recognized the Marloven-to-Marloven irony, and said, “But it is a game. It’s one we play to win until we’re killed.”
A Sword Named Truth (ASNT) is the first in a new series by Sherwood Smith, set in the same world has the Inda Quartet: Sartorias-Deles. Similarly to Inda, ASNT begins with a young cast and will follow them into adulthood in subsequent books. While the characters are children, this book is not YA nor would I necessarily recommend it to younger readers given the dense worldbuilding.
At the time of ASNT, many generations have come and gone since the time of now-legendary Inda-Harskialdna, which is reflected in the many magical and social changes within the world and the cultures inhabiting it. While I found these changes fascinating, there was a lot of information being packed in to a small amount of space which often became overwhelming. Due to this, I would not recommend this book to someone new to Sherwood Smith; in fact, I regret that I jumped into this straight after Inda. I would advise interested readers to have read the Inda Quartet, Banner of the Damned, A Stranger to Command, and Crown Duel prior to wading in to ASNT – I certainly wish that I had done so.
Given my love of Inda, the changes that took place under the Marlovan banner quickly caught my interest. In Inda, women were in charge of defending the home castle. They trained to fight and defend. In ASNT, however, women are no longer allowed to fight at all. Similarly, the kingdom itself has been changed from a collection of city states under the Marlovan Harkvaldr to Marloven Hesea, under a Harvaldr. These small linguistic and titular changes can be seen reflected throughout the novel. It truly made the world feel alive in a way that I rarely see with massive time skips like this.
The cast of characters took a while to grow on me. Where Inda slowly and gradually introduced a large cast, ASNT throws them at you all at once before you have much context for them or particular reason to care about them. Several characters who are introduced early on have little relevance to the plot moving forward, and several who were only briefly mentioned and never featured seemed like the most interesting. This made it difficult for me to become invested in their storylines. However, after a while, I became fascinated by Jilo (king of the Chwahir, an Asian-inspired culture), Senrid (king of Marloven Hesea), as well as Atan (queen of Sartor). Jilo, in particular, was a character I initially did not expect to like much. As his story progressed, he quickly became one of my favorites as he tries to undo the centuries of damage his uncle, Wan-Edhe, did to the people of Chwahir. In a land where culture has been stamped down, Jilo makes it his mission to bring whatever remnants of Chwahir heritage still remain back into the light.
“The two voices splashed through the rhythmic tide of hiss, hiss, hrum, thrum, gradually subsiding into harmonic resonance, and cold showered through Jilo’s nerves when the truth struck him. They were humming.
Absolutely forbidden! On pain of death!”
ASNT sheds a great deal of light on who and what is happening in Norsunder, a threat that was only briefly touched on in Inda. While generally speaking Norsunder’s goal is to reshape the world in their own vision, there are many factions within which are at odds with one another. Each of the players in Norsunder vies for power, both magical and political, and has different views about the strategies which should be used to hold and remake Sartorias-Deles.
Overall, while I did enjoy this book and plan to continue the series, I’d only recommend it with the caveat that potential readers should be tolerant of information-dumps and be prepared to push through the first 30%-40% of the book before reaching the true “meat” of the novel.
Recommended for fans of:
- Inda Quartet by Sherwood Smith
- Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
- The Belgariad by David Eddings