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Swords and Sigils by Sharon T. Rose

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Rated 6.43 out of 10 Statistics

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Genre: Adventure / Supernatural

Audience: Teen, Adult

Updated: Weekly

Content Advisory

Occasional Coarse Language

Occasional Violence

Statistics

Overall Rating: 6.431

Average Rating: 1 (Guests), 6.38 (Members)

Ranking: #320

Rating Count: 3 (0 Guests, 4 members)

1 indicates a weighted rating.

"for a traditional fantasy "fix"..."

Rating: 6 / 10

If you couldn’t guess from the title, Swords and Sigils is a traditional sword and sorcery let’s-go-on-a-quest fantasy tale. Melkeen is an up-and-coming young wizard fighting his way up the ranks of his magical order, which is full of sneering elitism, backstabbing, subterfuge, political infighting, cynicism, etc. Melkeen has been strongly shaped by the arrogant, ambitious mold, but seems to be different in two ways. First, his youth means he isn’t yet entirely set in the cynical, elitist ways of his order. Second, because he wasn’t born into the right family and doesn’t have other powerful patronage, he has to consider the unconventional in order to find advantages. This is what leads him to hire Sarta, a female barbarian mercenary, for his bodyguard on the quest that the senior wizards have assigned to him. The story starts when these two meet.

Sarta verges on the "too perfect to be true" category for me, although she is apparently older than Melkeen and, as we learn her backstory, her personality and abilities do have justification. Still, this story to me seems like it’s going to be about Melkeen personal transformation and quest, with Sarta tagging along to play "Merlin" to his "young Arthur".

The writing is a bit stilted and stiff, so reading it isn’t exactly pleasurable to me. It could use enlivening with more emotional reaction from the characters, or humor, or something to make it more fun/gripping/entertaining. As it is, it isn’t bad or difficult to read, just not one of my favorites. If you’re looking for a new story to read, or really enjoy fantasy, it’s worth checking out.

(cross-posted from WebFictionGuide)

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"A nice take on traditional fantasy"

Rating: 7 / 10

(Crossposted from my blog)

On her website the author prefaces the blurb with this uninspiring line:

"This is a fantasy story about a young prodigy and his side-kick (who can kick some serious side). It’s set in your standard fantasy world with all the expected accouterments. Details in the text."

I really think she doesn’t need it. On the one hand it makes the story sound more comic than it is, and on the other it’s dry and uninviting. “Standard fantasy world” is not a description that raises anticipation in me. Instead it brings to mind clichés. It’s the word standard – it’s not an appealing word.

So is this cliché ridden? I’d have to say not really. I think what the author was trying to say is that the story fits in the traditional fantasy sub-genre – which it does.

Swords and Sigils does have one of the common issues of the fantasy genre (more on that later), but it avoids more clichés than it uses so far.

The Good

  1. The characters are well drawn and interesting – even when Melkeen and Sarta are arguing (or more accurately when Melkeen is being argumentative and Sarta is being unflappable) it’s easy to root for them. Some people may find Sarta a bit too good to be true, but her skills and calmness are a result of her life and thus believable in the context of the fictional universe the author has created. Melkeen is talented, obnoxious and yet also likable once you consider his origins.

  2. The quest Melkeen and Sarta embark on is a little unusual. Rather than a quest to find one magical McGuffin to defeat a dark lord of some kind. Instead they are on a quest to recover lost artifacts and knowledge. So far it’s like a traditional fantasy road trip story – more about the trouble the journey gets them into than the destination.

  3. So far there’s no dark lord or world shaking danger to defeat so far. Too much fantasy goes that route. All the antagonists in the story so far have been very human. Even the chief wizards who were very petty and human in their plots. Long may it continue.

  4. The world building is wonderful. A lot of thought has obviously gone into the setting.

  5. The writing is good and doesn’t impede the reading. :-)

  6. I’m interested to see how the plot develops and engaging a reader’s interest is always good.

The Bad

The main problem with Swords and Sigils so far is the infodumping! If you’ve read my previous reviews you’ll know I’m no big fan infodumps and there are several of these in the first few installments. While it was necessary to justify Sarta’s abilities and why the other wizards are out to get Melkeen I can’t help feeling that there had to be a better way to handle it than dedicating whole updates to it. Long passages of exposition impede the flow of the story and encourage readers to skin (I know I did with some of them).

Verdict

Swords and Sigils is a decent traditional fantasy story with two interesting protagonists. It doesn’t fall into many of the tropes that litter the genre, but it does occasionally wallow around in its own back story too much. It’s well worth a look for fans of Traditional Fantasy.

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