THE 19th BLADESMAN weaves curses, legends, gods and scheming characters in an intricate plot centered on the 19th bladesman, Kaell, who is destined to die to save the people from ghouls.
From the beginning it is clear that the author is an impressive writer who knows how to entice all the senses with layered descriptions of the sounds, smells and sights of Kaell’s world.
There is no slow opening. The author expertly injects details as action unfolds so that you have a sense of forward momentum even as you’re discovering who the characters are and what motives they might have for their actions.
The story features a large cast in a number of different settings. There are kings and false kings, and there are those with burdens, secrets and agendas.
Kaell, the 19th bladesman, longs for the approval and love of his master, Vraymorg. Vraymorg isn’t actually Vraymorg; this man has secrets buried deep inside and fears the pain that will come if he offers Kaell the affection he craves. This is one of the threads in the story that highlights the realistic character development the author imbues the narrative with. Internal conflicts drive external actions that inform the choices characters make and propel the plot forward.
When Kaell almost dies a series of events are set in motion that may reshape his destiny. This is compounded by the fact that Roaran’s magic has been destroyed, threatening the people with destruction.
Honor and duty are important themes. Even characters with suspect agendas have gods they feel must be appeased, so they aren’t always governed by selfish ambitions. This adds to the complexity of the story, because many people that seem to have conflicting goals often have good intentions. That extends some of the emotional conflicts to the reader, who struggles to know who to cheer for at times when key characters are in conflict or are about to take actions that are questionable.
Readers who love large stories with multiple characters and storylines won’t be disappointed. There is a lot of action throughout the story. Every scene is richly drawn and the atmospheric writing conveys the ominous sense of foreboding as the story develops.
A stunning page-turner that rivals the caliber of any work being released worldwide, this is an impressive opening to a series that should appeal to fans of Game of Thrones and comparable fantasy works. S.J. Hartland displays impressive worldbuilding skills. Hartland injects every page with lush descriptions and compelling characters and weaves her tale with expert skill.