November 17, 2014

Review: The Sharpest Blade

The Sharpest Blade
The Sharpest Blade by Sandy Williams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the third book in the Shadow Reader series, and I think it wraps things up quite well. It's marketed as urban fantasy, and it's got a cheesy bare-midriff cover (and the protagonist is in the midst of drawing a katana--honestly, I'd be afraid I'd cut my arm off or gut myself), but it's really not. It's more high fantasy with an unexpected science-fiction edge; the Realm, the home of the fae, is on another planet with entirely different constellations in the night sky, Fae and humans cannot interbreed (no halflings! Yay!), and the fae "fissure" to get from one place to another, which is simply a fancy-schmancy word for teleportation.

However, none of this would work if we didn't care about the characters, and I certainly did. McKenzie Lewis, the protagonist, showed an amazing amount of growth between the first book and this one--in this, the final book, she's turned into a right proper badass, wielding a sword and a tranquilizer gun as she sets out to rescue her lover. There is a love triangle, which I gather from other reviews some people do not like at all. I thought it was sensitively handled myself; give McKenzie credit for breaking things off with her first love, Kyol, after it becomes evident that Kyol will never be who she wants and has, in fact, been stringing her along for ten years. Of course, it's a bit more complicated than this, involving a "life-bond" (an empathic tie that gives McKenzie some unexpected strengths) Kyol puts on her to save her life (at the end of the last book, The Shattered Dark), and which her new love Aren now has to cope with. Eventually, after an idiotic attempt at noble martyrdom, he does.

(Although the question must be asked--does polyandry not exist in the Realm? Why can't McKenzie have both Aren and Kyol?)

One thing that sets this series apart is its focus on fae politics. This facet of the storyline was fascinating, and something I don't often see. McKenzie has to choose which people she belongs with, and she ends up throwing her hand in with the fae, with all their battles over Descendants and false-bloods and rightful rulers. I wish the author had given the politics more play than the love triangle, as the former was more interesting to me, but it's not enough of a quibble for me to not recommend the book.

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