December 23, 2022

Review: Sword-Bearer

Sword-Bearer Sword-Bearer by Jennifer Roberson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first book in this series came out (checks calendar; mouth falls open) 36 years ago. Book #7 came out in 2014. I'm sure the series has some dedicated fans, and I am one of them.

This is mainly for the characters. Tiger and Del, our titular sword-bearers, are two of the richest, most well-developed characters in fantasy. In the first book, Sword-Dancer, Tiger was frankly a sexist pig, and Del was so set on gaining revenge for her murdered family (and also for her own rape; the first book unfortunately dips into the rape/revenge trope that was popular back then) that she was quite ruthless and cruel. Both have grown considerably since the first book, separately and together.

I can't say the same for the plot. This book's plot meanders quite a bit, and seems to be there mainly for setting up the next book. In the last book, to save Del and his daughter Sula, Tiger reactivated his magic sword Samiel and ended up swallowing several pages of a magical grimoire. Those have combined (rather uncomfortably) with his own inborn magic, and the underling of the wizard dispatched in the previous book now wants them back. This problem is taken care of about two-thirds of the way through the book, and another problem, dealing with Del's murdered family and her former training facility in the North, is introduced. It's nice that Tiger and Del both get their own storylines, but they aren't terribly well meshed. The ending also fizzles out a bit, with several unresolved threads.

No matter. The characters and worldbuilding pretty well make up for the other lacks, at least in my mind. I wish we could still get these books in mass market paperback like we used to (DAW was about the last publisher around to do those, and even they are succumbing to the trade paperback scam), but hey, as long as the series continues, I'll take what's there.

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