SPFBO: The 19th Bladesman by S.J. Hartland

Series: Shadow Sword #1 Rating: 5.8/10
Date of Publishing: November 21st 2018 Genre: fantasy
Publisher: self-published Available: Amazon
Number of pages: 642 Author’s website: S J Hartland

Quote of the Book

Ponderously he rose, kicked the helm away, and stood tall and unbowed, with a finely chiselled face, arrogantly stretched neck—

And an inhuman shade of blond hair. Freed from the helm it tumbled about broad shoulders, darkly golden, long, and glinting.

Shock anchored Kaell. He could only stare at that hair, a creep at the back of his neck. All sound drained away. Marshals circled. One pointed a wavering finger at the blond warrior. In a voice thick with horror, he cried, “Ghoul. He’s a ghoul.”

Swords scraped from scabbards. Guards ran onto the field. The crowd’s whispers rose to gasps, then shrieks of terror. Most shrank back. The braver, or drunker, pressed forward.

The ghoul’s gaze held on Kaell. “Khir’s warrior. Well, well. You’re a long way from home, little flower.”

Blurb

His duty is to die young, but fate has something far more lethal in mind

If Kaell breaks, the kingdom breaks with him. And prophecy says the 19th Bladesman will break ...

The Bonded Warrior ...

Kill. Die young. That's what a swordsman bonded to the ancient gods does. Without expecting praise from the man who trained him to survive this centuries-old, malignant war against the inhuman followers of an invincible lord. But Kaell wants more. More of Val Arques' attention, his approval. Just more.

The fire dancer ...

Ice lord, spy, Heath never loses a fire dance. Yet he longs to know that thrill of danger down his spine as he kills for his god, to fight a warrior who might, just might be better than him.

The broken ...

Val Arques is a bladesman of formidable power entrusted not only with Kaell's life but with the truth that will destroy him. Banished to a grim outpost of this doomed kingdom of sorcery, poetry and treachery, he cannot afford to care about the young warrior. For love means loss. And Val Arques has a shameful secret ...

A kingdom on the edge of chaos ...

As a vengeful god escapes his ancient prison and Kaell is drawn into his web of deception, even Val Arques can't protect him from the dark prophecy awaiting him. Because you can't flee fate unless you're willing to do the unthinkable.

Duty and love collide in this powerful epic fantasy about shattering loss, betrayal and the price of power.

SPFBO Note

Please keep in mind these are personal thoughts only. This book has already been eliminated from the competition, but at least one of us liked it enough to write a full review. You can follow our progress on our SPFBO page.

Jen’s Review – 4.5/10

This had such a strong start. The story was full of the fun tropey stuff I love – prophecys, intrigueing plots and some fun characters.

Kaell bonded warrior to the God Khir (it’s said he’ll die young to save the people) when we first meet Kaell, he is just a plucky kid and pretty adorable. We catch up to him again later as a young man who has trained his whole life for his duty as a bonded warrior. He is a remarkable fighter, strong and knows his duty. There is a bit of that arrogance that comes with his age, and being exceptional at everything he does, but Kaell, has just enough doubts and fears combined with a longing for the approval and love of his mentor Vraymorg (whom he thinks of as a father) to soften what could have been a brash and annoying personality. I was pretty sold on this character and his journey.

Vraymorg – Kaell’s mentor and guardian. He has a distant personality and keeps people at arms length, afraid to get close and lose more people he cares about, including Kaell.

I enjoyed the relationship between mentor and student and hoped for the barrier to break down and for them to have more of a father and son type of relationship, before it was too late for them to understand each other.

***

This is an ambitious story at over six hundred pages and there is a lot to take in. I did like where it looked like the plot was going with the prophecy, and there was also an inventive plan involving a kidnapping with which the demands that were to be met by the kidnappers had far reaching repercussions. These are kind of interconnected and I don’t want to spoil anything, so I will just say I loved how much more complicated it became than what it started out as.

Around the halfway mark though the story becomes a little unfocused. There were added characters and their schemes twining through and complicating an already complicated story with more twistiness.

This might have worked for me better if it had been a linear story, and there had been less jumping the timeline to fill in the peripheral characters backstories and information for later events that have already happened. Especially since it didn’t build any tension for those events or characters, we were just getting the details filled in. It just gave the story a messy feel.

The rest though, was a lot of fun. There are some great action scenes, lots of interesting ideas and Kaell has won himself a little spot in my heart. The story is worth checking out those reasons alone.

 

Nick’s Review – 7/10

THE 19TH BLADESMAN began as a really intriguing and captivating story for me.  An ancient prophecy foretells that a bladesman will emerge as the only savior of the realm when it is ultimately threatened by a mad god bent on annihilation.  Sounds cool right?  Maybe a little tropey in some respects but the first few chapters piqued my interest and it seemed like the plot was different enough in some respects to separate itself from the usual fantasy books of this style.

Main character Kaell has been trained from a very young age to be the unbeatable force that could vanquish the banished god and save the entire kingdom from destruction.  Kaell is aware of his role in what is to come but really only cares about one thing, and that is gaining the approval of his tutor and master swordsman Val Arques who he idolizes.  Arques has a difficult time trying to impress upon Kaell just how important he is to the future of the realm and its people.

As Kaell is gradually brought up to speed in his training, we see that he has become quite adept in his gifts and at the cusp of being ready to embark on the long journey that will bring him face to face with the event in his life that he was made for.  But the evil forces on the opposite side have ideas of their own as plans are put into motion that call for the assassination of Kaell before he can even get to the eventual day of reckoning..

Along the way there will be much that Kaell discovers about himself and about the prophesy that was initiated upon his birth.  Will Kaell be strong enough both physically and mentally to fulfill his destiny as the 19th Bladesman?  Or will he be thwarted and the kingdom thrown into an age of darkness never seen before in its history.  Much will be revealed in this absorbing sword and sorcery tale.

I guess the way I would sum up this book in a couple of words is wasted potential.  When I initially began reading THE 19TH BLADESMAN I thought that this could be one of my favorites, if not THE favorite to be a semi-final pick.  Unfortunately it became confusing around the middle chapters for me.  A bunch of characters are introduced (maybe too many) and not enough time was spent moving the story forward for the important ones.  I found myself getting sucked into certain chapters and passages, only to be sidetracked by a few chapters of tangential filler before coming back to the main story arc again.

Having said that, I didn’t think it was a bad book by any stretch.  In fact I did enjoy it for the most part.  Hartland’s writing is strong and she paints some really cool pictures with words.  There are a number of action scenes that are done particularly well and that I found myself totally enthralled by.  It just lacked a bit of focus that could be attributed to the fact that this is a hefty book with regard to page count.

There is much about the THE 19TH BLADESMAN that will appeal to many fantasy readers in my opinion.  This is not a book that you should shy away from just because it didn’t work fully for me.  Impressive writing, action scenes aplenty, and a nice story involving an ancient prophecy make this a solid fantasy book that deserves checking out.  I enjoyed it enough to definitely want to read book 2 when it is released and revisit this world.

 

Belle’s Review- 6/10

I wanted to like this book SO MUCH (also hi, look at that cover). All three of the main characters are exactly the kind of people I enjoy reading about and the plot seemed really interesting. Honestly, if I had read it in one go, I probably would have finished it, but life intruded at around 60%, and I have had zero motivation to return to it. At the point I stopped, the story was only just starting to gain momentum, and that definitely did not help. The first third of the book is a lot of set up, a lot of hinting, and not enough action to keep me engaged. The characters were intriguing enough, and well written, but the (assumed) attempt to keep the mystery alive made everything just a bit tedious.

I can definitely see this book finding its audience, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out on anything else SJ Hartland writes, this just wasn’t the book for me.

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