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Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Official M.R. Mathias Website
Order "The Sword and the Dragon" HERE(Kindle) or HERE(Smashwords) or HERE(print)
Read an Extended Excerpt (~100k words or ~43%) from the novel HERE
INTRODUCTION: Several weeks ago I wanted to find some new independent books to read - I did some posts about the ones reviewed by me and Mihir in 2010 - and I spent an hour or two checking Smashwords sff books: blurb, first page and then random pages from the excerpt if interested.
Out of maybe 50 novels I looked at, The Sword and the Dragon was the only one that intrigued me since despite the traditional sounding blurb, the first page attracted me and then I liked what I read in the random pages I tried. I downloaded the extensive excerpt linked above - at about 100k words it is as long as a regular novel - and I read it and then I bought the full book.
The Sword and the Dragon is the debut of the author and the first novel in The Wardstone trilogy of which the second book is early next year, but it tells a pretty complete story in itself ending the main threads introduced here while planting the hooks for the next volumes.
FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: The Sword and the Dragon is available only electronically for now and it stands at about 235k words, so the equivalent of ~700 print pages. There are 59 numbered chapters and an Epilogue, while the main POV's are the two Skyler brothers Hyden and Gerard, the squire Mikahl and to a lesser extent the wizard Pael and his daughter Shaella. Several other secondary characters get interlude-like segments that present the happenings in various places outside of the main characters' locations at the time. A map of the novel's mainland kingdoms is available HERE, though there are hints of distant places and people.
The Sword and the Dragon is true epic fantasy with all the tropes associated - dragons, elves, wizards, giants, dwarves, fairies, trolls, lizard people, zombies, quests, destined heroes, dastardly villains, powerful demons that are ready to escape their containment and bring evil to the world, magical animals, people that can talk with animals, kings, lords, warriors, you name it, it is probably there - that manages to be absolutely fresh and zany with some great twists. I want to emphasize again that while there will be a sequel soon, The Sword and the Dragon ends its main arc so it is a standalone part of a greater tapestry.
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "Gerard Skyler used his free arm to wipe the sweat from his brow before it had a chance to drip into his eyes. Scaling the towering, nesting cliff for the second time was far harder than he had expected it to be. No one had attempted the climb two days in a row before. His body was still sore and raw from yesterday’s climb, but he could not afford to stop and rest. He was more than three hundred feet above a rocky canyon floor. A fall would undoubtedly be fatal. The last thing he needed, at the moment, was burning eyes and blurred vision."
So the novel starts and I liked the above paragraph so I kept reading and got hooked on the story. In essence The Sword and the Dragon is set to be the replay in the present of the novel of events of long ago, when escaped demons brought darkness to the world until a king with a magic sword made by dwarves, giants and elves working together - races that tend to dislike each other and humanity to boot - and a sorcerer that could talk with animals, united all the living things to defeat evil and imprison the nasty demons with a powerful dragon guarding the Seal.
But the dragon was smart enough not to want to be trapped for ever in guarding the portal to the underworld, so she put in an escape clause that will trigger when humans start doing some bad things; enter evil wizard Pael who is set to use dark magic, nasty tricks and the wiles of his daughter Shaella to put in motion events that will lead to the breaking of the seal...
Well, so it goes but what if Shaella actually falls in love with the "sacrifice boy" that Pael needs at a crucial moment, or what if the story as retold is not quite complete missing some ingredients, or what if a key magic artifact goes to the wrong brother and the magic sword loses its magic and goes to the wrong heir? Read the novel and you will find out some answers...
Hoping that the above will give you an inkling why I found The Sword and the Dragon so much fun, I want to talk a bit about the actual execution of the storyline above. The first thing I noticed about The Sword and the Dragon is that it's a true work of love from the author. The world of the novel is described in quite a lot of detail, while the characters have a lot of pages that allow us to get to know them. However the book mixes well descriptions with action, so I never felt the narrative flow stalling.
The Sword and the Dragon starts with essentially two threads, one following the life of two of the secretive Skyler clan youngsters: brothers Gerard and Hyden and one following the squire Mikahl trying to fulfill the last wishes of his protector plus some "behind the scenes" action from Pael that sets the scene so to speak, but at some point it manages to skilfully switch the threads into the more familiar ones - quest to stop the bad guys - though not without introducing some twists in the narrative. The Sword and the Dragon manages to keep the balance between the threads and when as expected things start converging, the tension ratchets up and the book becomes impossible to put down till the end.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a high level of editing for a quite long independent novel - there are some little mistakes here and there and occasionally character names are misspelled a little but no typo stands out. While a traditional fantasy in many respects, The Sword and the Dragon does not shy from explicit language when appropriate and characters, even ones readers may get to like may die or be transformed in unexpected ways.
Overall The Sword and the Dragon (A+) is an impressive debut - a traditional fantasy that manages to be fresh and a novel that while it is the start of a series, it succeeds in offering a complete reading experience. I suggest to try the extended sample linked above and if you love it as I did, get and read it!
12:01 AM | Posted by Liviu | | Edit Post