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Monday, March 21, 2022

SPFBO Finalist review: The Mortal Blade by Christopher Mitchell

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads
FBC's Interview with Christoper

AUTHOR INFO: Christopher Mitchell is the author of the epic fantasy series the Magelands. Christopher’s first memory is of Elvis dying. His gran told him it was because he’d eaten too many cakes, and Christopher believed her. She also told him that there were fairies at the bottom of her garden, and he believed that too. He counts himself very fortunate to have a supportive wife and four beautiful children. He loves deserts, which is too bad as he lives in Scotland, but the mountains, glens and lochs more than make up for it. His other love is Greek Tragedy, especially Euripides, and he also reads history, science, fantasy, and pretty much anything about the Beatles…

Visit him at www.christophermitchellbooks.com

Publication Date: August 28, 2020 Publisher: Brigdomin Books Ltd Page Count: 496 Cover: Miblart


JENNIFER

This was a hard one to summarize-

The city and surroundings are made up of tribes that are ruled by god-kings and their demi-god children (most of which have magical powers). Their history is full of powerplays and bad blood from failed coups.

The Mortal Blade is told from several pov’s from those different areas, helping to fill in the entirety of the picture- past and present, and the problems arising around the city and its surroundings.

Because of this broader scope it does take a while to get a handle on the world, and especially to get to a point where the society and its inner workings feels familiar.

*

This is one of those times when I felt like the page count really suited the size of the story, and what it was telling us.

The pacing was really well-done and for me, the story was interesting throughout- if it was slow in one pov the other is taking up the slack with something exciting to counterbalance, so it never felt draggy even in the pov’s I wasn’t as fond of. Though this does end in a stepping-off point and is not going to answer everything right now, it tells us enough to feel satisfied.

*

I enjoyed Daniel and Maddie’s pov the most of the four.

Daniel’s wasn’t a surprise because I love military fantasy, I would have been happy to stay in his pov more, or even for the whole book. He was also an interesting character, as he has a very powerful family name and despite his position seems to be more empathetic to the citizens than most in his station of life (maybe because he knows what its liked to be ruled under the iron thumb of his mother). But that idealistic view gets dirtied pretty quickly and he makes some choices that are not the best, even if they gave him great results.

Maddie’s was a surprise. I don’t generally like the ‘spunky kid’ but I liked her sections, and of course her interactions with Blackrose. Probably my enjoyment here was a lot to do with the cranky dragon and wondering how she is going to play into the rest of story.

I had expected that I would love Alia the most, because I enjoy the assassin characters, and her position gave me all the political maneuverings and family politics, that I love so much but, I felt her story got weighed down with Corthie.
(I really liked the ease in which her shapeshifting was shown. It was straight to the point and easy to know when and who she was being during those scenes)
Corthie was interesting to me, because I was curious about where he came from and the whole sci-fi feeling vibe to how he got there, and his sister coming to rescue him etc but that was about it. I found his personality annoying but I might be holding a grudge for sullying Alia’s story.

Though we did have a good last scene with his character that makes me more interested in him and wanting to come back and see what happens next for him.

*

I loved the powerplays, the military aspects, and even the dragons have such personalities that I was invested in them.

My only complaint was the rather juvenile feeling of love between Alia and Corthie. She seemed a little naïve and consumed for someone who has seen so much (even having been locked in the palace for 300 years) when it came to the whole attraction between those two.

On the whole, this was a cool and interesting world, and story, with an amazing amount of history stuffed in.

There are a lot of things that were only touched on, and there is just so much potential in the storylines that were opened up for these characters to continue into the next book.

JONATHAN

Blade is the story of the City—a sprawling metropolis of many disparate peoples—which is ruled by the gods and their descendants, and is under semi-permanent siege by a host of green-scaled monsters. The tale follows four characters in a rigid sequence of POV chapters: Alia, a demigod who’s fed up with the way her family is running the city into the ground; Corthie, an otherworldy champion who possesses godly powers; Maddie, a screw-up soldier who blunders into a dangerous opportunity; and Daniel, the harried son of a noble house who finds himself a reluctant military officer.

Of those characters, I liked the first three. I didn’t much care for Daniel’s story arc, and even with bright moments, found him kind of dull and unlikable. The others grew on me through the duration of the story and I found myself caring about what would happen to them. The City itself felt like a character. The contrast and class struggles between the tribes, the “elite” of which feel as though they were put in position by dint of the ruling gods, forms main plot point as the lower classes begin to get restive. The political machinations of the various gods, each with their own goals and agendas, and the ongoing attacks of the monsters form the other plot points, and all three of these threads weave together rather well. There is another (mostly separate) thread involving the dragon defenders of the City. This is an action-packed book, with a fast-moving plot and a fair amount of dialogue, which are aspects of the book I enjoy.

Having said that, I had a few quibbles. Corthie is a mortal with powers normally reserved for the gods who has been kidnapped to fight the green monsters ... but he’s rather sanguine about his situation and his origin (he keeps insisting his powerful sister will arrive and rescue him), without much introspection about his circumstances. The origins and purposes of the attacking monsters are also left for later books and I found myself wanting at least some answers. It was almost like this was the prelude and backdrop to the rest of the story. Everyone’s mileage may vary but even in long series, I prefer each book’s main, internal plot arc to be self-contained and I didn’t get that vibe here. Romantic attraction between two characters occurs but the characters lacked on-page chemistry (perhaps through only having a few scenes together) leaving their interactions feeling forced and inorganic. Finally, the book ends on a semi-cliffhanger and features a plot contrivance that is a complete turn-off for me.

I did enjoy the ride. It’s fast, it’s fun, it reads smoothly, and maybe most important, I never felt bored or impatient reading it, even in Daniel’s chapters (I kept hoping the little prat would get skewered) but the last twenty-percent or so kind of left me wanting. This is the first in a long saga (10+ books) so if someone does like the story, they’ll have a long time to enjoy it. I think Blade would appeal to readers who like battles and action, dragons, gods and mortals living together, and multi-POV stories.

ŁUKASZ

Mitchell has a knack for creating exciting plots and relatable characters. The Mortal Blade begins in the middle of the action and maintains good pacing throughout. His dialog is also top-notch - most of the time, anyway (if you like snappy dialog).

I enjoyed the book, but not all of it. I'd rate it higher if it weren't for a forced (totally subjective opinion) romance plot. The romance made little sense (a nearly thousand-year-old goddess swooning like a teenager over a boy ), and the characters lacked any believable chemistry. It decreased my enjoyment and felt like an add-on to satisfy readers who expect romance in their books. I know many readers will disagree with my assessment, and that's okay :)

Overall, The Mortal Blade is a solid book, and I can understand its success. For me, however, it offers nothing new or truly exciting. It's a solid, well-crafted, and well-produced book.

OFFICIAL SPFBO SCORE



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