January 30, 2022

ARC REVIEW: The Living Sword (The Living Sword #1) by Pemry Janes

The Living Sword (The Living Sword #1) by Pemry Janes
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Release Date: November 13, 2013
Format: eARC (from Author)

The Living Sword by Pemry Janes is a short and entertaining novella-length start to a “new to me” fantasy series (though it’s been out for a couple of years). I would recommend it to upper YA to adult fantasy readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories with great worldbuilding and innovative magic systems. However, if compelling characters are what makes a fantasy book entertaining for you, then this might not be your cup of tea. 

The magic system was great. I absolutely had to keep reading to learn more once it was introduced, and I ended up finishing the book in an afternoon. The worldbuilding was fantastic. Some novellas can struggle to get the balance of worldbuilding correct with length constraints (providing enough detail while also ensuring it doesn’t feel like an info dump), but I think The Living Sword had just the right amount. I especially enjoyed the contrast between the humans and the San, their respective approaches to “magic”, and how that played into the world as a whole.  

Sentient weapons add an element of intrigue to most fantasy stories, and The Living Sword is no exception. Some recent books I’ve enjoyed with sentient weapons include Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard and Sarwat Chadda’s City of the Plague God. The titular “living sword” (Misthell) of the book definitely lived up to the level of awesomeness that is Sumarbrander (otherwise known as Jack) and Kasusu.  

The characters were where the book fell flat for me. In the downtime between finishing a book and picking up the sequel, a great fantasy novel will leave me pondering hypothetical situations the characters might find themselves in. It would also leave me wondering about how certain aspects of the world-building and magic system work. I, unfortunately, didn’t connect with the characters in The Living Sword. To sum up my thoughts about the characters, I was more engaged and interested in what was being done rather than who was doing it, if that makes sense. 

Overall, a solid start to a new fantasy series. I think the author did a great job in setting up the worldbuilding, the magic system, and leaving threads open for future books in the series. 

As a side note (unrelated to my rating of the book), there are a lot of great innovative names in this book. Unfortunately, I have no clue how to pronounce the majority of said names. In addition to making use of the audiobook which was just released, I would love to see a pronunciation guide or something similar provided in an appendix or available as a resource online.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a complimentary review copy of the book. I appreciate the opportunity immensely. Please note - I voluntarily read and reviewed The Living Sword. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.

About the Author

Pemry Janes grew up on a farm in the Netherlands and discovered history and fantasy at a young age, he even studied the former at university. Now he tries to combine the passion for both in his writing. He strives to create worlds that are both rich and strange, populated with people. Whatever shape, size, or worldview they may have.

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