Thursday, August 27, 2015

Blades of Magic, by Terah Edun

Recently I purchased a couple of e-book deals from Amazon that had a little over a dozen fantasy books in one package for $0.99. As that seemed like very little money to risk for a potential plethora of reading material, I of course decided to purchase them. Of course, since most of these books are the first ones in a series I'm sure this is beneficial to the authors as well in introducing new readers to their works. This week's book comes from the Amazon collection titled Epic.

Blades of Magic as you can tell from the cover picture to the right over there, is the first book in the Crown Service Series, but I can safely say that I definitely will not be reading any of the other books in this series just based off of the first book alone. To give a summary of the plot, the book follows Sara Fairchild our tough no-nonsense protagonist who we meet in an alley fight with criminals. Perhaps I should explain. Sara, like her father, is a battle mage, which means that she has magical abilities that make her much better at fighting. Like one-woman apocalypse good at fighting. The downside to this is if she uses too much of her power she threatens to tip over and become a blood-crazed Berserker who will kill everything in her path until someone finally kills her. (And it does remind me a little bit of the manga Claymore in that specific instance so it's a valid idea with a lot of opportunities for development.) Sara's father was also a battle mage who was a commander of mercenaries in the civil war which is apparently going on in the empire. (I say apparently because not a lot of political details are explained in this book.) However Sara's father was executed for desertion and so Sara and her mother are currently living in disgrace. In desperation Sara takes a job guarding a warehouse and the plot sort of lurches around from there.

If you're noticing I'm being kind of negative on this book, well, I didn't enjoy it for a number of reasons. Number one was the fact that I simply found Sara to be utterly unlikable as a character. See, in the book Sara kind-of-sort-of angsts over descending into a berserker rage and the dangers of her powers, but she uses them fairly frequently and actually enjoys killing people. No, I'm not kidding about that, Sara straight up says in her internal monologue that her powers give her a high after she kills someone. Within the first two days that we follow her around she kills half a dozen people, and this is apparently perfectly normal for her. On top of that she has no compunctions about torturing people either, well except when it's the wrong kind of torture, but that hardly gives her the moral high ground. Her go-to solution to solve all her problems is to start killing people and pouts, pouts when she can't resort to this option, and even finds people who don't enjoy killing to be weird. Throw in a few more of Sara's character traits and I'm pretty sure you've got the warning signs for a psychopath. The ultimate irony of course is our heroic little psychopath has the audacity to call one of the other characters a psychopath and evil, despite us never seeing him do anything evil himself.

I think this wasn't the intention of the author of course. I think that Edun meant to write a badass warrior chick who doesn't take anybody's shit (a perfectly valid character type), and has these powers that make her really good at fighting, but also come with a great risk (perfectly valid internal character conflict). The problem is that Edun seems to have taken it so far in one direction that Sara comes off, as I said, as a dangerous psychopath and I can only roll my eyes in derision as she complains about having to walk through the meat market because she hates the smell of blood. That hatred of the smell of blood certainly doesn't seem to keep her from getting absolutely covered in it when she's busy fighting.

Plot wise the book is all over the place. We start off with Sara guarding a warehouse of magical artifacts and wondering why so many people keep trying to break into the place. Seriously, over half the people she kills in the first two days are people trying to steal stuff from this warehouse. That doesn't last too long, though, because Sara and Ezekiel, the artifact curator, go to the Mercenary Guild headquarters to find the records on Sara's father and why he was executed. This then turns into a giant conspiracy where information is missing from her father's file and Sara's mother and pet end up dead and Sara has to go find the truth, which is somewhere near the front lines of this civil war. The civil war isn't explained terribly much but what little we are told about (towards the end of the book) is that there's a collection of distant provinces which are taxed but otherwise ignored by the rest of the empire. So, you know, I kind of understand the provinces wishing to rebel when they're handing over tax money and not getting anything out of it. I just found myself completely and utterly unable to care about any of these plots or what happened to Sara.

 Oh, and I almost forgot, over the course of....days...that this book is supposed to take place Sara and Ezekiel form a friendship and eventually feel more for each other. With all those....moments...they had together. Okay, I'm probably just being a crotchety old man with that last bit, but it just seemed like a particularly contrived cherry on top of a particularly stupid ice cream sundae. And the hot fudge is made of psychopathy. I think I've lost the thread of this argument.

Although I managed to finish this book I was pretty much done with it by the halfway point and I was just soldiering through to finish it. I have no intention of reading any more of these books and if any of my readers value my opinion I implore you to do the same.

- Kalpar

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