I don’t write reviews for all the books I read mostly due to my lack of time and the fact that most of the books I read have been written about and reviewed by people that consider themselves pro reviewers.
But I really liked this one. It surprised me by going beyond every expectation I had and by being a downright badass, action packed, thoughtful, and fun novel. I picked it up expecting a quick forgetful read and it became my favorite new fantasy of the year.
I became a fan of Larry Correia through his blog. I enjoy reading his advice to writers that strips away the mysticism of art and the artist and focuses on facts and business. I enjoy a lot of his ideas that sometimes science fiction and fantasy can be about guns, swords, and rocketships and focus on fun and action over deep socio-political introspection.
Due to reading the Monster Hunter Nation blog I picked up his first book, Monster Hunter International. While I enjoyed it, check out my review, it didn’t blow me away. I’m not a huge urban fantasy fan, I enjoy it but wont go out of my way to read more. I even lost interest in Harry Dresden after the third book.
When I read that Larry was writing a new book, the first in what will be a fantasy trilogy, I didn’t really pay much attention. I have so many books that need to be read that I rarely ever read newly written stuff, especially unfinished series.
But, while sailing the internet I noticed that Larry was on a book tour and that he will be stopping by the coolest bookstore in San Diego, Mysterious Galaxy.
I decided to go because I wanted to get the chance to meet Larry and hear him speak. I wanted to see for myself if he is really the evilest, vilest, sort of conservative racist his detractors accuse him of. Reading some comments on him and his fans you would not be wrong to expect walking into some mix of a NO MA’AM and gun fetish anonymous meeting. I had to go and get the real truth.
Well the truth is Larry seems like a super nice guy and his fans seem like really dedicated, fun, geeks that love reading fantasy and science fiction. Everybody was awesome. Standing in line waiting to get my book signed I listened to all of the enthusiastic conversations between strangers about their favorite books and favorite characters. It was a great experience.
So I picked up the book, met Larry, had it signed, and went home to read. I expected a fun action packed fantasy novel similar to Monster Hunter International. While it was fun and action packed, it went well beyond that with a original and intriguing setting, interesting magic and monsters, and a surprising plot with a lot of tragedy and pathos.
Son of the Black Sword follows Ashok, a ferocious warrior part of a guild of warriors called Protectors. Ashok lives in a land that takes inspiration from South Eastern Asian culture, specifically India’s strict cast system. The people of Ashok’s world are divided into casts, with 1st people on top, followed by warriors, workers, and finally the untouchables worth less than livestock.
The land is a troubled one. Powerful demons rule the seas and often come ashore to raid and slaughter. The society is tethering on the brink of collapse and revolt. Religion is banned, history is erased and strictly controlled, and corrupt inquisitors and politicians scheme and maneuver in the capitol.
In this setting Ashok, a feared warrior wielding a black magical sword imbued with the memories of its past wielders travels the land doing the bidding of his guild and the nations rulers by upholding the Law.
Yet his world unravels as conspiracies, betrayals, long suppressed secrets, come to the surface and the land is thrown into chaos and revolt.
Son of the Black Sword is Larry’s best book. Comparing it his first book his writing has improved and his pacing is fantastic. He writes detailed, action packed battles so well that I couldn’t stop reading. Hands down out of all the fantasy writers out there Larry is the best when it comes to action. If you want to write a good battle, read his stuff.
My favorite element of the book was the plot and subject focusing on the nature of man and humanity. I was surprised that a book I expected to be sword and sorcery light fantasy tackled such thoughtful heavy subject matter yet managed to avoid being preachy.
I can’t wait for the next one in the series to come out. Take my word for it, go and pick this one up. If you like action packed fantasy in a new and unique world and culture you will enjoy this one.