Sword of Fire by Katherine Kerr: Riveting

This first novel of an epic fantasy trilogy reintroduces readers to the beloved and bestselling world of Deverry, blending magic, politics, and adventure in an unforgettable setting.
The bards are the people’s voice–and their sword.
All over the kingdom of Deverry, the common people are demanding reform of the corrupt law courts. In Aberwyn, the situation catches fire when Gwerbret Ladoic, second in authority only to the High King, allows a bard to starve to death rather than hear their grievances.
Guildwoman Alyssa, a student at the local scholars’ collegium, and Lady Dovina, the gwerbret’s own daughter, know that evidence exists to overthrow the so-called traditional legal system, if they can only get it into the right hands. The powerful lords will kill anyone who threatens their privileges.
To retrieve the proof, Alyssa must make a dangerous journey that will either change her life forever–or end it.

I’ve been a long time reader of Katherine Kerr, having been introduced to her work in college. I love fantasy but I also love history. What made her work especially intriguing to me was her ability to weave elements of fantasy into alternative history set in a world similar to Wales and Britain. Her ability to create a unique world developed with realism and emotional stories was much appreciated when I was younger and when I heard of this new novel, I wondered if they would hold the same magic for me as they’d done when I was young. I was so happy to see that her work has all that same brilliance and talent that I remembered.

In Sword of Fire, the story revolves around the bards and people wanting a less corrupt justice system. In order to do so, Kerr uses the character of Alyssa, a student at the local scholars’ collegium and Lady Dovina, the gwerbret’s own daughter as the primary point of view characters. Both women are written as strong characters, each unique in their own way but each integral to the development of the story. This novel is political in nature but Katherine Kerr’s skills as a writer uses the characters to develop empathy and to drive the story. While those politics are the main thrust of the plot, it is the lives of the characters that touch me as a reader and keep me reading.

In addition to vibrant characters, with realistic backgrounds, I love the Celtic elements of the novel. Katherine Kerr has retained her ability to imbue those Celtic overtones into her fantasy novels. Along with bards and warriors,we also have elves, magic, and dragons. That unique worldbuilding makes for a beautiful and compelling story.

The setting is unique, the characters are strong, the action driving the plot, and the story emotionally satisfying. While you would think that you’d need to read the other novels to understand the newest novel, I found that Katherine Kerr does such an excellent job of worldbuilding, that you won’t find yourself missing any of the details. While I recommend reading the other books, you won’t necessary to enjoy this narrative.

If you love unusual fantasy, well written plots, realistic characters, and a fresh take on magic, I think readers will love this novel. It compares with any of the great fantasy novels of the last ten years, with female characters that are independent and brave, and intriguing political maneuverings. I loved reading Sword of Fire, loved the characters and can’t wait for further novels from Katherine Kerr.

Rating: 5 out of 5 bards.

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