An exquisite and detailed fantasy gem
I would like to thank Benedict Patrick for kindly sending me an advanced reader copy of Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords in exchange for an honest review. The City of Swords is the home of the Bravadori. These warriors, that are divided into different factions, have the Knack, which grants them special capabilities that equate to exceptional sword-fighting prowess. Their tales are known throughout the world, as it the quality of their awe-inspiring deeds and undeniable valour. Arturo has long admired these talented mask-wearing heroes from afar, wishing to become one of them and perhaps recreate similar outstanding actions that can be written within the pages of legends. He finds himself at the aforementioned city to hopefully make his dreams come true. He's young, has acquired a mask, and has a few farm-ravaging bandits under his kill-count but he was not prepared for what would await him in this famous city.
This novel is the third that is set within Yarnsworld and I am pretty certain all these tales are standalones. This was my first foray into reading Patrick's work so can truly state that this narrative works great if read in isolation. I analysed that certain magics, myths, and histories would crossover yet, after starting with entry number 3, I wish to go check out his previous work as soon as I can. Patrick is a current SPFBO entrant and I'm certain this new novel would do well if entered next year.
After an unforgiving introduction for Arturo in the city which he initially approached flaunting the pseudonym Hungry Wolf, he is bested and re-Christened Starving Pup. He now understands that the stories and the unwavering loyalty of the Bravadori may have been exaggerated. Battered, embarrassed, and very bloody, he still somehow keeps hope.
There are 3 main characters. Previously discussed Arturo, Crazy Racoon - a warrior legend who inspires fear in the eyes of all who see him, and Yizel - a Bravadori who fell from grace and although being a sword-fighting expert and highly sought after for her unique skills, is looked down upon by all and bears the title "shaven." In my mind, I envisaged Crazy Racoon as looking like The Hound from A Game of Thrones, Yizel as being similar to Ferro in The First Law, and Arturo as a wide-eyed wannabe hero who's never understood how shit the world is. Quite a trio. The book, written in 3rd person, flipped between the 3 very awesome main perspectives. It's true that a handful of side characters seemed like devices to aid plot progression but in a shortish book that was okay. I really enjoyed the aspect that, at a chapters finale we are gifted a flashback, fable, or interlude which were unique and interesting short stories in themselves. This story also presented a quality that I enjoy in epic fantasy tales which is when points of view perspectives overlap. With this, we get a "double-take" on important events that are often from conflicting opinionated viewpoints.
The unlikely trio somehow unites for a potentially suicidal mission which includes characters falling from grace, finding a reason to truly live again and to prove certain misconceptions should not define them.
This book is superbly well written. It's no wonder there is a buzz surrounding his work in the self-published scene at the moment. Although there were a handful of grammatical errors, which is true for most books these days, there were no lazy words or needless use of phrase repetition. It read as if every single word or statement was chosen specifically to heighten a scene, add drama, or to make us care more about the characters.
Personally, one of my only criticisms is that the final scene/showdown was over too fast after a stunning build up. I've been known to say this about certain mega-hits so it may just be me. The culmination was a fine mix of enthralling action and intricate fantasy, therefore, it was pretty great but I just wanted a bit more.
Starving Pup reminded me of a younger Thomas Senlin (The Books of Babel), being a wide-eyed likeable protagonist and having to adapt to the world not being as glorious as he was lead to believe. There is also a similarity to how they act in the face of unspeakable and seemingly unassailable danger.
"Don't draw your blade in the City of Swords, unless you're willing to kill or be killed."
To conclude, this story is an exquisite and detailed fantasy gem that contains great characters, a unique world, deep histories, and a mysterious Black Shepherdess.
Review by James Tivendale
8/10 from 1 reviews
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