Book of the Year 2020 (see all)
Magical and mesmerizing; The Bard's Blade is a note-perfect start to this promising new series.
I knew nothing about this book going into it, apart from the fact that a very good friend of mine loved it, and that it featured music as an inherent part of the story. Now, the music part is what first piqued my interest. Musicians? Few and far in between when it comes to them as protagonists in fantasy novels! I profess the only example I can currently think of, (although I am sure there are more) is one of my most beloved books, The Name of the Wind. Music and fantasy are not often paired it seems. And yet, music permeates every level of our existence. It is a direct line to our emotions and as old as time itself. Why then is it so scarce in fantasy? For the life of me, I have no idea, but Brian D. Anderson has once again made a very strong case for more musical fantasy and hopefully, there will be many more of these in our future.
Life is good for Lem. He is an exceptionally talented musician, drawing huge crowds when and wherever he plays, his sublime skills always in high demand. He is betrothed to the love of his life, Mariyah, a winemaker who produces some of the finest wines in the region, and his home is a beautiful, utopia-like place called Vylari. This perfect picture is shattered though when something unthinkable happens. For the first time in centuries, someone has managed to cross the magical barrier that protects Vylari from the outside world, and this dying stranger has brought grim tidings of an ancient evil that is awakening.
"What we feared for so long has come to pass. He is coming. Soon doom will be upon us all."
This stranger also warns that Lem has special gifts that will draw this malignant being to him like a beacon and that the barrier will be no obstacle. Shocked at this turn of events and the possibilities that the warning carries, Lem can think of only one way to protect his love, Mariyah, and everyone else in Vylari; removing himself from the threat he poses to their existence, he crosses the barrier into the alien land of Lamoria, leaving behind everything and everyone he knows without hope of return.
Of course, things don't work out exactly as planned, and why would we want them to as that would rob the story of excitement! Mariyah finds out that Lem left and she crosses the barrier herself in order to follow him. Fate has other plans though and forces them onto different paths as she searches for him while he keeps on the move to stay ahead of the ancient evil he was warned about. To reveal more detail though, will spoil some of the fun.
The story thus gives us two different pov's from start to finish, which was a lovely change-up from the usual five or more pov's that is so prevalent nowadays in fantasy. It made for a quick, delightful read, with the easily accessible writing style providing perfect pacing, and every chapter gets better and better, making this one of the most enjoyable books I have had the pleasure of reading this year. Both of the main characters arcs felt very realistic, with Lem and Mariyah written as distinct voices that evolved fittingly with the narrative, and both easily evoked empathy, making them a joy to root for. I can only say that I am exceedingly eager to see how far they will go along their respective paths, as very interesting times are ahead.
"Beware those who choose the shadows as their home."
Book of Kylor, Chapter Three, Verse Fifty-Nine.
The Bard's Blade delivers modern fantasy at its finest. While it has definite vibes of classical, chosen-one fantasy, (which, come on, though overused is popular for a reason) Brian D. Anderson has suffused the tale with his own fresh take on this well-loved staple, successfully composing an enthralling first entry in The Sorcerer's Song series. The second book is named A Chorus of Fire, and it has emphatically claimed its place as one of my most anticipated reads of 2020.
Review by Eon Van Aswegen
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