Sword of Fire and Sea by Erin Hoffman (The Chaos Knight #1)

Three generations ago Captain Vidarian Rulorat’s great-grandfather gave up an imperial commission to commit social catastrophe by marrying a fire priestess. For love, he unwittingly doomed his family to generations of a rare genetic disease that follows families who cross elemental boundaries. Now Vidarian, the last surviving member of the Rulorat family, struggles to uphold his family legacy, and finds himself chained to a task as a result of the bride price his great-grandfather paid: the Breakwater Agreement, a seventy-year-old alliance between his family and the High Temple of Kara’zul, domain of the fire priestesses.

The priestess Endera has called upon Vidarian to fulfil his family’s obligation by transporting a young fire priestess named Ariadel to a water temple far to the south, through dangerous pirate-controlled territory. A journey perilous in the best of conditions is made more so by their pursuers: rogue telepathic magic-users called the Vkortha who will stop at nothing to recover Ariadel, who has witnessed their forbidden rites.

Together, Vidarian and Ariadel will navigate more than treacherous waters: Imperial intrigue, a world that has been slowly losing its magic for generations, secrets that the priestesshoods have kept for longer, the indifference of their elemental goddesses, gryphons—once thought mythical—now returning to the world, and their own labyrinthine family legacies. Vidarian finds himself at the intersection not only of the world’s most volatile elements, but of colliding universes, and the ancient and alien powers that lurk between them.

There are still a lot of books on my to read list and The Chaos Knight series, starting of with Sword of Fire and Sea is one of them. Sword of Fire and Sea is the debut novel of Erin Hoffman released by Pyr in 2011. I chose this book because it showed a lot of promise in the synopsis that there are a lot of interesting elements used in this book: pirates, priestesses, telepaths, courtly intrigue and colliding universe. Looking back on the whole, it is great adventurous story, but unlike many others stories this is not your typical epic fantasy style. Sword of Fire and Sea provides a non-stop ride. The lay-out of the book has is a certain strength in that it makes for a fast-paced and entertaining read but it has also a slight weakness in it. There are a lot of elements coming at you that you are assumed to catch and understand on the fly. There are hardly any wasted words in describing what makes the world Andovar goes round, it would have been better to have just a bit more information about everything. Nonetheless all this Sword of Fire and Sea makes up for a promising magical debut.

In Sword of Fire and Sea you follow the adventures of Empress Quest captain Vidarian Rulorat. Who was living a rather normal sailing his boat and doing jobs transporting goods. From the synopsis on the back you can make out that there is more than simply meets the eye to Vidarian’s character. His family has a certain legacy owing to his grandfather and linking him to the fire priestesses. Now his duty is being called upon and he is tasked to safeguard a young fire priestess named Ariadel.

When you first encounter the task set for Viradian I did not get any clues about what the possible magic might entail in this world, instead the storyline goes more towards the naval-side about ships, how they fare and the dangers they face at sea, instead of lying the emphasis of the story on magic and volatility of the elementals. Because of the I was expecting a totally different story to unfold. However I was wrong. Now it could be due to the somewhat hasty introduction in the story and that Erin Hoffman tried to build towards finally showing Vidarian's destiny, that I felt that the story was going towards the naval side. The real twist comes after the encounter on sea with pirates afterwards the story goes into an unexpected rapid where the lives of Ariadel and Vidarian, with Vidarian in particular will never turn out to be the same again. In the general lines of the story there was a great pacing forward and the event that unfolded as the pages flew by was great, inventive and unexpected.

You might already feel but there is but coming on. And the but being, through the fast pacing and trying to take the story forward. There is a lot of travel between places being on horse-like creature or boats or even gryphons (yes they make a prominent appearance giving a mythical fantasy flavour to the book). It was by the amount of travel and by that the rapid changes in the storyline that I did not really got time to fully indulge myself in the storyline and appreciating the created universe in the book. This is what I mentioned beforehand that the focus is really on telling just certain part and in my opinion that taking just a few more pages to explain everything and allowing the reader to catch up with certain terms and how things came to pass could really have further enlivened the story.

As for the magic that is hidden within this story I was each page hoping of a flashing display of fire woven destruction after having seen earlier what kind of power is hidden within the priestesses. But instead of only making this book seem flashy by that aspect, Erin Hoffman creates a certain alluring sense towards it. You learn by in several chapters what the magic in Andovar is capable of but is it subtly woven into the background where it produces that lingering sense. On another note, even though this book is fairly short just under 300 pages there is a nice change in perspective going from the focus of Vidarian in reaching his goals to scenes in town and on sea. I can see that there was a great effort put into showing a bit of the ordinary lives of Vidarian and Ariadel even with some possible romance there and the world of Andovar in general, but again I do have to fall back on the part where just a bit more could have made world of change.

Sword of Fire and Sea is a great starter for a new series and shows what is possible by just nudging the term epic fantasy in a different way. This first book shows a lot of promise, though a still a bit roughened. The world of Andovar is, what I could quickly glimpse of it intriguing having a fancy magical system, alluring societies and with a world on the verge of loosing its magic who knows what can happen. And I forgot to mention the gryphons?

8/10 Shows a lot of promise, though a still a bit roughened.

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