The Council of Blades by Paul Kidd

Over seasoned with humour and science which ultimately spoiled the dish
The Council of Blades book cover

Council of Blades is a novel aimed at devotees of the Dungeons and Dragon fantasy role-playing game and the story is set in one of the game’s shared worlds – the Forgotten Realms.

Sumbria is a city state, one of the Blade Kingdom’s many city states, a military society modelled on early renaissance Italy. So is Colletro. The book opens with Sumbria and Colletro facing off against each other, ready to wage bloody war over the Valley of Umbricci but before they come to blows the two sides manage to negotiate a truce which sees Sumbria emerge with the better deal much to Colletro’s chagrin.

MilianaMannicci is an intelligent but plain princess (the book’s blurb, not mine) of Sumbria. She’s our feisty heroine, a budding wizard with a sharp temper and desire for adventure.

Prince UgoSvarezi, a Colletran knight and the villain of the piece, comes to Sumbria to celebrate the truce. During his visit he meets Blade Captain Gilberto Ilego, a Sumbrian nobleman who schemes to increase his power and social standing. Naturally, the two team up to bring about the downfall of Sumbria and realise their ambitions. Svarezi also meets young Lorenzo Utrelli, a prince from Lomatra, another of the Blade Kingdom’s city states.

Lorenzo is an artist, scientist and inventor and his most accomplished creation is a giant laser which he developed for use in mining. Unable to find a sponsor for his devices, in his native Lomatra, Lorenzo tries to find a benefactor in Sumbria and is feted by Ilego and Svarezi who manipulate him and use his machine to help the Colletran army invade Sumbria. Outraged, Lorenzo joins forces with Miliana and Tekoriikii, a kleptomaniac firebird (a cross between a phoenix and a large parrot), to thwart Svarezi’s invasion. 

The verdict
Overall, The Council of blades was an enjoyable romp but there were a couple of major issues with the book. First is the over importance of science and technology in the story and the implication that this is a world against technological innovation and therefore progressive thinking. This is Dungeons and Dragons; it’s not that the world is technophobic, it’s just that technology plays second fiddle to magic given its prevalence in this setting. Yet the message coming across in CoB is the opposite and this would no doubt have grated with Dungeons and Dragons fans. 

And then there’s the humour. There was too much and the story quickly degenerated from humour to parody and slapstick. It’s fair to say, fantasy which takes itself too seriously becomes dull and heavy but, where this book is concerned, Kidd has certainly done himself no favours with Dungeons and Dragons fans. The attention given to science and humour in the book was far too heavy handed and parody of a much loved shared world setting is, by association, insulting to the fans and they will, quite rightly, be turned off by the book. Kidd should have paid more respect the setting and fan base.

Council of Blades was an enjoyable read. Unfortunately, it was horribly over seasoned with humour and science which ultimately spoiled the dish.

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