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What I’m Reading: Bolivar’s Sword

Bolivar’s Sword, by Jamie Edmundson, is the second book in the Weapon Takers Saga. I reviewed the first novel in the series here. This review will be a bit shorter than that one, as most of the same strengths and weaknesses in the writing apply to both books.

The weapons in question in the Weapon Takers Saga are seven mystical weapons, blessed by the gods, that date back to when the lands of Dalriya united to defeat the malevolent kingdom of Ishari. Unfortunately, the Ishari, under the leadership of Lord Erkendrix, who is possessed by an evil demon, were not totally destroyed then. Now, centuries later, the Ishari kingdom is again invading its neighbors with the goal of subjugating all of Dalriya.

One difference between this and the first book is that Bolivar’s Sword truly has a multi-character storyline. The first book certainly had many characters, but female singer and adventurer Belwynn provided the main POV in the majority of chapters, with the POVs of other characters provided as needed. In this book, the band of adventurers has split into two–one group led by Belwynn, who has fled to the land of the honorable Kalinthians, seeking to enlist their support in the war engulfing Dalriya, and the other group captured by the Isharis and imprisoned in their fortress at Samir Durg (you can tell how evil it is just by the name!). In addition to these two groups, the plot also follows young Prince Edgar of South Magnia as he leads his army into his first battle, and Farred, a Middian noble allied with the South Magnians, as he helps defend a besieged castle against the overwhelmingly powerful Ishari forces. All four of these storylines get about equal page counts.

Since Bolivar’s Sword starts exactly where Toric’s Dagger ended–as war is erupting acrosss Dalriya–we’re plunged into serious situations right from the beginning. There are several battle scenes in this book, and Jamie Edmundson describes both individual fighting and battlefield-level tactics with clarity and precision. He’s obviously done a lot of research in this department, and the battles come off as highly plausible medieval-style warring. Even when magic is involved, it’s limited and presented as another weapon on the battlefield, useful but not by itself able to change the tide of battle.

I thought overall the writing in Bolivar’s Sword was stronger than in Toric’s Dagger, with more focus, more even pacing, and greater insight into characters’ emotional states. Nevertheless, I still found a couple weaknesses. One was the dialogue, which I also complained about in the first book. The dialogue remains rather plain, tending towards the merely functional, and with little differentiation among the characters. The other thing is that, despite the overall stronger writing, there were four or five places where the writing seemed hasty or awkward–something I do not remember happening in the first book. It seems to me that Edmundson may have been rushing a bit to finish, and a few parts of the book could have used another polishing.

Still, this remains a fun series that keeps the pages turning. For fantasy readers who like realistic battle scenes, well thought out diplomatic and political maneuvering, and multi-character storylines, Bolivar’s Sword delivers in abundance.

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