Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Review: "Son of the Black Sword" by Larry Correia

I’ve enjoyed Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter novels quite a bit, so I decided to give his more traditional fantasy, “Son of the Black Sword” ($8.99, Baen), a go. It’s a bit different from what I’m used to from Correia, but still highly entertaining.

Ashok Vadal is perhaps the most fierce Protector that the world has ever seen. His devotion to the Law and its caste system is unrelenting and unquestionable. Unusual among the Protectors, Ashok wields the ancestor blade Angruvadal, a semi-sentient sword that retains the memories of all of the warriors who have ever carried it. The black steel ancestor blades can only be used by those that they find worthy and dishonoring the blade can destroy it. That’s why their numbers are dwindling, and they are highly valued by the houses that own them.

Ashok has never questioned his orders and never flinched from doing his duty, no matter how brutal, but a deathbed confession from the Lord Protector of his order could shatter all that he has ever known.

History, as we know, is usually written by the victor, and that’s certainly the case in this world where people honor a system even though they’ve forgotten how or why it came into place.

“Son of the Black Sword,” I believe, is a timely tale for the divided world that we find ourselves in today. It’s something of a cautionary story about blind devotion to any ideal and what can come of it. That said, Correia doesn’t take a preachy soapbox in getting that point across. In fact, every aspect of the book serves the story, which is the way it should be.

Still, as I read, I couldn’t help but think about all the people in our world who swear their allegiance to a cause – be it political, religious, social or whatever – and demonize those on the other side, forgetting that they are people, too. It’s easy to see how that could lead to the divides that we see in Ashok’s world.

I also love a book that makes me care about the story of an unlikeable character, and “Son of the Black Sword” does that well. Ashok is not a nice guy, and the callous lack of basic humanity in his devotion to the Law certainly won’t win readers to his side. Yet, Correia manages to make you feel for the guy. Some of the reasons are a bit spoiler-y, so I won’t go into them, but by the end of the book, he’s a far more sympathetic character, despite his continuing blind devotion.

For fans of his Monster Hunter series, there may be a bit of an adjustment. “Son of the Black Sword” is darker, more serious, and lacks the humor of that series, but it’s very well done and also provides a little bit of food for thought. I’ll definitely continue to follow Ashok’s story.

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