Sunday, March 23, 2014

Book Review: The Fell Sword

The Fell Sword, by Miles Cameron, is the sequel to The Red Knight.

Miles Cameron is also the pseudonym of Christian Cameron, the prolific, and excellent, historical fiction author.

Characters: The Fell Sword has a very large cast of characters. First and foremost among them is the Red Knight himself. The mysterious Captain (he's simply called "Captain" by his soldiers) of a company of mercenaries, the Red Knight is both an accomplished magister (sorcerer) and a deadly knight. You spend a good bit of page time from the Red Knight's point of view, but The Fell Sword has a large cast and you do switch POV a lot. One interesting element of the novel is that the villains get their share of time as well, so the reader gets to see the plots and plans of both sides. To be honest, I did lose the thread of the story on some of the lesser characters. Personally, I found myself less interested in the Outwallers and the Jacks than in the story of the Albans and the Moreans. Despite the large cast, characters all have unique strengths and weaknesses and are distinct individuals.

World Building: The world building in The Red Knight and The Fell Sword is phenomenal. Imagine medieval Europe butted up against pre-colonial Canada. Alba, Galle, and Morea are reminiscent of England, France, and the Byzantine Empire. In "The Wild" we have Outwallers based on native North American civilizations. There are enough similarities with the historical locations that readers will be able to identify with cultural elements that lend a sense of familiarity to the reader. But the differences in history and characters (there are no actual historical personalities) give the world a unique feel. Cameron's magic system is also highly inventive, with magisters wielding power from within "memory palaces". Woe to anyone going into battle without their own magister. Magic in The Fell Knight is very powerful.

Writing/Mechanics: Cameron is an excellent writer. I've never read another fantasy (or historical fiction) author who can bring a world to life the way he can. Cameron does not shy from using historical terminology, or archaic language in his novels. But the way he does it is so seamless I am never caught out by it. Cameron is excellent at using context to bring out the meaning of obscure terms, and by using those terms, the world of the book is enriched.

Engagement/Willing suspension of disbelief: The Fell Knight is a long book, but it is engrossing. The multiple plots are intertwined in a way that lets the reader know that the series is building towards a titanic climax. No, you are not getting that climax in this book. There is more to come. But this book did have a satisfactory ended, that gave the novel a "complete" feel. While speaking of engagement, you will not find better medieval combat scenes (physical and magical) than in a Cameron novel.

Impact: An excellent novel. I read it every moment I could spare. I anxiously await the next book in the series. Luckily, Cameron is a prolific writer, and I won't have long to wait for the next Traitor Son novel.

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