Categorized | Fiction

Broken Blade Review

Posted on March 23, 2012 by Monica Valentinelli

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    Kelly McCullough, author of the WebMage series, dives into the fantasy noir genre with the debut of Broken Blade. Dubbed the Fallen Blade series, this first book introduces Aral Kingslayer, a former assassin for the now-dead Goddess of Justice named Namara.

    I feel McCullough’s strength has always been building worlds that the characters are immersed in. Broken Blade explores a different side of dark fantasy than the typical European/medieval fare. The world is a blend of East meets West where remnants of martial arts and Asian mythology merge with European politics and the rights granted by proper lineage.

    Written as a fantasy noir, there are plenty of mysteries to explore in this book. Kingslayer is the anti-hero; he’s the drunk who sits in the corner of a bar who’s depressed and feeling sorry for himself — for good reason. His ever-present familiar, Triss, lives in his shadow as Aral simply tries to get through the day. His true identity makes him a pariah; the goddess of justice he once worked as a temple assassin was murdered along with the majority of her Blades.

    To make money, Aral works as a shadow jack to take on the occasional dark and shady gig. He’s approached by a mysterious woman who tells him to deliver a message. Only, there’s nothing simple about the lady who hired him or the message he had to deliver. Once he realizes what he’s gotten himself into, the story twists and turns through the seedier parts of town as Aral decides what to do, when to do it, and whom he has to kill.

    There are two plots in the book that intersect with one another. The setting, which is supported by how the Goddess Etro was killed, is part of the mystery and supports Aral’s current predicament and the main plot. The primary issue at hand, which is revealed through the enigmatic message, dovetails into an even deeper mystery. While many secrets are revealed in this first book there are a lot more that can be explored as the series and the characters progress.

    The setting is what drew me in because it’s not the typical fare and I’m a sucker for anything with leanings toward Far Eastern mythologies. The way McCullough kept the gods and goddesses ever-present but lurking in the background reminded me of the way Tad Williams first introduced them in his Shadowmarch series. I suspect each book in the Fallen Blade series will offer even more of the mythology and the reasons why the Goddess of Justice was murdered. Combined with Triss, these two elements kept me turning page after page to discover more. The only complaint I have was that Broken Blade was way too short for me! The novel wasn’t written as an epic fantasy, but I could definitely spend hundreds of pages wandering around in the wilds of McCullough’s newest creation.

    For more about this fantasy book, check out Kelly McCullough’s design essay and excerpt for Broken Blade.

    Review by Monica Valentinelli

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