Monday, January 11, 2016

Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia

I'd have to consider this more of a dark fantasy than classic fantasy, perhaps as grim as some of Joe Abercrombie's novels, or Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards series. At the same time, there's a certain element of post-apocalyptic fiction, as there are hints that the world was once much more technological before the "demons" came from outer space to attack mankind. It will be interesting to see how that all wraps up at the end of the series someday.

Asok is a Protector, one of a group of select warriors whose primary responsibility is to uphold the Law, and he has spent the last twenty years of his life becoming the ultimate fighter and executioner. He bears an ancestor blade named Angruvadal, a magical black sword that contains the memories of dozens of generations of warriors of his family who have borne it before him.

When the bearer of one of these blades dies, the blade itself usually chooses a successor from their bloodline, but there was a very different circumstance which occurred when Angruvadal's previous owner died. None of the warriors who came to touch the blade were acceptable to it, and it either forced them to wound or kill themselves, depending on how unworthy the blade felt they were, until at long last, a casteless boy, lowest of the low, whose job was to scrub the blood from the stone floors of the room where the sword was kept, touched it and was chosen. This, of course, was a disgraceful thing to happen in the eyes of the upper castes, so they determined that none would ever know of this dishonor, and they slaughtered the boy's entire family, then pretended he was one of their heirs all along, when they sent him to train to be a Protector - an apprenticeship with a very high fatality rate - in hopes that when he was killed in the training, the blade would return to their family and honor would once again be restored. Their wizard altered the boy's memories so he would never realize that he'd been born casteless, and all was well - for a time.

But Asok survived the training and went on to become one of the most fearsome Protectors ever known, until the day when his memories were restored, and he discovered his true beginnings. He returns to the House which had adopted him and killed his real family, and executed the matriarch of the clan, who had hatched the plot, then turned himself in as a criminal. During his time in jail, political plotting by the high castes, combined with an uprising by the casteless creates a situation where Asok is compelled to undertake a hazardous quest, and encounter his true destiny.

Great battles, complicated plotting, and a tortured hero. What's not to love?

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