A review by wardenred
The King's Sword by C.J. Brightley

adventurous reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


A boy must be protected, even from himself. A man has the right to risk death for his beliefs, and a king has the right to fight for his people.

This was a pleasant, snow-paced fantasy story focused on journeying and self-growth. I'd call it a bildungsroman, but from a mentor's perspective. The plot is pretty simple and straightforward: a retired soldier finds a boy in the snow. The boy is a sheltered prince, the son of a recently deceased king and a victim of a planned coup. The soldier takes him under his wing and helps him develop the skills and qualities the boy is lacking to reclaim his rightful place on the throne and become a good ruler.

Despite the slow pace, it was quite a quick read. The prose flowed smoothly. I haven't noticed anything particularly inventive or gripping about the worldbuilding, but it was vivid enough, with nice descriptions of nature, towns, and food in particular. I found the two main characters nicely fleshed out and compelling enough, but I can't say the same about the other people they met. The plot held no real surprises; I could envision the ending well before I reached the middle, and I wasn't wrong about it. Still, sometimes predictable books like that work really well as comfort reads. Besides, I imagine someone less genre-savvy could find the entire adventure far more exciting. I've been reading fantasy since my mid-teens, as well as playing a lot of fantasy games, writing my own stories, and otherwise partaking in the genre. It's no wonder that it's harder to surprise me!

I feel I also should explain the "It's complicated" response I chose in the "Would you say the cast of characters is diverse?" field above. On one hand, there's definitely diversity here. The main character is a dark-skinned man in a country where it isn't usual, and the way people react to his skin color is shown and discussed in detail. There are other points where the plot tackles the questions of racism in what I felt was a pretty decent way. Also, the main character is severely dyslexic and the impact that has on his life is discussed, as well. That was actually my favorite part of the book; I usually see dyslexia rep in books set in modern times, more or less. It was somehow refreshing to see this subject discussed in a medieval-ish low fantasy setting and to see how it may impact a soldier's career in the army.

On the other hand, there was a striking absence of female characters that I found quite jarring. There were very few female characters who had more than a couple of lines, and they never really impacted the plot. You can argue that's period-specific, but we're not talking about a historical novel, and even in actual history, women have often played far more prominent parts than mainstream history readily shows. LGBTQ+ rep was non-existent as well, in case you're wondering.

All in all, not a bad read, and definitely well-written, but there are many fantasy books out there that are far more inventive.

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