ARC provided by the author and publisher—Tor Books—in exchange for an honest review.
The Bard’s Blade by Brian D. Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Sorcerer’s Song (Book #1 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, High fantasy
Pages: 432 pages
Published: 28th January 2020 by Tor Books
Simply exquisite, gripping, and tension-packed; The Bard’s Blade by Brian D. Anderson is an enthralling start to a series.
I’ll be honest and say that it wasn’t the premise of the book that got my attention; it was Felix Ortiz’s gorgeous cover artwork that grabbed me, and I’m truly grateful for it because the quality of the content in this book lived up to the exterior. I’m both blessed—because I get to read this early—and cursed—because I have to wait even longer for the next book—enough that the author and publisher sent me an early copy to review. Thank you and congratulations, Tor Books, you have found a winner here; consider giving The Bard’s Blade the same scale of promotion and advertisement you did for The Ruin of Kings.
“Never allow the wickedness of others to dictate who you are.”
The Bard’s Blade is the first book in The Sorcerer’s Song series by Brian Anderson. We follow the perspective of two main characters: Mariyah and Lem. Mariyah is a wine maker that loves her simple and casual life in Vylari, a land magically sealed with an impenetrable barrier from the outside world. Mariyah is betrothed to Lem, a super talented musician (bard) and they’re enamored with each other, believing that whatever comes their way, they’ll get through it if they face it together. A dangerous truth from Lamoria—the world outside Vylari—somehow managed to came through and it ended up changing their lives; dire circumstances force them to live in Lamoria and it’s a vastly different world compared to Vylari in almost every possible way. In a way, The Bard’s Blade sits in the middle of the classic—destiny, rumors of ancient evil resurfacing—and modern fantasy genres; it’s certainly comfortable and familiar territory that somehow also felt refreshing to read for me. Among many aspects, the factor that made reading this book so damn entertaining and engrossing were the incredible characterizations given to the characters in both main and supporting roles.
“Those in power in this age have fought and killed over nothing more important than to whom they offer their prayers.”
The narrative in The Bard’s Blade is told in multi third-person limited narration. Anderson spectacularly nailed each character’s voice from each respective character’s first appearance, and these voices plus their characterizations gradually developed and grew on me. The characterizations were so utterly well-written that even without their name being mentioned in the text, I would still have known whose perspective I was reading. More than anything else, I have always loved reading character-driven books; once the vital characterizations clicked for me, every other aspect of a story became a backdrop for the characters to shine against and that’s what I’m looking for in my reading criteria. That’s exactly what happened in The Bard’s Blade. Both Lem and Mariyah are such kind-hearted and inherently good characters that are living in a harsh world, and my empathy for them was magnificently lit. Also, the side characters, especially Farley and Lady Camdon, help bring colors and various intrigues to the main characters’ journeys and struggles.
“If I can imagine a fate worse than death it would be to live alone. People need one another as much as they need food and drink.”
The Bard’s Blade doesn’t have many descriptive battle scenes, but this doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in breathtaking sequences; the last few chapters, especially, were very intense even though there weren’t any battle scenes in it. Compared to Vylari, Lamoria is a much dangerous environment that’s heavily ridden with fanaticism and different cultures that the main characters have never encountered before. The torrent of pain that the characters endured and the tenacity they had to accumulate to survive their misfortune made the scenes in the book emotionally palpable. I also found Anderson’s prose to be incredibly engaging and accessible, but it was his descriptions of music that elevated the writing from great to being noteworthy—pun fully intended, I have no shame.
“It was partially the reason he loved music: the way it connected with people, creating joy, sorrow, mirth, and every other emotion the heart could possibly hold. When he played, he was the shepherd and the people, his flock.”
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now. As of this moment, I’ve read more or less three hundred fantasy books, and it’s insane how few musician main characters are in the genre. This isn’t an exaggeration; excluding The Bard’s Blade, the only fantasy series I’ve read that has bard or musicians as the main character were The Kingkiller Chronicle series by Patrick Rothfuss, The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett, and Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames. That’s it. The Bard’s Blade included, that makes it four series! Only FOUR! Music is such an integral part of many people’s lives and I truly believe that there’s still tons of unexplored potential for it to gleam in fantasy. Anderson’s portrayal of music in The Bard’s Blade was executed wonderfully, serving as a balance to tone down the severity and violence that the characters suffered; its role as a moment of respite felt like finding yourself in a bonfire or a save point after hours of difficult dungeon raiding in a video game.
“Toil without intent holds no virtue. Do not waste your labors on frivolous pursuits. Time ill spent cannot be recovered.”
To counter the aforementioned quote, reading this book was time wisely spent: the tranquil moments transitioned to heart-pounding events seamlessly; the superb characterizations made the empathetic main characters linger in my mind after I closed the last page of the book; the pacing was imbued with an ebb and flow tempo that made me beg for an encore when the final note had played. The alluring song that Anderson orchestrated with his words enchanted me, and I absolutely loved every second of reading The Bard’s Blade. There’s still half a year before this book is officially released, make the smart decision by pre-ordering it so you can read this riveting book as soon as it’s released.
Official release date: 28th January 2020
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.