'In the Shadow of Swords' is a story I really wanted to like. The hardcover book is lovely, the scope is ambitious, and the world author Val Gunn creates interesting one. However, there is just too much going on, not enough explanation of what IS going on, and too many characters. It took me over a year to slog through this book. I don't blame the book entirely for that, but it didn't excite me enough to keep me reading more than 4 or 5 pages a night.
Most of the action takes place in either desert lands or with characters that would seem to come from such an environment. Their names are clear indicators of this, likely influenced by the author's travels. If Val Gunn had stuck with (what I consider) the three main characters (Ciris Sarn, Marin Altair, and Fajeer Dassai), then I think he would have had a more tightly focused narrative and would have kept my interest more effectively. But he bounced around several other minor players that really didn't move the story forward. Gunn writes action well, but his dialog leave something to be desired and the characterization of all but the major players fell rather flat. A lot happens in this book but it does not flow the way I think an action novel should. Short chapters repeat much of what has gone on before and do not progress the story. Events and side characters are not fully explained. The fantastical aspects of the story are glossed over at best.
This book started off strong but bogged itself down less than half the way through. A competent editor might have made the necessary cuts and editorial suggestions that could have made this book a stand out. As it is now, I cannot recommend it to any serious reader, though those looking for a light reading action/fantasy novel with a touch of magic may enjoy it. Unfortunately, I am not one of them, though I might grudgingly give a sequel a cautious read.
2.5 stars rounded down. The author sent me a copy of this book for review purposes.