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"Bestselling fantasy author Correia (The Grimnoir Chronicles) casts a compelling spell with this India-influenced series opener...Correia skillfully sets in motion this story of plots within plots, revealing complex, sympathetic characters and black-hearted villains with equal detail and insight. Full of action, intrigue, and wry humor, this exciting series launch promises many more thrills to come." (Publishers Weekly Starred Review)
"Correia is best known for his action-packed urban fantasies (“Monster Hunter Nation” series) so this non-European–set epic fantasy is a pleasant surprise...Fans who like Correia’s fast-moving style will be pleased with the plethora of action scenes, and epic fantasy readers interested in delving into a new universe should be equally satisfied. A solid choice for admirers of Brent Weeks and Brandon Sanderson’s “Mistborn” series." (Library Journal)
About the Author
Larry Correia is an award-winning competitive shooter, a movie-prop-gun master and, yes, an accountant by day—but an urban noir adventure master by night. He is the creator of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling Monster Hunter series as well as urban fantasy hardboiled blockbuster saga, the Grimnoir Chronicles. Correia lives in Utah with his wife and family.
I don't normally review books I've read on Amazon -- why gild the lily, and add to what others have already done far better than I could? But given the relatively few reviews for this so far, I figured that I'd chime in for a change.
I've enjoyed Larry Correia's other series (Grimnoir and MHI), which were entertaining and well-written (if nothing incredibly deep and a bit on the "pulpy" side but very enjoyably so), so I decided to give this a try. I'm quite glad that I did.
This is unequivically Larry Correia's best work yet. While the prose in his prior series can be workman-like at times (and the focus on some of the details of action sequences can detract slightly from the narrative), the quality of writing here is a clear improvement beyond the solid efforts of Larry's previous series. The characterization is also Larry's best work, with the protagonist significantly more nuanced and complex than in prior series (with the possible exception of Franks in MHI), while still being heroic and sympathetic and acting rationally, given his outlook, knowledge, and constraints. The plotting is extremely well-done and well-paced, and the periodic flashbacks (especially in the early going) were well-placed and of well-tailored length to slake the reader's thirst for backstory and worldbuilding without giving away the whole game or detracting from the overall narrative arc.
Overall, the world is close enough to ours to be recognizable and not so different that it and its characters are unrelatable. Their motivations are well-established, and even having read Larry's two other fantasy-ish series, the plot twists and events were not the least bit predictable, other than insofar as characters in novels should act in a manner true to who they are. Side characters are filled in as necessary, again, without giving away too much information or giving us full insight into their plans and motivations for those whose arcs are not resolved in this book. While there are hints as to some of their motivations, particularly for the more minor characters whose arcs are resolved -- the hints provided regarding the "string-pulling" big bad behind the scenes and the "dirty work" big bad implementing things, and the inferences that the reader can draw, are tantalizing, and make me wish that this whole series had already been completed.
Continuity is also well-established, as are the laws of unintended consequence -- in several instances, characters are appropriately forced to deal with the results of their earlier choices, both for good and for ill. All-in-all, its a very promising start to the series. Is it Brandon Sanderson's "The Stormlight Archive"? No, it's not -- more focused on action, narrower in scope, less concerned with the overall magic system and worldbuilding. But it's thoughtful, creative, interesting, coherent, consistent, well-paced and well-plotted -- a damn fine fantasy book.
My only complaint -- though it's a good problem to have -- is the wait before the next book in the series comes out. Nicely done, Larry -- and keep up the great work!
I came to MHI and the Grimnoir Chronicles late; devoured them all and wanted more - especially the Grimnoir series. When I heard Correia had a new book coming out I was disappointed to find that it was neither series, but the concept looked intriguing, so I bit - and I'm glad I did. I bought the Kindle edition. If there were flaws, they were barely noticeable. Quite happy with the purchase.
Wonderful world building. Great plot, believable characters, nasty villains and flawed heroes. Above all, his best writing yet. Considering my last read was the ponderous "Hell's Foundations Quiver" - which I enjoyed (bit of a masochist I guess) - "Son of the Black Sword" was a rippingly good read. I've seen elsewhere that the first third of the book was slow, but compared to Weber's prose it was positively speedy. As always, Correia writes great action sequences, but it was the world building that stood out. Outstanding. I know these things take time, but more and sooner would be much appreciated!
4-stars plus. Not perfect but damned good. Highly recommended.
Corriea has created a fascinating new world for this series, and shows off his abilities as a writer. Some authors who have found success with one style are unable to branch out and write anything else. This is not the case here. Son of the Black Sword is quite distinct from both the Monster Hunter and the Grimnoir stories, but equally as good as those series. The world building in particular is excellent. I'm looking forward to what comes next.
I can't claim to be a detached, disinterested critic going into this review. Larry Correia has been on the podcast that I co-host. He generously Book-Bombed! my first novel, Nethereal. A few months ago I got to hang out with Larry at the Salt Lake City Comic Con, where I gave him a signed copy of my second novel Souldancer (which, like Son of the Black Sword, is a Dragon Award winner).
Larry Correia is more than an author whose books I enjoy and whom I respect as a professional. Considering everything he's done for me, I consider Larry a personal friend. So keep in mind that this won't be an unbiased review, though it will be honest and informed by my experience as a reader and an author.
Son of the Black Sword has been called Larry's first work of fantasy. That claim is only superficially accurate, however, since the other two books of his that I've read contain fantastical elements. I also have suspicions about the origins of the magic in this latest series, but saying any more would risk spoilers.
SotBS does feature the most classic fantasy setting of any Larry Correia book so far. But in keeping with the author's penchant for the delightfully unorthodox, the land of Lok draws much more heavily from far Eastern tropes and imagery than the largely shopworn trappings of standard Western fantasy. In this world, a grim order of Protectors enforce the all-encompassing Law that has replaced religion and segregates the populace into rigid castes.
The central figure in this tale is Ashok Vadal, a senior Protector and the Bearer of Angruvadal--an ancient sword made of magical black steel that stores the collected knowledge and battle experience of its past wielders. Holding either office makes a man a force to be reckoned with. Being both a Protector and an ancestor blade Bearer at the same time makes Ashok the most dangerous man alive.
Let me pause here to address those who've stereotyped Larry as a crude writer of explosion porn, and who assume that Ashok Vadal is a humorless, invincible death machine that considers killing his go-to solution for every problem.
Your assumptions about Ashok are 100% correct.
But your assumptions about Larry are marvelously wrong.
Sure, Ashok has the personality of a wood chipper, but Larry makes him sympathetic anyway. Ashok can kill any man in the world with a soup spoon, but Larry never lets the dramatic tension drop. This is certainly no Gary Stu without flaws. Ashok's not even a munchkin-style character with "flaws" that either fail to be effective hindrances or are actually blessings in disguise. He is a profoundly broken character who is equally subjugated and empowered by the Law he serves.
Ashok may as well be a granite statue with "Magical Cop" chiseled into the base. And yet, Larry Correia makes you genuinely care about his problems through top shelf world building and the masterful characterization of everyone from the stalwart yet jealous brother in arms who was denied his own ancestor blade by a cruel turn of fate to the dedicated yet evil assassin who stalks the crowded streets of a bustling capitol. Anyone who accuses Son of the Black Sword of being hack work probably thinks that rednecks prefer drinking gin.
Going much deeper into the book's plot poses major spoiler risks, so I'll restrict myself to saying that several of the twists near the end genuinely and pleasantly surprised me, and that the author took fascinating risks with multiple characters that never came off as out of character. This book definitely left me wanting more.
Son of the Black Sword is impeccably written, unquestionably fun, and undoubtedly the best of Larry's books that I've had the pleasure of reading. SotBS is Larry's masterpiece. It deserved its Dragon Award win, and it puts paid to the ridiculous claims that Larry isn't a real writer. In addition to his superlative handling of his characters, he tackles complex themes like armed citizens as a check against tyranny and quandaries arising from conflicts between positive and natural law. Don't worry. You won't find any civics lectures or suspension of disbelief-destroying scoldings here. Despite his reputation as a bruiser, Larry has a light touch.
He also has a character named Thera--a coincidence that Soul Cycle fans will find amusing :)
In terms of negatives, I'm struggling to come up with something to demonstrate that I'm not just sucking up. Okay. There's a deus ex machina near the middle that probably could've used more setting up. The resolution of one supporting character's subplot felt a little anticlimactic. That's it, really. The only thing that outright bugged me about Son of the Black Sword wasn't Larry's fault at all, and that's the front cover. Offense is taken at the substitution of Larry Elmore's gorgeous cover with yet another dust jacket that's afraid to admit it contains a work of genre fiction.
But the book's good points shine so brilliantly it's not even fair. The magic system is brilliantly simple. The secondary world setting and social structure are wholly convincing. And I didn't mention this before, because Larry, but Son of the Black Sword has some of the best action scenes I've ever read.
I haven't even begun to do this book justice. Go ahead and buy it. You know you want to.