By Cassandra Clare
- Sword Catcher
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Tor Books
- ISBN: 9780525619994
- Published: October 2023
- Pages: 597
- Format reviewed: Paperback
- Review date: 10/10/2023
- Language: English
You are probably a fantasy fan if you are reading a review of this fantasy book. As fans we love the genre, but even we can admit that plenty of the tropes are well trodden and to standout a new fantasy series is going to have to be something different. Sword Catcher by Cassandra Clare opens with a reluctant orphan being taken from their orphanage to start a life of adventure. It does not come more basic fantasy than that, but in Clare we trust. In the hands of a lesser writer, the story could be cliché, in the hands of Clare, it is a joy.
One day Kel is taken from the orphanage to the Palace for one reason only. He looks a little like the Crown Prince. With the use of a magical amulet, he is made to look even more so to the point that only the prince’s most close allies could tell the difference. Kel passes this test as a child and sets out on a new life as the Prince’s Sword Catcher, the stand in for the prince should the situation be too dangerous. Kel will grow up in a world of privilege, alongside royalty, but never royal. Will his loyalties to the prince expand to that of the country when they are tested?
As someone who reads a lot of fantasy, I know that there are many ways to write the genre. There is high fantasy, or low. You can have a trope of characters or choose one or two to follow. The politics and magic of the world will determine the story. The closest thing that I can place Sword to is the equivalent of a fantastical Bridgerton. A world of royalty and manners, but also of intrigue. The handsome haves and the rest of us. The prince should be a character that we despise with his privileged upbringing and lack of empathy, but as we view the story from the loyal Kel, we sympathise with the prince in his gilded cage.
Kel is the driving force of the story and the main character, but it does not feel like your typical coming of age fantasy story. We leap quickly to Kel’s early 20s and the book remains there. Clare gives the world time to breath. We learn about the Palace on the hill, but also the lower streets where a different type of king reigns. With Kel’s modest childhood and advancement in the court, he can live in both worlds.
There is another character who is given around a third of the story to themselves. Lin Caster is an Ashkar and a physician. Her race means that she is mistrusted, and her sex means that she is undermined. Her forthright attitude gets her further in life and further in trouble. Between Kel and Lin, there is enough fire and passion to change kingdoms.
What you notice about Sword is that it is a well written book. The pacing feels smooth, and you get to know the characters, without it being bogged down. There is not as much bloodshed and battles as many fantasy novels, but you are drawn in by the politics of the court and the fates of both Kel and Lin. When there is death to be dished, the book does take a leaf out of A Game of Thrones and things become bloody.
I very much enjoyed the change of feel and pace that Sword Catcher brings to the fantasy genre. A book that has only two main characters but uses them to full effect to explore the world and people around them. It is a low fantasy book, with some violence, sex, and language, but not as dark as many of the recent crop I have read. This is a fantasy novel for someone who wants to become involved with its characters and really explore the world through their eyes.
Written on 10th October 2023 by Sam Tyler .