“Aron of Darien, raised in exile after his homeland is conquered by a treacherous warlord, makes his way in the world on the strength of his wits and skill with a sword. Both are sorely tested when he is impressed into the service of the Earl of Nandor to rescue his heir from captivity in the fortress of Sarazan. The rescue goes awry. Aron and his companions are betrayed and must flee for their lives. Pursued by steel and magic, they find new friends and old enemies on the road that leads, after many turns, to the city of the High King. There Aron must face his father’s murderer before risking everything in a fight to the death with the deadliest swordsman in the kingdom.”
I flew through this book pretty quickly, and would have finished it all the faster were it not for a lengthy game of D&D and other commitments along the way. Not that it was short, at around 270-ish pages it was just about right. The book is more or less an adventure tale with a young adult protagonist, I enjoyed the way Aron’s character developed over the length of the story following his various trials and tribulations. His growth as a swordsman and as a person are a joy to watch, I feel the need to point out that whilst on paper the book sounds a little PG-13 there are rather a large amount of dark and bloody moments. That said they are all weaved into the plot and entirely necessary the violence is not forced or over the top. The book has a great way of luring you in with it’s layered approach to revealing characters, like a flow unfolding we learn little by little more and more about the plot and the people that drive it.
The characters are well written and whilst the book is not an epic saga they very quickly grow on you, not just the good ones either. The villains in this book are vile and whilst you might hate them, you’ll love to do so. I have to make a point of the simple brilliance of the opening of the book, the tension gradually builds into the first of many swordfights in the series and it introduces and frames Aron as the academy trained swordsman who goes onto get into a lot more fights throughout. The fights themselves are gritty and intense in a way that only swordfighting can be, a nick here, a cut there, a riposte and a witty remark. The romance in the book adds another level to Aron’s character and makes him feel a lot more relatable, the humour in the book mostly brought on by Davo the books lovable rogue is brilliant and had me clutching my sides more than once.
I can’t think of anything else to say really this is a thoroughly enjoyable read and has been compared by many to Gemmell, a statement I would echo. To wrap up I would definitely endorse this book and suggest it to anyone looking for a nice manageable slice of Grimdark that is well worth picking up. Sequels are as far as I know in the works and I can’t wait to get my teeth into them, well done Martin.
Treat yourself ladies and gents it’s a bloody good read.