It has been a while since I have read fantasy, a pure fantasy book. I am glad I picked this one.
Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords is the tale of disenchantment, redemption, and realisation. The characters are different from each other in the most apparent of ways yet share a few unexplored similarities. They are linked to each other in unexpected but opportune moments.
Arturo/Starving Pup is an idealistic young man seeking glory in the company of Bravadoris, legendary warriors who are known for their might and courage. Word of mouth has given rise to the myth of their great hearts, and our young aspiring hero wants to share that greatness. Coming from a privileged background, Arturo had practically taught himself the art of sword fighting, and despite his secure future and his family’s lack of faith in his ambition, he sets off to Espadapan, the city of the legendary swordsmen called Bravadori.
Bravadoris turn out to be nothing but bullies who waste their time fighting each other instead of slaying monsters or making daring rescues. Arturo keeps making himself think there is some residual sense of honour and chivalry in the supposed heroes and takes a farmer seeking assistance to them. He desires the fame of a hero and realisation is the gift he receives for all his effort.
Yizel, a shaven-head (yes) Shavan, is a miserable woman who lives on scraps of filthy jobs thrown unto her by Bravadoris, becomes Arturo’s most reliable ally by saving his life when the brave Bravadoris leave him for dead. She is highly inspired by Arturo’s heartfelt speech on duties and responsibilities of a warrior and volunteers her sword feeling the pride of doing some good without the lure of money for once. Her secret of shame and heartbreak his hers to bear and she has long accepted her fate. She seeks redemption.
Crazy Raccoon, a disgraced and hence disgruntled Bravadori, is the last one to join the company. He is in because he wants to create a legend for himself, so his people are forced to take him back. He has a secret he needs to cover up again with some fantastic tale of valour to modify the memories of his kin who have shunned him in his weakest moment by betrayal and mockery. He craves for false glory and retribution.
So, a fake hero and a warrior of tarnished repute ride on the young Arturo’s utopia and begin the journey of adventure, quests, and nearly mortal combats with creatures of darkness, fantasy, and myth. Most Bravadori have ‘knacks’ or special magical ability that enhance their skill in combat. Part of the book shows flashbacks revealing each one’s knack.
This crazy company travels to the Wildlands with a farmer to assist the village in thwarting bandit attack and come across Cadejo/demon dog, the Black Shepherdess with her ash-zombie army, and almost near the creepy many-mouthed Mistress, Goddess worshipped by the Wildland people.
The story, very much like the main characters, is made of flesh and blood and tears. You dream with them, feel their pain, and burn in shame and impotent rage, as you walk beside them hurt, shunned, and mocked by the very people who are expected to protect you. Arturo’s broken faith, Yizel’s longing for lost glory, Crazy Raccoon’s schemes of securing his future, are as real as fantastic is the demon dog, the ash-monsters, and the Mistress of the Wilds.
The best-written scenes are encounters with the monsters. I enjoyed the vivid imagery (check out the paragraph where a rising storm of dust is described and the very cinematic climax) and a modern prose. I found the use of swear-words by the foul-mouthed characters essential and admirably appropriate (I am so polite!).
What left me whining was a particular point when the battle was at its peak, and I was about to fall off my chair out of an anxiety attack, another piece of legend came up. As excellent were each of the short legends/lore, this one ticked me off for a minute. What did impress me was how quickly the pace and tone were picked up right after. I loved each of the shorts on myths of Bravadori, history of ash-monsters, flashbacks of our heroes, and the overall mix of the timeline that never lost clarity in the process. POV shifts were smooth, and the overlaps gave us interesting insight and angles on the main storyline. The pace change was comfortable, interluding the action-heavy scenes with tales of the old never taxing the reader.
Did I mention what a fast read this one is?
If you like the good old combination of myth, lore, quest-like adventure in your fantasy with dark human nature that reflects in Gods and monsters alike, and you think you can appreciate seeing farmers braver than heroes, heroes weaker than those who look up to them, this is your book. Tales within a tale with artful storytelling, the rich imagery of setting, and excellent characterisation makes Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords one of the best written and well-presented independently published fantasy books I have read.
If I have noticed any minor grammar issues (can’t specify honestly), I believe might have been changed by now as I had borrowed the book from Kindle Unlimited the very day I received the newsletter announcement for publication.
Don’t draw your blade in the City of Swords, unless you’re willing to kill… or ready to die.
Young and filled with idealistic fervour, Arturo packs his blade and travels to the fabled City of Swords in the hopes of joining the dashing Bravadori. Yet upon arriving he discovers these masked vigilantes have more in common with brutal thugs than noble monster slayers. Disillusioned and mocked, he stubbornly refuses to give up his dreams.
When an impending bandit attack threatens untold depravities upon a distant village, and no others will heed the call for help, Arturo joins forces with a worthless outcast and a walking legend to attempt the impossible, to traverse the demon-haunted wilderness and prove that in the City of Swords, true heroes can rise from the unlikeliest of places.
Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords is a gritty, action-packed standalone novel set in Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld, a land where folktales and fantasy mix, where the monsters from stories are real.
Series: Yarnsworld #3
Kindle Edition, 303 pages
Published October 17th, 2017, self-published/indie