#SPFBO Review : The Sword of Kaigen (Theonite) by M.L. Wang

SowrdofKaigenThe Sword of Kaigen is my final book of the SPFBO competition and my last review.  Purely by coincidence this was the book that I drew to read last in my random selection and It worked out well leaving me with a good note to conclude the competition on.

I’ve had a little time to reflect on this one, I enjoyed it but I confess it’s not exactly what I expected when I picked it up, which is of course completely on me.  I usually dive straight into my books with as little knowledge beforehand as possible and so with that in mind and given the title I think I was expecting the tale of a hero saving the day – and of course whilst there is war here, the discovery of a hero is not really the main focus of the story.  In fact I would say this is a book about coming to terms with who you are and the choices you’ve made, a book of regrets and emotions and realising, in some cases a little too late, that what you have in front of you is sometimes as good as what you left behind.  Okay, that probably sounds a little tamer than this is so I’ll move on with the review.  Oh, I would also say at this point that this book does contain some triggers so be aware of that.

This is a story  with two central characters Mamoru’s and his mother Misaki.

Mamoru is 14 years old and has been brought up with great expectations of becoming a warrior and protecting his home like all the Matsuda warriors that came before him.   The Matsuda family live on a remote peninsula on the edge of the Kaigenese Empire.  They are powerful warriors  who wield magic to form blades of ice and other creatures that make up the first line of defence for the Empire.  The Sword of Kaigen, as this little piece of land has become known is like a step back in time.  While the rest of the world has moved on apace Kaigen feels like stepping into the past.  This is a small village that lives on tradition and respect and the warriors have a feel of the last Samurai, proud and fierce.  This did throw me a little at first, I couldn’t understand why things hadn’t moved on for this little village, but having thought about it I’ve travelled to plenty of places which were similar and didn’t rely on technological advances and the like.

Mamoru’s mother Misaki is a young woman trapped in a cold marriage of convenience.  More than that, not only does she abide in a loveless marriage but she has regrets.   Misaki has known love before but left it behind along with her fighting days.   She is now a mother first and foremost, the violence of her past a distant memory even if she still longs for the thrill of the fight.

I’m not going to go into the plot too much.  Plenty of other reviews have made an admirable job of doing so already.  Simply know that war is brewing and the Empire and Kaigen are unaware and unprepared.  No matter how fierce these warriors are, how strong their heritage and magic, they are going to face their toughest trial.  And yet this isn’t the be-all-end-all of what this book is about.

Okay, so, I do have a few issues and I’m going to get them out of the way before I move on.

Firstly, the start is overly long and has a lot of exposition.  Obviously the author loves this world and that clearly shines through but it makes for quite slow progress and a feeling of not going very far very fast.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy any of the first 30/40% because I did.  Getting to know the Matsuda’s, observing Mamoru at school with his friends, eventually discovering some shocking truths and let me just say I loved the chapter with the roof cleaning.  That is all.  But, for me, this part of the story needs tightening because in terms of what actually takes place, there is very little and I imagine that this will be distracting for some readers.  With hindsight of course I can now see that the author was helping us to understand her characters but that’s easy to say at this point and I still believe that these chapters need sharpening up.

Now, this getting to know the characters leads to my second point.  Although the opening chapters are a little slow, you know, deep down, that something is rotten in Denmark.  You can sense it.  And, once it arrives it is dramatic to say the least – that isn’t my point right now though.  Everyone who has read this will know where I’m going and may also appreciate that I’m trying not to give away spoilers.  All I can say is that around the 2/3rds mark, whilst all the action was going full pelt, let me say the most unexpected ‘thing’ (for want of a better word) happened.  I was stopped in my tracks.  Even now, I still feel complete shock when I consider it and I don’t know whether the author is just incredibly brave or a little bit reckless or recklessly brave even.  I’ve really given this a lot of thought and writing this review I can’t make my mind up but swing backwards and forwards about how I feel about that incident and would dearly love to discuss it more  but it would be totally wrong to do so here.

Finally, in terms of issues, the final chapters of the book also slow down a little – to be fair I was kind of relieved to have a breather but it was noticeable and so I’m just giving it a little mention.

On the plus side of things, this is really a rather remarkable work now I’ve given my head a shake and left my ill-conceived predetermined notions at the door.  It’s emotional and heartfelt and like I said at the beginning it’s actually got this family focus that is completely unexpected.

The battle scenes and smaller fight scenes are really well described.  It was almost cinematic and I could envision things totally in my mind’s eye.  The smaller fight scenes with Misaki, in fact, were brilliant.  I loved that she isn’t a perfect warrior but uses every trick in the book to win.  There may be honour among thieves but when your life’s on the line you play to win – or Misaki does anyway.  In fact I think Misaki is a great character who really shines in the latter half of this book.

And, I really enjoyed the attention to detail that was given to the village after events – its an aspect of storytelling that is so very often swept over with little regard so it was a refreshing change.

All in all this is a very good read, it has drama, emotion and depth.  The author’s love of this world is abundantly clear and I would definitely like to read more of her work in the future.

Again, with the score I have gone back and forth, I think with some tightening in the earlier chapters and a little polish on the delivery of backstory this could be a 5* read but due to those issues I’ve rated this 8 out of 10

I would like to thank the author for the review copy.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

12 Responses to “#SPFBO Review : The Sword of Kaigen (Theonite) by M.L. Wang”

  1. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Yay, you are done with your spfbo reviews! And this one sounds really good too, I’m going to put it on my list to investigate further!

    • @lynnsbooks

      This was good indeed. I went into it with the wrong expectations but that’s really on me to be fair and once I got my head around things I really settled into the story. It does have a slow start tbh and also suffers a little at the beginning from some very obvious info dumps so you have to bear with it but it’s a very impressive read really.
      Lynn 😀

  2. evelynreads1

    Great review! I’ve heard so many amazing things about this one, really makes me want to read it!

    (www.evelynreads.com)

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s very impressive. I had a few little issues that made the start of the book slower than I would have liked but once things pick up – they really pick up!
      Lynn 😀

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    The setting of this novel looks both fascinating and unusual in the genre, as does your description of the battle scenes as ‘cinematic’, which is always a plus. It would seem that this work only needs some editing work to get better – and I’m so very curious about the incident you mention but can’t talk about…
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, there is a good deal of fascinating and unusual elements to this story and it’s really very well done. A little editing, I think, would make it even better but that’s just me and yes, sorry to be a bit of a tease but I really can’t talk about that incident.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Tammy

    I noticed that this is the final winner this year! Seems like it was a pretty close race😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      It really was – the top three places were up and down even right up to the last day.
      Lynn 😀

  5. waytoofantasy

    Great review, Lynn! I may check this one out eventually since it ended up being the winner – so many great entries this year!

    • @lynnsbooks

      There really was. It was a great competition and an excellent and exciting result. My personal favourite was Blood of Heirs and I’m going to pick up the second as soon as I can.
      Lynn 😀

      • waytoofantasy

        I LOVE Blood of Heirs and may be just a tiny bit sad it didn’t win. If you liked book 1 pretty sure you’ll like book 2. 🙂

      • @lynnsbooks

        Yay, I hope so.
        Lynn 😀

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