Review: The Sworn by Gail Z Martin

The Sworn

Fallen Kings #1

Written: Gail Z. Martin [website]

Published: February 3rd, 2011

Publisher: Orbit

ISBN: 1841499137

Obtained via: NetGalley

Blurb (via GoodReads.com): As plague and famine scourge the winter kingdoms, a vast invasion force is mustering from beyond the northern seas. And at its heart, a dark spirit mage wields the blood magic of ancient, vanquished gods.

Summoner-King Martris Drayke must attempt to meet this great threat, gathering an army from a country ravaged by civil war. Neighboring lands reel toward anarchy while plague decimates their leaders. Drayke must seek new allies from among the living – and the dead –- as an untested generation of rulers face their first battle.

Then someone disturbs the legendary Dread as they rest in a millennia-long slumber beneath sacred barrows. Their warrior guardians, the Sworn, know the Dread could be pivotal as a force for great good or evil. But if it’s the latter, could even the Summoner-King’s sorcery prevail?

The Sworn is Book One of The Fallen Kings Cycle, and it picks up the adventures of Tris, Jonmarc and the Winter Kingdoms gang six months after the end of Dark Lady’s Chosen. There are all new challenges, lots of dark magic and the biggest threat Margolan has faced in 400 years.

My Review:

The Sworn is the first book in a new series featuring the Winter Kingdoms and all our old friends fromChronicles of the Necromancer plus a few extras. It’s being advertised as the perfect place for new readers to start, and I agree that one could pick up the series here. However, I’m not entirely sure that this is thebest place to start.

We’ve got problems new and old in this story: there’s something odd with the infant heir to Margolan, the Divisionists in Isencroft are continuing to cause problems,  the Black Robes are still trying to raise the old gods – this time by disturbing the Dread, a mysterious noise is driving the hedge witches of the Winter Kingdoms mad, and the traitor Alvior is rumored to be on his way back home accompanied by an invasion fleet from across the Northern Sea. Maybe worst of all are the indications that there is a dark summoner walking the world, one who could be worse than Lemuel and the Obsidian King together.

The Sworn is a great addition to the world of the Winter Kingdoms. Fans will be thrilled to see Tris, Kiara (Can you guess that Kiara is my favorite?), Jonmarc and the others again, and it’s just as exciting to see new faces. I thought the story was engaging and Gail Z Martin certainly has a knack for creating interesting worlds and merging multiple mythologies together into a cohesive whole. What other book can you think of that has necromancers, ghosts, and mages along with vampires and werewolves, all set in a sword-and-sorcery type of world?

That said, I don’t know if The Sworn would be quite as engaging to the new reader as The Summoner (first book in The Chronicles of the Necromancer series) was for me. I’m frankly worried that a married Tris, a pregnant Kiara, and Jonmarc Vahanion as a father-to-be won’t capture the attention the way a palace coupe, a caravan of slave traders, and an army of the dead did for me. While a new reader can pick up here and not be confused, I feel they also would be missing out on the bulk of the story. If you’re considering this series, do yourself a favor and go back to The Summoner to start. I can’t imagine a single person who would prefer to just “skip to the end” this way. If it’s worth reading (and I believe it is), it’s worth reading the whole story. Don’t short-change yourself.

[xrr rating=3.5/5 imageset=default]