Destiny of the Sword by J Jones. Book review

destinyDESTINY OF THE SWORD by J Jones, Netherworld Books, p/b, £6.99, www.netherworldbooks.com

Reviewed by K Stevens

Teren Rad, one-time war hero, lives alone in the peaks of the mountains of Remada, tormented by the guilt of his previous failings. It takes the arrival of two assassins and the news that the village where his children are living under the guardianship of his brother has been attacked by bandits and many of the young women, including one of his daughters, have been taken to be sold as slaves, to bring him down from his solitary life. Meanwhile, his estranged son Eryn sets off after the bandits, determined to rescue the women, notably his sister and his fiancée.

But the bandits are only a small problem: the Delarian armies are crossing Remada’s unguarded borders and only Teren, Eryn and their comrades have a chance of protecting the city of Vangor; once the city falls, the army will sweep south through the undefended and unprepared land.

You may guess from the plot summary that this book follows the heroic fantasy path of hero(es) chasing bad guys across a fantasy landscape, running into other potential heroes and danger along the way, and you’d be pretty much right. This is very much your standard fantasy fare, with many of the familiar archetypes making an appearance: old hero taking on one last quest, the young man whose journey marks his coming of age, the loyal soldier dismissed by his liege, the warrior monk, and if I told you the new king of Remada is a foolish young man who spends his money on balls and fripperies rather than building up his armies and patrolling the borders, you wouldn’t be surprised, would you?

There’s nothing wrong with archetypes or familiar scenarios in fantasy (I’d argue they’re impossible to avoid and actually a good thing) and this is a solid addition to the genre, competently told. The emphasis is very much on action, with battles and skirmishes taking place in virtually every chapter.

Unfortunately the book does have some problems: the grammar is pretty bad throughout, and the battle scenes in the first part of the book are actually hampered by their too long description which makes the action feel painfully slow, but by the second half of the book the author had settled down to less graphic fights and the action moved along at a faster pace.

I think J Jones’ biggest problem, however, is that the basic premise of his story has been done many times before. I was strongly reminded of Legend by David Gemmell, throughout, and if you’re up against one of the all-time great writers of heroic fantasy you’re going to be compared unfavourably. Destiny of the Sword is a decent enough read, and I’ve no doubt fans of action-heavy heroic fantasy will enjoy it, but for me it just didn’t have the spark that would’ve kept me reading into the early hours, desperate to find out what happened next.