Book Review – The Sword and the Dragon

theswordandthedragonThe Sword and the Dragon

Author: M. R. Mathias

Series: The Wardstone Trilogy #1

Genre: Fantasy

Published 2010

Review Copy: Free eBook

Overall Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

Goodreads Description

When the Royal Wizard of Westland poisons the king so that his puppet prince can take the throne and start a continental war, a young squire is forced to run for his life carrying the powerful sword that his dying monarch burdened him with from the death bed.

Two brothers find a magic ring and start on paths to becoming the most powerful sort of enemies, while an evil young sorceress unwillingly falls in love with one of them when he agrees to help her steal a dragon’s egg for her father. Her father just happens to be the Royal Wizard, and despite his daughter’s feelings, he would love nothing more than to sacrifice the boy!

All of these characters, along with the Wolf King of Wildermont, the Lion Lord of Westland, and a magical hawk named Talon, are on a collision course toward Willa the Witch Queen’s palace in the distant kingdom of Highwander. There the very bedrock is formed of the powerful magical substance called Wardstone.

Who are the heroes? And will they get there before the Royal Wizard and his evil hordes do?

Whatever happens, the journey will be spectacular, and the confrontation will be cataclysmic.

Review

The Sword and the Dragon is the first book in The Wardstone Trilogy by M. R. Mathias.  It’s an epic fantasy novel that was actually written while the author was in prison.  Let me just say that this book took a very long time for me to read, but that’s mainly because I read the eBook when I had short bursts of time to read, and because it’s 900 pages long.  It is long!  It’s a classic style fantasy with elves, dwarves, dragons, and giants.  The title, however, seems quite generic, though also boldly stating it’s about a sword and a dragon.  And that it is.  They are two major features of the story.

This book follows three story-lines.  There are two brothers, Hyden and Gerard, as well as the King’s squire Mikahl, as they all go on three separate adventures.  All three are dangerous adventures.  Hyden is joined by the elf Vaegon and he learns about his link with his hawk.  Gerard joins Shaella on her quest to steal an egg from a dragon.  Mikahl is on the run, and trying to protect the great sword Ironspike.  They all seem to have completely separate goals, but in the end, they are all intertwined.  There isn’t a lot of interaction between the three threads in the story until they actually meet up.  You could almost read them as three different stories that have common beginnings and endings.  I found that the writing doesn’t have a lot of polish, like many big fantasy authors have, but it was a reasonably complex story.

The characters are all very well fleshed out.  Hyden is fairly responsible, and in many ways quite wise for his age.  I like his friendship with Vaegon.  The pair make a good team, though they don’t always agree.  Vaegon is an elf with a big problem that he must overcome, but he is able to become a dedicated friend to Hyden and quite heroic.  Gerard is the younger brother of Hyden, and he’s off with the sorceress Shaella.  He’s quite naive and not very bright, I thought.  He’s likeable, but succumbs to his desires, which blind him to the truth.  Mikahl is a squire who discovers he has a bigger past, and proves to be one of the purest and most heroic characters of the story.  He has a very difficult quest, but he’s been prepared with a lot of training.  Pael is the main antagonist, and is absolutely pure evil.  No grey area here.  It’s fine in stories like this, but I just didn’t find he had that much depth.  Shaella, on the other hand, was a much more well-rounded character, and I had no idea where her story would lead.  There are many other characters, but these are the main players.

The world is typical fantasy fare.  We have several kingdoms with areas occupied by different races.  There are great mountain ranges, mythical forests, and many other wonderful places to explore.  And we do explore much of it, as Mathias lets the characters explore almost every corner of these lands.  It is quite rich with cultures and landscapes, which is something I love about fantasy.  There’s also a map available, which helped a lot.

Ultimately, the story and the characters have to deliver.  The Sword and the Dragon has a rich variety of characters and an epic story, though not completely polished.  It feels quite gritty, which is how many more modern fantasy stories are.  I was able to get into the story, but I found an emotional disconnect from most of the characters.  However, I think Vaegon and Mikahl were the most compelling characters.  The story came to a conclusion in a way, though as this is a trilogy, it will continue on in two more books.  And I am very interested in seeing where it goes.

Overall, I would recommend this to epic fantasy fans.  Don’t go into it expecting an amazing story, but it is enjoyable.  I’d give it 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

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