Fantasy Mystery Comics Non-Fiction Fiction

By the Sword

Friday, June 15, 2018

By the Sword (1991) Mercedes Lackey

It’s been decades since I last read this book. Partially because I haven’t been much in the mood for straight-up fantasy, partially because I didn’t have it as an ebook, and partially because I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to my memories of it.

Kerowyn is the granddaughter of the sorceress Kethry, and has been keeping her family’s house since the death of her mother. An attack on the family that leaves Kerowyn one of the few able-bodied sends her on a rescue mission that changes her life forever.

This story is in three parts: first, the rescue that changes Kerowyn’s life and her martial training; second, her time as a mercenary and her meeting with the Herald Eldan; and finally her time as Captain and the war she becomes involved in.

So, how did the story hold up? Much better than I feared. The things I loved about the story are just as I remember them, first and foremost how sensible the more mundane parts of war and training are presented.

They were alert, they were armed with the kind of weapons they were most familiar with, and they looked determined. The boys had slings and bows; the old men, spears and crossbows; the women, knives, scythes, and threshing flails.

It takes Kero years of hard work to learn her fighting skills, even though she is deemed to be a natural talent–and that hard work included studying strategy and how supply lines work.

Although Kero is a mercenary, battle is not glorified, but presented as a dirty, unpleasant, and dangerous task full of waiting and uncomfortableness, including baking in the heat and freezing in the cold.

And having studied strategy, Kero uses her company in a way that works to their strengths, and tries to avoid their weaknesses.

When Kero had explained, as delicately as possible, her Company’s other specialty, Selenay had given her another pleasant surprise. “You mean you’re saboteurs?” she’d exclaimed with delight. “A whole Company of dirty tricksters? Bright Astera, why didn’t you say that before? For Haven’s sake, if anyone questions your tactics, send them to me, I’ll back you!”

That doesn’t mean there weren’t weaknesses–for as much research and work as put into the warfare, this bit hurt my head.

Definitely not natural. Those are fresh apples, pear season is over, grapes are ripe, but cherries won’t be for another moon, and apples don’t ripen until fall.

Apples, pears, and grapes are all ripe August to October, while cherries are ripe late spring to early summer. It’s a stupid nit to pick, but it really bothered me, since it’s just so wrong; I suppose it’s the disadvantage of modern grocery stories and fruit being available all seasons.

But aside from that, it really was fun to revisit the story, and discover that what I had remembered as liking so much was as strong as I remembered–especially for a book published in the very early 1990s.
Rating: 8/10

Publisher: DAW

Categories: 8/10, Fantasy, Female, Re-Read, Sword & Sorcery     Comments (0)    

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