Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A wizard, a soldier, and an assassin walk into a bar …
Wizard Sylvain has just recently arrived in Abelia, the large capital of the Firmiana Duchy. He’s hot, tired and just wants a drink before going up to his rooms. Soldier Ashe is at a table nearby wanting to enjoy her food and friendly banter with the bar owner. Assassin Niklas is situated right in the middle, with an agenda of his own and hopes not to be interfered with. Alas, once the trouble starts and it seems that Niklas has been ganged up on, then Sylvain and Ashe just naturally jump into the fray with sword and sorcery at hand.
But quickly things go awry as Sylvain accidentally sets the bar on fire and the culprits escape. No one has any money to pay for the damages they caused. With the Duchy’s guards at the door, and gold needed to repair the damage to the hotel and bar, the wizard, the assassin, and the warrior team up (it was their fault after all) to earn the money they required to keep them out of the jail and maybe make them even solvent. But the mission they were hired for will take them into the Deadlands and in order to survive, the three will have to become a team to contend with. What happens when a wizard, an assassin and a soldier combine and become something much more than any of them expected….
When a story opens with a tongue in cheek reference to a long-standing bar joke, I just knew I was in for a rollicking great time and Mina MacLeod’s Swords, Sorcery & Sundry delighted me at every turn. How I loved this story and MacLeod’s characters! From the very premise,three disparate people meet in a bar and bonding over a combined debt, I was hooked. And I stayed that way to the end of this adventure and the possibility of a series. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Swords, Sorcery and Sundry is that wonderful and rare story that be listed either as a YA book or M/M Romance, an element that was intentional on the author’s part. That is due largely because it is a story about the tight bonds of friendship first, and then the beginnings of a m/m romance between two of the friends secondly. But always it is the ties of friendship that guides them and forms them into a family of sorts as well as a business.
Mina MacLeod has created some very charismatic characters for her story. At first we are as much of a stranger to them as they are to each other. Then believably that changes as a financial debt none can pay forces them to work together. I love watching the characters open up and reveal parts of themselves and their stories as the mission continues. It felt both fantastical and realistic. As the story progresses so does the friendship go from one of expediency to one of choice and close fellowship, the bonds shifting from the shallow need of a combined debt to deep sense of comradeship and closeness.
All of the characters are both strong, equal in their own powers and talents, and open about their chances of success and pasts. This turns out to be a close-knit group of friends. Ashe, the women, is an amazing swords person and warrior. Trust me, she needs no champion here, she is the champion. She is sarcastic, smart, easy in her own skin, and doesn’t need a man to make her life fulfilling (although she doesn’t mind one on the side). Nor does she fall in love with either of her friends. What a relief! A marvelous character you will connect with immediately no matter what manner of adventures or goings on she is involved in. Sylvain is a wizard, from the Muscari Aucheri kingdom of wizardry. He is the first of the trio we meet as he forlornly enters Abelia on foot, having sold his precious mare to get the funds needed to eat and find room. No longer in good standing at the Wizard Academy (no spoilers zone), he is at loose ends when he arrives at The Beckoning Siren Inn. Disheveled, tired and thirty, it is still easy to see that Sylvain is a good compassionate man, haunted by his past but ready to move forward but where? I loved Sylvain because while he has power, he is not a powerful presence and doesn’t dominate the proceedings or the other friends. And then there is Niklas Valconaire, an assassin of great skill and little desire to be an assassin. The dichotomy that is Niklas continues throughout the story. A tender killer, a shadow of death that covets life. And Niklas is well aware of the handsome wizard he is traveling with. Niklas is the one character whose past is still waiting to be revealed whereas Ashe and Sylvain’s histories will become known by the end of their story.
There is a m/m romance here. It’s sweet and gentle, even given the participants. A first true relationship for both,and neither wants it to impede their friendship. So a dance begins between them that lasts the journey and the end of this tale. But as I stated, their romance is a side issue, its the friendship that blossoms between them as they learn they can counter on each other to have their backs and support when needed. Also a good joke, a flagon of wine, and perhaps even a lovely replacement mare, these are friends at ease with one another no matter the setting or situation they find themselves in. That’s the best element of this story and reason alone to buy this book.
MacLeod has created a vivid, magical landscape for her friends to journey through. It’s fraught full with the living dead, familiars, evil rulers and yes, corrupt businessman. Not even fantasy can let us escape those. And along for the journey is the new company born out of need and finalized in camaraderie. Swords, Sorcery & Sundry, a name picked by Ashe to Sylvain’s disgruntlement and Niklas’ amusement as a way to sell their talents as a group. As Sylvain is quick to point out time and again, he is not a sorcerer but a wizard. But as Ashe remarks that doesn’t make a snappy title for their business and so a new venture is born. And a series as well.
At the end of 330 pages, I still wanted their adventures together to continue. I wanted more of their snark and funny dialogs, more of the surprises that are revealed along with new talents, and more of the marvelous friendship exhibited by all three. Luckily for us all, Mina MacLeod is turning this story and characters into a series, Edges & Embers. I can’t wait to see what new escapades and dangers will befall them. All I know is that my expectations are as high as my excitement over this series and a new author to love. Consider Swords, Sorcery and Sundry (well you can’t very well advertise Assassinations can you?) a must read and highly recommended story. I think you will love it as much as I do.
Cover art by Le Burden Design. I am a fan of the old cover design favored here. Lovely job.
ebook, 330 pages
Published May 21st 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original titleSwords, Sorcery, and Sundry