Did Not Finish: The Tattered Banner (Society of the Sword #1)



The Tattered Banner placed 8th on BuzzFeed’s 12 Greatest Fantasy Books Of The Year, 2013.

Unique talent always attracts attention…

In a world where magic is outlawed, ability with a sword is prized above all else. For Soren this means the chance to live out his dreams.

Plucked from a life of privation, he is given a coveted place at Ostenheim’s Academy of Swordsmanship, an opportunity beyond belief.

Opportunity is not always what it seems however, and gifts rarely come without conditions. Soren becomes an unwitting pawn in a game of intrigue and treachery that could cost him not just his dreams, but also his life.


If I have learned a lesson from starting this book, it is that I will probably skip the 2014 version of BuzzFeed’s 12 Greatest Fantasy Books. This place is not great fantasy. It isn’t even good fantasy. It’s so dull that I couldn’t even finish it. Why?

I feel nothing for Soren.


Soren faces no challenges in this book. A merchant tries to beat him for thieving. A noble who is witnessing the event doesn’t call for the security in the area, but instead decides to sponsor him to attend the Academy of Swordsmanship. Soren is years older than the average incoming student? No problem! The noble never sponsors anyone, so they just make an exception. Not only do they make an exception, but they go on ahead and skip him several years ahead just so he can be with kids his own age, letting him conveniently skip over a year so difficult it causes more than half the students to wipe out. He’s unnaturally gifted in swordsmanship, able to learn years of technique in a matter of months. He has some kind of gift that hasn’t been seen in ages. A challenge presents itself and it is neatly resolved, often in the same chapter. Meanwhile, the author has managed to make Soren devoid of personality. You don’t like him, you don’t hate him, he just exists.

Aside from this rather insurmountable issue, the book also needed another pass by an editor for both logic and grammar. For example, when he goes to this school, Soren is illiterate, as you might expect of a commoner from this pseudo-Renaissance world. He doesn’t want to get kicked out of the school so tries (and fails) to hide it. This school is open to all, and his past is known, shouldn’t the teachers have expected this? Furthermore, the stable master clearly has no issue teaching him the fundamentals of horsemanship because he knows that Soren wouldn’t have had an opportunity to ride thereby undermining this notion that his lack of literacy would have been enough to get him kicked out. Why didn’t one of the adults just sneer at him and go “I bet you can’t read, can you?” then they could have moved right along. Furthermore, this fundamental lack of skills makes his being skipped ahead that much more ridiculous. He hadn’t even shown any great talent when they did it, they did so just because. What academy of such a supposedly prestigious nature is going to matriculate a student that lacks the expected skills of their place of learning just because he started a little bit late?

On the grammar side we have some clunky sentence structures and descriptions and some poor word choices. I hereby ban authors from using the word “irony” or “ironic” if they don’t actually understand what it is. It isn’t ironic that a conquering people would use the facilities of the conquered. Generally speaking, at least half the point of taking over another country/kingdom/planet is that you want what they have. Why tear down a perfectly good training facility if you can use it?

All told we have a boring character in a book with prose so prosaic that you can’t get invested. Unfortunately there isn’t anything that is interesting enough or unique enough to try and keep fighting to go ahead. Save your $4 and find something else to read.


One thought on “Did Not Finish: The Tattered Banner (Society of the Sword #1)

  1. I simply disagree. The author uses classic “show, don’t tell” methods when giving is a picture of Soren and his universe. Yes, Soren is gifted-that goes without saying-he is after all, the hero of the story. Don’t overlook the many episodes where he is starving, unclothed, improperly dressed or not prepared, underrepresented etc. the author doesn’t obsess over these details because they are obvious. Poor background and many struggles gives us our hero. And he is lovely!

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