Christopher Sinclair goes out for a walk on a mild Arizona evening and never comes back. He stumbles into a freezing winter under an impossible night sky, where magic is real — but bought at a terrible price.
A misplaced act of decency lands him in a brawl with an arrogant nobleman and puts him under a death sentence. In desperation he agrees to be drafted into an eternal war, serving as a priest of the Bright Lady, Goddess of Healing. But when Marcius, god of war, offers the only hope of a way home to his wife, Christopher pledges to him instead, plunging the church into turmoil and setting him on a path of violence and notoriety.
To win enough power to open a path home, this mild-mannered mechanical engineer must survive duelists, assassins, and the never-ending threat of monsters, with only his makeshift technology to compete with swords and magic.
But the gods and demons have other plans. Christopher’s fate will save the world… or destroy it.
September is turning out to be a rather good month for fantasy. Between The Mirror Empire, City of Stairs and now Sword of the Bright Lady, fans looking for something that feels free have plenty of options to choose from – and certainly at least one (it not more) will satisfy that itch.
At the core of it, Sword of the Bright Lady is a tale of a modern man stuck in an decidedly unmodern world. We never see the act that brought him to Prime, nor does he find his home in this book either, as one might expect of a series. That said, it will be interesting to see if he ever does get a chance to go, if he would – for all that he misses his wife, his impact on Prime has been so fantastic, and his world so changed that I can’t imagine his character returning to a desk job as an engineer when all is said and done. And that’s a good thing, because it means that I bought into his character growth.
At its core, it’s a story of a man trying to prepare to fight for a war that is more or less a death sentence, and fighting with what he does have – his knowledge as an engineer, knowledge of modern weaponry and a wee bit of magic that he picked up by pledging to Marcius. Ultimately, Christopher is an agent of change, taking these villages that we’d see as fairly sleepy and backward and dragging them into the modern era, skipping over bayonets and muskets and heading straight for civil-war era rifles. His ideas are often seen as absurd, but he is known as well-meaning and change, as they say, is inevitable.
There is action in this book, but it truly is a story of people. If anything, my major fault lay in the battle at the end of the book when there are suddenly trolls and goblins and giants roaming about. Yes, there’s magic in this world, but these creatures aren’t even really seen until this point, so it does feel a bit jarring.
Still, I really like the cast of characters that Planck has gathered together – from Christopher himself, to Karl, a commoner soldier, to the various figures from the Church and even some of the knights they meet. Planck does a good job of slowly exposing Christopher (and ourselves) to the world at large, but manages to do so in a way that is neither too slow, nor is a giant text dump. Finally, even as the book approaches its climax, we get reminders of the modern man that Christopher is – I found myself rather amused at a comment about commuting on horseback. It’d normally be jarring, but it works well here.
Overall, it’s a nice twist on more traditional fare without straying too too far out of the genre (it’s easily the most traditional of the three books referenced in this review) if say, City of Stairs doesn’t sound like your cuppa.
Give it a shot. It’s a good read, and I’ll be checking out the sequel
Verdict: Buy It
Available: September 9th