Book: Sasha by Joel Shepherd
Stand Alone or Series: Trial of Blood & Steel #1
Genre: FantasyBuy A Copy: Amazon | Book Depository
Publication Date: Originally 2007, reprint published October 27th, 2009Publisher: PYRHow Did I Get This Book: From Publisher, For ReviewFirst Line: “Sasha circled, a light shift and slide of soft boots on compacted earth.”Description: SASHA IS A FIGHTER, THE LIKE OF WHICH THE HIGHLAND COUNTRY OF LENAYIN HAS NEVER SEEN.
Spurning her royal heritage to be raised by the great warrior, Kessligh, her exquisite swordplay astonishes all who witness it. But Sasha is still young, untested in battle and often led by her rash temper. In the complex world of Lenayin loyalties, her defiant wilfulness is attracting the wrong kind of attention.
Lenayin is a land almost divided by its two faiths: the Verenthane of the ruling classes and the pagan Goeren-yai, amongst whom Sasha now lives. The Goeren-yai worship swordplay and honour and begin to see Sasha as the great spirit the Synnich who will unite them. But Sasha is still searching for what she believes and must choose her side carefully.
When the Udalyn people -- the symbol of Goeren-yai pride and courage -- are attacked, Sasha will face her moment of testing. How will she act? Is she ready to lead? Can she be the saviour they need her to be?
Sasha is a bit of an oddity, it is hard to place it in a specific genre. It is almost a young adult coming of age story, but not quite. it has the feel, setting and sound of a fantasy story, but there are no elements of magic and no fantastic creatures in sight.
Sasha is the apprentice of great swordsman Kessligh, daughter of the King and a woman of her own making. She simply does not care what others thing, she follows her own heart and mind and thinks little of the consequences her actions bring. I thought Sasha was an exceptional character. She isn’t perfect; she certainly has her faults, but that only makes her more intriguing. She does a great deal of growing up over the course of the story, mostly because she is forced to.
I loved all of the characters, mainly Sasha and Jayrd; a young heir to the lordship of Tyree. I was a particular fan of their relationship; theirs was a great friendship to watch unfold. At the start of the book they are both weary of one another, but as time progresses, they begin to understand, respect and enjoy one another.
I always struggle with high fantasy novels, trying to keep the names of different things straight. Now, like I said I always struggle a bit with these novels, but I thought my brain might explode while reading Sasha. There are an absolute plethora of characters and many of the names look and sound a lot of like. For example there is Terjellyn, Teriyan, Tarynt, Captain Tyrun, Lord Tymeth Pelyn, Tarryn, Lord Rashyd, Lord Rydysh, Lord Krayliss and Kessligh. I could keep going, but I think you get the idea. Do you see why I got a bit confused? To help with this, there is a series of maps and a complete list of characters with their nationality and brief description – a sort of cheat-sheet chart in the beginning of the book. I found myself flipping back to this a lot during the first half of the book, while I was still putting things together in my head. It got to be a bit distracting, but at least it helped me piece together exactly what was happening. I am not going to lie to you, I began to just keep reading through it, in hopes that I got the general idea. There are still parts, mainly dealing with the politics that I know went over my head. The characters and their relationships, on the other hand, are easy to follow and I wanted to understand them. But when the book went on a rampage about the intricate details of each territories' political standings and ambitions, I began to fog over. I understand that the author wanted to develop a complete world, but I think he went a bit overboard with the heavy things. For me, it definitely took away from the book – I enjoyed the characters enough to trudge through all the political mumbo-jumbo, but that might not be the case with every reader. This was a long book, I have no idea what the word count is, but there are 421 large pages (this is a huge paperback book) with tiny writing.
Although I had a few issues with the book I did enjoy it. Honestly, the characters were fascinating, entertaining and well-developed. The overall storyline was also remarkably well done. A great deal happens throughout the first book, but a lot of plot line is also setup for the sequel. Most of the characters go through a game changing event – so I am eager to see how they all deal with their new circumstances and outlooks on the world.
"Be careful of Master Jaryd – I know you derive great joy from boxing the ears of stuck-up young idiots like him, and I sympathize.”
“In such disputes of power, it’s always the knife you can’t see that kills you.”
“She’s just a girl,” Jaryd said shortly. "How much trouble can she cause?"
“The more powerful men are, the stupider they become.”
“I cannot control what people say about me!’ Sasha snapped. “I am who I am!”
“Silence, then. She stood amidst the gruesome, human carnage she had wrought, and looked about. She felt amazingly calm. Sound seemed to come at her as though from underwater. Colours appeared strange, almost tactile. The black smoke roiling above seemed impossibly black, and ominous. The blood that spurted and flooded about her boots was the deepest, reddest of reds she’d ever seen. She swung slowly in her stance, a sliding pivot in the centre of the dirt courtyard between neighbouring buildings and the burning hall. Behind, guardsmen were staring at her. blades limp at their sides, paused as if halted midrush, having come to her aid but finding themselves far too late for assistance.”
“Jayrd, you’re… you’re such an arrogant, pighead… man!” It was, for the moment, the worst insult she could think of.”