Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: Sword of Fire and Sea by Erin Hoffman

Book: Sword of Fire and Sea by Erin Hoffman
Series: The Chaos Knight #1
Genre: High Fantasy / Adventure
Buy A Copy: Amazon / Book Depository
Available Formats:Ebook / Paperback
Publication Date: June 4th by PYR

How Did I Get This Book: From Publisher, For Review
First Sentence:  "Though the coastal island of Siane's Eye was lush with whispering palms and tropical flowers too exotic for the names of men, the wind that swept ever outward from it's alabaster monuments came chill as a lifetime of penance."
Description: Three generations ago Captain Vidarian Rulorat's great-grandfather gave up an imperial commission to commit social catastrophe by marrying a fire priestess. For love, he unwittingly doomed his family to generations of a rare genetic disease that follows families who cross elemental boundaries. Now Vidarian, the last surviving member of the Rulorat family, struggles to uphold his family legacy, and finds himself chained to a task as a result of the bride price his great-grandfather paid: the Breakwater Agreement, a seventy-year-old alliance between his family and the High Temple of Kara'zul, domain of the fire priestesses.

The priestess Endera has called upon Vidarian to fulfill his family's obligation by transporting a young fire priestess named Ariadel to a water temple far to the south, through dangerous pirate-controlled territory. A journey perilous in the best of conditions is made more so by their pursuers: rogue telepathic magic-users called the Vkortha who will stop at nothing to recover Ariadel, who has witnessed their forbidden rites.

Together, Vidarian and Ariadel will navigate more than treacherous waters: Imperial intrigue, a world that has been slowly losing its magic for generations, secrets that the priestesshoods have kept for longer, the indifference of their elemental goddesses, gryphons—once thought mythical—now returning to the world, and their own labyrinthine family legacies. Vidarian finds himself at the intersection not only of the world's most volatile elements, but of colliding universes, and the ancient and alien powers that lurk between them.
Sword of Fire and Sea by Erin Hoffman was an incredibly exciting and compelling read. Hoffman covers a lot of ground in this debut and the direction changes quite a few times. Yet somehow she manages to keep the story flowing and the reader engaged. You don’t always know where the story is trying to go, but nonetheless, it is still enjoyable. Considering that Sword of Fire and Sea is a relatively short for a fantasy read, Hoffman manages to cram a lot of plot into the 200+ pages. I felt like the book set a challenge and solved and moved on to something new a number of times. Does that make sense to you? The plotline just kept progressing and progressing; therefore the goals of the characters changed throughout the story as well. 

That being said, I never once felt like things dragged. Although the writing is long-winded and descriptive (Hoffman is definitely a fan of complex sentences), she doesn’t go off on unnecessary tangents. A lot of times in fantasies I get overwhelmed by the writing, but that wasn’t a problem here. Yes, the author uses the eloquent, lush and lavish writing style that fantasy readers are used to, but she always stays focused on the topic. You won’t find a two page description of a tree or a rock here. 

The characters were all intriguing and unique in their own way. There is the main character, Vidarian, who fits well in the role of reluctant hero. Then we have the fire priestess Ariadel, who develops a rather defiant rebellious streak. Let’s not forget the gryphons – I instantly took a liking to them. You never really know what to expect from them and they certainly keep things interesting. 

I will say that the relationship between Ariadel and Vidarian threw me a bit. Maybe I just gotten to used to paranormal romances, but I felt the story was really lacking build up. There are a few passages in which Vidarian expresses interest in the priestesses’ appearance, but nothing major. Then, suddenly they are a couple. I enjoyed the two of them together; I just wish their relationship had shown more progression. Although, the apparent jumpiness of their relationship could be attributed to lack of timeline. Honestly, Hoffman may have instituted a timeline, but I had a hard time keeping track. Like I said before, a lot happens within the book and I just completely lost track of time. I don’t know if the events of the book take place over days, week or months. 

Another small issue I had with the book was that some of the dialogue felt out of place. I don’t want to dive too deeply into it, because I don’t want to spoil plot points, but at times the exchanges between characters felt rather odd. There are a few different cases when Hoffman uses modern expressions and slang and they just did not mesh well with tone and feeling of the book. 

I am very curious to see where Hoffman takes the next book. I was incredibly shocked that she wrapped up the ending the way she did, there was quite a bit of resolution. There was a clear opening for the story line to progress, but the characters met the goal they set out to accomplish. How many times does that happen in the first book of a fantasy series? Honestly, I felt like I was getting away with something to get as much plot resolution as we did.

Long story short, I enjoyed Sword of Fire and Sea. It was full of rich, descriptive, yet focused writing - which is hard to come by. The characters and plotline were intriguing and I had a good time reading it. The plotline was fast paced and the characters accomplished a great deal throughout the story. Although it wasn’t perfect, I still say it was a tremendous effort from Hoffman. 

Favorite Quotes 
"Delicate though she may be, the priestess had a strong, firm grip. She was complete and total trouble." 
"Her embrace was flame rushing into being where there had only been ember and tinder, but her lips were warm and real when they reached his."
"It was too much. It was too gods-be-damned much. Vidarian, who had ridden three hurricanes and safety navigated Dead Man's Hook four times without breaking a sweat, fell over in a dead faint."
"Presumably, they instructed all fire priestesses in the art of smiling to dwarf the breaking dawn."
"... her arms tightened at his back, drawing them closer again, sliding to guide him to parts of her that were soft as summer waters, firm and smooth beneath his weathered hands."
"The night forest behind them was alive with the howls and yelps of a wild place's survival dance, and as sleep took them, Vidarian tried to remind himself that nothing here could be foolish enough to attack a sleeping gryphon."
"Good to see you my friend," Vidarian said, holding out his hand for Kaltak to press his beak to in greeting. The smooth, curved killing instrument felt familiar now, and Vidarian realized how much his life had changed."
"Vidarian was quite for a long moment, consumed by the sound of her breathing - knowing as he had never known any other truth that he was not capable of hearing it cease."

1 comment:

Gamer Unlimited said...

Great review. I've only read 6 or 7 chapters so far, and I thought the writing and story and pacing were all excellent. It's reassuring to hear that it sounds like the story keeps going strongly and consistently. Cheers

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