The Sword Chronicles: Child of the Empire
(Pub: Michaelbrent Collings, 2015)
I’ve declined some cringe worthy books in the last few months for review and The Sword Chronicles: Child of the Empire was a blast of fresh air. Collings knows his craft and fans (teens through to adults) of fantasy and dystopian fiction will enjoy reading this book.
Collings’ novel is set in the kingdom of Anborn. Anborn is built on five mountains named – Faith, Strength, Knowledge, Fear and Center. It rests above the cloud line and anyone from Anborn who attempts to travel below the clouds dies horribly. The one dynasty has ruled Anborn for generations.
The narrative opens with the dramatic, bloody dream of a girl – a dog. People, often children, are sold into the fighting pits (kennels) and once there, they are known as dogs. Everything about life in the kennels is dehumanising and torturous. The rule of life, for this girl, is kill or be killed. The girl doesn’t know her name or her age. She knows nothing of life outside the kennels. At the end of one of her fights events take a strange turn and she becomes one of Anborn’s Blessed Ones and in the service of the emperor. This sparks the beginning of an adventure that is action packed and has plenty of heart as well.
Collings’ opening scenes had me intrigued and hooked me to continue reading this story. The initial dream and the girl’s point of view are conveyed wonderfully well. The action sequences are gritty with no holds barred. The use of staccato sentences in the action sequences adds to the pacing, provides great emphasis on key elements and directs the reader’s attention. “There was that particular noise of sword cleaving flesh. A gurgle…He laughed. The blood washed away. The day was begun.“
These abrupt sentences also place emphasis on the girl’s fragmented point of view early on. It serves to highlight animalistic nature of her existence – moment to moment survival and a struggle to understand the unfamiliar.
This also works to create an effect for the reader like a camera panning in on specific moments in a film. This is a very cinematic piece of writing. The reader will have no trouble visualising the story as it unfolds and Collings sets a cracking pace.
The characterisations within the novel are well written. The girl’s culture shock at life outside the kennels, her psychological recovery and gradual education are handled well and though she is the heroine of this story she is not without fault. The supporting cast are all well rounded and given detailed backstories which are woven into the narrative seamlessly. My only complaint was that it became clear to me early on who the bad guy really was, although there was a nice little twist to that which I didn’t anticipate.
Collings blends familiar dystopian elements along with many fantasy genre tropes and the tech in the novel is a blend of science and magic. Overall the world building has an eastern flare to it. The combination works and even though I knew where the story was heading, its execution was so good that I really didn’t mind – I was carried along on the roller coaster ride until the end.
Would I read the next one? You bet!