Sword-Maker

by Jennifer Roberson

Cover image

Series: Sword #3
Publisher: DAW
Copyright: October 1989
ISBN: 0-88677-379-2
Format: Mass market
Pages: 464

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Roberson does some recap of the previous books of the series, but since this book picks up directly after Sword-Singer, you really want to read the earlier books in the series first. That's somewhat unfortunate, as Sword-Singer isn't as good of a book, but it's worth reading at least the last 80 pages of it for context. (That's the best part of the book anyway.)

Sword-Maker starts out in the North, but unlike Sword-Singer, it's going somewhere from the very beginning. This makes a huge difference, providing a sense of direction and avoiding the random encounters that plagued the previous book. Even better, the opening plot is quickly resolved in a mini-climax partway through the book and then Tiger and Del go back to the South to chase down the major loose end from Sword-Dancer.

Roberson's writing works better in the South of her world. The North has some interesting elements, and it was good to spend some time there for contrast, but I was almost as happy as Tiger to get back to the sand and the sun. Not only is the South better-drawn and more visual, it plays into the strengths of Roberson's characters. Del handles being the outsider in more interesting ways than Tiger does, and being in a deeply sexist society better plays into the subplot of Tiger's slow abandonment of his engrained sexist attitude.

While I enjoyed it better in the South than the North, the story is still rather padded. It takes a little too long for things to happen, and Tiger repeats himself regularly. The reminders of the events from previous books aren't as clunky as in Sword-Singer, but I still got rather tired of the constant refreshers and rehashing of previous plot points. Some general tightening, editing, and trimming of repetition would have made this a much better book.

That said, Sword-Maker maintains a clear concept of where it's going and has a tighter plot than the previous books. It's a simple plot, more fun and relaxing than thought-provoking, but the book moves right along and I rarely had to drag myself through slow parts. It builds up to an excellent ending, with both some satisfying revenge and some twists that weren't at all what I expected. Roberson does excellent plot climaxes.

I don't get as much of an emotional punch out of these books as some of my comfort reading. Roberson doesn't write strong emotional highs and lows as much as she writes banter and adventure with a well-characterized first-person narrator. These are good books to read when one doesn't want to put a lot of effort into reading, either intellectual or emotional, and instead just go with the flow of a sword and sorcery story that's thoughtful enough to not make one feel stupid while reading it.

Followed by Sword-Breaker.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-08-06

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21