Sword-Breaker

by Jennifer Roberson

Cover image

Series: Sword #4
Publisher: DAW
Copyright: July 1991
ISBN: 0-88677-476-4
Format: Mass market
Pages: 460

Buy at Powell's Books

As with the previous books in this series, you really want to read them all in order. There is another section of awkward and repetitive recapping at the beginning of this book, but it's really not a substitute for having read the story.

This is the last book of the original four-book series and mostly wraps up the plot hooks that were created by the previous three. By this point, the power level has increased somewhat, but still not really at the level of saving the world (even though some very powerful spirits are involved). And, in a nice twist, the story is about getting rid of power rather than accumulating more of it. (Although Lord of the Rings this isn't.)

The strengths and weaknesses of this book are about the same as the rest of the series. Tiger repeats himself a lot in the first-person narration, but it's otherwise excellent and distinctive. The reminders of what has gone before are awkward and clunky. The story is a bit padded, but well-paced and moves right along; I had a hard time reading fewer than 200 pages at a sitting. There are some very nice moments in the story when Tiger is coming to terms with his power, but the best parts of the book are the banter and relationship between Tiger and Del and the ending.

Roberson again does an excellent job with the climax, building up to a tense scene with some surprising twists and a satisfying resolution. Unfortunately, as I remembered from my previous reading as I approached the end, she flubs the denouement somewhat. Partly that's the bittersweet consequences of decisions made by the character at the climax, and that part, while a bit disappointing, is fitting. The resolution of the jhihadi plot, though, is just bad. What a ridiculous letdown after all that build-up. (Thankfully, Roberson salvages the concept in the fifth book of the series, written much later.)

While it's not exactly earth-shattering, I'm fond of the way Roberson deals with magic. Her characters have a tentative and mostly unexplained relationship with it, not reducing it to simple equations but still managing to fit it into certain rules. Magic is mostly treated like another character, one individual to each artifact and with some of the same quirks and unpredictabilities of another voice in the story. This approach does a good job at preserving a sense of wonder (and means that the reader really misses artifacts when they're gone).

Most of what I said about the third book applies here as well, and I think the fourth book is of about the same quality (marred by some problems at the very end and some particularly stupid lines from one of the villains). This series as a whole is good sword and sorcery fare when you're looking for something that doesn't require much effort.

Followed by Sword-Born.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-08-11

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21