Halla is a housekeeper who has suddenly inherited her great-uncle’s estate… and, unfortunately, his relatives. Sarkis is an immortal swordsman trapped in a prison of enchanted steel. When Halla draws the sword that imprisons him, Sarkis finds himself attempting to defend his new wielder against everything from bandits and roving inquisitors to her own in-laws… and the sword itself may prove to be the greatest threat of all.
Halla isn’t quite sure how she landed herself in this situation. She inherited a fortune, received an unwelcome and unwanted marriage proposal, was locked in her bedroom and when she decided to end it all and fall on a sword she was stopped by a man who appeared out of nowhere. Sarkin has never had a female owner of the sword before, least of all one who greeted him in so little clothing. When Halla tell’s him her story he becomes enraged and informs her that he is hers to control, he is now her sworn sword and no harm shall befell her in his presence. After battling their way out of the house, determined to find her Uncle’s friend who can prove the Will to be valid, they embark on a journey filled with magic, mercenaries and just the right amount of smut.
“I am the servant of the sword,” he said. “I obey the will of the—great god, woman, put on some clothes!”
I first saw this book on Alix Harrows twitter (Ten Thousand Doors of January) and it sounded too much fun to pass up. Set in a medieval style world, the same as the authors Clockwork boys, the story follows Halla a respectable Widow who inherits her Uncles fortune, much to the chagrin of his other family. Halla is such a relatable character, she may come across as slightly dimwitted but that is mostly just for show. She just wants a normal life but its only once she meets Sarkin that anything other than the boring life of a Widow seems possible. Sarkin is a man, at least he was when he went in the sword a few centuries ago. He’s used to fighting battles for countries not houses so with Halla he thinks he might just be in luck for an easy run, but after getting stabbed the first time he slowly realises this wont be the case. These two as a pair made for one hell of a hilarious, witty and in parts slightly smutty story that I flew through.
“Are you asking me if I think I can fight one guard and a group of elderly women with embroidery hooks?” “…yes?” “My lady Halla, I have fought dragons on multiple occasions.” Halla considered this. “Did you win, though?” Sarkis coughed, looking suddenly embarrassed. “Well, one time.” “What about the others?” “It was more of a draw. The point is that they were dragons, not your cousins.”
This is a long book, longer than I expected it to be and in the grand scheme of things not a lot happens, so it just goes to show the authors skill that they keep you immersed and invested in the story for the whole book. It is almost a there and back again story but the author makes it seem as though you’re following Frodo to middle earth not Halla and Sarkis to claim her inheritance.
We get introduced to a whole host of lovable and intriguing characters such as Zale the rat priest who is sent to help Halla confirm that the Will is indeed valid, Brindle a gnole (badger like creature) whose job is to take care of the Ox as well as be a reluctant savour on far too many occasions, as well as Paladins, rogues, mercenaries and of course Aunt Malva and Alver the cousin with greasy hands that Halla refuses to marry. It makes for a monty python/ carry on style read full of blunders and brilliant one liners.
Sarkis had led a mercenary company and was certainly not going to be out-euphemismed by a priest and a sheltered widow. “Well, I do have quite a large sword,” he admitted. Zale dropped their eyes to the blade at his waist and said, “Eh, I’ve seen bigger.”
Though set in the same universe as the authors Clockwork Boys series you don’t need to have read that to easily immerse yourself in this world. Yes it may give you a greater insight into the intricate religion system, the world of paladins and some of the other creatures we meet, but the author does well enough to catch you up without giving an information overload to those already familiar. We also get a treated world where the main character is in her late 30’s, divorced and talks quite a bit about the saggy and wobbly parts of her body, we get a main character who is nonbinery and a world where queerness is accepted without question. So if you’re looking for a book filled with representation that isn’t always prevalent in fantasy then this might be the one for you.
This book was simply put fun, it is definitely not a book I would have picked for myself but that is the wonder of recommendations. A low stakes adventure filled with pining and some brilliant character interaction.