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.
This book is pure, unadulterated fun.
It’s an unlikely mix of subgenre that works so well. You have your “basic” (in a manner of speaking. Nothing is basic or normal in this book…) adventure fantasy, where the heroine, Halla, wants to get her inheritance back from her greedy and grasping in-laws. Then you have your romance plot, where Halla and Sarkis, her sword-spirit/bodyguard, slowly fall in lust and love for each other. And finally, the entire story can easily be put in the comedic fantasy category because it was often laugh-out-loud funny.
Kingfisher deftly plays with the codes and tropes of these subgenres. The story is delightful and often absurd (I had a few “wait, should I be laughing at these murders” moments), with twists and hiccups at every turn. It never lets you forget you’re in a fantasy world, with roaming hills and mysterious creatures, paladins and strange religious orders (also the whole person-living-inside-a-sword-for-all-eternity detail).
And the characters! Halla is amazing. She was under-appreciated and underestimated her whole life, but as a heroine on a quest, she kicks ass in so many different ways. She’s kind-hearted and sharp-witted. I absolutely loved her and her questions and her rambling monologues. Sarkis is a brooding warrior, full of remorse and embarked on a strange mission. I enjoyed watching Halla soften his edges. They both learn a lot about themselves during the journey and make a fantastic and hilarious couple. Their companions are no less interesting and add to the perfect characters dynamic.
The book is set in the world of the Clocktaur War series (which I discovered isn’t steampunk, to my surprise) and opens wide a door to possible sequels, but can be read as a standalone.
If you like romance fantasy, comedic fantasy and/or adventure fantasy, or if you just want to read something light, fast-paced but also full of heart, please give Swordheart a try. It needs to be discovered by more people, as it is absolutely brilliant.