The Sword and the Flame, by CP Bialois
This is a review of the books The Sword and the Flame: The Forging and The Purging, by CP Bialois. I know I don’t normally review more than one book at a time but it seemed pointless to do only one here when they are very much a set. They are set in a fantasy world of magic, elves, dwarves, halflings and gods, and follow the adventures of a group of travellers seeking their freedom.
The series starts with the halfling Janessa and her human friend Viola, who is a Mage in training. In this world, halflings are known pickpockets and are treated with mistrust, so to have a friendship like this is rare. They venture outside their city walls to visit a travelling company of merchants & entertainers, where they encounter Mern, a Mage with ulterior motives who befriends Viola; Berek, a human with unexplained super-sensory abilities; and Galin, a dwarf who has forsaken his kind who live underground to instead live the life of a travelling salesman.
Normally I don’t like to comment much on editorial errors in self published books. The fact is, if you’re picky enough then you will find mistakes in even traditionally published works, and usually it’s not of any magnitude that matters. These books, however, could really have done with a good proof-read. Run-on sentences are commonplace, and the author seems to have trouble with homonyms – for example, a village was raised (rather than razed) to the ground, a character was moving his personal affects (rather than effects) on a cart, and there were references to a journey to another plain (rather than plane). Done occasionally, this isn’t a big deal, but it happened often enough to detract from my enjoyment of the story.
Once I got past that, though, it was an entertaining, if not high quality, read. The story of Berek’s escape from his slave-holder was well done, and the growing bond between Galin and Janessa was a pleasure to behold. Viola’s journey from trainee to mage was also enjoyable. Parts confused me at first, like the cleric Gilliam’s mistrust of magic-users when he uses spells himself, but when that was explained later it made enough sense for me to gloss over the initial confusion. I also felt that some parts of it were rushed a little: Fleir’s addition to the company was one example, and the battle in Solava (especially its conclusion) was another. It was like the author had too many subplots and events that he wanted to fit into the story, and I felt that if some of these had been fleshed out a little more it would have made a better read.
Finally, I thought the title was a little misleading. I’m the first to admit that titles are really difficult to get right, and I’m not willing to offer an alternative, but I thought that they implied that there would be a special sword that was forged and used to win the war. Instead, what is forged is the strength of the unlikely company, and what is purged is selfishness and greed. It’s still relevant, but a lot more obscurely so than I had expected.
Overall, if you are looking for a decent fantasy read that tells an entertaining story, The Sword and the Flame is worth picking up. If, however, you are distracted by editorial errors and flimsy segues, then perhaps it might be worth waiting until a new edition is released. An entertaining series, yes, but not without it flaws.
The Sword and the Flame: The Forging and The Sword and the Flame: The Purging, by CP Bialois
Published by Amazon Digital Services
442 and 397 pages (paperback)
Available from Amazon.com as paperback and ebooks