Dispatch from the Freewilds
Swords of Deception
by Rowan Staeffler
Taking place in a truly dangerous world, one where magic threatens devastating consequences if left untamed and unchecked, Rowan Staeffler’s Swords of Deception invites readers to join the novel’s protagonist, Ellemar, whose scars, both physical and spiritual, run deep. This may not be a world one would want to live in, but it is definitely one that readers will want to visit again and again in future installments of the Sword of Deception series to come.
Author Rowan Staeffler’s terrific Swords of Deception was published in July of 2021, making this a book not even a year from its release at the time this review is being written. It is a dark fantasy tale written with obvious pride and competence by Staeffler, and while it may have benefitted from a bit of polish and a few minor edits here and there, none of that takes the reader away from the compelling and detailed story, the wonderfully developed characters, or the desire to get to know this world more.
Ellemar Vancel has a score to settle, and the scars she bears upon both body and soul ensure she will never forget it. In an unforgivable betrayal, a member of the Council of Witches enacted a deadly act of insurgency, throwing the council into chaos and leaving our hero in a broken state.
…But Ellemar yet lives, and the dream of vengeance drives her survival.
Trapped within the confines of the City of Tannaly, a punitive measure resulting from her unsolicited practice of magic, an opportunity for retribution and vindication presents itself when the Council of Witches seeks to enlist Ellemar’s aid in hunting down the traitorous Celeana Maar.
In her dogged pursuit of her hated enemy, Ellemar finds that the more answers she seeks, the more questions arise, and not all is quite as it seems…
I am a sucker for stories like this. That has left me in a very charitable position when it comes to my assessment of this novel. In truth, it is a very brief taste of what promises to be a much larger tale.
Possibly too brief.
There is a lot to like, here, but there is also a sense that some parts of the novel could have used a little more time to breathe. The author demonstrates his ability to paint a detailed picture for the reader, but some parts of this book are rather sparse for the sake of brevity. The story itself could have benefitted from another few dozen pages, not of added plot, but of expanded and more densely detailed prose.
Though it never took me out of the story or ruined my enjoyment of the tale, there are several issues that arose during my reading of the novel where it was obvious the book could have used an extra round of editing and proofreading. As a self-published author, myself, I can appreciate how professional and competent Mr. Staeffler’s book is, and I wouldn’t dream of taking any points away on the basis of this issue, alone. I can tell that a lot of effort went into this book, and a lot of the errors are quite easily overlooked.
I can tell that the Sword of Deception series is going to be a terrific story when it is all said and done, and I enjoyed this entry point into this original dark fantasy world. Like I said, stories like this are right up my alley, both as a reader and as a writer. We don’t get a great deal of closure, here, but that does leave me wanting for more… and that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
I enjoyed this book and I will definitely be picking up the next installment in the Sword of Deception series. I do hope that future installments will be a little more… well, a little more. A little more content… a little more polish… a little more density and detail.
That is not an indictment of the writer or of his book, but an endorsement; I want more, which means I must have really liked what I’ve gotten out of this reading experience so far.
Swords of Deception is imperfect, but that’s hardly a sin. It is where those imperfections manifest that I find myself more and more excited to see how things develop, both for the ongoing story to be told in future installments of the series and in the skill and obvious talent of the author.
On a scale of 1-5, I would give Swords of Deception a FOUR out of FIVE, though only just barely. Bump that scale up to 1-10, and it’s a solid SEVEN out of TEN, for me. It passes, and then some, but mostly for its potential to be the start of something terrific, and the precursor of greater things yet to come.
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