Review: Sword of Fire (The Justice War #1; Deverry #16) by Katharine Kerr

RATING: 7/10


In the Kingdom of Deverry, bards are highly regarded as the voice of the commoner. When one of the most well-regarded bards is allowed to starve himself in an attempt to force change, the people are on the verge of revolt.

Alyssa and Dovina are two ladies of the court who side with the commoners. They have come up with a plan to retrieve an ancient text that highlights traditional law that would turn current political theory on its head.

As each traverses the Kindgom to fulfill their end of the pact in hopes of enacting new (old) laws that favor a more just judicial system, they find the journey is more than they bargained for. The road is dangerous, and the courts are fraught with corruption. Despite the perilous nature of the voyage, Alyssa and Dovina will do whatever it takes to bring a sense of fairness to Deverry.


The Sword of Fire is a typical political, military fantasy filled to brim with court talk, backstabbing, and alliance-making. I would almost classify a large portion of the book as adventure fantasy, as our two main protagonists each go on a journey to complete their plan to bring change to the unfair justice system of Deverry.

Except, I cannot go so far as to say the story is full of adventure. The Sword of Fire is a decent story, well-written and intriguing at times but underwhelming at others. The book starts out quite promising, as Alyssa and Dovina are heart-broken over the loss of their friend, who also happens to be a popular bard in their town. Dovina approaches her father about the matter – he is their gwerbretian, or governor-type ruler – who tells her there is nothing he can do, as he abides by traditional law on the matter. Alyssa and Dovina hear a rumor about an ancient text that speaks of a different justice system, and they decide to find it and bring it to Dovina’s father in hopes of changing his mind. What could be more “traditional” than an ancient text?

As they begin their separate journeys, they must navigate areas of the Kingdom with which they are unfamiliar – and courts where customs differ. There is a lot of intrigue to carry this story for a while. And that it did. As I read and continued to read, I hung on to that hope until about 2/3 of the way through the book when I realized not much was really happening. Where are the ebbs and flows that keep a story interesting? As I continued to wait for a climax, I came to the conclusion that none was coming. The book started at one point on the scale and never crescendoed. I expected it to evolve into something more, but it never did. It just plateaued. The whole book felt like a prologue to me, which I conjure that is what the author was going for – to use this book to set up the rest of the trilogy.

Overall, I liked this book. The story was interesting, I was invested in the characters, and setting appealed to me. I just wish there was more to it, in the end. I did not know until researching to write this review that is a piece of a bigger world of Deverry novels. I would definitely like to return to this universe to see what else it has in store.

I recommend The Sword of Fire to those who are interesting in slow-building military fantasy.

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