Trial by battle is a holy rite on Hillside.
Hired blades bleed their foes in savage duels, settling everything from petty grievances to the corporate laws that keep their citizens in line. Embroiled in these cutthroat political games is John Chronicle, an impoverished swordsman with no better prospects, seeking the duel that will free him from the Dregs.
Meanwhile, John’s boyfriend Edwin, an autistic university student, befriends a fellow scholar who claims to study the arcane art of thaumaturgy. When she offers to teach Edwin this subtle magic, he hopes that he can use it to bolster John’s skill with a blade. But thaumaturgy is a dangerous magic, and the forces that drive it have other plans.
The couple soon find themselves entangled in the web of intrigue surrounding the swordsmen and their sponsors, and they’re forced to question how bloody they’re willing to get to escape poverty — and they don’t come away with the same answer.
I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in their tour. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
The Sword in the Street is one of those novels that you’ll say: Wow. This is the type of fantasy book I like. It’s like a mixture of Monty Python (a tad here and there) mixed with Sebastian De Castell’s the Greatscoat Series. This novel should have had another title: Swords, Swords, Swords. I jest. But there is plenty of conflict with duels, and the immense worldbuilding is a credit to Caplan. I really liked the chemistry between Edwin and John during this novel. I believe their chemistry is the key that holds this story very tightly. Edward is the plucky, young man that gives me the vibe of a scholar that comes into eventual conflict with forces of politics and power. The novel shows he, along with his boyfriend John, navigate that complex myriad of power-hungry politics.
There’s a lot of good world-building elements within the novel. Within many parts, you’ll go through other areas of the world which feel distinct from each other. There are witty quotes given by characters as you go along, promises of loyalty, and ownership of writs. Sword duels between characters that come across often. Edwin and John do act like a real couple, and when tension brews, it brews very well. Some criticism that I have is that I would want a glossary and a map. Some days I can’t read fantasy books without a map or a glossary. As there are a lot of organizations, institutions that I needed to keep track of when reviewing. So in this sense, I think this would have worked. There were some parts that I believed needed trimming, some parts were slower paced.
Otherwise, character development is definitely the strongest element of this novel. You will come to dislike certain characters. I for one disliked Triumph. I did not like the fact that she views everything as a transaction because what noble doesn’t mind using people, or politicians using people and seeing them as resources rather than actual people. Aubrey was to an extent, good. I do think that too many people like to take advantage of John, and then blame him when in reality, the guy’s broken with so many duels and such. I think one day he’ll just decide to go away from cities and live in the mountains with Edwin. Just peace. Total Peace.
Overall, this is definitely a novel worth checking out! Thank you!