‘The Sword Defiant’ by Gareth Hanrahan – Book Review

Gareth Hanrahan introduces a new gritty grimdark world

The Sword Defiant is a grimdark fantasy by Gareth Hanrahan, the first book in the Land of the Firstborn series. The novel follows Sir Aelfric the Lammergeir, part of the Nine Heroes, a team of adventurers who save the world from the Dark Lord Bone and his witch elves.

Years later, a member of the Nine contacts Sir Aelfric, warning him of a new prophecy that hints at the rise of an unknown threat to the city of Necrad. Aelfric must return to the city to investigate this threat.

One of the best things about Gareth Hanrahan’s book is the world-building, and this is no different. His description of the past war is filled to the brim with grittiness and dread. You feel how difficult it was for the Nine to beat Lord Bone. You realize how people were affected by the war, and how much Aelfric misses his days of adventure.

The vivid description of the small region from the city of Necrad, to the land of elves fully immerses you in the story. Hanrahan deserves credit for his exceptional ability to craft captivating worlds that make readers want to explore and discover more about his world.

The Sword Defiant is written from two points of view, that of Aelfric and his sister Olva. While Aelfric’s story is trying to find out more about this new threat and introducing readers to members of the Nine, Olva’s story revolves around her life as a mother and being unable to let go of her son in a world she believes to be dangerous.

After discovering that his uncle was a legend, Olva’s son, Derwyn, has taken it upon himself to find his uncle, disappearing from their little village. This starts Olva on her own quest, pulling her into a world that she once feared.

While The Sword Defiant has good character stories and wonderful world-building, the novel is let down by its pacing. This is one slow book, to the point where it is a little unbearable. It seems that the key point of the plot can’t get this book to move along quicker either. For instance, the point of the plot is meant to be urgent. There is a new threat coming and Aelfric needs to find out what is happening so he can either be prepared for it or stop it.

However, the characters seem to want to take their time and discuss things. That’s fine if it is meant to push the story forward, but it doesn’t. It’s almost as if it’s a distraction. It feels like Hanrahan was going for a more realistic depiction of a D&D session. Characters are more interested in roleplaying than the main mission. If that is what he was going for, it, unfortunately, created a pacing that falls flat.

Overall, if you want to start a new fantasy that has good world-building but a slower pace, this might be for you. This book definitely the first-book syndrome. It is setting up the plot for later books and introduces the main players. Nevertheless, this will appeal to those who are looking for the next grimdark fantasy read.

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  • Verdict - 6.5/10

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