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Review: ‘The Paper Sword’ launches a fantasy series rooted in genre style

Cover art for 'The Paper Sword'
Cover art for 'The Paper Sword'
Courtesy of: Dundurn

The Paper Sword

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With The Paper Sword (available for purchase on July 26), Robert Priest has launched his Spell Crossed series. If the first installment, which is a breezy read at only 224 pages, is any indication, the series will be rich with genre elements that fans of fantasy epics will welcome with open arms.

In The Paper Sword we meet Xemion, a teenage boy with aspirations of being a great swordsman, and Saheli, a teenage girl with a mysterious past, who also happens to be the object of Xemion’s affection. The pair of them live on Phaer Isle, a land that once knew freedom and magic, but that has been subjected to the cruel rule of the Pathans for some 50 years. Under the Pathan rule, Phaerlanders are not allowed to carry weapons and are subject to myriad other means of oppression and cruelty. Still, talk of dragons returning to Phaer Isle and of a Pathan civil war that could grant the Phaerlanders an opportunity to take back control of their homeland skitters about, shared in whispered conversations between trusted friends and family.

Xemion and Saheli’s great adventure begins simply enough, as most of them do, when they, along with their friends Thargen and Torgee, happen to meet a mysterious man with a beet red hand and a chameleon-esque cloak bids them journey to Ulde, a far-off city they believed long-abandoned, to join a brewing rebellion.

Priest unloads a lot of world-building details early on in the story, but after living with the Phaerlanders for a few chapters and getting a sense of the how and why of their existence a clear, strong mythology starts to emerge, inviting readers who love to lap up those kinds of details to dive deeper into the tale. Priest is writing this series with a mind to 12- to- 15 year olds, so it can, at times, feel a bit pedestrian for seasoned genre readers who have tackled weightier tomes written for an adult audience, but the story being woven is interesting enough that it’s quite pleasant to soldier on even so.

After a series of escapades through some pretty fantastic scenarios the novel comes to such an abrupt close that it doesn’t so much feel like a cliffhanger, but rather like some pages may have been omitted. Still, the stage is set for what seems to be plenty more adventure and immersion into this emerging world when the next installment is unleashed.

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Title: The Paper Sword
Author: Robert Priest
Series: Spell Crossed (Book 1)
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Dundurn
Release Date: (July 26, 2014)
Language: English