Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Angry Robot
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Epic Fantasy
The citadel has long been the stronghold of Highkell. All that is about to change because the traitor, Vasic, is marching on the capital. Against her better judgement, Queen Alwenna allows herself to be spirited away by one of the Crown's most trusted servants, safe from the clutches of the throne's would-be usurper.
Fleeing across country, she quickly comes to learn that her pampered existence has ill-equipped her for survival away from the comforts of the court. Alwenna must toughen up, and fast, if she is even to make it to a place of safety. But she has an even loftier aim - for after dreaming of her husband's impending death, Alwenna knows she must turn around and head back to Highkell to save the land she loves, and the husband who adores her, or die in the attempt.
But Vasic the traitor is waiting. And this was all just as he planned.
An epic fantasy that's easy to read. Rare and maybe unheard of for some of you, but that's what Susan Murray's WATERBORNE BLADE was like for me. The chapters are short so the movement of the story feels fast, and the novel is character driven. The blurb is a good summation of the novel, so we see Alwenna fleeing from Highkell, pregnant and pursued by her cousin and the usurper, Vasic. On top of this royal escapade, Alwenna is purportedly a seer and a powerful one at that, so there's also an element of magic involved in the story, albeit small at the moment. Then there's a brewing romance between our heroine and Weaver, her escort and King Tresilian's most trusted guard.
Epic fantasies are usually a complex read. WINTERBORNE BLADE wasn't exactly like that, SMurray shrunk the radius of the novel, so to speak, and focused solely on the main characters. Alwenna's flight from Highkrell, her loyalty to her people, her reluctance to be their Queen, fighting off discrimination and rumors that she's some sort of an evil spawn because she's borne with magic. These were the focal point of the story so it was quite easy to get acclimated to the story without getting weighed down with too many characters, places, and terminologies.
That said, this "easy breezy" feel of the novel also made the novel less epic for me. Maybe I'm being subjective here but when I read epic fantasy, I expect and want the plot to be all encompassing and the events to be on a grand scale. WATERBORNE BLADE's plot, though involving a kingdom, didn't feel like the whole realm was affected by Vasic's invasion. We're spared of marching armies, vivid descriptions of the topography of Highkrell and other stuff like clothes, settings, etc. were sorely missing that would've made the novel more atmospheric. SMurray might have described the characters at some point but it wasn't repeated so I have no idea what Alwenna, Weaver, and the rest of the cast looked like.
The romance, though I can understand how Alwenna and Weaver's relationship is heightened and developed, lacked tension. No ogling on Weaver's part or Alwenna's keen observation of Weaver's eye color, stature, or how she wanted to run her fingers through her hair. No pining or close encounters happened to reinforce that their attraction is growing. The romantic development snowballed towards the end together with the climax of the novel, that their illicit affair didn't feel as compelling as I suppose it should be.
To close this, WATERBORNE BLADE has certain attributes about it that I liked and disliked. On the plot front, I love the direction the novel is going, SMurray can be cutthroat about certain things. On the other hand, I wish it had more details, it doesn't have to be heavy, but just enough to set the stage and mage me feel like I'm in Highkrell, walking amongst these colorful characters, in the middle of interesting times pregnant with danger and magic.
Bloggy Friend Reviews: Book Swoon
I am giving away 5 print copies of Waterborne Blade as part of my 4th Blogiversary celebration.
Susan: The Waterborne series is envisaged as a trilogy, following events as the peninsular kingdoms are racked by civil war. There’s political wrangling, double-dealing and bloodshed.
Braine: Can you tell us about the world and if you can compare it to a real place, what would it be and the time period?
Susan: The peninsula is divided into three kingdoms, each ruled by separate branches of the royal family. Much of the coastline is hostile to shipping, and there is only one navigable major river so overland trade is important. The landscape varies, with arid desert to the east, mountainous forested regions in the north and rich arable land in the south. The society could be compared to that of medieval Europe, with little in the way of industrial development and much social inequality.
Braine: Waterborne Blade is the first in the series, what should be we expect here?
Susan: The Waterborne Blade centres on the queen Alwenna as she is exiled for her own safety. Waterborne Exile broadens in scope, following the machinations of the nameless priestess as she sets out to get revenge while Vasic attempts to consolidate his position at Highkell.
Braine: Who and how is Queen Alwenna like?
Susan: Alwenna is queen in her own right of one of the peninsular kingdoms and not long married to the king, Tresilian, bringing The Marches and Highground together under one rule. She’s been raised to put her royal duty first, but nothing has prepared her for the vivid nightmares that have begun to disturb her sleep.
Braine: Does she have a romantic interest? Can you tell us about the men?
Susan: Answering the first question would involve far too many spoilers! Some of the key players are Vasic, king of Meallgard in the south, who is convinced Highground and the citadel of Highkell should have been his; Marten, an ambitious freemerchant who’s not happy unless he’s wheeling and dealing; Weaver, common soldier who’s risen through the ranks to become loyal King’s Man to Tresilian, ruler of Highground; and there’s the naive novice monk, Drew, son of a stonemason, who’s about to see a whole lot more of the world.
Braine: And of course, there be bad guys around! Please describe how evil the villain/s is/are?
Susan: The main villain is the sort who does his own torturing – as long as his victims are tied down securely before he gets within reach. He doesn’t think he’s evil at all, and believes he’s entitled to all the things he’s lied and cheated to get. But, evil as he is, there are far worse things stirring in The Marches to the east.
Braine: What is the hook of Waterborne Blade and the series as a whole?
Susan: A pampered queen must rescue her homeland from civil war while learning to deal with dark powers that threaten to destroy her and everything she holds dear.
Braine: How is this similar/different from its contemporaries?
Susan: Having been neck-deep in the sequel until recently I haven’t had time to catch up with this year’s new releases yet, but I can say with complete certainty there are no elves, dragons or werewolves, and, of course, the central characters are women. Both books in the series have great covers, by Paul Young of Artist Partners.
Braine: Is there magic involved? If so, can you tell us about the myth and what kinds of creatures are we going to meet here?
Susan: There is magic, much of it derived from the bloodline of one particular family. This bloodline has been diluted over the years and much that was once understood about this magic has been forgotten. The seers, once closely allied to the royal households, have fallen out of favour. And a dark power, ancient as the land itself, has been woken by recent bloodshed.
Braine: In Twitter style, why is Waterborne Blade a must-read?
Susan: It’s Games of Thrones meets Roman Holiday (with swords instead of scooters), plus a dash of Carrie. Waterborne Exile takes a darker turn as the repercussions of events in the first book begin to play out.
- Favorite Fantasy novel/series: The Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb.
- Current book you're reading and how is it in one word? Son of the Morning, by Mark Alder. Epic.
- (Fill in the blank: _______ is my guiltiest pleasure. Life’s too short to be guilty about pleasure but Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream is pretty good.
- Fellow author you stalk & his/her book that everyone should read? Everyone should read Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson. That novel deserves to be huge.
- Pick me up song: Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Debut fantasy novel The Waterborne Blade due out from Angry Robot Books, May 2015.
Longlisted in 2012 Bristol Short Story Prize.
Open University Humanities graduate. Serial house renovator (lapsed).
Website | @pulpthorn | Goodreads