Broken Blade, the first book in Kelly McCullough‘s FALLEN BLADE series is a fun little fantasy novel. I picked it up as something to fill in space between “serious” series. In that role, Broken Blade exceeded my expectations because it was refreshingly simple and interesting all in one.
In the City of Tien we are introduced to Aral. As member of a cult of assassins, called Blades, Aral was a rising star with great promise and great skills. Sadly, Aral’s Goddess, Namara, is killed by other religious zealots and his order hunted down as outlaws. Aral is left bereft of the fellowship of his fellow Blades and the unwavering conviction of serving Namara. He falls into the depths of despair and becomes a simple sword-for-hire.
The story follows Aral as he accepts the mission to help right a wrong and serve justice once more. McCullough shows us the aches, pains and difficulties of someone who was once great and now has to try to rise again to the skills he had abandoned. Aral does not simply become an all-star killer again, but has to struggle, hurt and admit to himself the atrophy that he has allowed — even embraced — since the fall of his order.
The world building, use of magic, and mythical creatures are good. The ties between magically gifted individuals and their “familiars” are fun to imagine, leading the reader to wonder how each type of familiar could influence and benefit a human partner. This is the sort of detail that elevates a story beyond merely entertaining to truly interesting.
I would compare Broken Blade to the KING’S BLADES series by Dave Duncan. If you like those books, and I did, then Broken Blade will have a similar appeal. This is a fun novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has plenty of action and a fast-moving plot. For me, as something to read in between my longstanding series, that’s just right.