Review: Swordheart by T. Kingfisher

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This book was so much fun.

Halla wanted to be the sort of person who yelled at her cousin and forced him to acknowledge that she had a choice in the matter. Unfortunately, it seemed that she was the sort of person who ran up the stairs to her bedchamber, grateful for the reprieve.

This was a depressing discovery.

Halla is a housekeeper. When her uncle dies and she inherits his estate, his relatives are not happy and lock her in her room, planning to marry her off to her cousin (with clammy hands). Planning to kill herself to escape them, she draws an old sword…and summons Sarkis who has been trapped inside.

What ensues is all sorts of fun adventures and witty banter. Halla, a Respectable Widow, has been underappreciated all her life, asks many questions, and often acts stupid to confuse people because “nobody kills stupid women” (depressing, perhaps, but…). Often to hilarious results. Sarkis is your typical grumpy warrior type, but their dynamic is great.  The romance develops slowly and naturally over the course of the book and while it didn’t have the elements I prefer, I thought it was very well done.

On their quest to save Halla from her relatives, they also meet a gnole called Brindle and Zale, a nonbinary lawyer-priest. I really loved how casual their inclusion is. Their gender is never once an issue, and they’re just as awesome and fun to read about as the rest. This book also diverges from most fantasy in that pretty much all of the protagonists are middle-aged or older. So anyone looking for a change from the usual teenage or 20-something characters should probably give this a try.

Another thing I enjoyed is how uplifting it is. Halla is kind and thinks the best of everyone, to the point it often gets her in trouble. But she’s not stupid and in this story, kindness isn’t weakness or something to be looked down on.

The only thing that bothered me a bit is the depiction of her marriage with her previous husband who seems to have been asexual. It’s clear that it was more of a marriage of convenience than anything and that they weren’t a good match for each other, this is fine. But something about it rubbed me slightly the wrong way. It’s never explicitly “there’s something wrong with ace people”, but there’s a few little things. Sarkis saying his religion has no use for someone who can’t please their partner, “If he lived, I would burn his lands and sow the fields with salt for the indignity.”, how asexuality is never anything except a problem. It’s mostly limited to like three chapters fairly late on and not that major of a thing, and the book is awesome in other aspects, but I couldn’t really omit it.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4/5

Recommended to: those looking for a quick uplifting read and books with older protagonists, romance fans
Not recommended to: those who dislike witty dialogue, and there’s acephobia

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