I probably should have known Swordheart by T. Kingfisher was the beginning of a trilogy when the bird slipped through a plot hole there at the end and didn’t amount to anything. Screaming birds generally aren’t put in the plot for no reason and this bird is way too much a Chekhov’s Bird to just be sitting there.
Anyway, this book is fantastic, and I’m now hungry for the next two.
This book is the story of Sarkis, a man whose spirit has been placed in a sword, and Halla, a 36 year old widow who was planning to kill herself with the sword until a warrior appareted into her bedroom when she tried to do the deed.
And then from there it gets weird.
It gets weird in the ways of the Clockwork Boys stories, with strange creatures on a road that disappears and reappears, bandits, murderers, ruthless priests, not-ruthless lawyer priests, a gnoll that drives the ox, an ox named Prettyfoot, hands-down the nastiest aunt I’ve found in a book in quite some time, and a clammy-handed man who nobody should marry.
And then somehow everything works out and the people who need to be dead are dead and the people who you were kind of hoping would be dead are banged up at least, and the people who should be in love are in love.
I’m pretty sure that although Ursula Vernon insists she writes “fluffy romance” on Twitter that this doesn’t qualify as “fluffy” unless you ask Halla what she thinks of her own weight. But romance it is, and relatable romance so much as it can be without traitorous relatives and a ensorcelled sword.
This is good, in short. Read it.
Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher is a young-adult-ish or maybe middle-reader book about a minor mage, a fair amount of murder and gristly stuff, and a sarcastic armadillo.
I love it.
The author is worried it is not a children’s book but it’s exactly the kind of horror fantasy I devoured and tried to write in my preteen years. And I turned out all right as far as I can tell.
Plus cloud sheep.
Worth the read.
I read while I’m on the exercise bike because hey, a reason to be on the exercise bike. The last few days I’ve been reading The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher (pen name for Ursula Vernon).
Tonight I biked for 80 minutes and realized my legs would fall off before I’d finish the book. As I’d reached a point where not-finishing was not an option, I kept reading after removing myself from the bike.
I think my heart raced just as much after I got off the book as when I was on it.
Everything in T. Kingfisher’s books tends to be very logical… I find myself thinking “oh well of course”, and also “oh holy shit how did I not see that coming, of course that’s made of that other thing because why else would you have one of those?” and I’m telling you, if you like your horror to be made of bits and pieces of Chekov’s Gun running around with murder on its mind, this book is for you.
A few things I’d heard about the book that are true:
* Deer are not as safe an animal as you thought
* The dog is established to live through the whole book from the very beginning so there’s no wondering
* It is apparently possible to write a jump scare.
The dialog is fantastic. The characterizations are amazing. The world building is enough to make you grit your teeth and bike for 80 minutes without realizing you’d been on the bike 80 minutes. Thank heavens I didn’t have a dog asking to go out or there’d be a puddle on the floor.
I’m not sure when or if I’ll sleep again, and I’ve never been so glad to be living in the exurbs instead of the rural neighborhood of my parents.
Anyway, read. Then keep locked in the closet the rest of the time. That might work.
Okay so the first thing you need to know, because I tip my biases, is I’ve essentially loved everything that Ursula Vernon / T. Kingfisher has written since Digger was just another webcomic in the list of 100 I hit daily.
That being said, most of the works of hers I’ve read have been in the form of either modern retellings of old fairy tales (of which Bryony and Roses is probably my favorite) or Dragonbreath chapter books (because you’re never too old for good chapter books).
The Clocktaur Wars aren’t like that. Way way not like that.
My understanding is that Ursula Vernon got annoyed about how poorly other people told the “tortured Paladin rejected by his god” trope, and decided to fix it. And fix it she did.
This book has supernatural dealings. It has a pantheon of gods. It has tattoos that bite. It has a very talented forger who I want to be when I grow up. It has a tortured paladin. It has dead demons and live ones. It has romance and tension and cute talking animals and not-cute-at-all terrifying monsters and an ending that had me both going “wait what the FUCK just happened?” and “well of course because that’s the only logical thing that can happen no wait WHAT THE FUCK.”
Oh, yeah, this one is certainly not a chapter book for the kiddies. (Although frankly 12-year-old me would’ve loved it as much as I do now.)
So read Clockwork Boys and love it and then read The Wonder Engine because after the first one you’re not just going to hang on that cliff forever.