The Sword of Fire and Sea by Erin Hoffman: A world full of magic, but the magic is dying. At least that’s what the dust jacket says. I first read about this book on John Scalzi’s blog, through the Big Idea feature. What sold me on it, was the idea that an epic fantasy could be told in under 300 pages. This was attractive to me in a number of ways. One, I’m lazy so getting to read a big story without a big page count sounded great. Two, I’m lazy and the idea of telling a big story without a big page count sounded truly (truly!) great.
I’ll be honest, as one of the laziest readers on the planet, I haven’t read too much in the epic fantasy genre. I had expected something more, well, epic. Instead, we are treated to a string of personal moments as our main character meets and falls in love with a person who is essentially his ‘Juliette’. They are star-crossed lovers, and not merely by family feud, but the elemental goddesses that rule the world. I wasn’t disappointed, but I was a bit surprised — I expected far more political machinations and ‘big picture’ views. I don’t want to get heavily into the plot because of, well you know, spoilers.
My primary fault with this book was the way in detail was given. Fewer than 300 pages is a short book by contemporary standards, and particularly so by Epic standards, and yet we are frequently treated long sections describing the food and culinary customs of this new world. I can understand the appeal in exploring a new world and as a fat man I understand a love of food, but most of the ‘new’ customs were just thinly veiled analogs for things in our world. The coffee was called kava. K is only one key over J. This is not earth shattering revelation, in my opinion.
Overall the book was very enjoyable, the setting interesting and the characters engaging. It’s the first part of a series and I plan on reading more.