Flashback Friday is something I do here at Bookwraiths every once in a while; a time when I can post my thoughts about books that I’ve read in the past. With the hectic schedule of day-to-day life, there never seems enough time to give these old favorites the spotlight that they deserve, but with a day all to themselves, there is no reason I can’t revisit them.
Today, I’ll be taking a look back at a fantasy series by Dave Duncan!
Series: The Seventh Sword
Publisher: Open Road Media (July 11, 2017)
Author Information: Website
Length: 1453 pages
My Rating: 3.5 stars
The Seventh Sword Series is a “portal” fantasy in the tradition of Stephen Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry. Never fear though, Dave Duncan has put his own unique spin on the familiar 1980s era tropes contained herein (portal, quest, fellowship, and Chosen One), subverting most of them in some fashion, while weaving a fast paced, entertaining adventure in the first three books, then returning in the fourth volume to give the series a true conclusion.
It all begins in the Goddess’ Temple at Hann, where Honakura, priest of the seventh rank and true power behind the scenes, has a problem: Hardduju, reeve of the Temple and Swordsman of the seventh rank, is a traitor and thief in league with brigands. This once honorable warrior now more worried about stealing from the goddess’ worshipers rather than protecting them. But what can Honakura do to stop the powerful swordsman and his underlings?
Naturally, the priest prays to his goddess for aid. And, miraculously, his prayers are immediately answered when news reaches him that Shonsu, Swordsman of the seventh rank, has appeared at the temple asking for a demon exorcism. Honakura eager to extend such aid in return for Shonsu’s oath to serve the temple!
But while the exorcism of the demon spirt called Walliesmith goes as planned, Honakura’s plan seemingly falls apart when Shonsu awakes as a very confused Wallie Smith from Earth!
The tale which spirals out from this beginning is focused on Wallie Smith: a mild-mannered engineer from earth who vaguely recalls dying from encephalitis but whose spirit now inhabits the body of Shonsu, Swordsman of the seventh rank. The goddess herself having brought Wallie here to embark on a quest and fulfill a prophecy to save “The World” from a grizzly fate; this journey by the very cosmopolitan and scientific minded Wallie filled with much discovery and more than a little acceptance, as he quickly finds that his modern sensibilities aren’t of much value in a world ruled by real gods!
A fish out of water tale. That is how I’d quickly describe The Seventh Sword, because this story focuses on Wallie Smith’s journey as a modern man in an alien civilization. But where other author dealing with this trope generally espouse the superiority of current culture over all others, Duncan takes a more enlightened approach, showing both the failure and triumphs of Wallie’s preconceived notions. The quest our hero undertakes far less interesting than the evolution of Wallie’s own belief system.
Don’t take that to mean the goddess’ quest is a humdrum affair, since that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many twists and turns along Wallie’s path; a rather unusual fellowship of friends gathered around our hero; foes popping up in unsuspected locations; Wallie always forced to find the correct way to balance his morals and beliefs against those of the goddess’ world; and the final resolutions (both in book three and four) quite surprising. All of these things creating a very entertaining story.
The Seventh Sword isn’t without its weaknesses however. The most glaring being Wallie Smith’s tendency to swing back and forth in his eternal quest to find a balance between The World’s culture/beliefs and his own. Certainly, that is realistic. I mean, no one is going to wake up in an alien world in someone else’s body and immediately accept everything around them as normal. But Wallie’s tendency to seemingly acclimate himself to his new reality, accept it, begin to work within it, then reject it all again became quite annoying after a while. Nor did it ring true after the fourth or fifth episode. At least, for me, it didn’t.
Subverting the classic fantasy quest narrative whiling entertaining with fast paced action and emotional issues, Dave Duncan’s The Seventh Sword is an older series well worth reading. Nope, it isn’t grimdark by any means, but neither is it the shiny fantasy of yesteryear where the hero has all the answers and everything works out for him in the end. Rather, The Seventh Sword is a more realistic look at a normal guy from the modern world (Are the 1980s considered modern anymore?) dealing with magic, gods, and other fantastical circumstances which his upbringing and education have not prepared him for. Recommended!
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.