The Sword Brotherhood
Dark Blade Publishing (2020)
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (1/2021)
“The Sword Brotherhood,” Book Three in The Shadow Sword Series by S.J. Hartland, is a fantasy so dark, twisted, and all-consuming it should come with the disclaimer: “Warning: this book may cause lack of sleep and the loss of desire to do anything but read.”
Roaran Caelan, the Seer King, is betrayed by a friend and given up to the evil ghoul-god, Archanin. Through a decade of torture Archanin peels away the layers of Roaran’s heart, mind, and soul until there’s seemingly nothing left but a shell of the man he once was. The Sword Brotherhood of ancient warriors come together to rescue Roaran, but it’s a fickle battle of wills amongst the brotherhood, who discover their only hope lies in a young girl, Genya, the one foretold to destroy the ghoul-god and save the world. But at what cost? It’s an epic battle of good versus evil as humanity’s only hope is lured to the dark side.
While the story is epic dark fantasy it’s anything but your standard prose and reads like a psychological thriller on steroids. It will definitely get inside your head. The author is a writing mastermind who creates with an expert hand and an almost poetic grace, even when dealing out torture to one of her unsuspecting characters. She skillfully weaves together unfathomable brutality, bitter vengeance, heartbreaking betrayal, and unrequited love, and does so through shifting loyalties, ultimate sacrifices, the rise and fall of honor, unlikely friendship, and the never-ending battle of good versus evil. The world-building is top-notch, the characters are striking and multi-dimensional and, I may have said this before, but it begs repeating – The Shadow Sword series would make an outstanding movie or television series.
In a series that checks all the boxes, it’s hard to name just one thing that stands out, but for me it would have to be the ruthlessness Hartland displays towards her characters – she’s not afraid to kill anyone off or torture them within an inch of their life so don’t get too enamored with any one person! You just never know what’s going to happen next.
Opening one of Hartland’s stories is a journey that delivers you straight into her dark world and “The Sword Brotherhood” is a compelling continuation of one of the best fantasy series I have ever read. I highly recommend readers pick up the first two books in the series: The 19th Bladesman and The Last Seer King as you won’t want to miss a single word of this unforgettable adventure.