Book Review: The Reluctant Swordsman

The Reluctant Swordsman by Dave Duncan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Seventh Sword series went on sale on Amazon a while ago, and so I picked it up. (Four books for $3 total? Why would I pass that chance up?) It was well-reviewed on Goodreads, though almost none of my friends had read it, but I grew up reading 80s fantasy, and this was an author I’d missed. Still, high fantasy can be a real time commitment, and so I kept passing the series by, waiting for a better time.

At last, I started the book on Sunday. I finished it on Tuesday, which is really all the endorsement you need from me. I couldn’t put it down. Of course, some of that is because much of it was right up my alley: it’s got a straightforward premise that’s executed in ways that are surprising. A normal man from our world finds himself transported into a fantasy world, where he’s put into the body of the best sword fighter in that world. Sounds great, except right before he was put there, the best sword fighter in the world got himself into an almost certain death situation, full of political intrigue the guy from our world knows nothing about.

Adventure ensues.

Along the way, there’s some discussion of religion and free will, plenty of fascinating world building, portrayal of different societies and how they function, and more. I was kept moving not just by the plot, but by the desire to know more about the world and how it functioned. The writing is immersive, doing an excellent job of describing the land without bogging you down with too much detail. It’s a fast read, and a ton of fun.

That said, it does have some issues that might be major stumbling blocks for some. Its portrayal of women leaves much to be desired. Maybe the series improves in this aspect later on, but for the first book at least, they’re often viewed much more as objects than as individuals. Yes, the protagonist does object to this, so it’s not a complete fiasco, but the objections feel more like window dressing than anything else. If that’s an issue that would massively interfere with your ability to read and enjoy a book, this isn’t the book for me.

Then again, it’s a class sword and sorcery book, and the portrayal is typical to the genre and the time it appeared. I was able to read around it, though that might say something about me. Not sure, but I’m not going to read too heavily into it. I viewed this book as escapist, and it scratched that itch perfectly. There’s some adult content, but it doesn’t delve into the details the way so many modern books do.

If any of this sounds remotely interesting to you, I encourage you to give it a shot. I’m already well into book two and still enjoying myself immensely.

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