I actually bought Sword Sisters (Fantasy 238 pages) by Tara Cardinal and Alex Bledsoe at the World Fantasy Convention in DC this year and hadn’t gotten around to reading it because of my really wonky schedule.
This book is fantastic.
“Cast aside by her mother, tormented (literally) by her father, feared by humans and despised by most of her own kind, Aella is determined not to care – not to care what they think, not to care if they like her, not to care about anything or anyone. Just so long as no one tries to touch her or imprison her again, Aella couldn’t care less. Until … he pulled an arrow from Aella’s back and kissed her cheek. Until … she carried Aella home and stood between her and a giant spider. And a rioting mob. Until … they came to Aella looking for help. Aella, daughter of demon and witch, must find herself once again, as she forges her own route to a destiny she doesn’t want to believe. At first a hero in name alone, Aella soon discovers she has the strength and the heart to control her demonic lineage and truly assume the mantle of hero. In her struggle, she also finds something even more valuable – friendship, as the youthful and spirited Amelia isn’t just a friend worth dying for – she’s Aella’s true “sword sister” and worth living for.”
This was one of only four books that I went out of my way to purchase at the World Fantasy Convention and I’m going to tell you a little bit about what motivated me to purchase this novel. I’ve found that I have very little patience for standard stories these days, with “normal” relationships and constant romantic subplots. If you’ve been reading my more personal entries on my website for the last year, I’m pretty sure you have a good idea as to why that is and why I have so many issues with “normal” relationships. So when I saw the cover art for Sword Sisters, I thought that it looked like a book that might not have a standard, romantic subplot. I’ve been deceived by these types of things before, so I read the back of the book. Then, I actually had the opportunity to ask the folks at the Ragnarok Publications booth if this book had any sort of romantic subplot or anything like that and they were kind enough to let me know that this book really didn’t have any romantic elements at all. I bought the book with the faith that this would be a novel about action, adventure, and friendship.
What the folks at the Ragnarok Publications table neglected to tell me was that I would spend the vast majority of this novel relating to and cheering for Aella and laughing loudly enough for the other travelers around me to give me that questioning look where you are skeptical of a person’s sanity and don’t want to be near them. (I mean, they’re not wrong – I do have sanity issues – but there really is something disturbing about someone like me laughing as much as I did while reading this book).
Now, to be honest, it took me a little bit to actually get engrossed in the book and the story. I think the main reason it took me a little bit to get into the story was because I wasn’t really expecting the story to start with a twelve year-old Aella, so that took my brain a little bit of internal readjustment to accept that this wasn’t going to start with adult characters. With that said, I will mention how realistic and amusing Aella’s view on the world is, and how much I related to her as a character. She’s sassy, stubborn, independent, and fiercely loyal. She’s also hilarious, but maybe that’s just me and my sense of humor.
I should have realized that this book was right up my alley on page 17: “But the Reapers who’d rescued me had not been inclined to coddle a Demon-haunted, Demon-trained girl who might or might not go into a psychopathic rage and destroy everything around her at any given moment.” I really liked the tone of the novel and sections like this, where the narrator is talking about being a girl who “might or might not go into a psychopathic rage and destroy everything around her” was hilarious to me on a lot of different levels. This was the first of many such incidents where I laughed loudly. Some of the sections I marked are only funny within the context of the story and some are much funnier because of the story, such as on page 89: “I looked up at Sela. ‘I’m very sorry for the mess I’m about to make. I will help clean it up.'” because Aella was just about to trash a bully and that was really fantastic to me. I’ve always liked stories where the main characters stand up for what’s right, as well as putting bullies in their place.
Aella and Amelia are both really great characters and I enjoyed their interaction and their friendship on every level. Aella rescues Amelia, Amelia rescues Aella, recycle and repeat. I think that’s one of the greatest draws for me of this book is that no one waits around to be rescued. Even when Amelia is being chained up, she’s still fighting to the best of her ability. They help each other, they trust each other, and they work together, each using their own strengths to help save the village, even though the odds might not be in their favor. Aella’s loyalty to Amelia and her family was inspirational to me and it was great to see character representation that made sense to me on every level. I even understood Aella’s confusion with physical intimacy!
The only issue I really had with this book is that it’s the first book in a series, and I don’t have any of the rest of the books. I don’t even know if there are any other books in this series yet. And that makes me kind of frustrated because I really want to read more about these characters and I really want to see more from this world.
Overall, this book is an easy four on my rating scale. It had everything I needed in my life right now – intense friendship and loyalty, really bad bad guys, humor, and a healthy dose of action and violence. I’m glad I own it and I’m certain to keep my eyes open for any future books in this series.