The 19th Bladesman is the first installment in this series and has my least favorite component of a book in a series—it simply ends, rather than really resolving much of anything. I’m fine with outstanding storylines, but I do like to feel like I’ve gotten to a stopping point. That’s a trait it shares with many other series that I have stuck with, so it’s not a fatal error, just an annoyance.
S.J. Hartland has done a commendable job with her villains. I would snarl at them as I was reading, which is always a sign that I’ve gotten involved with them. I’m not as enamored with the protagonists, though, as I didn’t get nearly as upset as they encountered travails along the way. A part of that is because she oversold some aspects: Kaell’s desire to please his lord, Val Arques aka Vraymorg; Vraymorg’s fight with his own feelings; and Heath’s emptiness. When you get to the point where you’re thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, move it along,” you know that your compassion is not being touched.
However, if you weren’t bothered by repetitions in the Wheel of Time, you might like it. Like that series, the book does touch the familiar points that many readers of epic fantasy want to see. There are big battles and small ones, an evil lord lurking about, gods with murky motives, various kingdoms with different desires, monsters, magic, questionable deaths, betrayals, secrets, beautiful men and women, and some really nasty people with power.
The series has promise, and the groundwork has been laid so that you aren’t completely sure whom you should root for and Hartland has successfully started a labyrinthine plot. I just haven’t decided yet whether I’ll take the time to find out how it all works out.