CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 27. . . .March 14, 2014
Although the Great Kone, the source of all spell-craft, has long stopped turning, young Xemion still holds fast to the ways of old Phaer lore and his dream of one day becoming a great swordsman. Though such traditions are prohibited by the Pathan authorities who rule over his island home, Xemioin cannot resist the temptation to perform in an ancient Phaer ritual after he discovers a piece of driftwood resembling a sword. While he was careful not to draw attention to himself, he is found out and ruthlessly pursued as an outlaw. Forced from his home, Xemion, along with his friend Saheli, flees to the sanctuary of the ancient city of Ulde where, according to an Elphaerean leader who observed Xemion performing, a great rebel army is assembling as a show of force against their Pathan masters. The journey is treacherous, with perils at every turn, but Xemion is happy to make it if it means that it brings him closer to becoming a great Elphaerean swordsman. His arrival, however, brings forth a loss he is unprepared for and a terrifying new fate, the product of a crossed spell, he cannot hope to face alone.
Robert Priest, in writing his second fantasy book for young readers, has crafted a great adventure-fantasy tale in the tradition of the classics. However, in following the familiar formula of quest and tests, Priest has succeeded in creating a highly original tale. Instead of the typical cast of elves, trolls, dwarves, and goblins, there exist thralls, triplicants, and wraiths of various kinds, as well as countless other beasts and beings who are all as strangely beautiful and bizarre as the spells that created them. In moving beyond the trope, Priest also employs stylized language and vernacular throughout. Seemingly, every character, place, and ritual, and even most normal everyday objects are given unique names. While these flourishes add richness and a sense of depth and atmosphere to the story and the world that has been created, they also, at times, cause confusion which may be a barrier for certain young readers who read with speed. That the book contains a lexicon of pertinent names and terms is proof of the (sometime) challenging nature of the language used.
An abrupt ending to the story precludes The Paper Sword from being that illusive standalone fantasy novel that everyone covets; it is, nevertheless, a remarkable first book to a promising series which will surely entertain and fascinate readers of every age.
Andrew Laudicina, a MLIS graduate from the University of Western Ontario in London, ON, currently resides in Windsor, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.