Sword of the Bright Lady by M. C. Planck
Series: World of Prime #1
Published by Pyr on September 9th, 2014
Christopher Sinclair goes out for a walk on a mild Arizona evening and never comes back. He stumbles into a freezing winter under an impossible night sky, where magic is real -- but bought at a terrible price. A misplaced act of decency lands him in a brawl with an arrogant nobleman and puts him under a death sentence. In desperation he agrees to be drafted into an eternal war, serving as a priest of the Bright Lady, Goddess of Healing. But when Marcius, god of war, offers the only hope of a way home to his wife, Christopher pledges to him instead, plunging the church into turmoil and setting him on a path of violence and notoriety.To win enough power to open a path home, this mild-mannered mechanical engineer must survive duelists, assassins, and the never-ending threat of monsters, with only his makeshift technology to compete with swords and magic.But the gods and demons have other plans. Christopher's fate will save the world... or destroy it.
I have to admit; I found the concept of someone from our world landing in the middle of a medieval style fantasy story quite intriguing. I mean, really, we spend our free time reading about such things, but what would it really be like to wake up in one? Dirty, smelly and full of hard work. Probably not near as much fun as reading. So, curiosity grabbed me pretty quick, I couldn’t help but want to see how our protagonist, Christopher (one of us), fared in this new strange world.
About the magic in this world, I actually found it quite interesting and disturbing. To gain magical ability, you collect something called tael. Cool, right? It can even be used as a type of currency, purchasing favors from priests as well as social status. Just find a way to harvest tael, and you can advance, do magic, become superhuman in fights making it near on impossible for mundane (non-magical) people to harm you, and if they do, well, just use some tael and heal yourself. Sounds awesome! Let’s find some tael!
Well, it’s cool until you find out that tael is harvested from the dead. That brings a different dynamic to everything. Post battle looting doesn’t just focus on rings and swords, but on heads and tael. There is potentially a tangible benefit to death and that is what I (being my pacifist self) found disturbing. And just to be clear, this is not something the book is glorifying or ignoring. Our protagonist definitely sees that side as well and some of his opinions on where life versus tael are valued can shake the foundation of what is just considered the norm in this world. Christopher values life before all else, including the power that comes from tael.
Christopher seems to know a lot of convenient things when he gets there. Things that help advance the technology of the world. I have to admit, part of me felt like he knew a bit too much, that it was all more convenient than it should be. But, I also have to admit to knowing a couple people in real life that can spout out facts and information about things that I, despite graduating from a College of Engineering, see no reason to ever know. There are some personalities in this world that just absorb information and are quite intrigued in the inner workings of basically everything. Christopher must be one of those people because he seems to know an awful lot. Perhaps it’s that personality trait that caused him to land in the middle of this strange world.
The war in this book is a bit nebulous for the majority of the story. All we really know is on a regular basis, all the boys of a certain age are sent to war and a disturbingly small percentage of them return. We know very little about who the war is with, why they are so superior, why these boys are continued to be sent off to be killed off in such numbers. Is the world in danger? Are they fighting off some aggressor? What is the underlying conflict? Is resolution ever possible or even attempted? The cost seems so terribly high, its surprising that no one ever discusses the details of the threat. And if they don’t know the details, why are they not asking? The end of this book, as Christopher and his company are finally entrenched in the war, definitely does finally address this and it gives a great segue to the next book (assuming that you don’t mind a bit of a cliffhanger), but I just couldn’t quite grasp why it was not something that was discussed or questioned.
I think this was a pretty strong debut. I really enjoyed the premise and the way magic and status is handled. Magic with a real cost! At times things seemed a bit easy for our protagonist, but, hey, I liked the rest of it enough I can easily overlook that. When it comes down to it, Sword of the Bright Lady was an enjoyable and intriguing read with an ending that has me interested and asking more questions until I get the chance to read the next one.