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Sword and Chant, by Blair MacGregor

Review copy provided by author. Read on my Kindle.

This is an epic fantasy with focus on imperial succession, but the empire in question is more a collection of tribes than something more established and administrative like the US, Victorian Britain, China, or Rome. There are feuds of varying levels of intensity among the peoples under the Iyah’s domain, and of course there are border disputes–aren’t there always? The Iyah-ship is not limited by gender, and at the beginning of the book the old Iyah, the father of several of the major characters has just died, and one of them is about to become Iyah. Beyond that…well, beyond is the land of spoilers.

The unfamiliar terminology is introduced easily. While there are scads of relationship names and tribe names, they flow smoothly and do not break down the epic fantasy pacing here. And by “epic fantasy pacing,” I mean that it’s not a short, machine-gun paced book, but on the other hand, the focus is on fights, action, betrayals and redemption. There are human relationships here, but they are very much on the backdrop of empire–not a lot of time to stop for the budding friendship or see what it would be if it were not tested against loyalty to the Iyah, because that’s the focus of this book.

Sword and Chant is self-published, so the fact that the pacing is smooth and subgenre-appropriate is particularly noteworthy: that’s the thing that has fallen down most often for me not only with self-published but also with small-press works. The production is also good, with one or two typos, which is the same level that I notice from the big name publishing houses that send me review copies. MacGregor is someone I know online, not a close friend but someone with whom I am friendly, so I know that she chose self-publishing for this book as her main option, and she took the time to make it work here.

If I have a complaint about Sword and Chant, it’s that I can’t really attach to any one part of the world and say “ooh shiny, this is the part I loved.” It was very readable all the way through–recommended for those who like their epic fantasy with plenty of fight scenes. For me there was no moment where I started grabbing passersby and saying, “here is the thing you MUST know about this book because it is SO COOL.” Since I just read a Terry Pratchett book that I reacted to the same way, this is no great condemnation–I’ll definitely keep an eye out for Blair’s other stuff.

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