Have Sword, Will Travel

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Garth Nix and Sean Williams, Have Sword, Will Travel,  Allen & Unwin,  Nov 2017, 304pp.,  $14.99 (pbk),  ISBN: 9781742374024

Odo and Eleanor did not set out to find their destiny.  At best, they were hoping for eels.  But awakening Biter, an enchanted talking sword, is only the start of their troubles…

A cracking tale of high adventure, swords and sorcery, Have Sword, Will Travel sets a new benchmark in fantasy comedy writing.  Our heroes are Odo and Eleanor – the former, a simple miller’s son; the latter the daughter of an apothecary (her father) and a knight (her mother).  Eleanor dreams of becoming a knight herself and following in her mother’s footsteps, while Odo wants no part of this adventuring business and wishes life would just go back to normal.

Written in the third person, we follow our heroes’ travels as they begin from humble origins, gaining life experience and growing as individuals along the way.  We feel their deepest wishes as our own – both Eleanor’s yearning for a life more thrilling than the one she knows; and Odo’s nervousness about setting off down a path greater than he feels he is capable of.  These themes are explored subtly and expertly within the book, as our characters learn much about the nature of honour, trust, responsibility, duty and sacrifice.

The style put me in mind of Terry Pratchett’s early Discworld novels – using the conventions of the fantasy genre but also playfully subverting them for comedic effect.  Not that Nix or Williams have to seek to imitate another writer’s style in the least – both are excellent literary craftsmen and are highly adept at creating something both unique and exciting.

Nix and Williams make a pretty good team… having successfully collaborated previously on the Troubletwisters series, this new sequence of books is off to a great start.

Book two in the Have Sword, Will Travel series – Let Sleeping Dragons Lie – will be out soon, and I for one can’t wait to see what happens to our heroes next!

Reviewed by Christian Price

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