Words of Power: Volume 1 by Ritchie Valentine Smith
|Words of Power: Volume 1 by Ritchie Valentine Smith|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: An interesting Samurai fantasy offering philosophy-tinged action in a future world not dissimilar to ours, apart from the magic… and the evil Lord of the North… and… well, you get the idea. Ritchie Valentine Smith popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 498||Date: October 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
The prophecies state that One Who Will Change will appear in order to save. As the Lord of the North threatens the City of Jade, Lord Okada thinks that now would be a good time for the One to appear. However, that thought is suddenly side-lined by a more pressing occurrence: the huge black iron warship from Albion in the harbour doesn't seem to be a friendly presence. Potential attack causes Okada to re-evaluate. Previously he's considered Emmanuel Kinross to be his adopted son as well as a Samurai but Man, as he's known for short, also comes from Albion. As total destruction edges closer and alliances are doubted, can Okada trust Man and, come to that, who can Man trust?
British author Ritchie Valentine Smith has not only created a well-travelled hero in this, the first of a Samurai fantasy series, he's also travelled in his hero's footsteps. In order to research Man, his friends and his nemeses, Ritchie has been as far afield as Japan and the Middle East. The result is a world built along similar lines to our own (as we notice from location names), facing destruction from a mortal enemy – the chilling (in many ways) Lord of the North.
This is a guy who is much heralded before his appearance, being spoken of in hushed and/or fearful tones as he exudes cold, death and dark magic. Indeed, this is a story that comes to us dripping with fantasy-satisfying magic. The evil one may be a dab hand at nasty tricks but the goodies are no slouches either.
We begin with Man and his friends dangling from an airborne bubble which creates its own problems while also setting a high standard of adventure. Then there's the All-Seeing Eye and some interesting ways of conveying a song that separate the magic-blessed from mundane humanity.
A novel like this would be nothing without its insight into politics and Ritchie creates something in this field that stands up to the action it intersects. The alliances and internal divisions shift as fear, doubt and foreboding fight with reasoning.
Fantasy often reflects the time in which it was written and in this case the political ideas and fervour are as much underpinned by xenophobia as the events on our current daily news. It's there, simmering beneath this story's surface creating a paranoia that becomes a more immediate enemy for Man while awaiting the Son of the North to materialise beyond rumour.
The demonstration of the paranoia does niggle mildly at one point as we go through repetitive should we trust him/we don't/should we/we do conversations but it ensures that authentic levels of doubt and hesitancy are communicated to us. Considering Man's treacherous ancestry, we can't really blame anyone for wanting to consider his position. (Oh yes, there's quite an interesting back story!)
As in all Samurai fantasy, the philosophy plays an important role. Ritchie has ensured the dissemination of multi-cultural nuggets of thought don't get in the way of the momentum. The Samurai concepts, including Man's adoption, are very Japanese. Yet the inclusion of the Eirish ally (see earlier comment about the nations' names) in the shape of the Voice from Afar as well as Man's Albion heritage bring in some allegorical moments reflecting western thought. Call me a vicar's wife but I think I may have spotted a Biblical resonance or two.
By the time we reach the final page, vicariously tired by the exertions of a thundering good denouement, all feels peaceful. However we know this is the calm before the storm that we can look forward to in Volume 2.
(A big thank you to the publisher for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you'd like more in the Samurai fantasy riff, then once again I put forward a beloved favourite for consideration: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. If you've read that or would like more than one suggestion, then Black Wolves (Black Wolves Trilogy) by Kate Elliott is also right up there with the best.
You can read more about Ritchie Valentine Smith here.
Ritchie Valentine Smith was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy Words of Power: Volume 1 by Ritchie Valentine Smith at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Words of Power: Volume 1 by Ritchie Valentine Smith at Amazon.com.
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