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Reviewed by K.J. Simmill for Readers' Favorite
In The 19th Bladesman by S.J. Hartland, Kaell's destiny had been written long before he was ever born. It was his destiny to fight the ghouls, to keep their forces at bay, and to die young. But there is more to this title than just that. The 19th Bladesman had another prophecy attached to him. If the 19th Bladesman is broken, then an evil god seeking dominion over all will be freed from his prison, and the prophecy states he will be broken. Prophecies of death and consequences see many who seek Kaell's death, only the manner of its deliverance varies, depending on whose side they are on. Fate has been kind in sparing him twice, once as a child and once again as a young man once more in the same woman's clutches, but will his luck hold out? Can he overcome what fate has in store, and if he does, can he live with the consequences?
S.J. Hartland writes the kind of action scenes that effortlessly draw the reader in and have them visualizing the flurry of movement in such a masterful way that I have only ever encountered in a handful of authors. However, it is not only the fast-paced, heart-pounding action where the author excels, but the world building is also phenomenal, with clear attention paid to provide a rich culture, society, history, religion and structure. The scenes flow effortlessly into one another, making its size as an epic barely noticeable as you turn page after page, losing yourself in a clearly well-constructed plot that is driven by the varied cast of vivid characters. The characters are every bit as deep and complex as the world itself, each sporting their own drives, ambitions, agendas, and, of course, flaws. Danger lurks at every turn, and trust is a difficult commodity to invest in. Action, betrayal, peril, insight, and the moxie to defy fate itself propel the reader through a rollercoaster adventure like no other. I love a big book, and give this one my full recommendation, something I save only for the books that really make me invest in the plot and characters. The 19th Bladesman is my kind of story, and I can't wait to see where S.J. Hartland takes us next.