This is my seventh book review for the Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge at Worlds Without End.
Sword of Fire and Sea by Erin Hoffman was a light, fun book. By no means perfect, but quite enjoyable.
Captain Vidarian Rulorat is commissioned by the fire priestesshood to transport one of their own to a place of safety, beyond the reach of the Vkortha who are hunting her. Thus, he sets himself a course that will change his life and change the world.
The magic system is one of elements—earth, air, water, and fire—the source of which are the four goddesses. Most magic users are women, priestesses, and can wield only one element, but during the course of saving the fire priestess Ariadel’s life, Vidarian finds himself suddenly in possession of both fire and water magic, and the subject of prophecy. The magic is never described in much detail, but I enjoyed seeing Vidarian stumble through discovering his own, rather than having a teacher on hand to give him all the answers.
The griffins were wonderful. Sentient, telepathic, magical creatures, and fresher than the standard dragons. It was nice to see their limitations, too; if they wanted to fly with humans, the griffins had to work together in twos or three to carry them in air gondolas. I also appreciated that they were characters in their own right, not just talking extensions of their masters’ will.
The gender balance of the cast was great. I think it actually skewed toward more females than males, because the priestesses were of course all women, but it’s always nice to see a fantasy culture where women are actually considered equal. The crew of Vidarian’s ship seemed to be a pretty even split, and the other sea captain we meet is female—and to the characters, it was nothing remarkable.
I was a bit disappointed by the love interest. She started out great, saving the whole ship from a pirate attack, but then it seemed like as soon as she became the love interest in earnest, all she did was get rescued and get jealous of Vidarian’s former fiancée. And speaking of love, physical attraction is one thing, but Vidarian started calling her the woman he loves entirely too quickly for me to believe it.
I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I love that the quest started out as a very black and white goal, and morphed into an actual choice. I’m not sure I like the love interest’s role in the choice, and I’m not sure I agree with Vidarian’s ultimate reasoning behind his choice, but I was glad he had to make it, and that it had real, immediate consequences.
I didn’t love Sword of Fire and Sea so much I’ll rush to read the next book, but it is going on my list.