House of Blades: The Traveler's Gate Trilogy, Volume 1 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Simon can only watch, helpless, as his family is killed and his friends captured by enemy Travelers—men and women who can summon mystical powers from otherworldly Territories. To top it off, another young man from Simon's village discovers that he's a savior prophesied to destroy evil and save the realm.
Prophecy has nothing to say about Simon. He has no special powers, no magical weapons, and no guarantee that he'll survive. But he sets off anyway, alone, to gain the power he needs to oppose the Travelers and topple their ruthless Overlord. It may not be his destiny, but Simon's determined to rescue his fellow villagers from certain death.
Because who cares about prophecy, really?
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|Listening Length||11 hours and 30 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||June 01, 2022|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #9,274 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#651 in Epic Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
#1,757 in Epic Fantasy (Books)
Top reviews from the United States
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The book opens with Simon in a forest with his mom and dad. Dad quickly gets killed by a pair of Travelers. Mom is driven insane and a swordsman steps up to slay the pair of Travelers, saving Simon.
He tells Simon his mother might never recover, but there is a chance. Then to come back to the woods in a couple of years and he will teach him how to never fear Travelers again.
Fast forward several years and Simon is trying to take care of his crazy mother. The Overlord Malachi has sent soldiers to gather 9 people for the sacrifice, but the townspeople refuse. Chaos ensues.
One of the townspeople, Leah, is actually a traveler in disguise. More than that, she is one of the King's daughters. She was placed in the village 2 years ago to watch for an Elysian Traveler who was prophesied to appear there. We later learn that is Alin, a boy who likes to talk like he is a hero out of a story.
Leah, not being there to stop the gathering of sacrifices, talks to the commander and tells him that he will take her as a 10th and escort her to the capital.
Simon, Alin, and a few other villagers escape. When the soldiers find them, Alin summons power from Elysia (to his surprise) and slays the enemy traveler. Some travelers from Enosh appear and help the villagers, but the sacrifices have disappeared (Leah having covertly transported them to her territory). Alin is taken to Enosh to train (they also had the prophecy), the rest of the villagers return to Myria. Most folks are content to let Alin deal with it, but Simon decides he won't and marches off to Latari Forest to go get his special training.
He meets Kai who eventually brings Simon to Valinhall where he becomes a member of the Dragon Army and earns his Dragon Fang (sword). He does it after he rescues 2 children from Orgrith Cave. He travels with their family for a bit before realizing they are transporting the remnants of his village. He fights and tries not to kill all the soldiers, but many perish. Eventually he passes out after the rest flee.
When he comes to, he sees his villagers trying to kill the children he saved and beating on the remaining soldier. He transports all of them to Valinhall and tells the villagers they are in his territory now. The villagers misunderstand this and think they will be tortured now. They all head to Bel Calem and the overlord.
They meet up with Alin (who has been training in Enosh) who takes command (irking Simon). They find the remaining sacrifice and Alin tells Simon that he has to take the villagers home. Simon agrees then tells them they are on their own after Alin leaves. Simon goes to the Overlord and finds out that he isn't really evil. That each village in each territory offers the sacrifice and that they are rotated, so that his village wouldn't see another sacrifice in Simon's lifetime. That they do it on the order of the king, to keep the tree sealed. Simon realizes there is more to this than he knows and prepares to leave when Alin bursts in and blasts toward the Overlord, which doesn't hurt him, but does destroy the room containing his wife and children.
Simon rushes in to save them; the Overlord sees, but doesn't stop him, knowing Simon will help them, which he does. After which the wife stabs Simon in the back (literally).
Alin defeats the Overlord and gathers up Leah. Then the 3 Myrians flee on the back of Elysian Bears. So many Travelers are following them, that Simon has Alin and Leah break away. Simon leads the enemies to a canyon where he demonstrates the power of a Valinhall traveler and slays them all.
When Alin gets back to his room, he finds 3 bears destroying it and laughs that Simon survived.
As the story progresses we get a hint that all is not as it seems, and that good and evil are not clear cut. We (but not Simon) find out that the travelers who slew Simon's father were from Enosh. That the yearly sacrifices are made to keep an incarnation trapped in a tree. At the start of the next volume we find out that Valin is trapped in that tree.
On to volume 2: the Crimson Vault.
Years later, the village in which Simon has been eking out an existence, caring for his mother with the small amount of money he is able to earn and the occasional handouts from others in the village. Suddenly, his village is attacked. The Overlord has declared that the year's Sacrifice will come from the village, but the soldiers and Traveler sent to gather the nine individuals who will serve as sacrifice do not do so peacefully. Killing indiscriminately, the village is nearly destroyed. Of those taken for sacrifice is Leah, one of Simon's only friends in the village.
Determined to save her, Simon returns to the site of his father's murder in search of the Traveler who had saved him. After several days, he finds Kai instead. Kai brings him into Vallin Hall and begins to help train him as a Traveler. Will Simon gain the skills he needs to save Leah? And what about Alin, who discovers he is also a Traveler, and he is apparently a prophesized Traveler? Will Alin's ego help him or hurt him?
I really enjoyed his introduction into this world. Both the character development and the world-building were good. From the beginning of the book, I was drawn into the story and found myself cheering for Simon. In addition, though I initially found myself glad that Simon would have a second Traveler on his side through Alin, Wight did a wonderful job of writing Alin's character development such that he could easily go different ways. I look forward to reading/listening to the next book to see how that goes. Finally, after that revelation at the end, I definitely want to see what's going to happen between Simon and Alin, and whether or not Simon will reveal the knowledge he gained about Leah when he was rescuing her.
I also had the opportunity to listen to part of the audiobook, newly re-recorded by the wonderful Travis Baldree. I started listening to the audiobook about halfway through, as it was just released yesterday. I look forward to listening to the other two books as Travis Baldree is one of my favorite narrators.
Top reviews from other countries
Unfortunately I'm finding it a bit "young adult" in its tone and it's not gripping me. One of the main characters (at this stage I'm not entirely sure WHO is supposed to be the lead) is Simon and, so far, he's just driving me nuts with going on about his mother. Thankfully (yes, showing my cold hearted side) she's died a few chapters ago - but even that couldn't endear me to it.
The author has a vivid imagination and clearly has put a lot of work into inventing an unusual World / Galaxy / Characters. But I suspect that I'm too old for his target audience.
There were a lot of interesting ideas in House of Blades but I often felt a lot was not explained and it left me without the detail I wanted. Also the power scaling is rather loose and I don’t feel satisfaction when a practitioner of a few months beats those who have been using their power for a lifetime. None of the main characters have a good or honest relationship either so this is missing too. The only person I found myself invested with was Simon.
All in all I felt it warranted a 3 stars for average.
I'm not interested in the young love squabble. The female character is very much not a damsel in distress, it's nice that she is critical and unimpressed with both young male characters' actions. Having this multi-perspective narrative made some of the narrative driving motivations very shallow, it's easy to criticise the characters, so it also made it easy to dislike the characters. House of blades wasn't a page turner for me. Despite this, it is a well written book.
The magic system is the most obvious aspect about the book that is original and well thought through. The concept is that there is one main world where everybody lives, but there are eight other "territories" that exist separately. If you can find your way to these magical realms and survive in them, you will be rewarded with spectacular abilities, the nature of which are very much specific to your territory. People who have these powers are known as Travellers. Add in a further two "special" territories and the fact that some Travellers can belong to more than one, and you have an extremely rich magic system that lends itself well to magical duels or more epic battle scenes, as well as more subtle uses of the various powers.
Less obvious is the author's deliberate twists on standard conventions seen in the majority of Fantasy books. Here there are two warring factions, but there is no clear dividing line to say one is Good and the other Evil. In fact, both of them commit atrocities and acts of benevolence alike, and as the story progresses a good job is done in showing how both factions can reasonably consider that they are "in the right". In other words, it's more realistic in terms of human nature, politics and the wielding of power than you might expect.
Also novel is that the main protagonist has a tragic childhood, develops amazing powers in his teens and goes adventuring. So far, so very ordinary (not that there's anything wrong with that trope per se). But, there is a twist in that despite all of this, from the perspective of the world at large, he is very much an incidental character, being overshadowed by a bigger player, whom he resents. I won't go into any more detail for fear of spoiling things, but it's a subtle, welcome change to the norm.
Finally, what makes the book are the characters. They are likeable, quirky and interesting, which pretty much ticks all the boxes for me.
I especially like the addled swordsman with an unhealthy fetish for his dolls...
My only subjective criticism is that the speech of many of the characters uses some modern expressions that I personally find jarring. I don't expect fantasy characters to have to speak in "Olde Englyshe", but I do find that too modern a tone can spoil the escapism a bit for me.
Back to the review. The main character, Simon, is decent and the author makes a decent job of fleshing him out. However none of the other characters were particularly interesting, they either just fitted in to well known archetypes or didn't get any time to grow. In fact with many characters they weren't even just uninteresting they also seemed pretty silly and unbelievable.
The plot was so-so, I liked some of the ideas like the magic system which seemed to have a lot in common with the magic system in Steven Erickson's books. However I felt like the author was using another idea from Erickson's books, namely covering up for nonsensical plot elements with vague references to larger terms/ideas which then weren't explained. I found that approach annoying in Erickson's books and the same is true here.
I also found that the few actually interesting ideas were poorly dealt with. In particular (spoiler alert) the idea that the house and in particular the Nye were trying to kill Simon and all other guests was quite nice. However the idea was ruined when it later it turns out some guests get a free pass.
Other than that I'm not sure what to say. Its a pretty short and simple book with very few original or decent ideas, but it that wasn't too bad a read especially at the price.