Top critical review
Poorly Edited eBook, Wonderful Story
Reviewed in the United States on May 14, 2019
Two things immediately struck me about By the Sword and hooked me. First, this book is not set in Valdemar. Set in Rethwellan, a country to the south, we finally get to experience how the rest of the world views Valdemar. To them, Valdemar is reclusive, quiet, and has silly ideals about honor and nobility. Their Heralds are constantly wearing stupid uniforms into battle which basically scream, "HIT ME!" And, for some reason no one in Valdemar uses magic? I really enjoyed hearing everyone talk about how queer they think Valdemar is.
The second thing which struck me about By the Sword is the format. This is the first time I've read a Lackey book which covers so much time in a single go. When the book opens, Kero is ~16. By the end of the book, she's almost 40. Kerowyn develops from a young, frustrated maiden into a mercenary captain in a believable way. With the three book division, it was easy for large time jumps to occur without it disrupting the story. This allowed the reader to really understand the transformation Kero is undertaking throughout her life without bogging the story down.
Can I just talk about the ending of this book for a second?! No spoilers. It's obvious to me that how much I loved the ending of this book shows me how deeply Lackey has her claws in me. I didn't predict the ending at all, even though it is 100% completely predictable. I loved every second, every word. I laughed. I cried. I cheered. I am completely smitten with this world and, in particular, these characters.
By the Sword would have been 4 stars for me with the exception of a few things. Pacing was inconsistent for me. I found at times I got too many details of mercenary life or Kero trying to travel from point A to point B. I also found Kero's lack of self-confidence frustrating. By 50% I was exhausted from listening to her whine about how bad she is at everything. I also felt like Kero's romantic interest was… boring? Unnecessary? He felt like a plot point, not a true character. And definitely not a real relationship.
But the biggest challenge for me? My ebook is VERY poorly edited. Words and text have the wrong formatting; sometimes bold, sometimes italic, when they should be one or another. At least a dozen typos. And a few mis-references to the sex/gender of a character. It was distracting and pulled me out of the story.