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Son of the Sword
J. Ardian Lee
Ace Books, 338 pages


Paul Robinson
Son of the Sword
J. Ardian Lee
J. Ardian Lee was born in California, but she now lives in Tennessee with her family. She has been writing since the age of 12. In her mid-30s, she worked as a reporter for her local newspaper. Later, she moved on to doing the actor interviews for Starlog.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

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In 1713, the British are trying to quash the Jacobite rebellion, even as Queen Anne is trying to create a peace between the warring lands. The British soldiers think nothing of burning out and murdering families. Sinann, a fairy of the Sidhe, is sick and tired of it. She takes a sword that has just fallen from the hands of one of her beloved Mathesons, who she strives to protect, and pours her power into it, bidding it to bring her a hero. The first Matheson who touches it will come to her people and lead them to victory over their oppressors. Who she gets is Dylan Matheson.

Now, Dylan Matheson has the makings of a fine hero. In our own times he runs his own, moderately successful dojo, and goes to various fairs where he displays his swordsmanship. He is fiercely proud of his Scots heritage, and knows more about it than any other member of his family. When he sees the sword displayed at a tent during some Highland games held in his home state of Tennessee, he has to touch the magnificent creation. When he does he is transported back to meet Sinann, who is less than thrilled at first. But Dylan soon proves himself, and she spends much of her time trying to convince him to help save the Scots. He knows it's a useless cause. Soon the Queen will die, and the backlash will make life even worse for his proud people. But he falls in love with his family, and with the lovely daughter of his chief, Caitrionagh. Soon he is fighting for the survival of his clan, his love, and for his own life.

This story, first of all, does not do any of the things you would expect. J. Ardian Lee doesn't stand for stereotypes. The sword does not come back with Dylan, Dylan's mind is not miraculously changed by some terrible attack that kills a whole bunch of people, he does not miraculously become a new William Wallace. (Note: I'm not talking about the last part of the book, or future books, I'd like to reassure you for spoiler purposes.) He's Dylan -- brave, honorable, quick with the sword -- but he knows he can't change things. Sinann, on the other hand, sharp-tongued, stubborn, and desperate to save her adopted people, doesn't agree. It won't be until future books that we will discover which of them is correct. It makes Son of the Sword very realistic. Yes, I know that you're probably laughing at that. How can a time travel book with a smart aleck fairy be realistic? Those two items aside, you will find yourself in a Scotland so perfectly realized, from the smells to the cold, to the feel and price of the clothes, that you will feel like you've actually been there. Lee employs a lot of small details, and not all of them exactly pleasant, such as the fact that he often breaks his fast on the road with cold oatmeal with a little water added to it, and the delight he has in the rare sweet treat he is given to eat because he hasn't had sugar for ages. These details serve to enrich the character of Dylan Matheson, showing how quickly he manages to adapt to the conditions, as well as creating places for his reactions. The details also make the story very rich. There are also some very nifty historical surprises, such as when Dylan joins up with the MacGregors for a time, and we learn about the roots of blackmail.

While we're talking about Dylan, rarely will you find someone so completely charming and endearing. He's a typical guy, but he's also typically good, even when he finds himself in situations where his life becomes shaded in gray.

This strong, well woven read is being followed by at least two more books, Outlaw Sword and Sword of King James.

Copyright © 2003 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at www.apenandfire.com.


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