Friday Review: Sasha: A Trial of Blood and Steel (A Trial of Blood and Steel Book 1) by Joel Shepherd

Sasha (A Trial of Blood & Steel, #1)Sasha by Joel Shepherd

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sasha is a princess, the daughter of the Lenayin king. But Sasha has left her royal life behind to train with Kessligh, a master of both sword and battle tactics. Sasha has become one of the best of the svaalverd method fighters, and is held in almost religious regard by the Goren-yai she has chosen to live with. But her royal heritage is catching up with her, and between palace intrigue, pagan insurrection, and her own sometimes rash temper, Sasha is being drawn into a leadership role in the coming war that she may not be ready to take on.

This is the first book in a tetralogy, and as such, there is a fair amount of set-up for succeeding books here. The cast of characters is large, and sometimes hard to keep straight, even if it is mainly in the character secondary to this story. There is a large amount of world-building, which is done well, but gets in the way of the action a few times. Main characters are written well. Sasha is not just a strong woman warrior, she has her doubts, she questions her own ability, and she makes mistakes. She learns to rely on those around her as she grows into her role as the unifying force leading a rebel army. The story moves along well, weaving around the details setting up the rest of the series. The swordplay is good, and the style of fighting Sasha learns brings to mind a Japanese type of discipline. More important, it suits a female warrior, who, if you are honest, is always going to be at a disadvantage in a slash-and-dash style of swordplay. It is easily believable that Sasha, a woman, can defeat men much larger and stronger than she is.

There were a few things I found confusing. First is the serrin, one of the races living in the kingdom. There are references to how they view “humans”, implying that they are not fully human, but it is not really explained. We finally meet a few about three-quarters of the way through the book, and they seem, for lack of a better term, rather fae-like. Another problem for me was the distinctions between the various races, some of whom are tied to the country they live in and some who cross boundaries, and the different religions. They seem to blur together at times, and I eventually stopped trying to figure it out.

Despite the above, I found the book intriguing and a good read. It should appeal to fans of non-magical fantasy and sweeping history.

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