The Seer and the Sword by Victoria Hanley
It’s hard to muster up any particularly strong feelings for The Seer and the Sword. It is your standard medieval-adventure-fantasy, with every plot development and character arc foreseeable far in advance, told in sparse and simple prose. It’s hard to be too enthusiastic about it, yet at the same time I can’t be too dismissive either.
The story revolves around two young royals: red-headed Princess Torina of Archeld, and Prince Landen, whose country of Bellandra has just been defeated by Torina’s father. Landen is brought to Archeld as a slave, but is freed by Torina and allowed to join the ranks of King Kareed’s army (why the king would have the son of his defeated enemy trained in combat is something of a mystery). Whilst Landen wonders over the fate of the Sword of Bellandra that was seized and concealed by Kareed, Torina finds that she has a gift for seeing future visions in the crystal that her father has brought back from Bellandra and bestowed on her as a gift. The youngsters strike up a friendship, one that must be concealed from the rest of the court.
However, King Kareed’s commander Vesputo is plotting to take over the kingdom (what else would you expect from a man with a name like that?) and after assassinating Kareed, he frames Landen for the crime and stages Torina’s marriage to him. Escaping separately from Archeld, both Landen and Torina make it safely to neighboring kingdoms, each believing the other dead.
Years pass and the two create new lives: Torina living as a hermit in the mountains, and Landen as the commander of an elite gang of ex-convicts. Yet with High King Dahmis attempting to unite the kingdoms against the threat of rampaging Sliviites, both Torina and Landen offer their gifts as seer and warrior to the king when they suspect that Vesputo may be planning to betray him. In doing so, their paths may once again cross…
As I said, there’s nothing particularly bad to say about the story, yet nothing objectively good about it either. The lead characters are likeable but bland, the villain is your stereotypical, moustache-twirling baddie, and the plot is entirely predictable. Perhaps the reading experience could have been heightened had the prose been more sophisticated, but the entire story is told in short, brusque sentences which rely heavily on clichés. Landen has: “a unique set of eyes that looked as if they’d been heated, then frozen.” Torina is: “as luminous and full of motion as fire.” There are several generic (and unpronounceable) fantasy names littered throughout, such as “Mlaven”, “Sliviite” and the aforementioned “Vesputo,” but bizarrely, also an “Eric,” an “Anna” and an “Antonia.”
The story itself whips along at a swift pace, so there’s little chance of getting bored, but if you’re expecting something from the second half of the book’s title, then you’re going to be disappointed. The Sword of Bellandra is introduced as an heirloom of Landen’s home country, one which protects its people and which becomes Landen’s motivation in regards to where it is and what he can do with it. Another character goes to great lengths in order to remove it from Vesputo’s control, and that is has mysterious magical powers is hinted throughout the book. And yet, nothing is ever done with it. Belying its usual purpose as a weapon used to kill people; this particular sword is meant to be a talisman of peace, emanating warmth and comfort to anyone near it. I guess this is meant to be an ironic subversion on the nature of a sword, but since every other fantasy cliché in the novel is played completely straight, the sword issue just becomes nonsensical.
Both Landen and Torina are given solid characterization and development: he goes from embittered to empowered, and she goes from naïve to self-sufficient, and though their love-story is a little corny, it is so long in the making that I couldn’t help but feel a little flutter when they finally reunite. The supporting characters, however, are little more than cardboard cut-outs, and the dialogue can be a little stilted at times.
Therefore, it’s difficult to know whether to recommend The Seer and the Sword or not. While it lasts it’s a diverting, mildly interesting read, but it’s hardly an unforgettable reading experience. Neither good nor bad, it’s just your standard fantasy adventure.
The Seer and the Sword — (2000-2005) Young adult. Publisher: Princess Torina lives a charmed life in the Kingdom of Archeld. Then her father, King Kareed, seizes the peaceful kingdom of Bellandra — and its legendary sword, rumored to be able to defeat any enemy. On his return, he offers Torina two gifts: a beautiful crystal and the defeated king’s son, Landen, as a slave. Both prove to be more precious than she could ever imagine, for with them Torina makes two discoveries: She is a seer, able to glimpse the future in her crystal, and Landen is not a servant but a peer, a noble spirit who matches her in wits, humor and character. But all is not well in Archeld. Beneath the seemingly orderly surface lurk greed, revenge, and plot’s against the king’s life. Fingers point to Landen, but Torina cannot believe he would harm her or her family. Can she use her new found powers to save her beleaguered kingdom? Or must the seer take up the sword?
I read this one many years ago. I remember liking it, but can’t recall much about the story–maybe it’s for the reasons you describe. :)