Sword Catch­er

  • Review
By – October 18, 2023

This first adult fan­ta­sy nov­el by Cas­san­dra Clare appears to mark the begin­ning of a vivid series about a new world and its his­to­ry, reli­gions, and peo­ples. The tit­u­lar sword catch­er” is a body dou­ble for the crown prince of Castel­lane, the key city-state in the wider world of Dan­nemore. The nov­el begins with the acqui­si­tion of Kel, an orphan select­ed for the role of sword catch­er. His posi­tion is known only to the roy­al fam­i­ly and sev­er­al close advi­sors. Kel is raised along­side Prince Conor and pre­tends to be his cousin and com­pan­ion from the Queen’s home­land. His val­ue as a dou­ble would be lost if poten­tial assailants knew his true identity.

Castel­lane is rich­ly pop­u­lat­ed with noble hous­es, trades­peo­ple, stu­dents, cour­tisans, and crim­i­nals. There are many beau­ti­ful objects, fur­nish­ings, and books in the palace, and Kel cer­tain­ly ben­e­fits from the extra­or­di­nary life he’s been promised. At the same time, he must learn to nav­i­gate a crowd of nobles and advi­sors to help pro­tect the prince, for whom he cares deeply.

Among the dif­fer­ent peo­ples of Castel­lane are the Ashkar, who are required to dress dif­fer­ent­ly and live sep­a­rate­ly. The Ashkar were once the peo­ple of Aram, back when mag­ic was still avail­able to all. After the Sun­der­ing, Queen Adas­sa of Aram removed mag­ic from the world. The only mag­ic left — known as Gema­try,” and con­sist­ing of tal­is­mans, charms, and heal­ing — is per­formed by the Ashkar. 

Because the non-Ashkar resent the exis­tence of Gema­try, as well as the Ashkar people’s con­tin­ued wor­ship of Adas­sa, they’ve come to dis­trust them over time. Laws have been enact­ed to con­trol them. They are required to wear gray cloth­ing to iden­ti­fy them­selves, like yel­low stars in anoth­er world, and they’re for­bid­den to attend uni­ver­si­ty. The Ashkar are also pro­hib­it­ed from being at large after night­fall and must always return to their walled com­mu­ni­ty, the Sault. Their his­to­ry is sim­i­lar to that of the Jew­ish peo­ple; many even have Jew­ish names. 

Unfor­tu­nate­ly for us read­ers, not all of the char­ac­ters and places in Dan­nemore that we grow fond of will remain peace­ful. Char­ter fam­i­lies, crim­i­nals, and exter­nal rivals have plans that will be dan­ger­ous and destruc­tive. The next vol­ume will undoubt­ed­ly bring more excite­ment and tragedy.

Inger Saphire-Bern­stein is a health pol­i­cy pro­fes­sion­al with exten­sive expe­ri­ence across mul­ti­ple health care deliv­ery set­tings and the insur­ance indus­try. She has pub­lished a num­ber of arti­cles and papers in the health pol­i­cy field.

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