On The First Book of Swords

I read most of The First Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen. I’m not sure, but I think I was supposed to start with Empire of the East. But I didn’t feel like I missed any essential pieces of story. I stopped reading about 75% through because it was pretty clear there would be no ending, and I would have to read all of the other Sword books.

Saberhagen’s writing has a more literary feel to it. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what makes it seem so. Perhaps it’s the average sentence length and complexity, which seems higher than average. Perhaps it’s just the natural quality of an experienced writer I’m seeing.

Medieval fantasies set in the future are cool. I will freely admit that I’m fascinated by the idea of setting a medieval fantasy story in Earth’s future. I have a vague recollection that Terry Brooks put an old rusty skyscraper somewhere in the Sword of Shanara, which, when I first read it as a teenager, I thought was the coolest thing in the entire universe. Saberhagen’s world is also set in the future, with several blatant references to the Old World and their technologists.

Metric measurements shouldn’t be in a fantasy story. There are three mundane elements of worldbuilding which I struggle with in fantasy writing: Money (which I mentioned before), units of time and measurement, and swearing. I won’t go into the full details of why I struggle with them, but suffice it to say that I find it hard to come up with terminology that is foreign yet recognizable, and realistic yet fantastical. So I’m keenly interested to see what other fantasy authors do in these areas. Saberhagen does something I haven’t seen before: Metric units. Meters and kilometers and so forth. It makes sense in Saberhagen’s world, I suppose, if America died out and only the metric system survived. But for me, his system fails on the “fantastical” test, and so I can’t see myself emulating it.

Now moving on to Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule, which I will have a lot more to say about. :)

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