I don’t typically do this kind of write up of the audiobooks I listen to. Usually, I throw up a paragraph on the audible review and repost it to my Facebook page. But I thought I’d make an exception with this series, because I need content for my blog, because my Facebook posts don’t really help me keep track of what I’ve listened to, and because the first book of this series was one of my favorite fantasy novels as a younger man. The first three books of this series were published in 1988 and I read that first book, shortly thereafter. Probably as soon as it appeared in my local used bookstore.
Dave Duncan has a special significance now that I did not know about before. What’s that? Dave Duncan pursued a career as a geologist in the petroleum industry for nearly thirty years before he started writing science fiction and fantasy novels. He made his first sale (A Rose Red City) two years later in 1986 at the age of 53, just two weeks after his 31-year career as a geologist came to an end due to a slump in the oil business, at which point he switched to full-time writing. Let’s recap. He started writing SF and Fantasy at 51. Didn’t get published until he was 53. But wait, there is more. He was 85 when he passed away in 2018 and in the 34 years he was writing he published 62 novels. His novels West of January and Children of Chaos won Aurora Awards, and his works received eight Endeavour Award nominations and a Sunburst Award nomination. That is an impressive run and given my age, quite inspirational.
So, let’s revisit the SEVENTH SWORD series by Dave Duncan. The first three books were all published in 1988 and the first of the series was Dave Duncan’s most popular novel. The fourth book came out almost 25 years later. Really, it’s a trilogy + one.
Book one of the Seventh Sword series, The Reluctant Swordsman by Dave Duncan. Narrated by Donald Corren. 11 hrs and 44 mins. 09-29-2012
The main character of this series is earthman, Wallie Smith. Wallie contracted meningitis, died in the hospital, and found himself reborn into the body of a powerful swordsman on another world. His earth memories are in tact, but the memories of the man whose body he now possesses are absent. Those absent memories include all the societal mores and skills that would make living in this new world feasible. Enter the gods who have brought him here, and after a bit of skepticism and disbelief on Wallies part, he’s left believing that this is his new reality. If he will pledge fealty to them, they will give him the skills to survive.
Okay, the whole “transported to another world to become a hero” thing was my aspiration incarnate. I was hooked. And while the book starts slow, it’s not uninteresting.
We round out the cast with a eccentric priest as guide, a voluptuous slave girl as a love interest, and a spunky kid sidekick/protege. And of course, everyone else wants to kill him, steal his stuff, or both. Just to make things easier, the gods who brought him to this world are more than a little vague about what they want from him.
It’s a good start to a series. I really enjoyed it, even all these years later. The narrator was good, and that always helps. There is a decided oriental feel to the society and the culture that I noticed this time through, but had not noticed back when I first read the book.
As one of the first novels Duncan published, it’s not perfect. There are flaws, but they’re easily overlooked and I’m not going to point them out. I think the handling of slavery is understated, probably unrealistic, but the way the main character handles it is well done. I found Wallie Smith to be a likeable and relatable character. The story holds up pretty well to the new standards of Fantasy literature and doesn’t feel particularly dated to me.
Book two of the Seventh Sword series, The Coming of Wisdom by Dave Duncan. Narrated by Donald Corren. 13 hrs and 22 mins. 09-29-2012
I did not like this book when I read it back in the day. Prior to listening to it, I couldn’t tell you what I didn’t like about it back then, but having revisited it, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I didn’t like. I don’t want to give anything away, but I can’t say this without doing so. Back then, I had a real issue with authors mixing technology into my fantasy. I have much less of a reaction to that sort of thing now. Besides, you bring a guy from earth to your fantasy world because you’ve got technology problems, not because you want him to solve magical problems. We earthmen don’t have a lot of experience with magic.
So don’t be surprised when the sorcerers of the Fire God don’t turn out to be the spell weilding Merlin-Gandalf’s you’re used to in fantasy novels. But the reveal of their powers is a process and is well done, logical, and provides good story beats.
We get some new companions in this book, see more of the world, and of course the sorcerer’s make for a new bunch of villains. The world needs a hero and Wallie is a fellow with the knowledge set that they’re going to need, because the priests and swordsmen of the world are no match for the powers of magic wielded against them.
As I said, this was as far as I got in the first read and I don’t remember if I finished this book. A lot of it felt new, so it’s entirely possible that I didn’t finish it. I enjoyed it much more this time around. But my views and expectations about what makes for a good story have changed. I think this is a solid entry into the series, doesn’t suffer much, if at all, from middle book syndrome, and continues the exploration into an interesting and compelling world. I liked it. Glad I gave it a second try.
Book three of the Seventh Sword series, The Destiny of the Sword by Dave Duncan. Narrated by Donald Corren. 13 hrs and 44 mins. 09-29-2012
We come, at last, to something completely new to me. With his reputation shot-to-shit, his other-selves personality wrecking his relationships, and a prophecy that seems to indicate his best buddy and pupil is going to betray him, Wallie Smith seems to have run out of road on his path through this second chance on another world. But the Goddess isn’t letting him off the hook, he’s still got work to do. All he needs to do is
lead the arrogant band of swordsmen to destroy the sorcerers and their Fire God. Which is how the previous persona to occupy this body failed to begin with. But alternatives are not presenting themselves.
The twists and turns that make up this concluding novel in the original trilogy are nerve wracking, immersive, and logical. The conclusion is satisfying and unpredicted. It was a good ending after setting the reader up for what was going to be a very satisfying finish. Nice twist that plays into everything that has come before and works very well within the story. The trilogy that makes up the Seventh Sword is well worth the read, or listen, whatever the case may be. I’m glad to have had the experience of these books. But wait, there’s more.
Book four of the Seventh Sword series, The Death of Nnanji by Dave Duncan. Narrated by Victor Bevine. 9 hrs and 46 mins. 11-01-2012
Biggest gripe here is that they’ve changed the narrator. I don’t like the change, Victor Bevine pronounces all the names differently and that’s quite jarring. Also, I don’t think he does as good a job as Donald Corren did on the previous three titles. Personal preference, I know.
I don’t know why the author chose to revisit the world of the Seventh Sword. The ending of the trilogy did not leave loose ends or unanswered questions. You know, beyond those of every series ever, such as, and then what happened. But the point isn’t to describe the entire future and history of everything. The point is to tell a good story with a solid ending. The original trilogy did that. There is a decided change in Dave Duncan’s writing from the original trilogy. This is to be expected, what with it being a quarter of a century removed from those books and I’m sure his writing, his process, and his outlook have all changed and evolved over those years. Still, it’s noticeable. You’ve been warned.
This is a passing the torch novel. We jump 15 years into the future and whatever happened between then and now, well, we don’t dwell too much on that. Basically, we get the big overview of those years and then jump directly into the new adventure.
An unruly group of sorcerers has decided to destroy the Tryst of Casr, assassinate it’s leaders, and put themselves back in charge. You know the drill, how it should have always been–from a certain point of view. Case in point, from the view of the sorcerers.
Wallie Smith has to once again take up the seventh sword of Chioxin in defense of the world of the Goddess. This time he rides out to fight the war that he hoped would never come. As he leads his army forth, its two most junior members are Wallies son, Vixini, and the eldest son of his bond brother Nnanji, Addis, who has an oath of vengeance to fulfill. Older, wiser, slower, he knows that their failure or success will determine the fate of the World for the next thousand years.
The kids get a lot of screen time. Really, this is their story. Like I said, we’re passing the torch here. It ties back to the original trilogy nicely and we get to revisit a lot of characters, see how things have changed, and what has stayed the same.
This book probably doesn’t stand on it’s own as well as some, but it does do a nice job of bringing us back to the world to see how things have progressed. It gives us a satisfying story and a wrap up to the whole thing. Oh, and Nnanji dies. C’mon. That’s not a spoiler. It’s the title of the damn book.
As a series I’d give it a rating of four out of five stars. Individually, the first book is great. The rest of them are interesting and well done, but I would probably struggle to determine if they were high 3’s or low 4’s, as far as stars go. I liked it. I would recommend it to someone who asked about the series, but I don’t know if I’d think to recommend the series to someone who just asked what to read/listen to next. Unfortunately, these will most likely just become a thing I listened to rather than a formative experience. Having said that, the story of Dave Duncan, that is an inspiring story for a middle-aged, wanna-be author.