The Double-Edged Sword: A Tale Of The Fallen Hero by Ian Whates (book review).

‘The Double-Edged Sword: A Tale Of The Fallen Hero’ is a short novella by Ian Whates in the grand old sword and sorcery tradition. It opens with the hero being recognised in a tavern by a callow youth and charming him with tales of his escapades with the brave Gerard, a famous outlaw. The opening chapter, ‘Not A Moment To Swoon’ originally appeared as a short story in ‘Afterburn SF’ in 2006 but Whates continues the tale after that as the protagonist sets off in search of employment as a sword for hire.

Port Cray is the place for that, a bustling city with two great rival merchant families. Our nameless hero sets off thither and has an amusing sexual encounter along the way. Near his destination, he falls in with a group of travellers carrying a valuable prize and helps them out, landing himself a job thereby. I confess that a man with no name and no scruples going to a town run by ruthless rival outfits put me in mind of ‘A Fistful Of Dollars’ but maybe that’s inevitable.

Whates writes well in easy-to-read contemporary prose and manages a perfect balance of plot, world-building and characters. The flaw for me was in the character of the hero. I didn’t like him at all. Being a treacherous sneak is indubitably a good approach to that sort of lifestyle but anything that portrays evil as sophisticated and clever and good as naive and stupid doesn’t sit well. There are thieves, reavers and slayers galore in fantasy who still have a moral code or loyalty to someone. Not this hero. However, it’s a good story and I would read another. Maybe he’ll change.

Eamonn Murphy

May 2023

(pub: NewCon Press. 78 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-910953-41-5)

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