To learn more read this post: Launch of the tour
Trial by battle is a holy rite on Hillside. Hired blades bleed their foes in savage duels, settling everything from petty grievances to the corporate laws that keep their citizens in line. Embroiled in these cutthroat political games is John Chronicle, an impoverished swordsman with no better prospects, seeking the duel that will free him from the Dregs.
Meanwhile, John’s boyfriend Edwin, an autistic university student, befriends a fellow scholar who claims to study the arcane art of thaumaturgy. When she offers to teach Edwin this subtle magic, he hopes that he can use it to bolster John’s skill with a blade. But thaumaturgy is a dangerous magic, and the forces that drive it have other plans.
The couple soon find themselves entangled in the web of intrigue surrounding the swordsmen and their sponsors, and they’re forced to question how bloody they’re willing to get to escape poverty — and they don’t come away with the same answer.
C.M. Caplan Is the author of The Sword in the Street. He’s a quadruplet (yes, really), mentally disabled, and he spent two years as the Senior Fiction Editor on a national magazine – while he was still an undergrad in college. He has a degree in creative writing from Salem State University and was the recipient of the university’s highest honor in the arts. His short fiction also won an Honorable Mention in the 2019 Writers of the Future Contest.
Caplan’s introduction to fantasy came through J. R. R. Tolkien and George R. R. Martin. He has a tattoo that roughly translates to Valar Morghulis, as written in Tolkien’s Elvish script, in an acknowledgment of that fact. Other influences include Robin Hobb, Ellen Kushner, N.K. Jemisin, Katherine Addison, John Irving, Ann Petry, K.S. Villoso, and Neil Gaiman.
He currently lives in New England, where he works remotely for a social justice theater company.
This was a really interesting, fun read, about relationships of all forms, about struggling for financial independence, about learning to understand each others’ differences and adjusting our behaviour when we need to be easier to understand.
John is a quick tempered swordsman, his boyfriend Edwin is quieter and his autism means he finds it hard to read people – especially John. They struggle with their relationship at times – neither are great communicators.
Edwin finds his friendship with fellow student Audrey easier to understand and deal with – she’s better at expressing herself clearly.
John loses his job after losing a duel for his employer and has to make a new life for himself. He mishandles some things and upsets people who considered him a friend. But slowly, and with Edwin and Audrey’s help, he comes to realise the person he’s become isn’t who he wants to be.
He and Edwin have to decide what will make them happier – being together and being poor but decent human beings, or going their own ways and perhaps being less likeable.
I would have liked more on the thaumaturgy that Audrey is studying and that Edwin takes an interest in, but then I’m a sucker for a magic system and I can imagine that in a second book the focus might shift to their studies and investigations into magic as a way of affecting things, rather than John’s brute strength and ignorance style.
Overall this is a really strong first novel and does a nice job of world building, with the Haves living at the top of the hill and the Nots literally living in a place called the Dregs. I liked that there seemed to be more gender parity in this world – the lordess John works for is just as obnoxious as her male counterparts and holds the same power.
To follow the tour please click the poster below ⬇️
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.