Blades Falling Softly by Sarah Lin

Overview (No Spoilers):

Anyinn is an aging warrior who has embraced teaching the next generation, including her daughter. When the neighboring nation threatens their borders, she is called to defend her people against the invading species. However, as Anyinn gets to know her enemy, established prejudices are slowly replaced with understanding and empathy, ultimately complicating her directives. On the other side of the battle lines is Anyinn’s counterpart, Canumon, who also finds his preconceived notions challenged, but how can he keep his family safe while upholding his own moral beliefs? This tense situation is further complicated by unexpected forces manipulating both sides irrevocably toward battle. Can Anyinn and Canumon find some way to avoid all-out war?

Blades Falling Softly was the shortest read of my SPFBO batch, but it didn’t lack for depth. Lin created complex characters who were intriguing and often pulled in varying directions. These characters draw the reader in, especially as Lin sets the stage for a key conflict that could have major implications on a wider scale. That said, the buildup to the main battle is filled with enough false starts and intermittent lengthy debates prior to the actual event that the momentum of the story feels stalled. Mysterious events linked to lore worked to jumpstart the delayed bout with an action packed finale.

I couldn’t help but draw parallels between Blades Falling Softly and Alexander Darwin’s finalist in SPFBO6, The Combat Codes. In both novels, societies use warriors and single combat to make decisions on a wide variety of subjects, such as land disputes.

Overall, Lin created a beautiful, detailed world with unique characters, however the story as a whole became bogged down with extended debates between species that are used as a way to break down stereotypes, slowly, chapter by chapter. As Blades Falling Softly is a novella, I’m sure it fits in wonderfully with the wider world Lin has developed, fulfilling a key piece of lore that is valuable to the wider scheme.

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound)

  • Who will eventually assume the role of Hero to successfully kill the Dark Lord?
  • I found the Dark Lord and Anyinn conversing at the end an interesting twist, which acted to make the evil entity have a more real feel, than some overwhelming monstrosity. 
  • When I watched Rogue One [SPOILER for Star Wars], I knew everyone was going to die at the end based on conversations in the original trilogy. I found myself wondering: if I’d read the other books in Lin’s series, would I have known this history and that all the main characters die in the end?
  • The ending in general was so very depressing. So many people died. Events turned quickly, with Anyinn’s husband being murdered and Anyinn killing Canumon. Not to mention Anyinn abandoned her daughter and left Gowanisa to raise her. Those are just the key characters I’m mentioning, let alone all the peripheral deaths taking place during the battle slaughter. 
  • What will happen to Gowanisa, Heraenyas, Laghy, and the unborn baby?
  • What will Anyinn’s grown sons think?
  • Anyinn and Canumon’s discussions were interesting, though long, but their practice sparring seemed to make their battle anticlimactic since we’d already read their practice bouts several times at that point. 

Vocabulary Builder:  

Mendacious: given to or characterized by deception or falsehood or divergence from absolute truth


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