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Quick Review: Swallowtail and Sword: The Scholar’s Book of Story and Song

It’s unusual for me to enjoy short stories, but this time I did. That’s in part thanks to the writing, which does again rise to the level I have gotten to expect from the author, with all the care obviously put into it, including the particularly good use of structure and patterns. There were also far fewer typos this time around, several in Kerris’ story but only a few in all the others put together. But the main reason is that these aren’t scattered stories, but the backstories of characters I already know and care for, meaningful and connected with ties that are stronger than the forces of the different times and places trying to separate them. Considering the complaints I had about those, I’d call Swallowtail and Sword better than some of the “proper” books in the series.
Taking the stories separately, the first was Jeffrey’s and the clear postapocalyptic setting overshadowed the positive aspects, while the legend at the end seemed quite out of place in a different way. But other than that, I even sort of enjoyed Ling’s story, despite obviously being bothered by the court intrigue and, as I call it, human filth portrayed in it. Maybe I wasn’t particularly impressed by any aspect of the one about Kirin and his horse, but I can’t find faults in it either, and I also can’t exactly find faults in Fallon’s story, the setting, this time an institution of formal education, again likely being what bothered me to some extent, but in that case I was once again drawn to her unfiltered but well-meaning awkwardness, and even to the way her insecurity is depicted. Sireth’s and Sherah’s struck me as truly, simply, good stories; no complaints. And I’d have likely considered Kerris’ as the best if not for the author insisting on ruining it with that last part. As it is, I’ll have to say that Ursa and Kirin’s is likely the best. But, with the possible exception of the first and the last, they’re all good even separately, and even better when taken as a whole.

Rating: 4/5

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