Have Sword, Will Travel
A sweet taste is in my mind like a post workout piece of fair trade chocolate melting over my tongue: a flavorful, guiltless treat. Have Sword, Will Travel, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams is the cause of this wonderful mental sensation.
Have Sword, Will Travel, is a middle-grade fantasy tale whose characters will stay with you long after the book is closed. You’ll want to run into Odo and Eleanor on the street just to ask them how they’ve been.
“Run into any dragons lately?” you’ll say.
They’ll only betray their thoughts with knowing smiles… or maybe the enchanted sword will answer for them. Who knows?
The tale follows a particularly burly miller’s son Odo, and his knight-adoring best friend Eleanor as they set out on a laughably simple quest: find out why the river has dried up. That’s it. Along the way the story is packed full of creative variations on tried and true fantasy tropes: harassed townspeople, knights, bandits, magical swords, werewolves, and of course, dragons.
But that’s where the genius of the book lies: in its simplicity. The world isn’t ending, they don’t spend 450,000 pages traipsing around an enchanted forest (I’m looking at you Two Towers!), and the authors don’t beat you over the head with references to historical events and useless folklore that are inconsequential to the plot and only serve to prove that the creator of the story spent a lot of time in his room filling notebooks with pretend history. Don’t get me wrong, the world is well developed, but the authors do a marvelous job at avoiding making you feel like you’re a stranger in a room full of besties who are clucking in and giggling in a language consisting entirely of inside jokes.
So, what does the story have?
Twists and turns? Buckle up, Skippy!
Friendship? Most definitely.
A well-developed villain? Indeed.
Humor? Impossible to avoid.
Great action scenes with swords and knights? You won’t be disappointed.
Actually, there are two gripes that I have about the book: the first is that the last action scene could have been five pages longer, but that has more to do with me not wanting the book to end and less to do with questionable writing choices, and the second is the whole “no smooches” thing. Really, there is absolutely no attraction between two similarly-aged-almost-teens as they run around a colorful and magical world? I don’t buy it.
Anyway, just read the book!
Content Rating: PG viz: no language, no gore, no sex, no hand holding, but definitely peril and action.
Age suggestion: 11-15
Questionable Content: mild blood when someone gets stabbed at the end of the book.
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