Fantasy book review: Blade of Amber, book 1 of the Woern Chronicles by A.M. Justice

by Autumn M. Birt

Blade of AmberWell before we get started, I think it is only fair to give you the blurb on the book so you know what the heck I’m talking about!

Blade of Amber tells the story of Vic, a young woman who wants vengeance. Taken from her homeland and sold into slavery, Vic soon escapes and becomes the Blade, a soldier renowned for cunning and daring. She also wins the heart of Prince Ashel, a minstrel who prefers drinking and gambling to fulfilling any royal obligations. When Ashel s captured by solder of her former master, Vic sets out on a mission of rescue and revenge. But when the Kragnashias, a mysterious insectoid species, give her the power of wizardry, Vic realized she is being forged into a weapon. The question is, by whom and for what purpose?

I was hooked when I read the description. Reading it again now after having finished the book, I can’t argue with it but feel it barely sketches the story line and the depth of characters running through this novel. I’m impressed Ms. Justice was able to boil down such a complicated plot to one paragraph!

Epic fantasy with a hint of scifi, Blade of Amber is riveting in its detail of new lands and cities experienced through strong characters. This world is unique and not the typical sword and sorcery. Societal customs can be shocking, which deepens the impression that we, along with the main character Vic, are foreigners in a new world. I lovedthe edge of scifi that opens the novel and threads throughout the story with hints of science now felt to be a myth along with magic – another indication of how far this story is from the typical medieval-esque setting. From the first page, this is a journey that author A.M. Justice carefully unrolls.

There is so much to this novel that I’m not sure how to tell you about it. I was enthralled with the world, story, and characters before I reached the mid-point. I admit, the romantic in me wanted more from the ending. But this isn’t romance. This is epic fantasy and a nicely wrapped up, heart-filled ending does not fit this story. In fact, the grit and suffering remind me very much of George R.R. Martin’s writing.  If you love his Song of Ice and Fire series for how it does not shy from pain and its impacts on characters, you’ll find a lot to love in this book.

Perhaps my only disappointment was that Vic may have too much power by the end of the novel. But the power does not alleviate her flaws… and in fact may prove that power does not overcome a broken psyche. A.M. Justice has created a world rife with passions and ruled by strong characters whose need for vengeance spawn wars and destroy lives… even their children’s.

I highly recommend Blade of Amber. The story line, setting, and characters are all refreshing in their depth and originality. In fact, I enjoyed the book enough that I had to ask the author how she came up with the story and if she had any antecedents about writing it. A story this epic and broad had to have a back story!

This is what A.M. Justice said:

The plot and characters of Blade of Amber were developed when I was very young; I wrote the first version of the story when I was in high school, primarily as an escapist adventure about a bookish teen with self-esteem issues who nevertheless wins the heart of the handsomest boy around. The writing in that first attempt is horrid, and I often think I should burn the notebooks containing the original story. But I loved the characters too much to shelve it, so I just kept working to improve the prose and the storytelling. Eventually it evolved into what it is: a warped retelling of Rapunzel in a blended science fiction-fantasy setting. You can find some more of the thought process behind Blade in this blog post of mine: http://www.knownearthworks.com/blog/2012/10/12/getting-to-the-girl-power.html
 
The plot of Blade of Amber came together very smoothly–it was the quality of the writing that needed to be improved over time. However, the sequel, A Wizard’s Lot, was a tough book to write and took me a long time. I’m a pantser and I kept writing the characters into blind alleys and box canyons and had to back up and go down another path time and again. I have learned to never throw out a scene once I’ve written it, and the document file where I dumped the cut scenes from Wizard is longer than the book itself.
 
When I finished A Wizard’s Lot, I thought that was the end for Vic and Ashel, and I never intended to write another story about them. However, when I decided to self-publish Blade, and was going over it a last time to polish it up and get it ready for public consumption, I started to wonder what those characters would be doing “now.” I was roughly Vic’s age (early twenties) when I finished the the first draft of Blade of Amber (the manuscript I wrote in high school was different enough I don’t really consider it the same book). I’m in my forties now, and I wondered what Vic would be doing as a mature adult. The answer came out as Scion of Sovereigns, Book 3 of The Woern Chronicles. That novel is currently in the hands of my beta readers and will be released some time next year. A fourth novel in the series is planned but is back-burnered at the moment because I want to finish another work in progress, a historical novel about a fictional protege of Galileo Galilei.
A little more about A.M. Justice:

Me without mirror.

I’ve been a professional writer and editor in the life sciences for over two decades but have been writing fiction even longer—the first story set in the fictional world of Knownearth was written while I was still in high school. As an avid SCUBA diver, I dream of a future when I have the time to hang out in a dive shop all day, and I fancy the idea that this dive shop might be in Buenos Aires, so I can dance the tango whenever I want. Until that time comes, I live and write in Brooklyn, NY, with a husband, a daughter, and two cats. Although I’m partial to fantasy and historical fiction, I love well-written books—and well-made movies and television—of all genres.

For more information and updates, you can find me on the Web at these locations:

Website: www.knownearthworks.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AMJusticeWrites

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KnownEarthWorks

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6903962.A_M_Justice

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