Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords by Benedict Patrick is the third entry in his Yarnsworld universe, but it stands completely on its own and doesn’t require any previous Yarnsworld knowledge. The book explores folklore from Mexico and Central America, following various masked swordsmen as they strive to find their place in the world.
You might have heard that Benedict’s second book won the recent SPFBO cover challenge, but this newest cover is even better! That’s just my opinion, of course, but damn is it pretty.
The setting is heavily influenced by Mexico and Central America. The characters and locations are named with a distinctly Spanish flair, and the culture even takes siestas each afternoon.
This book accomplishes a lot of worldbuilding in a very smooth and concise manner. Espadapan, or The City of Swords, is full of masked swordsmen known as Bravadori. Legends tell of their heroic exploits, but many of the Bravadori fall short of these idealized tales. There are other notable groups within the city, such as the pious Queen’s Brides and the outcast Shaven. The world’s magic takes the form of Knacks, where everyone develops an uncanny talent for something they do regularly.
What about that monster on the cover, you ask? Without going into too much detail, there are supernatural beings near the City of Swords, and they are not particularly happy that their land has been invaded. Several of these creatures are downright creepy and different from the monsters that often appear in traditional fantasy.
There are three main POV characters:
- Arturo: A young, idealistic man who has developed a Knack for swordsmanship and wants to make a name for himself in the City of Swords.
- Yizel: Once a respected Bravador, Yizel fell from grace and is now a lowly Shaven.
- Crazy Raccoon: A living legend (and kind of an ass), Crazy Raccoon can win a fight simply by showing up.
These characters were all well-written and enjoyable to read. The author has definitely improved significantly in writing compelling characters.
When Arturo arrives in Espadapan to make a name for himself among the Bravadori, he’s surprised to find the reality of the sword fighters does not live up to the legends. He stumbles into one unfortunate situation after another, until he finally hears of a nearby town in desperate need of help. Excited to finally get the chance to prove himself and live up to his idealized version of the Bravadori, he sets out on the adventure of a lifetime.
The most unique aspect of any of the Yarnsworld novels is the in-universe stories that take place between each chapter. This book features tales heard in the taverns of Espadapan, ranging from the monsters of the Wildlands to the heroic exploits of long-dead Bravadori. These serve to build the world and ultimately play an important role in the plot.
The prose is fairly straightforward and there are a few editing errors throughout the book, but overall the novel is very polished for a self-published book. The pacing is consistent and the novel is short, making this a book you could easily read in a few sittings.
Should You Read This?
If you like folktales, mythology from other cultures, and a bit of swashbuckling adventure, you might like this book.
If you prefer complex plots, poetic prose, or deeply complex characters, this might not be for you.
Recommended Beverage Pairing
Café de Olla
- 3 cups water
- 4 cinnamon sticks, broken in half lengthwise
- 3 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar
- 3 tbsp. Latin-blend coffee grounds
Recipe (makes 2 cups):
- Bring water to a boil and add cinnamon sticks.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Stir in sugar and let simmer until dissolved.
- Raise heat and bring back to a boil.
- Stir in coffee grounds and simmer 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Strain and pour into 2 mugs.
Life can be harsh in the City of Swords, but this can make things sweeter. This Mexican recipe will have you wishing you could slow down time to enjoy it even longer.
- Published in 2017
- Not the First in a Series (technically…)
- Writer of the Day