Saturday, August 16, 2014

Book Review: The Sword and the Pen by Elysa Hendricks


Brandon Alexander Davis is ready to be done writing his Warrior Woman series of books. How does he plan to do that? By killing of hte heroine, of course. Serilda is going to die in this final book, leaving him free to move on with his life. That is, until Serilda appears in his house. Convinced this is just some overenthusiastic fan putting on an amazing performance, Brandon moves on with his plan, writing the ending he'd been planning. But it doesn't leave him satisfied. Is he falling for this woman claiming to be Serilda? Or worse: is she really Serilda after all?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

It was time. After penning ten popular sword-and-sorcery novels, Brandon Alexander Davis was ready to move on. Ready to stop hiding in his fictional world. Ready to start living a real life. There was just one problem: as he plotted the noble death of Serilda D'Lar, his fictional creation, complete with mile-long sword, skimpy leather outfit and badass attitude, appeared in his study.

Was she nothing more than a crazy fan, or had Brandon finally cracked?

This warrior woman whom he knew so well, so strong yet vulnerable, was both fantasy and reality. She was an invitation to rediscover all he once knew--that life is an incredible, magical journey and, for love, any man can be a hero.


We all have our fantasies. Writers practically live in multiple realities at once, and don't we all-- writer or not-- dream of having those fantasies come true? Would we all like to meet that one fictional character (or more than one) and see what change that makes in our lives? We've all had a crush on some character or other, or just wished to actually have them around to be friends. Hell, this isn't even to that length. Brandon wasn't even really all that attracted to Serilda while writing her. Sure, she was in some ways a projection of the women in his life, and the culture he built for her world was affected by what was going on in his life, but that didn't mean he wanted to actually meet her. Still, deep down, don't all authors want to meet at least one of their characters?


The Sword and the Pen is clearly written and very easy to follow. I do feel that there was a lot of overt repetition of concepts. Over and over, it's pounded into the reader that "this can't be Serilda" or "why was he behaving like this". Sure, the repeated concepts are presented slightly differently, worded differently, but this book could have been slimmed down a lot if things had been written a little more clearly. It's straightforward enough without the repeats. Thankfully, it wasn't as though there were full paragraphs that just said the same thing four times in as many sentences. It was just that pretty much every chapter, the same theme was repeated, gradually changing into the next thought, slow as molasses.

I do, though, want to commend Hendricks on her use of switching POV. The book was divided into three parts: Serilda, Brandon, and Serilda & Brandon. The entire book is seen from both characters' POV's, but the language POV changes. Pretty much every chapter is broken into parts from each character's POV, but the voice changes between them. For example, in part one, Serilda, Brandon is in third person, and Serilda in first. In part two, Brandon, Serilda switches to third person and Brandon to first. These switches make perfect sense with the narrative as well as making an extra distinction between the character-POV switches and is done without any real shock at the change.

My Thoughts

I haven't read a whole lot of romances. In fact, this makes my third, so I don't think I really have a strong basis for comparison as for true quality of this genre. I do, however, have a VERY strong backing in fantasy, which is one reason I picked up The Sword and the Pen. It's a fantasy/romance novel, after all, so I thought it would be a good way to ease into the romance genre.

I'm not sure if that was a wise idea or not.

As a fantasy novel, The Sword and the Pen was cliched and underdeveloped, surprisingly predictable, and not particularly innovative. As a romance novel, my impressions were that it did its job well. For the most part. I had the feeling that the only real reason Brandon and Serilda fell for each other is because they were supposed to. I couldn't find a real serious basis for attraction other than they were there together. Sure, there were attractive traits to both of them that the other might pick up on, but I don't know that I would ever say I was convinced that the feelings they had for one another were real. Maybe Serilda's, as we did get to see how different Brandon was from Donoval, her previous lover. Oh, we got to see that comparison at length. But Brandon's attraction I felt was tacked in, made necessary by the plot, rather than his attraction making the plot necessary.

As a genre mash, I really didn't see the necessity of The Sword and the Pen being a fantasy. Serilda could have easily been a "warrior woman" from anywhere or anywhen, without there having to be the false world behind it. Maybe this is just me being a little elitist when it comes to fantasy. Yes, I understand that this was a romance first and a fantasy second, but I still feel strongly that if you're going to shove two genres into a novel, both should be developed well enough that the story would fall apart without one or the other.

Would I Recommend This Book? I guess. There really wasn't a whole lot that reached out and grabbed me, either as in the romance or the fantasy details. The relationship felt stinted and forced, and the fantasy elements were cliches put to work as plowhorses, tugging things forward against their will. I give The Sword and the Pen a world-crossing 3 out of 5 stars.

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