Sword of Fire and Sea, book one of The Chaos Knight
by Erin Hoffman
Reviewed by Scott T. Barnes

Sword of Fire and Sea, first in the adventures of The Chaos Knight, is a swashbuckling fantasy adventure reminiscent of the golden age of high fantasy dominated by the likes of Terry Brooks and Tad Williams. For those of you pining for return of high fantasy adventure, this is it.

Vidarian Rulorat, captain of a merchant tall ship, is called upon to provide safe transport for a fire elemental priestess through pirate-infested waters to a safe harbor. The fire priestess Ariadel Windhammer (beautiful, of course) holds the secret to finding the hideout of evil telepathic wizards--knowledge the wizards would do anything to suppress. Ariadel has many more secrets which come out as the story progresses, and I’m not revealing anything to say that she and the captain have romance on the horizon. 

More surprisingly, the ship’s captain learns he has hidden powers. In fact, he becomes more of a prize to the renegade telepaths than Ariadel, and soon both are on the run with surprising allies and even more surprising enemies. 

Each time I thought I had the story figured out, Hoffman would throw in a plot twist that turned everything upside down. Sword of Fire and Sea is full of such surprises, and as such is a fast, fun read. I would have preferred a little deeper characterization, but of course that would have slowed things down.

Hoffman has created a fun world populated by gryphons, elemental witches, pirates, and goddesses. I greatly enjoyed the maritime setting, the salty air and cry of gulls never far from my imagination. Many high fantasies ignore commerce all together, as if the economies of their worlds ran on warfare alone and food grew in people’s bellies. But Hoffman’s world is based on politics and trade and the correct assumption (very relevant in today’s political climate) that people in power have the most to lose from change and often will accept a worse fate for their countries in exchange for the status quo. 

Hoffman indicated that there The Chaos Knight is a trilogy, although she hopes to write more books in this fascinating world. For those of you who dislike waiting years for a sequel to appear, take heart. The second book has already been sent to the publisher for editing. I for one look forward eagerly to reading it.

Sword of Fire and Sea
by Erin Hoffman
277 pages
Pyr, 2011
ISBN 978-61614-373-2