Touch of Iron by Timandra Whitecastle (The Living Blade: Book 1)

10/10 Adult fantasy that’s stark, at times a little shocking and wonderfully written

This fantasy novel had everything I love: fast-paced plot, fearless female main character, no-holds-barred fight scenes, some romantic/sexy moments and laugh-out-loud humour. It’s gritty, sweary, a bit different and has an intense grimdark feel.

The aforementioned main character is Noraya, or Nora, who is slightly feral, is skilled at fighting and is primarily concerned with looking after her twin brother. Owen is the opposite. He’s a bookworm and rather wise. Twins are considered a bad omen, so they were disowned at birth, found and taken in by a couple who ran the local blacksmith. For a while, Nora and Owen helped their foster father by burning and gathering charcoal for the forge.

Then, for one reason or another, the twins run away and while out in the open bump into a half-wight, a messenger of the old gods, and the party he travels with. Which just so happens to include a banished Prince desperate to get his empire back. Nora and Owen are sucked into this group’s quest to find the Living Blade, a legendary artefact that bestows great power on the one who wields it.

They journey to see Queen Suranna, who’s, well, a bit of a bitch. She rules over a hedonistic place with harsh consequences for those who break the rules. But she knows information about the Living Blade’s whereabouts. Suranna is a despicable character, but I really enjoyed reading about her.

The characters are well-rounded and distinct, and the world’s lore and history unfold at a gentle pace that never feels confusing or overwhelming. The prose is easy-to-read and effortless, and I tore through this novel at super speed.

The fight scenes are intricately done and there are some intense moments and themes, but I found myself rooting for Nora throughout. She says what she thinks and stays true to herself. She has no interest in the Living Blade, in fact she doesn’t think it even exists, but is passionate about protecting her brother - and he’s invested in finding it. She’s sarcastic, clever, brave and almost constantly horny (ha! she’s a teenager after all).

Touch of Iron is an adult fantasy that’s stark, at times a little shocking and wonderfully written. I can’t wait to read the second book in the series, On the Wheel.

This review originally appeared on rosalynkelly.co.uk

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