Book Review: Sandy Williams’ The Sharpest Blade

Posted December 13, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Sandy Williams’ The Sharpest Blade

The Sharpest Blade


Sandy Williams

urban fantasy that was published by Ace Books on December 31, 2013 and has 336 pages.

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Third and last in the Shadow Reader urban fantasy series and revolving around McKenzie Lewis, a human who doesn’t know what she wants ’til it’s gone. Settings switch between Las Vegas and the Realm, although the earth side of it could be anywhere.

My Take

Poor Kyol, jerk. He’s come to realize he loves McKenzie, but he’s also embarrassed about wanting to be with her. After all, she’s only human. Sleeping with her would be a transgression. But he is doing his best in The Sharpest Blade, and it just tears at me how much he wants to be with McKenzie. Now. And yet, I understand why she doesn’t want him anymore. He’s treated her so badly, and even if the life-bond was to save her life, it’s not enough to offset the past ten years. But then that life-bond and the way in which it links both people together doesn’t make it easy to be apart. Especially when Aren intends to respect that bond.

McKenzie has finally gotten what she wanted. She’s working away in a library, tra-la-la, as her best and almost-only friend is dying from a serum. Someone wanna explain that one to me?

The problem in the Realm is all the human technology that has been brought over through the years. It’s killing fae magic, and human or fae, we all share that common need to leap and find a human face to call evil. So, humans are evil and must be destroyed. At least in the Realm. It’s a bigotry practiced by many, many fae including King Atroth. Our new queen-to-be, Lena, wants to turn that aside, to welcome the tor’um back.

There are two hard questions in The Sharpest Blade: which life will McKenzie choose and who will she choose. I do like that she doesn’t intend to sit around and wait, and that she won’t accept Kyol as second-best no matter how she feels about him.

I ain’t buying that comment from Hison. The dig he makes about humans not knowing fae language. He implies that McKenzie can understand it, but nothing I read previous to that confirms that. Anyone can read body language, and a threat is a threat in anyone’s tongue. How does Hison have as much power as he appears to have? If he’s so strong, why isn’t he pushing to be king? It’s useful enough to Williams to get her plot moving, but this is not making sense.

Trev and Kyol get their noses out of joint over the palace doors being open onto the square. Well, they had guards there, didn’t they?

Wait…the false-blood fissured inside a silver-walled building? I didn’t think that was supposed to be possible?

It’s an interesting combination of show and tell…hmmm, doesn’t that take you back to elementary school?…with some parts making me feel the pull on McKenzie’s emotions while other parts are words to read.

I enjoyed the series for its twist on fae life and culture. Williams certainly got me crying at different points! As for twists, wow, Williams got me there too. There were a number of occasions when I couldn’t see how she was going to get our heroine through this or what choices she’d make even though I do think Williams took a number of easy paths through her story…and it was still a fun read.

The Story

Life on earth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, not when Aren refuses to come near her. It’s not as if this life-bond was something McKenzie wanted!

It’s the beating Kyol is taking in the Realm that comes through to McKenzie, and as much as she doesn’t want the bond with him, she can’t let him die. She’ll force anyone to help her get across!

Seems the past three weeks have been busy for McKenzie’s friends with Derrdyn Province declaring for the false-blood. And the next few will be very busy for McKenzie. Not least because one of her enemies dumps one of the vigilantes on her bed. The worst will be the betrayal. Giving up the garistyn to be executed so Lena may be crowned.

The Characters

McKenzie Lewis is a human with the Sight and more. She’s also nalkin-shom, a shadow-witch. These days, she’s working at the library. Sosch is a kimki, a cross between a ferret and a cat, and their fur changes color when near gates or things to which they’re attracted; he has been living with McKenzie. Shane is a Sighted human who can shadow-read like McKenzie. Paige is one of McKenzie’s very few human friends; they met in the asylum.

Aren Jorreb is fae and a healer, and he was part of the rebel band which overthrew the king. He’s in love with McKenzie but will not cross a life-bond. He has become Lena’s swordmaster.

Kyol Taltrayn is fae and started out pretending to care for McKenzie to keep her sweet and reading shadows for the then king, Atroth. Now he’s Lena’s lord general. As a result of events in The Shattered Dark, 2, McKenzie and Kyol have a life-bond, but she’s in love with Aren.

The Realm is…
…the kingdom of the fae and exists on another plane of existence. Corrist is its capital; Tholm is another city and a day’s walk from Corrist. Lena Zarrak was the sister of the rebel leader, her brother, Sethan who died; now she’s the Realm’s wanna-be queen as well as a healer. If only so many nobles didn’t hate her policies… Trev (McKenzie is certain he’d take her head if he could), Jacie was the fae to whom Kyol was supposed to be betrothed, Taber is one of Kyol’s top swordsmen, his friend, and one of his most trusted soldiers, and Andur is one of Lena’s advisors. Lords Raen and Brigos were two of her strongest allies.

Turns out Lorn was released ages ago by Lena. Think of him as an arms dealer, an information broker, a war profiteer. He wants McKenzie dead. Lord Hison, an elder of Dice and high noble of Jutur Province, is very antihuman, and yet his support is vital for Lena’s being accepted. Lord Kaeth is another against Lena.

The remnants are…
…one of the few bands of Court fae who escaped Corrist. They’re now led by Caelar, a former friend of Kyol’s, with whom Paige escaped. Tylan is Caelar’s brother. Kavok had been the palace archivist until he betrayed McKenzie and the new court when he freed Tylan, Paige, and Lee.

The false-bloods are…
…fae who violently rebel, “claiming to be the chosen progeny of the Tar Sidhe, the magically superior fae who ruled…before”. Thrain was a false-blood who pulled McKenzie into the Realm. The current fae claiming to be a Descendant is known only as Taelith, anointed one. Cardak, Thrain’s brother, can, with one touch, put people to sleep. Nimael, an illusionist, is Taelith‘s second-in-command. A vicious, brutal fae. Lord Ralsech is the high noble of Derrdyn Province; he hates all things human and his province has declared for Taelith.

Kynlee is a high school girl — and tor’um — who comes to the library where McKenzie works. Nick Walker, a.k.a., Nick Johnson, is her foster dad. Turns out her brother is Lord Garon, and he’s Ristin’s high noble now. Dicer is an imithi as Aren was.

The vigilantes
Lee is a human vigilante. His father, Nakano, was the leader of the vigilantes who were trying to destroy the fae. His group developed a serum that gives humans the Sight. He just didn’t tell them it would kill them six months later. Lee has forced the serum onto Paige. His brother, Naito, is a human shadow-reader like McKenzie, Shane, and Evan (he’s not very good). He had been in love with Kelia, a rebel fae. Mikhail Glazunov was Nakano’s second-in-command and is now in charge of the vigilantes. Charles Bowman is one of the vigilantes who helped develop the serum. Harper is another vigilante.

Judy is her boss at the library. Rachel is another librarian.

Tor’um, walkers, are fae who don’t have enough magic to fissure, which automatically makes them the dregs of the Realm. “Most are born that way, some lose their magic later in life.” Descendants can claim some Tar Sidhe blood.

Chaos lusters, edarratae, are like miniature lightning bolts that flash along or from the skin, I think, when a fae is on earth or a human is in their world or when a human and fae touch. Fissures are a manipulation of the atmosphere to allow travel between earth and the Realm. A life-bond is a joining of two fae who can feel everything the other does.

Tchatalun means defiled one. A tjandel is a brothel which imprisons human women for fae to abuse. Elari are followers, in this case, of a new “false-blood”. Imithi are “orphans, fae with no parents, no homes, and no roots”. The garistyn killed the king in Shadow Reader, 1, and now the lords of the land want the garistyn executed. The Duin Bregga was “the war that erased most of the fae’s history over 5,000 years ago.” The Tar Sidhe disappeared and many fae magics went extinct or became endangered.

The Cover and Title

The cover is blues, gray greens, and a spot of yellow as a jean-clad McKenzie in her cropped bronze tank top prepares to wield her blade, her long brown hair flaring in the wind against a nighttime backdrop of the Realm.

The title is what McKenzie becomes, The Sharpest Blade. Her disdain cuts at Kyol even as their life-bond makes her a better swordswoman than any could have expected.