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Society of the Sword #1

The Tattered Banner

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Unique talent always attracts attention…

In a world where magic is outlawed, ability with a sword is prized above all else. For Soren this means the chance to live out his dreams.

Plucked from a life of privation, he is given a coveted place at Ostenheim’s Academy of Swordsmanship, an opportunity beyond belief.

Opportunity is not always what it seems however, and gifts rarely come without conditions. Soren becomes an unwitting pawn in a game of intrigue and treachery that could cost him not just his dreams, but also his life.

372 pages, Paperback

First published March 2, 2013

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About the author

Duncan M. Hamilton

23 books963 followers
Hi, thanks for visiting my page. I’m Duncan, a fantasy and science fiction author from Ireland. I love to blend my passion for Medieval and Renaissance history with the freedom of fantasy environments to create fast paced heroic fantasy adventures with compelling characters and high stakes—exactly the types of stories that I love to read, so I hope you’ll like them too.

You can find more of my online hangouts and my work at the links below. Don’t forget to sign up for my news letter if you want to keep up to date on all my news and new releases!

I’m delighted to announce my most recent trilogy with Tor, Dragonslayer - a heroic fantasy tale about redemption, revenge, and megalomania. Oh, and dragons. Plenty of dragons! The entire trilogy - Dragonslayer, Knight of the Silver Circle, and Servant of the Crown - is now out in the wild, and available to purchase. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

My next trilogy is already well under way, and I've a couple of new projects that occur in different worlds (and genres!) that I'm very excited about, and hope to start releasing this coming Spring 2021.If that’s too long to wait, then please check out my other books, all of which are currently available!

Society of the Sword

The Tattered Banner was one of Buzzfeed's 12 Greatest Fantasy Books of 2013!

In a world where magic is outlawed, ability with a sword is prized above all else. For Soren this means the chance to live out his dreams.

Plucked from a life of poverty, he is given a coveted place at Ostenheim's Academy of Swordsmanship, an opportunity beyond belief.

Opportunity is not always what it seems however, and gifts rarely come without conditions. Soren becomes an unwitting pawn in a game of intrigue and treachery that could cost him not just his dreams, but also his life.

Wolf of the North

It has been generations since the Northlands have seen a hero worthy of the title. Many have made the claim, but few have lived to defend it. Timid, weak, and bullied, Wulfric is as unlikely a candidate as there could be.

A chance encounter with an ancient and mysterious object awakens a latent gift, and Wulfric’s life changes course. Against a backdrop of war, tragedy, and an enemy whose hatred for him knows no bounds, Wulfric will be forged from a young boy, into the Wolf of the North. This is his tale.

If that’s not enough, I’ve a standalone novel, and some shorter work to give you a taste of what I write. You can get a free digital copy of the Marcher Lord if you sign up for my news letter!

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 167 reviews
Profile Image for Heather.
Author 3 books38 followers
January 2, 2014
I fell into this book expecting a breezy, swashbuckling adventure story; unfortunately, it is yet another book about The Grimdark Within Us All, and that's fine, it's just not what I wanted from this particular novel. I'd probably be less exasperated if the prose was worth the disappointment, but it's functional at best, with a rudimentary level of storytelling holding the floppy skeleton together. Soren did this, and then he did this, then he talked to Dornish, and then all of a sudden Soren's somewhere else entirely...

I was content to be bored throughout the book, but then around 3/4 of the way through, there is an encounter between Soren and a certain person in the enemy's army that nearly made me throw my Kindle across the room. And that's when I turned fully against it, unable to scrape a single give-a-damn from the bottom of the book's barrel.

For a story chock full of dueling, battles, assassinations, hunts, etc., it is remarkably bloodless, and utterly void of passion or stakes or emotions epic enough to match the special snowflake-ness of its protagonist.
Profile Image for Carrie Mansfield .
392 reviews16 followers
February 26, 2014

If I have learned a lesson from starting this book, it is that I will probably skip the 2014 version of BuzzFeed’s 12 Greatest Fantasy Books. This place is not great fantasy. It isn’t even good fantasy. It’s so dull that I couldn’t even finish it. Why?

I feel nothing for Soren.


Soren faces no challenges in this book. A merchant tries to beat him for thieving. A noble who is witnessing the event doesn’t call for the security in the area, but instead decides to sponsor him to attend the Academy of Swordsmanship. Soren is years older than the average incoming student? No problem! The noble never sponsors anyone, so they just make an exception. Not only do they make an exception, but they go on ahead and skip him several years ahead just so he can be with kids his own age, letting him conveniently skip over a year so difficult it causes more than half the students to wipe out. He’s unnaturally gifted in swordsmanship, able to learn years of technique in a matter of months. He has some kind of gift that hasn’t been seen in ages. A challenge presents itself and it is neatly resolved, often in the same chapter. Meanwhile, the author has managed to make Soren devoid of personality. You don’t like him, you don’t hate him, he just exists.

Aside from this rather insurmountable issue, the book also needed another pass by an editor for both logic and grammar. For example, when he goes to this school, Soren is illiterate, as you might expect of a commoner from this pseudo-Renaissance world. He doesn’t want to get kicked out of the school so tries (and fails) to hide it. This school is open to all, and his past is known, shouldn’t the teachers have expected this? Furthermore, the stable master clearly has no issue teaching him the fundamentals of horsemanship because he knows that Soren wouldn’t have had an opportunity to ride thereby undermining this notion that his lack of literacy would have been enough to get him kicked out. Why didn’t one of the adults just sneer at him and go “I bet you can’t read, can you?” then they could have moved right along. Furthermore, this fundamental lack of skills makes his being skipped ahead that much more ridiculous. He hadn’t even shown any great talent when they did it, they did so just because. What academy of such a supposedly prestigious nature is going to matriculate a student that lacks the expected skills of their place of learning just because he started a little bit late?

On the grammar side we have some clunky sentence structures and descriptions and some poor word choices. I hereby ban authors from using the word “irony” or “ironic” if they don’t actually understand what it is. It isn’t ironic that a conquering people would use the facilities of the conquered. Generally speaking, at least half the point of taking over another country/kingdom/planet is that you want what they have. Why tear down a perfectly good training facility if you can use it?

All told we have a boring character in a book with prose so prosaic that you can’t get invested. Unfortunately there isn’t anything that is interesting enough or unique enough to try and keep fighting to go ahead. Save your $4 and find something else to read.
Profile Image for D.harrow.
17 reviews3 followers
December 8, 2013
The book as a whole could have done with some tightening up. There was very poor sequencing and transitions in the later chapters and the story suffered because the author prioritised a climactic end over a realistic timeframe. The novel attempted to tap into too many sub genres: assassin, swordsman, coming of age, college setting... As a result it was unfocused and was never comfortable or convincing in any of the above. At best, it was a mediocre attempt at the already well covered tale of an impoverished assassin climbing the social ladder and at worst, a convoluted mess which has more in common with watery scrambled eggs than a succinct and riveting fantasy story. Why it featured on any top lists, I shall never know.
Profile Image for edifanob.
613 reviews53 followers
May 11, 2013
Well done Mr. Hamilton.
There is more behind the story than one first think.

Excellent characters and twist and turns. Good choice of the ending which is not the expected big cliffhanger.

I look forward to read the next book in the series.
Profile Image for Mark.
486 reviews83 followers
April 26, 2018
an excellent book good start to this series. looking forward to reading the next books in this series.
Profile Image for Pauline Ross.
Author 10 books296 followers
November 2, 2016
Soren is eighteen, trying to survive on the streets, when a theft gone wrong results in a street fight and a passing swordsman recognises some talent in him. He is taken to the Academy to learn to wield a rapier and be a gentleman. The early chapters are the usual street-boy-goes-to-posh-school affair, but fortunately Soren has the intelligence to keep his nose clean, so he’s not constantly getting into trouble. He also turns out to be something of a fighting phenomenon, not an unusual theme in fantasy, but nicely intriguing here. Is his ability a natural talent, or some kind of magic?

Fortunately, the author avoids getting too entrenched in schoolroom dramas and Soren is soon out and about wielding his rapier and discovering the extent of his extraordinary gift. These early battles are beautifully described, the highpoint of the book for me, and I loved every moment of each one (especially the belek). The romantic entanglement is slightly more clunky, but that fits with Soren’s rather self-effacing nature. The background scenery is lightly sketched, with more emphasis on architecture than geography, but it works fine, and the deep history - of empires and mage wars and other intriguing events - is no more than hints. I found it interesting that Ostia (Soren’s country) has outlawed magic, but still makes use of mage lights, while the barbarians still practice magic.

Soren is a likeable protagonist, making (mostly) sensible decisions. I liked his response to a trick played on him by a fellow student. His friends tell him his honour has been impugned and he must challenge the trickster to a duel, but Soren is reluctant; he is far more concerned with trying not to break the rules of the Academy and thereby get himself thrown out. Unlike his rich, titled friends, he is more focused on making a career for himself than on abstract concepts like honour, and he never forgets his origins. He seems to adapt surprisingly well to a life of protocol and diplomacy, but he’s clearly a smart cookie, so I can go along with that (and frankly, a socially inept character would be pretty tedious - I wanted Soren to succeed, not trip over his own feet). It has to be said, though, that he’s very gullible - although to be fair, it fits with his personality and previous life, since he’s too grateful for his reprieve from the streets to question things, and he has no understanding of political nuances.

The writing style is enjoyably literate, if rather wordy, but it works very well for a story like this, built around formality and protocol. The author has a habit of dumping information occasionally, but it’s small scale stuff and not obtrusive. There is some untidiness, repetition and excessive exposition, and the author might care to look up the difference between ‘discrete’ and ‘discreet’. The latter part of the book becomes a little episodic and the fights rather perfunctory, but Soren’s investigations into his abilities were still intriguing. The big reveal at the end is hardly a surprise, and the ending somewhat glib, but these are minor issues.

I really enjoyed this book and found it seductively easy to keep turning the pages - that just-one-more-chapter syndrome. It’s the first time I’ve read a story focused on the rapier as the weapon of choice, and I found it a refreshing change from the more usual broadswords and bows. I would have liked to know more about Soren’s abilities and the mage wars, but perhaps that will come in a later book. This is a somewhat flawed effort in many ways - the choppy ending, the not-quite-convincing romance and the sometimes too wordy style - but I found it a great read. A good four stars. And the belek was awesome.
Profile Image for Jeremy.
28 reviews3 followers
April 17, 2013
From my blog @ Reading Realms:

The book follows one character, Soren, through a pivotal slice of his life as he is plucked off the streets by a nobleman hoping to pull a diamond out of the rough. Though the book is in third person, for the most part, you experience the world from Soren out, with Hamilton's world growing as Soren becomes more worldly. This writing style offered readers the experience you can get from reading urban fantasy, but with a more classic fantasy feel. It fit well with the fast paced tale. We follow Soren from the streets, into the academy where he begins to learn swordsmanship, and then into a variety of adventures of ups and downs.

Soren's story in this first volume takes years to play out, so the pace stays brisk covering both major moments and character growth well. Where a story might normally take chapters, if not a whole book, to play out a battle or small war, The Tattered Banner often takes you directly to the heart of the matter, instead, finding it's suspense elsewhere. This works well to keep the reader on his or her toes, breaking up the usual manner a story flows and offering small surprises as one adventure wraps and another begins. It is not in the battles, the schooling, or other unique moments of his life that the plot is built on, but instead of the schemes going on behind the scenes that Soren is often oblivious to at his young age. It's not a great mystery to the reader, as I would suspect most would put together what is happening far before Soren's revelation. There is a certain knowing sadness as you watch Soren used as little more than a tool without realizing it until it's too late.

Soren, although physically powerful as he grows into his role, is a flawed young man. His decisions are almost always understandable given his lack of experience with the world and his own concerns. You feel a bond with the character that books told in first person narrative offer, without having to be told every single thought running through his mind, allowing you to figure that out simply because you know and understand the character.

As for the world the story is set in, it slowly grows with the character. Initially you know only the city, or even just a piece of the city and learn more about the neighboring kingdoms and conflicts as the story moves along. Magic is rare in the book, outright outlawed in the city of Ostenheim where much of the story takes place. Soren, however, possesses something called the Gift, an ability he barely understands even by the end of the book. This Gift is something that the swordsmen who used to work for the now-extinct mages generations ago possessed, giving them greater strength and speed when needed, but at a cost. Much like the hints you get of the world outside of Soren's knowledge, the history of magic and his abilities will probably continue to develop as the saga unfolds, but offers you a glimpse that there is a much more fleshed out world beyond what Soren knows and the reader initially sees.

As you begin to reach the end of this first volume, it hardly seems like there is enough book left to give you everything you want. Much of the bigger pieces of the plot and world will, of course, play out in future volumes, but Hamilton's jumps from one moment to the next offer much more story than the last handful of pages would make it seem. The tone the book ends on my be surprising compared to what we often see at the end of a first book, but it definitely leaves the reader hungry for more, while wrapping up an era of Soren's life. I look forward to the next volume and hope that Hamilton's story-telling style continues into the future of his Society of the Sword saga.
Profile Image for Melissa McPhail.
Author 10 books1,214 followers
July 23, 2013

The Tattered Banner is the story of Soren, an orphan who moves from stealing bread for his dinner to the relative excess of the Academy of swordsmen after he is seen defending himself in the slums of Ostenheim by one of the great Banneret swordsmen of their day: Amero, Count of Moreno.

The mysterious and enigmatic Amero sees talent within Soren and offers to sponsor him at the Academy. But Soren soon discovers that the Count’s benevolence has a price, and even before Soren’s time at the Academy is complete, his skills have been put to deadly use.

The author spends most of the early part of the book bringing us through Soren’s growth as a swordsman and introducing his special talent, which remains mysterious and misunderstood. Readers who enjoy coming of age fantasies will find this time in Soren’s growth fascinating. The detail provided about swordplay and the world of the Academy kept my interest, but I also found that this same detail made the story drag at times. I didn’t become invested in Soren as a character until he’d had his first adventure away from the Academy.

The plot of The Tattered Banner is well thought out, and the author does a nice job crafting a web of intrigue to trap both Soren and the reader. Although somewhat predictable at points, Moreno’s machinations (and Soren’s pitfalls) kept the story moving at a brisker pace through the latter half of the book.

The author presented well the naivety of a character like Soren, who was transplanted from eking out a living in the streets into a world of court intrigue. Soren is likable, remarkably honest, and genuine in his intentions. His exploits and bravery reminded me of Kerbouchard, the intrepid adventurer of L’Amour’s The Walking Drum. Soren has an endearing earnestness to his character, which makes it all the more painful to see him failing time and again, tripped by the Count of Moreno’s superior experience and intellect.

The Tattered Banner offers a well-crafted world, with a history dating back centuries to a darker time of Mages and magic. The Mages were said to have once posed a threat to the land of Ostia, but we never learn much about the wars or the Mages’ treasons. Similarly, Soren is seen to possess a magical ability said to have been prevalent in the time of the Mages, yet we frustratingly learn very little about it.

The lack of explanation of the magic and the kingdom’s history left only the generality of a darker time, which prevented me from being able to contribute to the story as a reader by way of my own opinions, thoughts or conjecture. It left the story feeling a bit flat. I wished that the author had provided more of this history so that the magic’s promise, or its dangers, might be better understood—and thereby hoped for or feared—adding another layer of depth and texture to his world.
March 20, 2017
I won my copy of The Tattered Banner in a giveaway here on goodreads a while back. Took me a while to get around to reading and reviewing it but here goes.

First off, the cover art and chapter headings are much better than that which I've come to expect from self published novels. Not that it has much bearing on the contents, but it shows no lack of effort on the authors part in writing and releasing this book, which for myself is always an issue in deciding whether or not to spend my time on a self published book. In this case I'm glad that I did.
As far as the writing itself is concerned I have to start with some criticisms. It's easy to overlook the occasional typo or misplaced punctuation, as I frequently find those even in professionally published books. Odd sentence structure, telling versus showing, and forced exposition however is harder to ignore, as it detracts from the narrative flow of the book. Thankfully most of this occurs in the first half. The second half reads much more smoothly, though I can't help but feel the whole thing could have used another editorial pass or two.
The story as a whole I really enjoyed, and Mr. Hamilton's system of magic, if that's the right term, is unique and interesting. His writing is quick and to the point, and at times he shows spurts of genius with metaphor (that bit at the end of the prologue got me hooked), and the fight scenes are well visualized and executed. Though this isn't what I would call a long book the pacing is quick and a lot gets done.
Having read the second book in the series as well, I can say that the issues I mentioned previously become almost a non factor as the author continues to grow as a storyteller, and the second book is better than the first.
Profile Image for Aldous Mercer.
Author 10 books50 followers
February 3, 2014
3.5 Stars, rounding to 4, because there's something in here that stays with you for a while.

It feels very much like the bastard love-child of Dave Duncan's Paragon Lost and Modesitt's Scion of Cyador, complete with special-swordsmen and border-raids-by-barbarians.

Still, I enjoyed the writing. Took too damn long to start, but I'm very much a give me the conflict now, please, I can figure out the backstory on my own type of reader, so there's that.

Like Duncan and Modesitt's work, it'll linger.
Profile Image for LJ.
414 reviews37 followers
August 18, 2020
A strong book one with an appealing, colorful lead, DH, immediately thrusts the reader into dire situations with possible catastrophic consequences, memorable, inspirational and captivating characters, all the elements necessary to hold my attention. Duncan Hamilton's book one captured my interest and imagination as he repeatedly manages to do, in a series I cannot seem to put down, the author continues to exceed my expectations by writing riveting, sprawling, epic tales that immediately draw me in and will not let go. Another well written series seems to have begun...onto book two! Thank you Duncan Hamilton, work well done...again.
Profile Image for Eddie.
218 reviews13 followers
October 1, 2022
I loving Hamilton’s storytelling… this us my second series of his.
I give this Book One 📕 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️’s
Twist and turns throughout!!
Profile Image for Ionia.
1,430 reviews65 followers
May 20, 2013
The Tattered Banner by Duncan Hamilton is a different sort of fantasy novel and one that the reader can grow with. The events in this book span a lengthy period in the main character's life and therefore the plot reveals itself in bits and pieces and there is a good amount of rise and fall in the story. The reader never has a chance to get bored as the pace is quick and the story is thoughtful.

Reading through this novel, there are moments when you know what is coming for a long time, but it isn't exactly predictable. It actually feels rewarding when the character finally realises the same thing that you have known as the reader for a long time. There were a lot of other places in this book where the author went a completely different direction than I expected, and for the most part I think it worked.

I was impressed that Mr. Hamilton did not waste pages and pages of space describing the school his character was sent to. This has been seen and done in other novels of recent memory and I felt avoiding that aspect made this book much more original.

The descriptions in this novel are handled well. There is not so much description that the actions and events become lost in it, but there is enough to paint a visual picture of the world.

The story itself is well written and highlights the author's style of writing. I enjoyed the third person perspective as it gave the reader an opportunity to get to know all of the characters rather than just the main.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read that fantasy lovers and those who enjoy reading adventures will most likely want to read again. If you haven't read this book yet, pick up a copy and explore this world for yourself. I recommend it.

Profile Image for Nicua.
Author 5 books16 followers
May 20, 2013
A well written, entertaining read with enough unexpected twists and turns to make it very hard to put the book down. Mr. Hamilton has done a fine job creating a believable world with interesting characters and relatable emotions. ‘Tattered Banners’ is an exciting book which keeps the reader on their toes and is filled with adventure and excitement.
Soren, saved from a life on the street by a rich and famous swordsman, finds himself having to learn new skills in the Academy of Swordsmanship as well as making new friends and enemies. The book follows Soren as he grows from gangly teenager into a strong, masterful warrior with unparalleled skills. He also realizes that he has a powerful gift that allows him the upper hand in any fight, but that has also cost him opportunities and Soren doesn’t know if it is more of a blessing or a curse. Although life seems too good to be true for a while, Soren soon finds out that things are not always as they seem. He is unwittingly drawn into a series of events that see him fall in with the wrong crowd, wrongly accused and almost killed. Soren finds out that love is never easy and that many who he thought were friends are doing no more than use him for their own profit.
I found the character of Soren to be well developed. He has emotions and concerns and thoughts that make him relatable and also authentic. Mr. Hamilton has obviously put a lot of time and energy into ‘Tattered Banners’ and I am eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series.
Profile Image for Denise.
6,454 reviews104 followers
May 5, 2013
I was lucky enough to win a free copy through the Goodreads First Reads programme.

An ambitious and entertaining debut novel, The Tattered Banner follows the story of Soren, who goes from eking out an existence scavenging on the streets to being given the opportunity to study swordsmanship at the prestigious Academy when a nobleman Soren attempts to steal from takes an interest in his skills. Soren takes to swordfighting like a fish to water, discovering a strange ability in the process. However, things will not remain as rosy as they first seem for long as Soren gets unwittingly drawn into intrigue and treachery while war becomes a distinct possibility.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book - the story was easy to get into and the writing flowed better and better the further I got. Especially towards the second half, the story got more and more intriguing and the book became quite hard to put down. I loved the fight scenes a lot and the passage early in the book which compared using a sword to using words was quite brilliant IMO.

This is certainly a series I will continue reading - looking forward to the sequel!
Profile Image for Ian Hall.
241 reviews37 followers
November 13, 2014
Where do I start...
I was not expecting much from this book I bought it on a whim at 3am after a few drinks but i absolutely loved this book and the 5* I gave it is totally justified in my opinion. It centres around soren and his rise from the streets to a brilliant swordsman. The story itself is simply written so easy to follow. It is in the style of a rags to riches story. There is violence, duelling, a form of magic, a love interest, politics and betrayal. The magic isn't explained at all really and im not even sure if it is magic yet but it looks promising for the next book. I am glad I read this book as I have been in a book funk lately and not really enjoying what I am reading but this book seems to have changed that. I have already bought the next book and will be starting it soon. I would highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Soo.
2,598 reviews256 followers
October 18, 2017
3 Stars for Story, 4 Stars for Narration by Derek Perkins = 3.5 Stars Total


The first story in the Society of the Sword is a simple swashbuckling tale and coming of age story of young boy. The story started off on a strong foot and kept my attention for the most part. As details were flushed out in setting and characters, it seemed like the writing becomes a bit frazzled and loses a bit of the clarity and purpose that is present in the start. I would highly recommend this story for young kids and up. The story base is solid and I aim to listen to the whole trilogy to see how it will end.

If you want a complicated story, this isn't it. If you want an adventure story with interesting characters and some cool story elements, you'll enjoy this book. I have my fingers crossed on the magic system and more revelations on the world history. Let's see if that will happen!
Profile Image for Gina Basham.
592 reviews3 followers
February 15, 2017
Loved it

So fun. The story took some unexpected twists and turns. Siren is a unique character as he is both good and bad. If you enjoy fantasy you will love this. I can recommend. Gbash
Profile Image for James Tomasino.
635 reviews31 followers
January 19, 2019
I just finished reading the Society of the Sword trilogy by Duncan M. Hamilton and need to share my thoughts while they're fresh. The series is available in one unit in audiobook form on Audible, which is what this review is based upon.

Duncan M. Hamilton is the author of The Wolf in the North series which is set in the same world as Society of the Sword and follows it. I've given much better ratings to those books and as a TL;DR I recommend you go read them instead of these.

I felt that this trilogy missed the mark for many of the same reasons that Brandon Sanderson's early work, Elantris, also fell flat. It comes down to 3 elements:

- The action is told and not shown.
- The main characters do not drive the action
- The characters to not evolve

In the case of Society of the Sword I could also add some extras:

- It feels like 1/3rd of the scenes end with the main character falling unconscious
- The entire second book seems to have forgotten that the love interest and main character fell out with one another (and that pesky prostitution thing)

Ultimately it's the top failings that kept everything at arms length. Our hero struggled for a year at war in the eastern lands, of which we saw his first two days and a summary paragraph. So much of his time there supposedly influenced his character and made him grow (we are told) but we never see the fruits of it nor do we witness it. Did he make friends? Did he learn to lead men? Instead, the character was left at a distance and described almost in outline fashion as having moved from one place to another, gaining such-and-such skill or reputation. These don't seem to have much effect on anything later on except in the most basic of terms (a rank carried forward, or noticing a soldier's bearing). The cloak collected through a harrowing experience in book one never matters again, despite its legendary status and the world-recognizable tale that accompanies it.

The Soren of book three is the Soren of book one, but with more listable accomplishments, money, and titles. His attitudes to those around him are not changed through exposure to various cultures and friends made from afar. He is single-minded in his purpose at all times...

Which makes it utterly remarkable that he doesn't actually make any decisions for the vast majority of the series. He moves from one emergency to another, pulled along by shipwrecks and piracy. The very moment he will wrap up one task introduces another that hijacks his actions and pushes him along. This stands out clearly as a sign of early Brandon Sanderson as well, and something that he learned from and fixed in his later books to great effect.

Duncan M. Hamilton is a good writer. His Wolf in the North series shows that. Not a lot of time has passed from this book to those, but he has shown tremendous growth in that time. It would be very interesting to see him come back now and rewrite scenes and selections missing from this story. I'm sure he could humanize Soren more, give him living and changing hopes and dreams, and so on. I think this chapter is closed, though, and it's probably for the best. He has more stories to tell of this world and I'm eager to read them.
Profile Image for Fr. Kyle.
71 reviews40 followers
February 4, 2019
It’s like a mix of Harry Potter, Three Muskateers, and Game of Thrones. It spanned a much larger period of time than I expected. I like those breaking expectations. A decent read. I’ll invest in the two follow-ups.
Profile Image for Timothy Boyd.
6,547 reviews32 followers
February 1, 2022
I love to find a new writer that surprises me with a great read right out of the gate. This was a wonderful read, full of action and interesting characters. Very Recommended
Profile Image for M60601.
117 reviews9 followers
January 15, 2017
I want to give this 3.5 stars simply because of Alessandra, the girl our MC, Soren loves.

The book was actually very enjoyable and I could barely put it down. Soren is a rather plain character, but the plot itself is swift and complex. Who the villain is isn't any real surprise and I was rather annoyed that Soren doesn't see it sooner. Overall, the sword fighting, orphan boy with the Gift and rise to prominence, scheming book was good.

Everything is covered in the story, and I think in the beginning the descriptions are spot on if not a bit stereotypical. As the story went on though, I found that there wasn't much character building. It's there in that you are told how Soren is changing or how he feels, you can see that a certain person is two faced and lying, you can appreciate the friendship and respect Soren has with his equals. But still, a lot of the characters fall flat.

Let's take Soren for example. He's a street rat who is fascinated by the idea of rising to a high position, he enjoys martial life way too much, and he has few qualms about killing people. Few. He has a half assed moral code when sometimes it's not honorable to kill someone and other times it's okay. And he fell in love with basically the first girl he saw.

So we come to Alessandra. There are basically only two female characters in this book. A princess and this barmaid turned whore, Alessandra. The relationship Soren and the barmaid has was pathetic, and yet somehow this becomes his greatest weakness. This is the utmost extent of their relationship, spoilers. He sees her in the bar. Visits the bar several times more with his buddies. Asks her out. She eventually agrees to walk home with him to test his personality (which he obviously passes as he is a humble swordsman as opposed to his aristocratic counterparts), they go on a picnic, he gives her an amulet, he gets jealous when she serves other people, he has to leave for awhile and returns to her now being a whore. End or relationship.

I want to believe they were best friends and great lovers and had many romantic moments together. I know Soren wanted to make money so he could properly court her. But it was all told, not shown. So anytime she was brought up, I cringed. This was definitely one of the most forced romances I've ever read.

Again, she becomes his greatest weakness and leads to Sorens defeat. I was so hopeful she had died, as I started reading the second book just now, but no, she is with him all the way to epilogue of the very end of the third book.

I get it, everyone likes romance in stories and these lovers give the guy something to fight for. Soren doesn't have any family and obviously the brotherhood of the Banner isn't enough because he is such a pariah in that group. So give him a body with tits and now he's ready to fight for the right reasons.

Lastly, the book is not subtle about things at all. It's very obvious what is happening as they happen, and only Soren is oblivious. Granted, he has some vague notions, and he doesn't exactly have the best schooling (as if one year at the Academy somehow makes him qualified to be a military officer of any kind). The plot is interesting and the pace is fast and keeps your attention, and while not predictable in that you don't know what will happen next, you do know how the story will end. And that is why this is such a frustrating read.

[Edit] I had to come back after reading a few reviews. There were quite a few things I found lacking in the book as well. Things will be described like this room is lavish or this building is built like this, but there was very little emphasis on culture. At one point it's mentioned that religion is very powerful in the Duchy, but rarely is it ever displayed. Religion usually has a very prominent role in these types of stories, but in the Duchy, it basically just amounted to word fodder.

Another thing. From the first descriptions of Soren, I thought was maybe a kid, at most a young teen, but then it goes on about how in his 18 years of life yada yada yada and I just could not believe Soren was 18 and still a street rat. His age seems like a very careless thing. He could have been younger and spent more time in the Academy to at least give him a reasonable schooling. Instead in the 1 year he was at the Academy, he caught up to and surpassed many of his peers, peers who probably had schooling from a young age. Fighting abilities aside, he couldn't even read in the beginning.

I feel like if I went through every chapter, I would find more and more things that did not work for me. It's a good read, but don't have high expectations for this.

I will continue reading the series for now and hopefully Soren can get his head out of his ass about Alessandra. And hopefully she can be more than just a girl he loves.
Profile Image for Chris.
577 reviews24 followers
June 15, 2020
The author has used a Shakespearean tragedy and WW Jacobs' "Monkey's Paw" as his inspiration. Bad things happen, but when something good occurs, there is a cost.
Profile Image for Aaron Clarke.
21 reviews1 follower
April 11, 2018
Lots of promise but a few things that let it down. The pacing is off, for me. It seems as if the plot is something to continually push through, and this is at the expense of any serious character development, barring the main protagonist. In fantasy there can definitely be a tendency to bloat books unnecessarily, but in this case, I think some attention to character development - particularly ancillary characters - would have made the impact of some of those plot points stronger. As it was, interesting side characters come and go too quickly to care enough about them.

Apart from that, the action scenes are great, and the sense of adventure does carry you through to still be entertaining.

Review is for the whole series.
Profile Image for K.J..
Author 6 books32 followers
June 5, 2019
Having just finished Hamilton's "Wolf in the North" series, I'm diving into Soren's story. I was instantly sucked in as our character joins a martial training academy (think Hogwarts houses/training/dueling but with swords instead of wands!!). It is another fast paced adventure tale, that I devoured and am already on to the sequel. I love Hamilton's way of weaving historical themes into his fantasy novels. (i.e. Imperialism, Rome versus the Germanic tribes type moments, martial training, Renaissance).
That all being said, I "liked" this book but did not "love" it. Soren is a tough character for me, and one that I think could be built up a bit more. He's not the endearing, lovable protagonist that most stories have... which may be what Hamilton intended. If you compare him to Wulfric (like I said, I just finished the other series-- and I'm still trying to cope from it!!! Anybody else!?!), you'll be disappointed. His lack of honor and a moral compass, at times, can make him seem harsh but I have a feeling that he'll continue to grow in depth, overcome adversity, and make up for his past mistakes. If you take him as is, rather than hoping that he'll become more like Wulfric (like I did for the first half of the book!!), than I think you will enjoy his journey!
I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy and adventure!!!
January 16, 2018
Soren the Swordsman

Meet our young hero, Soren. This trilogy is an interesting contrast to Duncan’s other trilogy following the life of a northern barbarian.

Instead, this trilogy introduces us to the fragments of the old empire. Sprawling cities filled with nobles, dueling, poverty and opulence. This book will hook you and keep you wanting to read the other two in the series as you find yourself rooting for our hero.

A definite must read for anyone who loves gritty fantasy (blood will be shed) and has read some of Duncan’s other work.
Profile Image for Scott Wozniak.
Author 14 books74 followers
October 7, 2017
The plot was interesting but the writing was flooded with summaries of what happened rather than giving us the details and writing out the actual moment. For example, "he teased him about the girl for a while more" and "he could tell that they didn't really like him from the way they acted". Sometimes it's written well, and sometimes it reads more like a summary of a good book than the actual book. But the plot was interesting enough that I will read the second book.
November 8, 2016
A good, if predictable tale. It is also annoying to me that the word 'gotten' seems to stumble into sentences. It looks very lazy considering the obvious research and imagination that makes this's good read.
Profile Image for Pickyreader.
340 reviews
September 4, 2017
I have pass by this book many times just thinking it was another nameless self published author boy was i wrong. This was a great story. I loved Soren he was so human and fallible. I will certain continue on with the next.
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