Author: Stevie Collier
Publisher: Stevie Collier
Release Date: May 2, 2019
Series: The Bizarre Blades, Book 1
Having finished Stevie Collier's fantastically creative fantasy book, The Four Territories, I immediately agreed to read and review this one when offered the opportunity. While they both deal with young, coming of age protagonists, set in fantasy worlds, that's pretty much where comparisons end. Set it its own unique world setting, The Jigsaw Blade takes us on a journey that you just don't see too much in fantasy today, where its either unremittingly grim or all bright and sunny. Stevie made the decision to mix many elements into this one, creating a varied tapestry of a fantasy story.
Finn Featherstone, just a regular skinny teen from the city of Shimoshimo, son of a local artist, is a huge fan of the Champions, wielders of the Bizarre Blades, magical blades that are hidden around the world, and highly sought after for the powers they bestow, which are wildly varied depending on the blade. Living in a caste system of which he is the highest rung of peasant, called sprouts, signified by his green hair (as opposed to red haired sparks, or heaven forbid, a brown haired Spud). This means he's treated as slightly higher than street trash by the Highborn, the ruling class, and he is not living in a shanty waiting to be eaten by a dinosaur, which is a real threat.
Walking home after running an errand for his father, Finn passes the Flying Cage of Doom, where criminals are executed by being locked in a cage with Pteradons to be eaten alive. Noting a child fall into the cage, Finn, tries to fetch the kid out, only to fall in the cage himself. As Finn is about to be eaten, he is rescued by Bryce Smolder, next in line for a Bizarre Blade and a real hero.
This rescue comes just in time for Finn to be drafted into the Prince's army, as word has come about a new Blade that is supposedly in the wild. After a series of misadventures on the trail with the army, Finn inadvertently ends up with the Blade, before he passes out from the situation he finds himself in. When Finn awakens, he discovers the world is quite what he thought it was.
Finn finds himself having been rescued from almost certain death by The Society of the Champions of Arbitration, who collect what Blades they can, and try and keep the other Blade wielders from getting out of hand. Not having any previous training, and incensing the other potential champions, The Leader of the Champions assigns Silver to whip Finn into shape. Silvers idea of this is to abandon Finn in the woods to die, giving him the task of somehow climbing a cliff face to retrieve a flag.
Instead of dying, Finn surprisingly adapts, getting stronger and bonding with his blade more. This is a good thing, since after months of strengthening and training himself, he heads back to the village with Silver after he recovers the flag, only to discover that bandits searching for Finn's Blade have captured the villagers. Silver makes a surprising move, coming out of hiding to offer himself up to free some of the prisoners, who will supposedly go and look for Finn.
Instead, the released prisoners, Silver's other apprentice Jade, as well as the village's eccentric healer, Ariel, join with Finn to find another Blade that will help them defeat the bandits. What follows is a hilariously improbable series of adventures, which include fighting more dinosaurs, meeting Jades surprisingly important family, and finding out about Ariel's past. The trio has a chance to get another Blade to fight the bandits with, all for the measly price of killing a huge carnivorous Dinosaur terror!
Well, this of course goes interestingly, and leads to the final confrontation with the bandits, including their leader, who has a Bizarre Blade that nullifies other Blades. Finn also finds that his father is in the custody of his City's Prince, and now must decide how to save his father without giving up his blade to the Prince. Can the rumor of the location of the fabled Golden Blade be found to help them? Only time will tell.
CHARACTERS AND WORLDBUILDING
Like Stevie's other Series, the Four Territories, characters drive the story. While there are wild story elements like the Bizarre Blades and dinosaurs, it is the characters that make this story go. Finn starts off a weak, naive and ineffectual, and has a slow growth to something resembling competence. While I like Finn, he does stay a bit more whiny throughout than I would have preferred. That being said, he still has an interesting character arc. The various secondary characters also get some attention, especially Jade and Ariel, who get fleshed out as their back stories are revealed. The villains are a bit two dimensional, but not enough so that it really detracts. There are bigger villains are on the horizon, which are mentioned in this story, The world building is interesting, mixing a sprawling city state fantasy realm with wild areas with dinosaurs. The dinosaurs are even in the cities to a certain extent, both domesticated and wild. Its an interesting dynamic in a book that has magic swords and a feudal fantasy setting, and something interesting to look forward to in later installments.
I had this book recommended to me by another author, comparing it to Nicholas Eames's Kings of the Wyld in both humor and quality. High praise from them. While in my opinion it is a bit short of that lofty perch, it is, nevertheless, an excellent fantasy story, told with passion and humor, and brings an interesting world and characters into readers minds. I highly recommend it, and will be reviewing the rest of the series down the road.