The Tattered Banner by Duncan M. Hamilton
The Tattered Banner by Duncan M. Hamilton, the first book of the Society of the Sword series is an enjoyable adventure with strengths and weaknesses. The story follows the street child Soren. Through luck and because of his incredible speed with a blade, Soren finds a renowned swordsman who sponsors his tutoring at Ostenheim’s Academy of Swordsmanship. As with many such stories, we follow the protagonist through his training, face the enemies he makes at the academy, and watch friendship blossom. At times, the story feels very clichè, at other it ventures from common trends.
The single POV in this narratives gives the reader a great insight into the mind and reasoning of Soren, but other characters stay bland. Even the protagonist’s friends and his love interest don’t have much of a character, which might be due to to a lack of time in the spotlight and the sometimes stilted conversations. At times, the dialog doesn’t seem like a conversation between friends or teacher/student, but only as a simple way to convey informations. It lacks the human component to make it feel real.
The story snarks its way through a thicket of intrigue and entices the reader with interesting developments and turns. The narrative has a light undertone, that spirals into dark places fast and hard at times. While it might seem like one at the beginning, it is not a story designed for young adults. The dark patches give the story a nice touch and make the reader feel the tension. The spin the author takes on the protagonist’s gift, the drawback his talent has for Soren, is gripping because of the price the young man has to pay.
The first half of the book is mostly consumed by Soren’s training in the academy and isn’t all that interesting. The book gets better in the second half, where the author drifts farther away from used tropes. One big problem throughout the whole book was the skill Soren shows from the start. Without any formal training, he’s already better than many of the other students and it takes him maybe half a year to become stronger than even his teachers. His speed is just too great and such an advantage that the outcome of a fight is determined before Soren even draws his sword. His gift has a nice drawback though and I’m interested to see how that develops, but at the moment the young man feels simply overpowered.
Despite its flaws, the book sucked me in. It was easy to read and I flew through it pretty fast. The ending was good and sets a nice premise for the continuation of the series. I’m interested how the story around Soren and his abilities continues and I’ll pick up the next book sometimes this year when I’ve got the time to read it.